Raccoon family in backyard

Raccoon family in backyard

February 25, 2015

Thanks Frank!

A blog long overdue here...

Back in December I had been thinking about our old friend Big Frank. It was the 2 year anniversary since I last saw him. I had every intention on sort of reliving our last outing the week of the anniversary, if not the exact day. And with that, I also had every intention on seeing the last bird we saw together too... a Northern Saw-whet Owl. Through the early part of the winter, I had some luck in seeing 4 Saw-whets, and one had shown up in the area where Frank and I had seen one. Hell, it was even being seen in the same freakin' tree!

So, it was looking pretty good to do this with ease but of course life got in the way, busy with this and that, work, bad weather, loafing on the internet one morning and whatever other excuses I can muster up a couple months later. I was being very bad with the putting things off even though it was pressing in my brain to get out there and do this. Notice I used the word "intention" a couple times? Yep, good intentions aren't all that good if you don't act on them. I am making it sound worse than what it is because the actual day was a Wednesday so it was only Monday and Tuesday that I was messing around.

Little secret about me, I can be a bit of a procrastinator at times. Shhhhhh...

Anyways, true story here.

With my loafing and whatever those first couple days of the week, Wednesday December 17th is now here and I really want to leave the house and go seek out a little Saw-whet Owl. It's never a guarantee with wild animals on whether they will be presenting themselves or not, but it was worth a try, and even if I didn't find one, it would be nice to relive some of the morning Frank and I had out. I still laugh at his statement on the bird that day... "what a fucking little sweetheart!" I have his voice saying it in my head anytime I think of that. And of course I put a few Lamb of God cds in the truck as Frank states "that shit is gonna rot your brain".

I had been in semi-regular contact with Toronto Wildlife lately about a Red-tailed Hawk I picked up some weeks earlier. I am always curious on the animals I bring in to the centre. This Hawk was healing well and there was a potential release coming up soon.

So, this morning, I am on the phone with them once again about the bird and at the end of our conversation, I was asked if I would be interested in transporting 4 Northern Saw-whet Owls to the Owl Foundation. As some know, I am a volunteer driver both with Toronto Wildlife and The Owl Foundation. They were going to put a "shout out" to the list of volunteers but since they had me on the phone, they thought why not ask me and maybe save keying out an email and waiting for a reply? It would be for the next day. How could I say "no"?

It was later in the morning now, later than I had liked, I still needed to shower and get ready for work. I probably could have made a quick sweep of an area before work to look for a Saw-whet but didn't. I kinda took this as a sign from Frank, like "Here ya go Rob! Thanks for thinking of me."

And with that, the next morning I was up and at it bright and early, picked up the little Owls and headed to The Owl Foundation in Vineland. It's just over an hour drive one way. The radio is kept off but I don't mind. I take in the sights around me as I roll down the highway. It gives me time to think. My imagination flows on things like doing this blog. The memories of my friendship with Frank come back. And I am excited to be visiting The Owl Foundation once again, full of high hopes that all these Owls are going to come out fine in the end.

Truck full of Owls

I arrive at TOF. We get all the Owls in the house and then Kathy invited me in for a coffee and some Christmas treats (week before the big day). "Hells to the yes!" for the invite. Annick and Stacey were in the office with her, all having lunch. It was cool to sit back and shoot the shit with them since we rarely see them throughout the year, or for very long. The annual open house has them all running ragged. And most of the drives for the Owls, have had us drop the birds off and leave moments later.

We had some good chat, story telling and not just about Owls.

Lunch ended and I was about to leave when it was suggested that I could watch Annick and Stacey do their initial observations of the Saw-whets if I was interested. "Heck ya!" I recon 3 years of volunteer driving is probably why I was able to experience this, add our annual sponsoring too (just saying).

I met up with them downstairs and watched them go over each bird, checking the eyes, weight, fat content, etc. It was great! I always forget how small those birds are until I see them in hand. Of course I didn't have my camera with me. Damn! I tried a few cell phone photos but nothing came out worth sharing. Oh well, the pictures in my mind from this memory are way better anyway.

