local Raccoon

local Raccoon
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April 11, 2014

Where'd They All Go?

Oh boy, aren't you all so lucky to see another blog about my Pigeon friends!

Things are a little strange lately and I'm unsure why. The regular visits, hand feeding multiple birds, has almost come to a stop. I say "almost" because there are still very random sporadic visits the last few weeks, never really knowing who is going to show and when.

Pierre last visited me on April 5th. He did have some 3 day stints coming to the back door in March which was nice, then off and away for a week or so.

Red was here on or about the 3rd or 4th.

A peaceful Saturday morning not too long with Red and one of the others.

Walter and Skye on March 29th.

And of course there's the new one, Mickey. It's the name I've given him/her after much thought and many suggestions. I do have a hard time differentiating Mickey from Jesse and even Skye is she's around without Walter. So hard to tell at times until they come right to me. Mickey and Jesse sit a certain way on my hand. Jesse prefers the finger tips and digs his little claws right in. Mickey lowers his body over the grub to hide it from anyone of his flock watching. And of course as you can see in the photo, Mickey is a bit of a mess on his underside, those feathers are ruffled.

But anyways, visits are less and less now. Is it because of nesting season? I've seen some Pigeons come in and take small twigs from the lawn. There are a few birds visiting but suddenly not my hand feeders like before. Maybe they are cheating on me and have another house they visit for some grub? As Spring is really feeling like Spring now, it seems the Hawk activity has died off. Nesting time keeping them closer to home, no snow and ice on the grounds, small mammals running about and to pick off. But are the Pigeon crew still uncertain about regular visits? Who knows?

I can't help that some negative thoughts come to mind. Dark shit I'd rather not spew here at this time. But knowing there are demons in the area with no appreciation for any wildlife, my thoughts do wander to them coming across such an individual. I assume they live in the high rises down the road from us and residents sure don't like Pigeons on their balconies and have done some very drastic things to remove them. Enough said or else I may start keying out examples and personal re-tellings of such things.

Anyways, the weekend is almost upon us. I plan to spend a lot of time out back cleaning up and keeping an eye out for my gang. Wish me luck, wish them good health and let's hope for some reunions very soon. I'll keep yas posted!

Cheers and have a great weekend!

My fave pic of Pierre and a friend on Valentine's Day.

April 9, 2014

Raccoon Release

On Saturday April 5th I participated in the release of 4 young Raccoons. From what I know of them, they were born very late last season and orphaned. And the kind people of Hobbitstee were once again willing to help.  I photo'd their release of 5 young Red Fox last year, see video here.

At a meeting with Hobbitstee last fall about a fundraiser, see blog here, we learned about the Raccoon young'uns, and Angie and I offered to "sponsor" them through their over-wintering. A small monthly donation I suppose, but adequate enough to help look after them. If we could afford more, we certainly would, for them and so many other wildlife creatures in need of help throughout the many places we are in contact with.

We never met the Raccoons, the animals are stressed enough as it is, no need for people peeking in on them, and the little human interaction keeps them wild. I agree with that completely due to the evil people in the world who have a hate on for Raccoons. I've seen enough terrible things here in the west end of Toronto the last few years and know of even worse stories about Ontario. They are living creatures and sorry to say, they bleed and feel very much like we do. Live and let live.  Anyways, enough about that.

Really there isn't much else to say about these creatures except that we wish them the best of luck as they get a second chance at life in the wild.

I was given the opportunity to come see the release, asked to take photos to share with Hobbitstee, and of course my wildlife and nature enthusiasts. Unfortunately Angie was unable to attend.  Here's a bunch of photos from beginning to end of their release.

You probably didn't need any commentary from me through the photos to figure out what was going on. And by the looks on their faces, you probably felt some emotions like I did. I was happy to see the little ones who aren't so little now go out and get a second shot at a life. But watching them, not everyone is as brave as the first to leave the carrier, and as it went down to the last one, you could sense his fear... and that made me sad. I'm sure they all had some fear to this new surrounding and uncertainty. But in the end, once they realize they are free, and in an area well away from traffic, with lots of big trees and a variety of foliage, landscape and water sources, that things will be pretty good in the end. I know they have a few things to learn as they tred the woods and fields, and I just have to have the best of hope for them.

