on the needles

Friday, June 30, 2006

In Which There is No Knitting....Again.

I actually took some photos of my Log Cabin blanket in progress to post tonight but then I of course deleted them from the camera before I could copy them.


So instead I want everyone to turn to page 79 in Mason Dixon Knitting, imagine the Modern Baby blanket in shades of purple Elann Sonata and completed up to the beginning of strip number 8.

Looks good doesn't it?


I swear, I'm probably going to finish that thing before I get any pictures posted. After this strip I will have to do some intarsia. That might slow me down a bit since I've never done it before. Maybe I'll get a photo then. :)

Anyhooooo - how about some chick pics since I don't have any knitting to show ya?

Chick #1:

and Chick #3:

taken a few days ago as they had their nightly ride back up to the nest box. That's right - they still aren't flying. I've read some sites where they say that the chicks often are not good flyers for the first week. well - it's been a week and these babies are the non-flyingist birds ever. My bird friend Elvira (from whom I purchased Godric, Minerva and Rosmerta) says she thinks the chicks might be afraid of the other adult birds and are staying on the floor of the cage because they feel safer there. So I may be moving the rest of the birds to an even bigger aviary over the weekend. I had planned on doing this anyway but I didn't want to disrupt whatever "system" was going on in the colony. Elvira thinks it will be okay and since Godric and Minerva have a new clutch of at least four eggs I will probably go ahead and let them have that whole cage all to themselves. After this set of eggs though I'm not letting them raise any more this season. I don't want them to wear themselves out.

For those of you who are enjoying my birdie saga - you might also like to follow the adventures of Helen over on Jessie's blog. Helen is the weirdest and therefore coolest chicken on the web. She's always up to something!

But you sensitive souls may not want to read the horrifying story Jenni left in my comments section about a tragically doomed set of ducklings. That mother duck needs to think twice before she hatches anymore eggs. If she were human she would definitely end up on the Jerry Springer show. Yikes!

Oh - and here's a bit of knitting related stuff - I got a copy of No Pattern Knits the other day. I haven't had a chance to do more than a flip through of the book but I can tell it's a keeper. First thing I thought was that this was one of those knitting books that you need to actually read not just look at the pretty pictures and follow a few patterns. I would consider this a reference book - a book that actually adds to your general knitting knowledge, a book that will make you a better knitter, probably an essential stepping stone on the path to becoming the uber-knitter. You know, like Knitting For Anarchists. (I want to be a knitting anarchist!!) I think this is one of those knitting books. You know, the kind that starts to hurt your head after you read a couple of pages. But that's a good thing! :)

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Yucky Day.

Having a sad, sad day today. This morning chick #2 died. I had noticed from about the second day out of the nest that he seemed as if he possibly had some neurological issues. It was very subtle but I could tell he didn't quite flap or perch right. He didn't have very good balance. But since he was feeding well and looked otherwise healthy I was thinking he would do alright. But alas this morning he was just lying on the bottom of the cage with his brothers watching over him.

I have had many many pets in my life and therefore I have been through the end of life many times with all kinds of creatures but there is something about a dead bird that is extra pathetic to me. Maybe because it suddenly reveals how fragile they really are. Or perhaps birds are usually so quick and full of life that it is very shocking to see one so still. I never seem to get over feeling really disturbed (and creeped out too!) by the sight of a dead bird.

And now of course I am worrying about the other two. Hubby said he thought that since they were out of the nest that the babies were home free. Actually, weaning is the most vulnerable time for them - as I have just witnessed.

The other bit of this story is that Godric and Minerva have started a new clutch of eggs in the other nest. There were two yesterday and I'm sure she laid another today. Godric has already been sleeping in the nest because he seems to feel quite defensive about it. I think this is because Sirius and Rowena have decided they want the old nest. But since I put the babies back in it every night they haven't been able to take it over yet - and they won't for a few more weeks.

Anyhow - supposedly when chicks fledge and leave the nest the parents often start a second clutch. The problem is that sometimes they then abandon their first set of babies and stop feeding them. Even though they are out of the nest, the chicks are still dependent upon the parents for food. So far Goderic and Minerva show no signs of abandoning their babies. I've seen both of them feeding the chicks many times throughout the day - so I'm sure that this is not why chick #2 died. In fact, I've even seen Auntie Rosmerta helping out and feeding the chicks too. So I am pretty sure that whatever happened to chick #2 was just fate.