It was mentioned a few times about Angie not being here. Will she be envious? Will she kill me? Maybe force me to sleep on the couch for a week? LoL! It was all good fun. Everyone knows she's very passionate about this stuff but also a full supporter when it's just me doing the drives. She's there in spirit.

We had some further discussions about 2015 and how Angie and I can help in other ways. It's not easy for us with the distance and the fact her and I work opposite shifts. We need our quality time too. But time will tell and I'm sure one of us will be blogging about it when/if it happens.

Unfortunately Kay was unavailable but I was happy to see her best buddy Big Bird on the way out.

It was a great run for both Toronto Wildlife and The Owl Foundation. Call me crazy but I believe Frank had some part of this. Thanks Frank!

An update on the littel Owls... 3 are still at The Owl Foundation. Sadly one passed away.

February 20, 2015

National Love Your Pet Day!

Hi everyone! Sorry, been lacking in blogging. I can run off a bunch'a reasons but what's the point? All is well and I will be back into it again soon (have a couple nearly complete in the drafts).

So, for the moment, a quick note to say "I'm still here!" and with it being National Love Your Pet Day I thought this would be a great opp for a quick light blog.

Love your pets! Yes! They are family. They are our friends... best friends I may add. You will always know where you stand with your animals. Their love is genuine and the bonds are eternal.

We have a house full, some call it a zoo, but it's our home, and home is where the heart is. Plain and simple.

I can't see how we could make their lives anymore special today than what we do any other day. I guess this blog can work. I think about the pets here today and those who have left. Some gone for many years but warm memories remain of the unique bonds, the companionship.

Anyways, here's to our animal family, and yours! Enjoy the photos!

I'm drawn to these summer outdoor photos right now since it's -33c with the wind chill today.

That's one spoiled rotten princess!

Meadows loves her home, and thinks this weigela shrub is hers.

Good ol' grumpy Misfit.  So she would seem to many.  But she is a sweet little Budgie, who after so many months of living outside, just needed some love and more so understanding.  It took a long time for her to settle in after being so wild but we are very grateful it all worked out.  She's still with us almost 8 years later.

Oh Moonie!  I think this photo shows off his (actually a her) personality.  A very young Budgie I caught in our garden, still full of down feathers.  Moonie is the epitome of innocence.  Everything is bright and shiny and wonderful in his world.  It's a world full of food, toys and baths.  Not a stress bone in this bird's body.

They do like each other and have quality time but live separately.  It's very clear they like their own homes more than long visits.

Moonie crushing over Misfit and sometimes Misfit says "back off!"  They are such personable creatures.

Ralphie our dinosaur of a newt.  He's the surviving member of a bunch of amphibians I brought home 12 years after they were all abandoned.  He and his pals almost went down the toilet when left with someone who did not want them.

He loves hanging out with us in the kitchen, near the computer. 

Our newest family member, Norbert, a Leopard Gecko, who was also abandoned if you missed his blog not too long ago.

And back to Meadow before I sign off.  Us outside in August.  Ahhhhh.  I can feel the warmth.

A day I couldn't tell her enough how much I love her and I am there for her.  This was last summer with her 3 day stay in the vet clinic after her pancreatitis incident.

Christmas 2014.  She looks so grumpy but was purring away.  She loves almost anything we do together and gets right into it.  This is just months after almost losing her.  We were so happy to have her with us still and she's doing fantastic!

Lastly, I can't omit my other half, my lovely wife, the one seemingly behind the scenes with my blog, as she loves and cares for the whole crew just as much! A sweet Christmas moment between her and Meadow.

Love your pets, be thankful for them and what they give to you... love and sweet memories even if there are many broken sleep nights throughout, right Meadow?

Who me?

Thanks for stopping in. Have a great weekend!

February 4, 2015

Say "Hello!" to Norbert...

Hey everyone, say "hello!" to Norbert...

Norbert is a Leopard Gecko. At first we thought he was a Fat-tailed Gecko but after much research and discussion with some much more knowledgeable people, it's pretty certain he's a Leopard.