Two of them ran off together after finding water nearby, having a quick drink and then gone. The other two also stuck together, climbing up the trees that were nearby the release. One went right to the top of a barren tree, scoping out the new home. And the other, was pulling bark from a cedar tree and picking at insects found underneath. That eased me some to see this.

And to my surprise, release time was not over as there was a Common Golden-eye ready to go home as well. The shores of Lake Ontario was only a few kilometres south of us, so away we went. I'm unsure what his story was, but they had over 165 water fowl come through the centre this past winter. Sadly so many did not survive as they were in really bad shape by the time they were found. So the ones that do make it, are all the more special, and a reminder to a rehabber on why they do this.

This Golden-eye was so cool and calm about his release. You could see how happy he was as he figured out he was going home. He got quite eager upon seeing the lake and the hundreds of water fowl out there in front of him. He put up no fight and as he went back into the water, he shook his tail feathers, slowly swam away like he owned the place, dipping and sipping the lake waters, and exploring as he swam away from us, never looking back.

I've not been to many releases in my life but have gotten quite familiar with them through others. So nice to see the wildlife return to the wild, happy and healthy. This Duck made that very clear. I should have video'd his cool calm behavior in the water. Oh well, perhaps another time with another Duck?

A few photos from his release. Good luck little guy!

I love this photo of him.

The next bunch of shots need no explanation...

Not all of us can spare the time to help, and sometimes just a small donation can make a difference. So many centres, so much can be done for them, even donating items on their wish lists. In the end, knowing you helped some of the wildlife you adore, is good for your soul and as I key this, know this will get me through a dark dreary Monday.


April 4, 2014

Rob says "help the Robins!"

Hi there!

Well, there's not a whole lot been going on to tell yas about right now, well 'cept for one tale that I don't have the time for at the mo'. But in the meantime, here's something for you to think about...

We have a pair of American Robins visiting us once again this Spring. I'd like to think it is the same pair from the last few years. The winter was brutal, Spring isn't off to the best start and birds like these could really use your help. They are fruit and insect eaters, and as you can imagine, such finds right now are pretty scarce.

Angie and I set out old Blueberries for them. Actually, we toss them out on to the back lawn and the pair give chase to them. It's fun to watch them run after a berry, grab it, gobble it up or sometimes poke and probe at it prior to eating.

I've not gone out and taken many pics of them yet, well not with any Blueberries, but trust me they are at it again like previous years.

Here is the male from this morning...

And the female...

Perhaps next time you open your fridge and notice some old berries on the shelf, take them out to your backyard. Or if you don't have a backyard, the local park would do. It's not only the Robins that may take to the berries, other birds enjoy them too, as I've seen Northern Cardinals steal them. Squirrels also enjoy the fruity snacks. Help the critters out while we wait for Spring to really spring. They most certainly would appreciate it!

I blogged about our visiting Robins last year, check it out here.

Here's my favorite photo I got of one of them last Spring.

It would do your soul some good if you get to witness the birds come in and enjoy the fruit you leave out for them. And it's natural, no mess, unlike some bird seeds if you worry about such things.


March 25, 2014

Sunday Prey

After a wonderful near full day at the Royal Botanical Gardens with the annual general meeting for the Ontario Eastern Bluebird Society on Saturday March 22, we decided to spend Sunday at home with our critter family. It would give me many hours of backyard bird watching for "Project Feeder Watch". I had high hopes of great sightings since late Saturday we had 15 Common Grackles, 8 Red-winged Blackbirds and 2 American Robins which were welcomed additions to my normally less than 10 species to count during my count days.

The morning started out slow, a few Dark-eyed Juncos linger with us, not quite ready to fly north for nesting just yet. House Sparrows come popping out of the discarded Christmas tree along the fence line. One female Downy Woodpecker is at a suet feeder. And as I am quite used to this winter, the birds suddenly take off, and if a Downy Woodpecker is present, their option is to cling to the Lilac tree and sit still.