But still - I'm just really bummed out. Can't get really excited about the new clutch of eggs until I know the chicks are safe. Sick of these buckets of water continuously being dumped on us. Sick of no sun. Just a yucky day. :(

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Summer Reading Challenge: A Circle of Sisters

The second book I read for the Summer Reading Challenge was A Circle of Sisters by Judith Flanders. Here's the publisher's summary:

The Macdonald sisters Alice, Georgiana, Agnes and Louisa-started life in the teeming ranks of the lower-middle classes, denied the advantages of education and the expectation of social advancement. Yet as wives and mothers they would connect a famous painter, a president of the Royal Academy, a prime minister, and the uncrowned poet laureate of the Empire. Georgiana and Agnes married, respectively, the pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones and the arts administrator Edward Poynter; Louisa gave birth to future prime minister Stanley Baldwin, and Alice was mother to Rudyard Kipling.

This was a fabulous book - even better than May and Amy. With this cast of characters how could you go wrong?

I really enjoyed reading about the "famous four" MacDonald sisters and their respective families.

Louisa, who married Alfred Baldwin and became the mother of Stanley Baldwin, was the only sister to start off her married life in prosperous circumstances, Alfred was a successful busisnessman. Her portrait was painted in 1868 by her brother in law Edward Poynter.

Louisa became a mildly successful writer later in her life, penning formulaic romance novels and unremarkable poetry. Although it's artistic worth is doubtful, Louisa's writing helped her to carve out a fulfilling personal life for herself - something which to a large extent her sisters were unable to do. She also spent much of her life as the stereotypical Victorian invalid lying upon the couch with some vbague and mysterious malady - although Louisa's illnesses always seemed to clear up enough to enable her to travel.

Poynter was married to Agnes, seen here in his 1867 portrait of her. Note the painting by Rossetti in the background.

Agnes and Louisa were the closest to each other among the sisters, both emotionally and physically - they spent a large part of their adult lives living near each other. Agnes also put in her time as an invalid on the couch. Indeed, only Georgie seems to have totally avoided playing that role.

There was actually a fifth sister, Edith, who was the youngest. She never married and she seems to have been considered almost as an afterthought by the rest of the family. Poor Edith fulfulled the role that so many Victorian youngest daughters did, that of thankless companion, first to her elderly mother and then to her sister Louisa, with whom she lived for most of her life. Fortunately Edith also wrote some memoirs of her family which were drawn on by the author for this book.

I couldn't find a photo of Edith to include here, nor could I find one of the eldest sister Alice. She apparently disliked being photographed. She was described as a "serial fiance" until she finally met and married her soulmate, Lockwood Kipling. She accompanied him to India where Lockwood taught art and championed the native handicrafts and artisans. Their son was Rudyard Kipling who probably needs no introduction.

Rudyard actually comes off rather poorly in this book. He is selfish and self-absorbed. He repeatedly fails to financially assist his family members - even when they were in appaling circumstances and he was fabulously wealthy. His wife Carrie is portrayed as a selfish social-climber of a woman and was disliked by most of the family. Perhaps that explains some of Rudyard's emotional distance from his family when coupled with the fact that (although with the best of intentions) he was virtually abandonded as a child by his parents. He and his sister Trix were raised by "friends of the family". But mainly it seems that it never occured to Rudyard to part with any of his money.

Trix was a fascinating character and I would have liked to have known more about her. She suffered some type of "psychotic break" as an adult and ended up seriously mentally ill for the rest of her life. The circumstances surrounding Trix's life and breakdown were left rather vague in the book. Perhaps the author simply could not get information about what went wrong.

Georgie was of course, married to Edward Burne-Jones, the Pre-Raphaelite painter - seen here in this photo with his best freind William Morris.

The Morris and Burne-Jones families were close although Georgie didn't really "get on" with Morris' wife Jane Burden.

Jane famously had a long affair with painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti, in between her long periods of lying about as an invalid on the couch. Morris unfortunately probably knew all about Jane's affair. It's seems that neither party did much to hide it. Given her own experience with her husband's infidelity, Georgie probably found it hard to like Janey. Rossetti was tremendously inspired by Jane and she became his most famous muse.

