Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

February 28, 2023

Heart Strings

Man, this past Sunday sure was a difficult day!  Around noon I noticed a small raccoon in the backyard.  "Oh cool!" I said to myself.  I don't see raccoons out during the day very often, but to me it isn't that unusual either because it does happen every now and then.  He was a bit of a mess, sporting an injury to his left eye, his tail looked almost like it had been broken at some point, and overall his fur was quite a mess too.  I felt bad for the little guy and assumed he was looking for food, so I threw his some shelled peanuts (no salt of course).

He took his time to eat them all up.  I like watching them feel around everything as they eat.  Their paws are extremely sensitive.  It is said that they have four to five times more sensory cells compared to other animals.

I took a few photos and then went back in the house.

He'd disappear for a while, then come back, and this repeated over the next few hours.  A couple times I went out to check on him and he was no where to be seen; but then suddenly he's behind me and tugging on my pant leg.  It startled me each time.  Then I'd turn and look down at him, looking into his eyes, well the one good eye and silently go "awwwwwww".

The pant leg tug, what's that all about?  Was he tamed by someone in the area?  Or was he unwell?  Signs of distemper include a loss of fear of humans and wandering about aimlessly.  He showed no fear of me and he was seemingly wandering about aimlessly.  Other signs include a rough coat of fur and an emaciated appearance.  Two more check marks.  

While I was in the basement with Angie having lunch, as our kitchen is under renovation, we saw him going back and forth along the walkway up the side of the house as he passed the basement windows.  Then he went up on the porch of the house next door.

After lunch I sought him out again.  He wasn't in the backyard.  I went out front and I found him like this at our front door.

Oh, those runny eyes.  Another sign of distemper.  I'm glad that I went out the back door when I decided to go look for him as opening the front door may have had him accidentally enter our house.

I started contacting "wildlife friends" who work with the Toronto Wildlife Centre seeking their opinion on this raccoon.  I suspected distemper, perhaps an early stage; but I wanted other opinions with more experience in this.  I sent photos and videos of him.  There was a lot of humming and hawing about it.  Nobody wanted to say it was distemper without being very certain.  So there was more monitoring of the animal and his behaviour.

Sadly as the day progressed he seemed to get worse; but with small moments of clarity in between.  I'd have another interaction with him and he'd be killing me as I was pulled into him emotionally through these "unique moments".

It was looking like I needed to trap him.  <insert sad face>  I have a live trap but it was at a friend's place who has been trying to catch a mange squirrel.  The trap may have been too small for this raccoon anyway; even though it has caught raccoons when I was trying to catch a sickly squirrel.  I ended up borrowing a larger live trap from TWC.  The drive there and back, being only 22 km in total, still took me an hour to do.  Gotta love traffic in Toronto!  I was getting antsy as with the daylight soon to be disappearing, it would be more challenging to catch him when the other animals may awaken and start to roam in search of something to eat.

I set the trap with a chicken leg inside.  The raccoon went for it.  He was pushing the trap around, and he triggered the door to shut.  I went out to reset the trap and the raccoon returned while I was doing this.  He was at my side for a moment before going around to the other side of the trap.  He put his front paws on the cage, like he was helping me move it.  Here we are almost face to face.  Yes, a good hard pull on my heart strings.  I reset the trap as he was sniffing around it.  He poked his head inside and I gave him a tap on his backside with my foot.  He ran into the trap, triggering the door, and that didn't seem to bother him at all as he ate the chicken.  I put a sheet over the cage and brought him out to the porch.  Then I made some phone calls.  I won't drag this last bit out but someone came for him within the hour.  I'm glad his time in this trap was quite short.

I'm no veterinarian; but this really did look like an early stage of distemper.  The disease is not treatable and I have seen it in it's later stages with raccoons and skunks.  It is horrible.  Euthanasia may seem cruel but it is the humane thing to do for them.  Canine distemper is highly transmissible to other animals including family pets like dogs and ferrets (not that I can see anyone letting their ferret outside).

I assume there will be some different emotions from people who read this tale.  I wasn't out to make anyone feel sad.  I just hope there's not too many saying "good, one less raccoon out there".  They're living creatures and just trying to live out their lives like the rest of us.  We can coexist with these very clever animals.  I'm always willing to talk with someone seeking advice on how to share our backyards with raccoons and the rest of the local wildlife.  My one line gets most...  "I'd rather look out to our yard and see a raccoon wandering around than seeing some stranger (human)."

Enjoy a few of my backyard raccoon photos here from the last number of years.