I scan the trees out back with the bins and locate our over wintering Sharp-shinned Hawk I've named "Shirley". In previous winters, this Hawk is gone by this time of March, headed off to wherever she may nest and not seen again until mid-October. This is her third winter with us. As I've said in a previous blog, I have no doubt this is the same Hawk because of the personality with this bird. She's very bold compared to any other bird of prey I've encountered out back. She parades her kills to me, she vocalizes to me some days, and very little spooks her from the yard except larger Hawks. I watched a Cooper's Hawk attack her in the apple trees one morning and ran her butt out of here. Of course as soon as the much larger Hawk saw me, it took off as well. Anyways...

Yep, there's Shirley up there in the tree, and she had that demeanor about her this morning that she was hungry. It was -19c with the winds, she needed to eat. I don't interfere with the Hawks like I used to in my early days of backyard birding, they play an important role out there weeding out the flocks. That old saying "survival of the fittest" is so true in the wild. Example... A Sharp-shinned Hawk a few years back caught a female House Finch at one of our feeders who was suffering from that terrible eye disease they can get. It was heart breaking to watch this little Finch with her eyes almost completely crusted over try and land on a bird feeder. Having a Hawk put her out of her misery was a blessing compared to eventually going completely blind and starving to death. I have a photo of the Finch somewhere, may have to try and find it before I publish this.

Of course I don't want any birds to get on the menu for another bird, but it's the way of the wild world. I always put my dibs on Starlings and House Sparrows over the couple Downy Woodpeckers or Northern Cardinals we have visiting us. So far it works out that way, having sometimes 30 or 40 of one species here compared to 1 or 2 of another.

I step outside for a better look at her. I haven't seen much of her the past month or more.

I walk to the back of the yard, looking for another angle, but with the position of the sun... nothing good for a photo.

Now with any other Hawk (so far), I would not be able to step outside, let alone walk the length of the yard and back, passing under the bird, and have it not fly away. Shirley barely takes notice to me and my doings.

I felt bad for the frozen Downy Woodpecker in the Lilacs but knew she was safe as long as she didn't move. I said "good luck" to both birds and went back inside.

Having a second cup of coffee now, still watching from the window, I see Shirley leave her perch, ignore the Downy in the Lilac and dive into the cedars next door. Sparrows are bursting out of the cluster of trees in every direction, a few Red-wings as well. I had an errand to run so I left them all to whatever was going on. I did see Mrs Downy finally make her escape as well.

Some 5 hours later, I decided to go outside and look for birds to practice flight shots on since I have a birds of prey photo shoot coming up in a couple weeks. A few people have given me some tips on settings for the camera that I want to try out. As I step outside all I can hear is Black-capped Chickadees freaking out. Well this is interesting because I've not seen/heard a Chickadee out back in over a month. I located 3 of them nattering away and bouncing from branch to branch at the back.

A little closer inspection, I find Shirley under the canopy of cedars that is right along our back fence line. She's up on her prep block as I call it. Someone years ago cut down one of the cedars and it's now a 12 foot high stump. Shirley uses this spot quite often after she catches a meal. She's plucking away quite happily at this bird in her talons. I suspect House Sparrow due to the size of it but maybe a Starling because the yellow legs seems rather long for a Sparrow. It's so hard to tell when they are in this state. I looked for primary feathers on the ground but couldn't spot any from where I stood, but lots of fluffy grey ones blowing around now as she kept plucking away.

I watched her for a bit, I took a bunch of photos. I left and got the smaller camera in hopes to video some of the action, which I did and you can view it here. I should have brought out the tripod and captured something clearer than this. I hope you don't get "sea sick" from the motion. And then I took some more photos.

After that last photo, I let her be to finish her meal. I took it as "the look".

And as she filled her belly and went for a nap, the other birds calmed down, and those darn little Chickadees left the scene again.

Not everyone likes a Hawk in their backyard but for a bird watcher, nature lover, it's great. Who needs television? A guy I work with asks me if I saw this or that on one of them wildlife channels and I always say "no" because I'm too busy experiencing what is out our backdoor to turn the tv on (and we don't get the channel anyway).

In recent weeks we've had some other birds of prey come for a visit. This one, a Merlin, was pretty spectacular and a first time ever reported for our home species list. He swooped in, scared the crap out of all the birds, and brought out a whack of screaming Blue Jays after him. The Merlin just sat there for a good 20 minutes on the neighbour's old tv tower, watching the birds, preened and then went off after something else.