For his part Morris eventually fell in love with Georgie, who refused to let the situation develop into an affair. As time went on, and both were relentlessly betrayed by their spouses, Morris and Georgie developed a strong emotional reliance on each other. Towards the end of their lives, Morris was more Georgie's friend than Burne-Jones' (who typically failed to recognize this). Morris and Georgie shared their socialist political views and Morris encouraged Georgie to run for public office.

This was a great book. I love to read about women's lives (especially when written by a woman), the Victorian time period, extended family dynamics and the Pre-Raphaelites - so this book was well suited to me! I plan to read more by this author as soon as her new book comes out.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

It's the Chicks Again!

I ended up putting the chicks back in their nest last night and I got a few good pictures of them through the cage bars.

Here are 1 & 2 doing some perching practice.

They reminded me of a baby standing up in it crib, peeking over the side. They knew it was bed time but weren't quite ready to settle down yet.

Here's mom Minerva performing a last quick chick check up for the day.

And just because it's a good photo - the proud parents with Auntie Rosmerta in between.

So are you all sick of the chicks yet? I swear I actually am knitting! And some day I will actually post about it. :) Helena told me she was using the same yarn as I am, Elann Sonata, for her Log Cabin blanket. It's been really helpful to hear from someone who has actually used this yarn since I haven't actually knit with it yet. Thanks Helena! I'm trying to get over my "fear of/dislike of" knitting with cotton for this project. I guess we'll see how that goes!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Chicks Have Fledged!

They are out of the nest for the first time today. Check them out, this is chick #1 at a little over three weeks old:

He is the most adventurous chick, as well as the biggest. I still think he will be yellow. You can see a yellow cast to his feathers. He may end up being a pastel yellow. I'm calling them all boys but really I won't have any idea what they are until they get their adult feathers. You can still see the glow in the dark nodes on the sides of his beak.

Here are his brothers:

They are both a bit smaller and a bit more shy. They are sort of hiding out in the corner of the bottom of the cage. It will be interesting to see if any of them will be able to find their way back to the nest tonight or if I will have to pick them up and put them in it. They will still sleep in the nest for the next couple of weeks but will spend more and more time out and about as they get older.

I think chick #2 has a good chance of being a pastel yellow or a silver. Chick #3 pretty much looks like a normal green back at this point.

Since the babies have fledged and are out of the nest, there has been great interest in the two nests in general. I saw Rowena in the babies nest checking it out this morning. Godric is not defending it anymore. And I saw several of the other birds hopping in and out of the other nest as well. The progress of the babies seems to have gotten the whole flock thinking about nesting.

Some of the birds have also been spending part of their time on the lower perches, seemingly in sympathy with the babies sitting on the bottom. I think they are trying to encourage the youngsters to join them on the perches. The babies are not great flyers or perchers yet. They need a bit of time to figure out what their wings and feet can do.

I hope they figure it out soon. It's a bit upsetting seeing them on the floor of the cage. Normally only a sick birdie would sit down there. Fledging and consequently, weaning is a fairly vulnerable time for the youngsters. I hope they all make it through safely!

In knitting news: I went out of town for the weekend. I brought my knitting but only got a few inches of sock done. I'm hoping to finish up the two pairs of socks I have on the needles right now but I'm starting to burn out on sock knitting - it's all I've been doing for at least the past month. What I REALLY want to do is...Log Cabin Knitting. Yep, I too have been bitten by the Mason Dixon bug. As soon as I got my book a few weeks ago & saw those Log Cabin blankets my brain lit up like the Fourth of July. Colors! Shapes! The simple beauty of it all. I've got the Log Cabin Fever BAD and I haven't knitted one stitch! But I did get my (admittedly massive) shipment of Endless Summer Collection Sonata from Elann. Tons of colors and supposedly you can machine wash it. Plus - you can't beat $2 yarn. I got the boxes (yep that's plural - as in so much yarn there's more than one box) yesterday but haven't opened them yet because I know that when I do it's going to be Log Cabin mania around here. I have to plan for the take over of my brain carefully. I've got to clear away the other knitting, get my needles and other implements together, and warn my family that they will be expected to eat sandwiches for dinner for the foreseeable future - then I can open the boxes. :)

Here are some Log Cabin Blankets which have inspired me. I'm sure you have seen Cara's Rhapsody in Green (as I call it) Log Cabin squares. And here's Nona's Super Hip Retro Freeform Log Cabin. I told her I thought it looked like something Samantha's evil twin cousin Serena would have twitched up on Bewitched in order to hypnotize Darren.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Chicks Update

Ok - here are the pictures I took of the chicks three days ago. Warning - serious bird poop included!! Believe me - it is getting nasty in there. All the advice books say don't clean the nest but it's taking all I have not to. It's super gross. I can't wait til the babies leave the nest - the minute they do I'm giving it a through scrub down.