But, let me back this up a bit.

After Hargid's passing, there was an emptiness not just in that 10 gallon tank, but in the house once again. Hagrid's stay with us was far too short. I liked having a unique family member such as him once again. Not sure who Hagrid is? Read here. His death came on quite suddenly after a few months with us, see here.

A few weeks had gone by and Angie could see I was still bothered by what had happened. She said she was open to the idea of another Tarantula coming to live with us but really hoped we could find another one needing a home (rescuing) instead of supporting the exotic pet trade. Of course that's what I would prefer too. We have 2 backyard rescue Budgies and an ancient newt I rescued named Ralphie who is probably nearing 17 years of age now. Ralphie was abandoned by someone I knew in a former life let's say. 12 years later in this house, he's still going strong. Ask any pet place how long these small newts live, and most say 3 years on average. Obviously a lot depends on who is caring for them and how they do it.

I had started researching Tarantulas, scoping Kijiji for someone giving one up, etc. I discovered a number of species I had never heard of before that caught my interest, almost enough to go purchase one, especially this species...

Ghost Ornamental

But with Christmas rapidly approaching, much to do over the holiday season, the Tarantula search was put on hold. I was going to start up again in the new year and give myself till March to figure it all out.

Through the month of January, I was doing light searches once a week. I found a few people wanting to give up their eight legged pets but everyone sought some financial gain from it. Weird to say they cannot care for a Tarantula anymore, have no time for it but still would like $75-$100 for it. Tarantulas require very little care, they are one of the easiest creatures to keep. They are solitary beasts and don't need daily feedings. As you can guess, I've been passing on these ads. In my opinion, if you really care about the creature and want to give it up, trying to get back what you put into it and some is not the way.

So, last week, I'm sitting at home and an email comes in from Stacey, a public school friend of mine. Public school! I'm 45 now. Thanks to the wonders of Facebook we've been re-connected along with a couple others from those days being single digit ages. She asked me if I was interested in taking in this Gecko that was abandoned at her work. Everyone was helping care for him, one guy even took him home on the weekends, but nobody wanted to make him a permanent family member. I told her I was curious, would talk with Angie about this, and start researching them. I admitted knowing very little about Gecko care.

First photo of Norbert that Stacey sent me.

I sent Angie a light email on the creature and she was full of questions, got on her own Google search as well.

Little is known of his story other than some guy got it for his 2 kids, however long ago, and I guess over time, the kids lost interest in the Gecko. There was some transition with the family, going someplace where they could not take the Gecko, some other family member kept it for a bit, who eventually dropped it off at the original owner's workplace. After almost 2 weeks in the office, they were wondering when he was going to take the Gecko again even if meant to another home. Turns out buddy left the job, wasn't coming back for the Gecko and asked his former co-workers to find it a new home. Something like that anyway. But end result is abandonment. When someone takes an animal into their home, no matter what it is, it becomes their responsibility, the animal needs a forever home. And it's more important with these exotic animals in my opinion. Exotics require unique care that not everyone is willing to give or can. The former owner of this Gecko may not have meant to be cruel but he certainly was, just turning his back on it and expecting others to do something with it. His co-workers did their best but knew he needed a new permanent home. Hence my old friend Stacey contacting me. My Facebook page is much like my blog, but on a daily basis, animal this, animal that, in smaller doses. Everyone knows I love animals, furry, feathered, slimy, scaly... they all touch my heart daily!

The communication flowed between Stacey and I about him. And I had another conversation going with Angie as well. We all started researching Geckos that morning, rapidly gathering up the basics on them. Amazing how all of us got concerned over this creature so fast. It was after she sent this next photo to me, that both Angie and I decided to bring him home...

Not the best of photos but enough to say "he needs a caring home now". The bottom of his tank looks like mucky sand and that is not suitable for a Gecko. It seems they can ingest the sand and that can cause blockages. Eeek! Geckos are more nocturnal and need a cave of some sort to hide in when through the day... this enclosure had no shelter of any kind for him. There were a few other noticeable concerns but you get the idea.