A Cooper's Hawk comes around every now and then as I mentioned above. It's chasing Pigeons and drives Shirley out of here. We watched it a few weeks ago sit on the fence and look over the Christmas tree we have layed out back. The Hawk walked the fence rail, back and forth, looking for an opening or sight of a meal within. It then flew over to our Holly bush, landed on the ground and walked around the bush, trying to spot something in there as well. It finally took a dash into the Holly, hoping to flush something, but unfortunately for the Hawk, no birds were hiding within. He should have done that with the Christmas tree. It blows my mind how many little birds surface from it some mornings (Juncos and House Sparrows).

And the pair of Red-tails who have been in courtship recently can be seen working together on the Pigeons. One bird will fly in and flush the Pigeons, sometimes just taking it slow and easy it seems, and as the Pigeons scatter, the other bird swoops in and gives chase. It's pretty kick ass to watch although I dread to think it could be Pierre or one of my other friends.

You gotta accept that lots may come to you with a few bird feeders. You cannot pick and choose your species like some wish they could. Embrace the wild natural world and being able to see things with your own eyes as you breathe in the outside air. What are ya waiting for?

March 20, 2014

Why Blog?

Today is the first day of Spring and I sit here listening to the sounds of a Wood Thrush behind me... on a cd. As this winter just doesn't seem to want to go away and I look for the small signs in the natural world that Spring is indeed coming regardless of the snow and cold temperatures, I still push it a little more by playing bird song cds in the kitchen. The Wood Thrush is one of my favorite calls! Check this link for various Thrush songs, about halfway down is a few of the Wood Thrush.

But anyways, back to what this blog is really about. Why do I blog?

Well, this question gets asked every now and then. One of the main reasons a couple people have asked me is because they don't see a whole lot of feedback in the comments section below the blogs. Even one or two comments to them seems not worth the whole ordeal of typing out these tales and sharing photos.

I say that is why I do it. To share a story and photos, for family, friends, strangers, whoever. And these things are for me too. It's an online journal of my adventures out there with the wild ones. I don't go back to the stories very often, but once in a while something brings up one of these old stories of mine and I can revisit it or easily share it to another.

These people aren't on any social media either, so telling them the conversations that generate at these sites because of my stories isn't proof enough.

And interestingly enough, they don't seem to catch on that them talking to me about my blog, discussing some recent occurrence is feedback just like someone commenting on the blog site; even after I bring this up. LoL!

I get lots of praise from the stories. Sometimes I get negative feedback. Sometimes something I've shared suddenly changes a person's view of me. Sometimes for the better. Sometimes for the worse. I take it all in stride. So here's something for those who ask me why I blog since they don't always see what's going on outside of this page.

In the past year I've shared this blog a few times through other blogs called Through The Eyes of a Saw-whet. As I logged in today, it's gotten another 30 hits this week. I've been told I am passionate, creative and a few have said I'm borderline crazy. Maybe I am a little of all three? But whatever the case may be, it's brought to light some of the don'ts regarding mingling with Northern Saw-whet Owls in the wild.

Sweet little sleepy Sam.

This more recent tale of helping out a dying cat in the middle of the road brought out a lot of emotions in people. One told me to post a warning before I share such a story as it brought them to tears. Why I Didn't Like This Monday. I heard from others saying they weren't sure they could do what I did that night. Some newcomers to my blog realized I'm more than just a long haired guy who likes metal music and a couple shots of whiskey every week. That last bit comes up often as people get to know me through my blog and social media pages. Funny how in this day and age some people still judge a book by it's cover.

This is a very powerful image of that night. And I hope someone out there decided to not let their kitty out the next evening after seeing it.