Anyhoo - here are the babies at about 2 and a half weeks old.

From the left we have chicks 1, 3 & 2. That was the order of their hatching and their size so that's how I banded them as well. (You can click on the photos to make them bigger - but that only makes the poop bigger too so use your own judgment here!)

I've been doing some more research and I think I have found that my theory of skin color = feather color is true. Here's the thing - when the babies get their first feathers they will look nothing like their gloriously colorful parents - nope - Gouldian babies fledge out in drab olives, tans and greys. Can you believe it?! I'm sure it is an evolutionary advantage of some sort - probably safer to be drab colored until you learn how the world works. The chicks don't get their adult plumage until they go through their first moult which may not be complete until they are nine months old!!! Now - I already knew this, and being the totally impatient person that I am I decided there must be some way of getting a hint of what their eventual color will be. I mean seriously, I cannot be expected to wait nine months!! Hence, my theory and subsequent research.

The normal colors for a Gouldian finch in the wild are black head, vivid purple breast and dark green back. Everything else is a mutation. The closest thing I have to the normal Gouldian finch colors is the babies mommy Minerva.

She has all the right colors but because she is female they are a bit duller. In the normal male the breast would be electric purple. When Gouldian normal chicks fledge their first feather colors will be a sort of dullish olive. What I have found in my research is that the mutations, like yellow back for instance, will fledge out differently. A yellow back will have much lighter olive feathers.

So - hooray! I have looked at lots of photos of Gouldian chicks and now I'm just about positive that chick #1 is going to be yellow backed and possibly with a yellow/orange head too. I'm less certain of the others but I still think that chick #2 may be a dilute - where the back feathers are light green. The one I am super curious about now is chick #3. I can't find any photos of chicks that have skin that dark. At first the only guess I had was that #3 will fledge out as a normal - but since it doesn't look the same as any of the photos of normal chicks I have seen now I think there is a possibility that #3 will be blue! Blue backs are sort of the Holy Grail of Gouldianland. They cost about $250! So naturally I'm really hoping for a blue.

Close up of #1 & #3:

(Maybe I should start calling the chicks "The Borg". All of this number stuff makes me think of the Borg.)

I also think #1 & #2 are boys and that #3 is a girl because of her dark beak. Adult females have dark beaks.

So - as you can see I have hours and hours of entertainment in thinking about the possible genetic combinations of baby finches. I think the obsessive compulsive side of me loves this kind of stuff - endless thinking about "if x = something, then y must = something else, but if x = some other thing, then y = something totally different....All of my theories may come crashing down around me at any moment but that's part of the fun. :)

Monday, June 12, 2006

Random Monday

Flipping through the channels on tv the other night I caught The Shining. I must have knitter brain because my first thought was - "How cool would that be?? All winter alone with just the family in a massive hotel. Just THINK of all the knitting I could get done!!" - and then I started thinking of what yarn & patterns I would take and worrying about the possibility of running out of yarn. I would have to take some straight needles - you know, because you can't adequately stab your crazy-ass husband with Addi Turbo Circs. :)

For Carrie: The Twisted German Cast On. This is THE BEST cast on for top down socks too - never have to worry about the cuff being too tight.

And - no The Gaskells in May and Amy are apparently not related to Mrs. Gaskell the author. At least the author never said so in the book & I imagine you would mention it if it was the same family.

For Melanie: Yes I have read Jan Marsh's book Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood. LOVED it. She a great writer. That book is worth every penny! Finally gives the women the attention and credit they deserve. Jan Marsh is on one of the lists I belong to - my brain is blanking on which one, possibly the Victorian one - anyhow, that's when I really fell in love with the internet, when I realized that I could ask questions and get answers from Jan Marsh!

I've got some new photos of the baby birds. You won't believe how much they've grown! I'll try to get those up tomorrow.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Summer Reading Challenge: May and Amy

My first two books for the Summer Reading Challenge were about the Pre-Raphaelites.