This one below is one of my favourites.  She was such an awesome mother and we were like baby sitters with her young one summer.  She laid out on the grass for a nap and let her kids monkey around the yard.  It was a memorable day.

I have fun adding words to some of my raccoon photos.

Raccoons, what's not to love?

February 22, 2023


Hey there.  Just a warning that this isn't a nice happy blog.  Something crappy happened recently.  Well, actually two crappy things.

I was out running some errands one morning and driving along our main road just down a bit from us, I passed a feathery lump in the middle of the road.  I instantly knew that it was a small owl.  I pulled over and picked up the body, which was whole and complete...  I wouldn't pick up a bloody mess is what I am trying to say.  The owl was an eastern screech owl.  >insert sad face<

We haven't seen a lot of our screech owl this winter and I've "blamed" the mild winter for that.  I don't know if this owl that I found was our backyard visitor or not.  Either way, it sucks!  Poor thing.  It must have been hunting roadside and was going for something, flying low across the road and got clipped by a car.  It probably hit the windshield and then bounced off, falling to the middle of the road.

We've not seen our backyard owl since February 2nd.  I found this dead owl on February 10th.  As I write this blog, it is now February 22nd.  We're supposed to be getting some really awful winter weather starting this afternoon and maybe we will see "our owl" again during it.  We can hope.

It's weird that in the days after that sad find, I've felt grief.  Grief over a little bird that surely didn't think much about me.  Grief over a little bird that may still be alive out there somewhere in our neighbourhood.  It's just that having an owl on one's property, and spending quite a few days here since December 2021, you can't help but get attached somehow.  It's been fun wondering some days if he was here or not.  There were days we didn't think he was here and then he would surprise us at the end of the day, suddenly popping his head out of the box.  So many mornings while having my first coffee and sitting at the kitchen window, I spotted him flying into the box to roost the day away.  Both Angie and I certainly felt blessed to have him here.  He owned the yard for the most part when we knew he was home.  We gave him all the space and I was able to occasionally take pictures of him from the deck because of my 500 mm lens.

I took this photo of Little Al on January 29th.  He showed up at the box after we got some accumulative snow overnight.  I remember how I was willing to bet anyone about his return that morning.  No one took me on that bet.

I'm debating as to whether or not share the photo I took of the owl's body on here.  It understandably upset most but they got why I shared the picture.  A few people really lashed out at me for sharing it.  So perhaps it is best I don't post the photo here.  If you look for me on Instagram at robandtheanimals, you can see it there (if you really want to see it).

Then the other sad thing is how we went from 3 backyard opossums in the fall to 1 opossum through the start of the new year.  Sadly he too crossed the main road last Thursday and was hit by a car.  I am sure it was him as my trail camera has not picked up an opossum since the night before.  Why must they cross the road?  He's been taking the gala apples that I have been leaving out for him along with some random piles of cat kibble.  Sure he must compete with the skunks and raccoons in their waking moments but he was getting a feed, at least with the apples regularly.  UGH!  There was no trying to get his body off the road though as it was way too messy.  I swear our main road here is like death valley for the wild ones.  There's a park on one side and a golf course on the other and the creatures do go back and forth.  It is heart breaking for any wildlife enthusiast to see this.  Raccoons, skunks, opossums, a few deer over the years, coyotes, foxes, owls, geese and various birds.  Blech!

I had an encounter with this opossum a few weeks ago.  He was frozen on the back fence for quite a while one night.  I got home from work and noticed the big lump.  I passed him a few times while doing things out back and he never moved.  After 20 minutes or so, being done my little chores, I walked right up to him.  He was motionless.  I put my hand on his back and gave him a few light strokes.  He turned his head slightly to give me a look but did not move otherwise.  

After I went back up to the house, I saw him climb down the fence and go under the shed.  Why did I touch his back?  Because I could!  Opossums are generally slow moving animals and don't react like other creatures.  Would I try to pat a raccoon?  Hell no!  Even my little backyard pal Ripper I wouldn't do something like that with.  He's my little buddy and sits nicely on my hand; but I know how "squirrely" squirrels can be and he'd bite me in a heartbeat if I spooked him and not think twice about it.  Oh Ripper, we all love you so!

Sorry for this rather negative blog but it's a bit of therapy for me.  I know the wild ones have a world of their own and it's unfortunate how we live ours and provide far too many dangers for them.  I embrace the time they spend here with us as they make my days (and life) better.