This story from late in 2013, to the rescue again (sort of) once again proved I may be a little crazy WITH passion. The most common comment I heard was "yer crazy messing with a Raccoon!" My only reply ever is "How could I not try and help?" Indeed Raccoons can be quite vicious creatures and they have a very bad reputation for being destructive; but they are just trying to survive outside in a world overtaken by humans and constant development. They are clever, crafty creatures and you got to commend them for adapting. Don't get pissed off because they dumped your green bin on the sidewalk. Be smart, don't put the bin out until the morning of pick-up. Secure your green bin wherever you store it. We use an old car battery on ours, out on our front porch. We've never had an issue. Regularly inspect the exterior of your home for signs of tampering or possible entry from wildlife. Don't act like it will never happen to you and then blow your lid when it does. But as I said above, "how could I not try and help?" This animal was badly injured. I had the highest of hopes for him, but in the end him being humanely put down was far better than how much more pain and suffering he would endure outside as winter rolled in.

Look at that face. I was a little intimidated by the sounds he made during my attempt to capture him but I wasn't giving up. I am by no means a trained professional but am chocked full of common sense and was fortunate enough to have a cage sitting in the shed that assisted me in catching him that night. Without that cage, I don't think I could have done it. Actually I know I could not have done it.

As much positive feedback I got from helping this Raccoon, there was negative too from the soulless cold hearts that see nothing but vermin with a Raccoon.

And that word vermin comes up as well with my pal Pierre and his gang. Pigeons = flying rats. Useless city birds that shit on everything and are good for nothing. I guess crazy and passionate come into play here once again. I've been warned many times of the disease carrying varmints those birds can be. Nothing a good hand washing after their visits don't take care of. It's not like I hand feed Pierre and then grab a sandwich right away. Sheesh! It's pretty cool how he walked into our lives one day, chose us, no coaxing with food, and has hung around all this time.

Pierre last week, March 12th, with hopefully the last big snow storm of the season.

And one more story that sent ripples through the realm was this one about a celebrity raptor in south western Ontario. A Red-tailed Hawk that one can pretty much go up and give a pat on the head. I never even said anything about anyone, just my experience, what I felt. But I guess it shows my stand on somethings dealing with humans and wildlife, and with that, it seems some have taken a step back from me, as unfortunate as it is. While no real discussions have been made their actions speak louder than words from this as they distance themselves from me. Apparently I might be a bit of a buzz kill with photographers who enjoy such shenanigans with wild birds of prey. What can I say? You go your way, I will go mine. I guess they are proof to this Beautiful Hawk, Ugly People story.

The blood spilled from other living creatures, shown across the face of this Hawk, came from humans all in the name of getting a photograph.

I want to end this on a high note. Many may recall that banded female American Goldfinch from late last summer who was visiting our nyjer feeders. That was one heck of a great story to many in the birding world. I Got Her Number. I shared the adventure almost from day 1 of spotting her until the day I got her full band number and was able to report her. Friends and strangers alike cheered me on through this, and many felt like they were right there in the backyard for this adventure. I was crazy to spend so much time and take so many photos of her legs to get those numbers, but there's that passionate bit as well. People were on the edge of their seats as I got closer and closer to getting the full number. And when it was over, there was a big HOORAY across the birding world, er, those around me in the birding world, and those who followed me through social media as I got it. Once again, another adventure that got people talking. No negativity this time and even those not really into birds were quite impressed and interested. It made others open their eyes a little more to the birds visiting their backyards because you never know when you may too have a banded bird show up at your feeder. And I like to think I've inspired others to try and get that band number in the future. I still remember the banding people I told this tale to and each and every one of them was so happy to know she was alive and well.

So while there isn't always a comment under a blog of mine; there's still much activity because of the stories. I like the discussion one might bring up. It's so cool when someone out of the blue comes up and talks to me about one of the tales. I'm surprised they read it and happy to chat about it. I will engage the negative ones as well. In the end people learn more about me, but more importantly about the wild world around us, not needing to even leave their own town or backyard to experience it. I learn about others because of my blog, both good and bad. Those I seldom speak to discovering we have something in common, or they just want to thank me for the stories and seeing what I see. If someone turns off the television and goes outside, looks at a bird, gets online to ID it, maybe suddenly finds themselves buying a bird guide for the future sightings, perhaps volunteering with one of the many organizations around us, maybe opening up their wallet and making a donation, comes up and talks to me about these things, maybe develops a new friendship because of this stuff... then it's all worth it to me. If none of it, it's an online journal for me, great reminders as time goes by of things I've seen or done, and so far almost all so close to home.