Stacey and I made the arrangements for me to get him, and I met her at her work place on Friday January 30th. It was pretty cool to see her again after what I estimate to be approximately 35 years. Who's feeling old now? LoL! We chatted mostly about him in the 15 or so minutes I was there. It would have been nice to chat some more but she's working, I got to get him home, set him up and get myself to work. And with the whole Facebook thing, we are pretty much caught up on each others lives anyways.

I had made a stop at a nearby Pet Smart to get some necessities. I had a list of things thanks to my research, but once in the store, I was kinda stuptified. I lucked out in meeting an employee who was very knowledgeable with Gecko care, and she helped speed up my shopping adding her wealth of information as I picked out items best for him.

I've told everyone including Stacey and the girl at Pet Smart, that I don't want to kill this Gecko out of ignorance. The Google searches have been helpful but confusing too. One site may state something that contradicts another site. Some people say that feeding them live meal worms, could have the worm eat it's way out of the stomach of a Gecko. What?!?! How horrific! Other sites state that is a myth. I've since learned of others I know who have Geckos and are sharing how they care for theirs, what they have learned over the years.

We are nearing a week since Norbert has come to our home and things are going quite well, so I think. He was stressed with the move, bouncing around in the truck coming home that day, being taken out of his familiarity even if it was not the best set up for him, and dropped in a new home. I think he quickly took to the new home though, enjoying his privacy in his rock cave, and he loves his heating pad within. He did not have one of those in his old set-up, just a big heating lamp that shined down on him all day long. For a nocturnal creature, you can see why his new home, dark cave and warm floor is much more appealing than open space and bright lamp, like the sun, over top of him.

The eating thing started off slow. He took to meal worms quicker than crickets. I guess the meal worms were easier to catch? He wasn't so keen on the bigger crickets, their movement would sometimes put him in retreat. I was told the crickets should not be any larger than the space between his eyes. When one goes to the pet store to get crickets, it's either large or small. The small are sometimes too small and some of the large are too large. I got a few dozen of each to work with, plus Ralphie, and Ash, our Fire-belly Frog, both eat crickets too (small ones). The Godzilla crickets have had me resort to some barbaric measures though. Too big and too jumpy so I got the idea of taking them down a notch by removing the back legs. I warned you, it was something barbaric. I do it as quickly as possible, and get them in Norbert's mouth just as fast. Right now, it's just as much for me to monitor his feeding as it is to keep them from pestering him, running around his enclosure and climbing over him. The smaller ones I do coerce into his lair, legs still attached. All the crickets get dusted in this calcium powder first, which helps a Gecko digest the meal and gives additional nutritional supplements. The crickets are fed a variety of things to load their guts as it is called, ensuring a very full and healthy meal of them. It's work to feed the food on top of caring for an exotic!

Meadow knew something was going on the day he arrived but she was having a blast playing in the large cardboard box he and all his items came in to give notice to him.

Initial set up.

Oh boy, a box!

A big box at that!

Norbert in his old home just before moving him. The white pieces are his feces. I thought he was in sand but it's not, it's some kind of substrate.

Norbert in his new home. New water dishes. And he has some kind of carpet for reptiles for landscape (easier to clean and spot feces, find live crickets, etc).

We like to think he is very content in his new home.

We have no idea how old he is, but with his size, he's definitely full grown at approximately 9 inches. In due time, we are going to look at giving him a larger living space, probably a 20 gallon tank. For now, just want to be sure he's okay and we are caring for him properly.

I guess some of you are curious about the name Norbert. As with Hagrid, Angie got the job of naming him. It's seems to be the new deal around here. She always freaks me out with hints of silly names like Jelly Bean, Jingle Bell, etc. She knows that drives me crazy. But she ends up with something cool and unique. Norbert is a little Dragon from the first Harry Potter movie. Here is a link to the scene, scroll ahead to the 2:10 mark to see Norbert.

I hope to have future blogs about Norbert in what will hopefully be a lengthy stay with us. Please wish him a warm welcome and a happy healthy life. :) And for the record, our zoo is once again full.