Lastly. a reminder that blogger made some changes and they took away the email notification option for whatever reason.  So I guess it is up to anyone who wishes to follow my blog posts to stop in periodically and not expect a notice from blogger about me sharing a new blog.

Also, someone asked about how long it has taken me to get Ripper and these pigeons to come to my hand.  Ripper showed up here over 5 years ago acting like this.  Someone else in their neighbourhood conditioned him to come to people for food.  Is that person still in the area?  Only Ripper knows.  As for the pigeons, it all started years ago with Pierre who also just appeared in the yard one day, totally cool with humans and he basically forced himself upon us that first weekend.  As the years went by, other pigeons took notice of Pierre getting good grub from my hand and some braved up, also coming to my hand, and continued to do so.  This is a continuing "thing" to this day.

Thanks for stopping in.  See you all again in a few weeks.

January 25, 2023

January Blahs

How's everyone doing (whoever may still be catching my random blogs)?  

It's been pretty blah here this past month.  Dark and dreary sums up January around our area.  I think we've had 3 days with some sort of sunshine and not a full day of it either.  Sure the spring like temperatures are nice in a way but the rain and cloudy skies just drain and depress me.  Our backyard has suffered with this mild weather.  Odd to hear male northern cardinals belt out their spring song just after Christmas, and the robins soon followed with theirs.  These "bird tunes" are usually a treat for me in mid-February as we are two thirds of the way out of the winter season.  They won't be nearly as special since I have heard a fair amount of them already.

Our visiting eastern screech owl has been MIA most of the month.  Through the end of 2022, he was here 25 of the last 53 days.  In the first 25 days of the new year, he has been here for 4 of them.  It is clear to me that we are his cold crappy weather day roost.  I've predicted his last 2 visits just by the weather.  We are supposed to get about 20 cms of snow this afternoon and through the night; so I am betting he will be back tomorrow.  Here he is late one afternoon watching the birds in the holly bush below.

Early in the winter our doghouse behind the shed was getting some tenants.  An opossum had been using the house and it would appear some days a skunk shared it with him.  Then as winter took a break from us, the animals stopped using the house.  I set the camera up down there some nights to keep up on the activity.

I just deleted a lot of the trail cam photos, which had both of the animals in the house on the same early morning, so you will have to take my word for this.

We're delighted to be seeing an eastern cottontail rabbit around the backyard some days.  It has been a couple years since we last saw one.

Here he is from this morning.  Great camouflage!  Maybe he has been around more and I've not been seeing him?  Can you spot him?

I haven't been out for many walks this past month.  The few I have been on have been void of anything cool and unique to share.  The owl sightings this winter have been nil.  All my usually good for a random sighting every winter haven't had any owls.  I recon I need to expand my searches elsewhere and probably will in February.

Snowy owl sightings on my way home from work really haven't been a thing either this winter.  I had a few encounters before Christmas and then nothing except for one night last week where I had 2 snowys about 500 ft from each other.  One was on a highway sign in between the east and west bound lanes; the other was on a service road off the highway and I made my way over to have a look at him since I hadn't seen one in over a month.  I wished I had my camera with me as the owl was rather relaxed about my presence down on the street below him and he just sat up on the lamp post,  mostly looking elsewhere, perhaps out to his friend on the highway or maybe the field across the highway.  I watched him for many minutes before getting out of the car to try and take a picture of him with my phone and even putting it up to my binoculars for a closer view.

Here is my view of the owl from the street.

And the owl with my phone up to my binoculars.  A cool ghostly out of focus effect.

Ripper still comes to visit.  What can I say other than he is awesome!

Gulliver too although her visits are very brief because of the hawk activity.

Maybe "January Blahs" isn't the best title for this blog?  I have much to be grateful for with the animals, don't I?

How has your January been?

December 15, 2022

One More for 2022

Hey there.  Lately I've been pondering doing a blog but with the holiday season quickly approaching, time just keeps getting away from me.  It's a very windy morning here in Toronto with some kind of storm rolling in that I will be glad to get through only because I am sooooooooooooooooooo tired of all the talk about it coming, be it on the television, the radio, people in my travels.  Funny how a potential of 10 centimetres snow can be such a conversation piece.  But enough about the weather though it may get one last mention in my first photo here that I took about 30 minutes ago, around 8 AM on December 15th...

I was just putting the coffee on when I spotted this Virginia opossum looking out from under our shed.  I've been seeing opossums fairly regularly this fall in our backyard.  Mostly through our trail cam but every few weeks I do seem to cross paths with one out there.