In this post I will review the first book I read, which was May and Amy by Joceline Dimbleby. Here's the publisher's summary:

A chance encounter at a summer party sent writer Josceline Dimbleby on a quest to uncover a mystery in her family's past. After talking with Andrew Lloyd Webber about a beautiful, dark portrait in his art collection, she decided to find out more about the subject of the painting: her great-aunt Amy Gaskell. Dimbleby had always known her great-aunt's face from this haunted portrait by the well-known Pre-Raphaelite painter Sir Edward Burne-Jones, but beyond that and a family rumor that Amy had died young "of a broken heart," Dimbleby knew little of her female forebears." "At the start of her search, Josceline came across a cache of unpublished letters from Burne-Jones to her great-grandmother May Gaskell, Amy's mother. These letters turned out to be part of a passionate correspondence - adoring, intimate, sometimes up to five letters a day - which continued throughout the last six years of the painter's life. As she read, more and more questions arose: Why did Burne-Jones feel he had to protect May from an overwhelming sadness? What was the deep secret she had confided to him? And what was the tragic truth behind Amy's wayward, wandering life, her strange marriage, and her unexplained early death?" In piecing together the eventful life of her grandmother, Dimbleby takes us through a turbulent period in history that includes the Boer War, the Great War, and the Second World War and visits the most far-flung corners of the British Empire. The Souls - William Morris, Rudyard Kipling, and William Gladstone - all play a part in this sweeping, often funny, and sometimes tragic story.

In May and Amy the Pre-Raphaelite connection was May's "affair" with Edward Burne-Jones, seen here at work in his studio.

Though it is an open question as to how far their affair went physically it still must have been extremely distressing to Burne-Jones' wife Georgie - seen here in a portrait painted by her husband. Their children, Phil and Margaret are in the background.

The author tells of an incident in which May came to visit Burne-Jones at his studio and was given one of Georgie's shawls by him. He later reported that Georgie thought his action was "nice". This was probably willful blindness on Burne-Jones' part - however, it's just possible I suppose, that Georgie had lived with his hurtful behavior for so long that she no longer really cared. By this point, near the end of his life, Burne-Jones' "affairs" were notorious and continuous. He always had some beautiful woman or other, usually married and always much younger than himself, to whom he wrote obsessively - sometimes five times a day.

His first - and most disastrous affair - was with Maria Zambaco - seen here in this Burne-Jones portrait.

Their affair lasted for several years and very nearly destroyed Burne-Jones' marriage. He was extremely public about his love for Maria, whom he used as a model in many of his most famous paintings. Here she is as the sorceress Nimue in "The Beguiling of Merlin".

Burne-Jones finally ended the affair when Maria attempted suicide - driven crazy supposedly because Burne-Jones felt too guilty to actually leave Georgie for Maria. Here she is in "The Tree of Forgiveness" which Burne-Jones painted towards the end of their affair.

The dynamics between the men and women in these two paintings just about says it all doesn't it? Despite the "official" end of their affair, there are hints that it never was truly over. Burne-Jones continued to use Maria as a model for many years.

There isn't much about the Zambaco affair in May and Amy, I just include it here to illustrate the fact that for Burne-Jones to have an affair was nothing unusual. And really, despite the perhaps different moral structure of the time, conducting affairs while both partners are married to others isn't exactly an exercise in glory is it? I sympathized with May - who seems to have had a very hard time with a difficult and perhaps abusive husband. But Burne-Jones' treatment of Georgie was incredibly selfish. At times, even he admits this to himself and in his letters to May - however there is always the under current of the excuse that he is an artist and therefore somehow this excuses him from being held accountable for his bad behavior.

I actually found the story of the Gaskell family itself to be much more interesting than the actual affair between May and Burne-Jones. They were a typical upperclass Victorian family in that they all had wide ranging interests, were intelligent and cultured and had that inexhaustible energy and drive for exploration which seems to personify the best of the Victorian era.

Of particular interest is May's gorgeous and mysterious daughter Amy. Burne-Jones was fascinated by her and painted this extremely unusual portrait.

It captures her so perfectly. She is an ideal of beauty - yet somehow unreachable and surrounded by an aura of inevitable sadness and doom. She seems both radiant and ghostly at the same time. Indeed - despite the fact that the author does justice to her subject - the reader still comes away from the book wondering what exactly was it about Amy - why was she such a difficult mysterious and yet compelling personality? And what exactly was the fate she met in the end?