Here's Meadow's first encounter from yesterday. We had one super excited kitty for a spell. She's kinda forgot about him since this moment, which is probably for the better. I can't say whether he noticed or if it bothered him to have a cat pressed up against the glass watching him like she did.

Meal worm lunch.

Gone in the blink of an eye.

Norbert playing one of my fave games as a kid... "SEE FOOD"!

Mmmmm, tasty.

And after a meal, he lays out like any cat or dog would. His tank is right next to the couch in the living room, on my side, and it's peaceful to sit there and watch him so relaxed.

Makes me sleepy.

Thanks for stopping in. Till next time... cheers!

January 27, 2015

Positive Thoughts, Snowy Sightings

We are just over one month into winter now, yet it feels like we've gotten over the hump of it already.  I took notice to the daylight still showing itself at 5:15pm about a week ago.  News people have been commenting on Spring and counting the days.  A male Northern Cardinal has been belting out his song since New Year's, even the neighbourhood House Sparrows have all changed their tune to something I am more familiar with in the Spring.

Why are we rushing this season along?  Who can forget the 2013/14 winter? The ice storm? The frost quakes? The countless extreme cold weather alerts?  This winter is definitely nothing in comparison.  A much milder winter and one I am embracing as should others.  Every season has something to offer, giving us something to appreciate if we chose to see it.  For Angie, many of our friends and myself it's the different birds winter brings us...  and more specifically this winter, yet another Snowy Owl invasion.

example of an eBird map with reported Snowy Owls in a 2 month period

I know some people in the GTA who still have yet to see a Snowy Owl despite 3 big years for them in the last 4.  A person really isn't trying that hard or at all if they have not seen one and want to.  Of course not every sighting is going to be something up close, not needing binoculars, and giving someone with a camera an amazing photo opportunity...  but any sighting of such a beautiful bird is nothing to complain about (so I think). 

As I stated in a previous blog, I am not making much effort to see them like other winters, I am not after a big count.  I will take them as they come along and enjoy them for what they are. I really should have started jotting down the number of sightings this season instead because it's almost staggering in the last couple weeks.  This is a wonderful surprise because I am seeing birds on average of 3 nights a week on the way home from work (after 10pm).  The bird counts range from 1 to my new record of 4 in an approximate 5km stretch.

My drive home has me pass the south side of Pearson Airport and despite the trapping/relocating of 14 Snowy Owls around Christmas, birds are appearing.  There was a lull for a few of weeks which I suspect is because of the trap/relocate program; so are these new birds or the return of those previous visitors?

A few co-workers go the same route home as I do and I am always asking them if they saw the Snowys in this stretch.  I always get "no".  It stuns me because the birds are so obvious to me and these guys even say they are keeping their eyes open for them.  One of my buds, Tim, says either you have an eye for them or you don't (and he doesn't).  Seems he's had some discussion about this with another friend of ours, Chantal (seeing if you are reading this).  I think once you spot one or two, you tune into them with future drives.

Of course one must pay more attention to the road than look for these birds.  And spotting one is just that, you see it and you keep going because who can pull over on the side of the 401, day or night?  In some cases, depending on where I see a bird, I may pull off at the next exit and back track along the side roads to try and locate them. 

I've been practicing shooting in manual these days with my camera, and while the night photos aren't anything overly spectacular, I am liking the captures with that neat sepia effect.  But to me, it's more so the memory.  I love watching them from the truck, the birds aren't being flushed and chased, they are flying because they want to fly, and I am having those zen moments with them.

Not very often do I come across such a specimen like this one, nearly all white.

Winter night birding!  Who would have thought that possible? After a long aft/eve at work, I am always excited to punch out and head for home, and this just adds to my thrill of leaving the "pop shop". Sure it's just another Snowy Owl to some people sick of the birds this winter but for me... "holy s**t, there's another Snowy on my way home from work!"

We are in the last week of January now and in the next 5 weeks or so, these birds will be on the move north again. Enjoy them while they are with us.