Hopefully he stays under our shed today.  It's rush hour as I key this and, *gasp*, there's a storm rolling in.  It's just starting to rain now.  His bare toes, tail and nose will surely feel the wrath of winter.  Poor guy.  The doghouse is packed with fresh straw if he chooses to use it.  UPDATE - 8:42 AM and he is still down there.  This blog may take me a little longer to do as I keep looking out the window, checking for him.

Little Al the eastern screech owl is also quite regular this fall.  Last winter we would go a week or more at times without seeing him but so far this time around, it's a day or two without a sighting and then he is back.  Since I don't see him weekdays because of my work hours, I find myself glued to the kitchen window on the weekends at dusk.  Silly since he doesn't do anything for the most part, maybe watch the last birds of the day flutter around, or the cardinals chasing each other, and then as it is just about dark, he flies out of the box and heads to the nearby cedars.  I guess it is still just so cool to have a little owl hanging out during the day in our backyard, and gives us a bit of bragging rights.  LOL!

Thanks to Facebook memories, I learned the other week that Gulliver and I had just passed one year since she first came to my hand.  It sure seems a lot longer than that but now I know.  She's still a regular visitor although lately there's been some MIA spells most likely due to the hawk activity.  I've seen a few cooper's hawks flying in and there's also a red-tailed hawk hanging out on a tower near us, which has also come through here on occasion looking for a meal.  Here's Gulliver and I from a couple mornings ago, being all festive.

Ripper still comes around most days.  I remember last year around this time I was missing him as he had been gone since the summer.  What a gift it was when he suddenly reappeared over the Christmas break; or was it New Years?  Doesn't matter, all I know is my jaw dropped when he ran up to me after being gone for 5 months.  I spoil him every time I see him but we've not had many up close and personal moments.  Not sure why really.  I see him and set a big pile of food out for him.  But he's always willing to come to hand if I put it out.  The other week he scared the heck out of me as I was feeding Gulliver and he came up from behind, climbed part way up a nearby tree and then jumped from it onto my shoulder.  Gawd, give this older guy a heart attack why don'cha?  He's awesome.  Here's us a month or so ago also being festive.  I'm not sure what just happened with this paragraph after doing an edit here.  Oops...

Our rescue budgie Frankie is doing well.  He's adjusting to life with us and is slowly coming around to trusting me.  I an put my hand in his cage now and tend to his seed and water dishes without him freaking out now.  That's a big step forward.  He tweets much of the day and smooches his friend in the mirror.  He's seldom alone with me being home all morning and then Angie home later in the afternoon.  He gets table time at the back window which he really enjoys.  I've been leaving his cage door open at times but so far he has no desire to step out of it.  Back in mid-November we had a really warm morning and I took him out on the deck with me.  He got very quiet and seemed nervous about the whole thing.  Maybe he thought I was going to let him go?  Who knows how he ended up outside back in early October, what his former life with whoever was like?  He is quite happy and really loves being put to bed at the end of the day.  I still think he came from a breeder, like all those others that were flying around here this past summer.  Maybe they all lived in someone's shed or garage?  If only he could tell us all about it.

I'm starting to see snowy owls on my way home from work again.  The first one was 3 weeks ago and I have seen two this week.  They are a treat to spot even if I am just passing them doing 110 km/hr on the highway like many of my winter sightings but occasionally I will find a place to park where it is safe to do so and watch them, try for a picture.  I'm going to try and track how many sightings I have this season since it would be too hard to track individuals.

Well, I better stop this blog now and get my day started.  The opossum is still here an hour later.  I put some cat kibble out for him as he has been going to this spot which is under the bird feeder.  I keep that sheet of ply wood out so during the winter it is a spot that I can easily shovel for the ground feeding birds.  There's no grass in this spot anyway so it's all good.  I took this picture from the window as he is a very skittish animal and I don't want to spook him out of the backyard.  Not everyone in the neighbourhood would appreciate seeing an opossum wandering around.  Odd, despite all the promotion from so many wildlife organizations about all the good these animals are for us, some people are still really freaked out at the sight of one.

Okay, off I go.  Wishing you all a very merry Christmas, however you spend the holiday season, and all the best in 2023!  Cheers!

November 10, 2022

He's Back! Hoooo? Read On...