This was a really good book - a great read. Anyone with an interest in the Pre-Raphaelites, the Victorian era or women's lives in general will probably enjoy this book.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Chicks - 8 days old

I had to re-band the two smaller chicks today because the bands had fallen off. It's amazing how much difference there is between the chicks size wise. I'm sure it is related to when the egg was laid, how long it was sat on and when it hatched. The biggest chick "cooked" the longest but hatched first and thus got started eating about six hours before it's siblings did.

Here they are today. Hatchling #1 is at the top of the nest (you can see the band on it's leg), #2 is laying on top of the tiniest one with the darkest head which is chick #3. I'm also interested in seeing how/if the color differences I am seeing in the chicks skin will equate to their future feather colors. If so, I'm guessing #1 will be an orange faced yellow back, #2 will be normal green with possibly a red face and #3 normal green with a black face. Also, #3 may be a female because it's beak is darker in color. This is all a total guess. But I have noticed in other animals that skin color and fur color correlate - if you shave your cat you can see that this is true. A white cat with grey spots will have pink skin with grey spots. And as an aside, did you know that there is no such thing as a black cat? Black cats are just tabby cats in hiding. (This means you Chaos!) :) That's why, if the lighting is just right, you can see faint stripes on black cats. Genetics and inheritance of genetic traits is fascinating to me. Another reason why I love the Gouldians - there are so many possibilities!

Here is chick #1.

This is a great shot of the glow in the dark nodules. Plus - look! - it's eyes have opened. And his feathers are starting to appear - see them on the wings?

Some of you remarked at how ugly/scary/creepy baby birds are. I agree - they are downright alien looking. When they are very young you can see through the skin and see some of the internal organs. Ewww! But I love them anyway. Isn't it amazing that something so beautiful, so colorful, so light and quick can start out life so clumsy, helpless, and frankly a bit repulsive. It's a reminder to me of how perfectly balanced nature is. I look at the birds and I think of the ages and ages of time spent refining, adapting, mixing up genes and sorting them out again - just to arrive at this little creature. I feel like I've literally got a piece of eternity sitting in my hand. It's a connection to the wonder of the "bigger picture" - and for me, that's a peaceful feeling. Besides - look at that face - that little thing has character already! You've got to love that face. :)

I actually will have some knitting to show off soon. I am on the second sock of both pairs. And I've been on a Pre-Raphaelite reading jag for my Summer Reading Challenge - so I will have a post about that soon. But in the meantime you'll just have to forgive my sidetracking into baby birdness. Despite the fact that it sounds like I'm an old pro at this - these are actually my first hatchlings - well I didn't do any of the actual hatching but you know what I mean - and I'm excited about them. :)

Oh - and there was a question about the parent birds rejecting the babies if they were handled by humans. I'm sure that this is absolutely true of wild birds but since the finches are already accustomed to my presence and because my scent is all over their entire environment, they don't react the way a wild bird would. I still take great care to wash my hands - both for my sake and theirs - and I wouldn't mess with the nest in the first few days because new parents of any species are always a bit jumpy - but other than that it is okay. The main problem is to do whatever you need to do quickly because you don't want the chicks to get chilled. Until they have their own feathers they have to rely on their parents sitting on them to provide warmth.

See you next time! :)

Friday, June 02, 2006


Big sigh of relief! I just finished putting the closed bands on the chicks. That was nerve wracking work! They're just so tiny. Here is the smallest chick in my hand to give you an idea of their size at six days old. You can click on the pictures to see the details.

Look at that tiny little leg!! And those toes. You have to slip the band over the first three toes - the ones that face forward when the bird grips a branch. The backward facing toe gets pushed back toward the leg and you have to use a toothpick to sort of tease it out of the band. Then you're all set. Birds with jewelry! :) There is a good illustration of the procedure here.

Their eyes should start to open beginning tomorrow.

Here they are in the nest:

You can see that the chicks vary in size. The biggest is almost twice as big as the smallest chick. For those of you who may not have seen baby birds before - there are two interesting features you can clearly see in the photos. The first is the massive swellings on either side of the chicks necks. That is their crop - stuffed with regurgitated food. Can you believe how much food they can hold in there? Another cool thing which is only seen in gouldian finches are the little colored nodules which line the sides of their mouths. Believe it or not those are little glow in the dark "put food here" signals to the parent birds so that they can feed the babies properly - even in the darkness of the nest.

Isn't nature the coolest?!