In the wee hours of Sunday morning this past weekend, 3am to be exact, Angie woke up and minutes later wakes me up and asks if I want to go look for Snowys. It took me a few minutes to process this and then I said "yes". She had hoped to experience some of what I've been lately, seeing the birds after dark and doing their thing. We lucked out and found two in a 10 minute drive from home. Both birds were chilling out on lamp posts, paying little attention to us below in the truck. Feathers blowing in the wind, scanning the grounds below. A couple minutes of watching and then we moved on. Gotta love having a crazy passionate spouse with common interests, eh?!?!

The ones I have been spotting after work, watching off the busy 401 have been great. The big white guy I shared a shot of above did some spectacular flight displays for me, hunting a field, swooping down and then returning to the same lamp post.

This bird below has been in the same stretch of road for a week now, and usually on the same lamp post.

Although one night he was further along, at the off ramp (pretty sure it was him). I watched him as I waited for the light to turn green. He started doing the dry heaves like a cat with a hairball and then he expelled a pellet right there, which almost landed on the truck. This was 12:30 in the morning, I had the window down so I could see him better, and I heard the pellet go splat on the road. No other vehicles around, I put the truck in park, jumped out and scooped up the pellet with some paper towel (it's drying now and I look forward to picking it apart). Who knows what could be within? Rodent skulls are the prize in my opinion.

Only a couple nights have I had my camera with me. I'd leave early for work during the day, taking the side roads west, hoping to spot them sitting out in one of the fields but have yet to find one. I always see the Red-tails in my day searches though. After dark, the Hawks disappear and out come the Owls.

I've inspired some to get out looking since sharing bits on social media and maybe some who've yet to see a Snowy will try a little harder soon before the birds are gone.


this isn't just about birding anymore either. I've decided to try and find something good in every day, no matter how miniscule or how brief the moment is, but something which will impact me positively. There's so much shit and stress in our lives, we all have more than our share of negatives and I am making the effort to fight back. I am not avoiding the issues that need to be dealt with but acknowledging these better moments sure helps me keep going. It can be these Snowy sightings, an exceptionally great cup of coffee, not hitting any red lights on the drive to work; or listening to petty complaints and negative rants from those I have to deal with daily, that I don't consider friends, and that I don't let sink me down with them but instead walk away with a smile on my face and silently thank that I am not them.

Soon I will be looking for the returning Red-winged Blackbirds, first flowers of Spring and the rise of the Wooly Bears. But for now, these Snowy Owls sure do wonders.

I can't say I'm happy with the title of this blog. I always try for something creative, but much like the name of my blog overall... it's to the point.

January 20, 2015

Pierre turns 30!

This past weekend Pierre celebrated another milestone with us... 30 months of coming to visit. Two and a half years! Why do I mark these things? I think it's pretty cool to know how long some of our unique backyard buds have been with us.

But the day before his special day, he came pretty close to not seeing the next.

Friday I was out back before work. A cold January day, the birds were hungry and coming in like crazy for some grub. The hand feeders were all squabbling to get at me for some finer dining including shelled peanut bits and sunflower chips instead of the cracked corn on the old bench. Lately the Pigeons have been stealth like due to the Hawk visitors. But without a sighting in a few weeks, I guess everyone has relaxed. Lots of commotion for many minutes when suddenly a Blue Jay let out an alarm call, and all the birds jetted off in various directions. Smaller birds took cover in the conifers and discarded Christmas trees, the Pigeons separated into smaller groups going in various directions. My focus was on Pierre since he just left my hand. He and 7 or 8 others went straight out through the back, making a turn north/west before doing a circle and heading south/east to their suspected roost. But as they went down to the back of the yard, a Cooper's Hawk was rocketing in, coming from the east, which put them all in his sights. The whole ordeal took mere seconds but felt a lot longer as I stood and watched, unable to do anything.

It was something to witness as the Hawk was almost on my Pigeon buds, close enough that the talons were out and about to grab one of them. At this point I could not tell who was in tow with the bunch but the last Pigeon narrowly escaped being lunch for this accipiter.