Yesterday morning I woke up to the sounds of angry birds in the backyard.  It started with the blue jays screaming away and soon they were joined by some northern cardinals, house sparrows and lastly a couple of red-breasted nuthatches.  My first thought was that there was a hawk in the yard.  Then I thought maybe a cat as we're having some problems with a few free roaming in the neighbourhood.  It was only when I saw the nuthatches going to the owl box, poking their head inside and still giving something proper s**t that I suspected an owl was within the box.  If you have been following my blog for a while, you know that we had an owl all through last winter.  Angie named him Little Al.

I puttered about in the house like I do every morning with those few chores, finally getting the coffee on all throughout I kept some attention to the box outside both with my eyes and ears.

Finally, after X amount of time, the owl appeared at the entry hole and looking out to the backyards beyond.  I knew without any doubt that this grey morph eastern screech owl was the same bird that hung out with us last winter.  Man was I ever happy to see him!  I texted Angie and she too was beyond thrilled that he came back.

I stepped out onto the deck and took a few record photos of the moment and then let him be.  

I've got some great shots of the owl back in April so I really don't need to try for any more other than distant "look hoo's here" stuff for random social media bits.  One of my better photos back in the spring.

He made a couple more very brief appearances before I left work.  Then Angie saw him when she got home from work, just sitting there with the last light of the day.  She witnessed him fly out of the box at 5:13 PM for his evening hunt.  Lucky her to see him do things some evenings.

Project Feeder Watch just started up last week.  I'll be happy to add him to my count days.

Welcome back Little Al!

November 8, 2022

The Gate

This is a blog that I have been meaning to do for quite some time now.  There's not much story telling but some may enjoy seeing the action at our gate.  The gate is the entrance to our backyard.  I've found this to be one of the best spots to set up the trail camera at night as many of the animals enter our yard from here instead of climbing the fence or going through some breaks in an older part of it down at the back.  I tell you that even some nights I am surprised at how much action there is here, and the frequency too!  Check this out!

I'll start with a short amount of time in one night.  Less than half an hour and here is what happened.

In comes a raccoon.

The raccoon is soon joined by an opossum.

Both disappear but now in comes this cat.

This may be the same raccoon back at the water basin, now with a skunk.

I assume he knows what a skunk can do so he gives it some space.

Along comes an opossum again, probably the same one from earlier.

Okay, so it's only four animals in total; nonetheless, it is a busy spot.  If you aren't convinced yet, how about this from a few nights earlier?

Two opossums!  Neither are our female that we call mom who is missing her tail and now has a right eye injury; she still comes around.

Need another example?  I know we have a number of skunks in the neighbourhood and the camera caught three at once.  

For me, I can see even with single skunk photos that there are different ones visiting because of the stripe patterns, and some don't have stripes at all and just a white cap.  Some say I have too much time on my hands studying these captures but it's all very interesting to me.  Look at these two, very different patterns.

We've also got a rabbit coming around three or four nights a week.  I've yet to see him with my own eyes but it is nice to know he is out there.  I like this capture.  The rabbit sat out there for many minutes and Angie is in the bathroom, having no idea that he is there.  I could do a blog of early morning captures and title it "What Angie is Missing", showing all these creatures outside the bathroom window while she is in it during her waking moments or getting ready for work.

A few mornings later.  Angie is already gone for work and I am not awake yet.  That could be another blog one day, "What Rob is Missing", showing cam captures from the 30 to 45 minutes before I am out of bed.

The rabbit is most often coming through around three in the morning.  

A rainy night and he's here.

I'd like to know what it is eating.  I grew kale for him and it is still out in the garden, not even a nibble on it.  We put our carrot shavings out there some nights; sometimes lettuce, grapes, etc.  Perhaps I will set the cam up in the garden some nights when these things are left out there?

Before I go, here's a couple more from last night.

It's hard to track how many raccoons are around nowadays.  The young ones are quite big now and everyone has spread out.

I'd love to see something like this, a couple skunks waddling around together.

Ten minutes later they're still out there mingling.

And lastly, an opossum.  

I have a big soft spot for these animals especially as the weather gets colder and winter arrives.  They suffer during this season with their bare tail, toes, ears and nose.  We provide  a couple straw filled shelters for them but it is up to them if they will use them or not.  We try.  If nothing else, they can usually find some apple pieces as they wander around the yard.  Some of the raccoons have taken to the gala apples this year, and sometimes they get to them before the opossums.  I like our raccoons but anytime I see the opossum getting the apple, I am a little happier.

I hope you enjoyed visiting the gate here with me.  It's odd to me how many people don't believe there is another world out there after dark.  Not everything goes to sleep for the night; for many, the dark is their time.