And honestly, I don't know what I would have done if the Hawk brought one down right there in front of me. I may have acted out in upset fearing it was Pierre. Normally I wouldn't, the Hawk worked for his meal, the other creature is dead or better off at this point, and I let nature take it's course. Let's leave it up to wonder and mystery, and hope it doesn't happen.

I had to leave for work and knew that would be it for the day with my buds coming in.

Saturday comes, it's Pierre's special day and I really did not expect to see him after that near miss. But early afternoon there he was with his flock.

Pierre always stands out.

They all got a good feed from Angie and I. She even had some one on one with Pierre; not surprising but with her work hours, she doesn't see Pierre nearly as often as I do. I'm only seeing him 2 or 3 times a week this winter which I figure is due to the Hawks.

By March the Hawk visits fade out for the most part, Cooper's and Sharp-shins go nesting wherever (not around here it seems). The Red-tails still remain along the rail line which Pierre and the gang must cross to get to us. But I expect more frequency with his visits again.

I'm already looking ahead to the 3 year anniversary in July.

This year I am even marking the visits from Pierre on the calendar. He's older now. I can see it. He may be wiser and physically larger than many of the others but his spunk isn't there like it once was. He takes some good shit kickings from the younger birds. I always look out for him though. Whenever he comes to visit, he gets special treatment. I ensure he has a good peaceful meal, hand feeding him and keeping him close to my body... the others won't dare try and knock him off from this position. None of them have that level of comfort with me like he does.

I'm not all doom and gloom about this with tracking his visits. It's a reality that one day he won't be here with us. A few times I really thought he was gone with his lengthy absences, sometimes gone for more days than ever before. So I embrace our visits. I have no idea how old he is. 30 months plus ???

Some of you may enjoy this blog while others may roll their eyes. He's got as many fans as he does who don't care for him and his kind. Funny how at times it's just so out of the blue for someone to come and ask about him, people I don't expect this from, co-workers or acquaintances, heck even a stranger one day at the nearby Tim Horton's who recognized me from that Global News piece last winter all asking how he is, if he's still coming around. Then the haters chime in at other times constantly warning me about Pigeons carrying many diseases, jokes about bird flu, I am probably hated by neighbours and these birds aren't nothing more than pests and better off in the clutches of a bird of prey. It's the same old crap and I just ignore them now because obviously their attitudes will never change. I just joke that they are jealous that they can't make friends with animals.

Well a bunch of them just flew in. I think it's time to end this blog.


Here's a few fun phone photos from the last while...

Meadow likes Pierre when he's not on me, taking my attention.

We sure have our moments.  And through that window in the back, the lady next door is highly entertained.  She thinks Pierre is a real character and even took him for a walk about her property one morning.

Pierre embraces our encounters as well.

January 6, 2015

Zen and then...

With most of us returning to work this week after the Christmas and New Year's time off, I took advantage of a bitter cold Monday morning before I started work to scope out a lake park here in Toronto for any Snowy Owls. I figured I would be one of the very few crazy people out there strolling around in the deep freeze. And I was right in every sense of that last sentence.

I'm not in hot pursuit this season to see as many Snowy Owls as I can like I was the last few years. I went from a proud light search in 2011/12 with 13 to "I stopped counting at 2 dozen" in 2013/14. Who doesn't love these majestic birds? In no way am I sick of them. I've decided to not be in competition with myself this season and just take it easy.

The only thing I was hoping for this season was one great sighting. By that I mean a bird in decent range, get a lovely photo and it didn't have to be a flight shot either... and if possible have that zen moment I like with the birds (no bullshit due to some selfish idiot trying to get the perfect shot by any means). And yesterday I got all that... mostly.

I decided to hit a different lake park where one was being reported near home throughout the weekend (actually there may have been two). It was nice and sunny out but no way could anyone feel the warmth of the rays with those cold lake winds. I was bundled up and only had to deal with a freezing face through my walk. The search for anything was looking pretty bleak unless I was into Canada Geese where I found dozens. That's okay. It's part of the thrill of the "chase". And the fact there were so few people around made things even more pleasant.

I was giving up after 40 or so minutes out. The walk back to the truck seemed so long. I was okay with not seeing a Snowy Owl. I chalked this walk up to getting some fresh air and hopefully burning a few calories from all the holiday treats. The truck is in sight now and suddenly so was this...

The Snowy was sitting here the whole time, almost in front of the parking area. But from the view point of the lot it could not be seen due to the lower elevation along with shrubs and rocks.

I got moving rather quickly now, heading up to the road with a quicker pace instead of staying along the lake trail where my movement despite being far off may spook the bird. From his location, there was a higher level of rocks on land that I could sit and watch the bird with ease. He was just over the mound out on the water. No full body view but it was nice to see his head, partial body and take in a peaceful moment with the bird. He was aware of my presence and tolerated it, not giving full attention to me. I watched, took some pics, and just chilled out with him. As time passed, my stillness paid off and bird went back to preening, yawning and just doing his thing.

I was accompanied by another person. They were in awe at the sight of this bird. They could not believe that Snowy Owls show up in Toronto. It's great to see the joy and excitement in another individual. They were taking pictures throughout our time.

Unfortunately they weren't content with this for very long and wanted to move in closer. I said "please don't, the bird is going to fly away" but they didn't listen. I also said that from down below they would not be able to see the Owl, that this was the best spot of viewing. I watched them climb down from the rock ledge and try to sneak across the rocks going out from shore to this small island (not sure what else to call it). I wanted to yell and lose my shit on this person but didn't. She was 5 foot nothing and seemingly just an inexperienced overly curious person. I didn't want to terrify her or the Owl. I chose to sit back and watch as I was certain how this was going to play out, and maybe a lesson would be learned. I also expected a photo op coming. I knew she wasn't going to harm the bird. I figured worst case scenario would be her losing her balance somewhere out there and maybe damaging her gear.

She tried very hard to get closer to the bird. The Owl was well aware of her the whole time. They can hear rodents under 3 feet of snow, they certainly can hear us big humans clunking around, trying to keep our balance on rocks over the lake.  The Owl would stretch his head up as she moved closer (the above photo was about as close as she could get).

And as expected, the Owl took flight and got out of there.

He landed further down the beach.

She stood up, laughed like a happy little girl and said "you so lucky!" I said "I told you so". It was near time for me to leave for home. I waited for her to climb back to land and tried to educate her one last time about respecting the bird's space. As conversation continued I realized she wasn't such an innocent overly curious person. She talked about the St. Catherine's Snowy Owls from last winter. And everything to do with these birds was about how close she could get to them for photos. UGH!

The Owl was just down the hill from the main path now. The foliage in the top of the photo has the path right behind it. More people were out and about now and not one person saw him.

I talked to her a little more, suggesting to try and just enjoy the bird where he is, maybe use the path and foliage as a shield like I intended for one last opportunity.

All was good and now I really had to leave. I said "goodbye" and silently wished she would not try any further goofy antics. Instead of a goodbye back, she says to me "you owe me." Huh? She asked that I now take steps towards the Owl, flush him, so she could get some flight shots. I said "no way!" instead of the profanity I fought to contain. My last words were along the lines of "please leave him be where he is" and I left. As I neared the lot, I turned back and she was still in that same spot taking pictures. I hope it ended that way with her just walking away.

I expected to just get in my truck and head for home, embracing the moment prior to the goofy crap when I was stopped by an older man. He commented on the beautiful Snowy Owl, how cold the day was and all to which I agreed. He then asked me if I would like to go up to his condo for a hot chocolate and watch a porno! I used to say that the worst question asked to me when out on a nature trek was "do you know where any Owls are?"... I think this one trumps that one by a long shot. I was totally shocked by this. I said "not interested" and quickened my steps to the truck. He didn't follow me, just stood where he was, watched me get in the GMC and drive off.

See, I told you only the craziest of people would go out on such a bitter cold morning!

If you care for another uncomfortable bird outing in Toronto of mine, check this blog!