Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

June 7, 2019

Mis-adventurous Tale from a Volunteer Driver

How's it going? Welcome back to my animal blog only this time it's not one of my typical blogs as you might figure by the title. A while ago I did a similar blog about the interactions I've had with people while volunteering; this one, not so comical.

I had an opportunity to help out my friends at the Toronto Wildlife Centre yesterday. It's always a fun time to release migratory songbirds, any releases are better than bringing in sick or injured animals.

As per norm in the spring when many of these birds are heading north of Toronto, we drive them, you guessed it, north. Not too far in most cases mind you, and to a great and large conservation area with a variety of habitats to suit just about all these birds' needs until they figure out where they are going to go. The destination is the Kortright Centre in Vaughan.

I know my way around Kortright because of helping the Canadian Peregrine Foundation, this is where their educational birds have been staying for many years. Kortright has a main entrance and you drive the road in a ways. I'm not a fan of releasing the birds any where along this stretch since it is the main road in and parking along here can annoy other drivers. The Earth Rangers facility is along this road, more traffic and a rather large building. If you go through the main gates, maybe having to pay an entrance fee (or not) depending on who the attendant is, you end up in the parking area and can go no further. The visitor centre is here as well as some other structures. Yes, there's still acres of green space from Pine Valley Road to the main parking area, actual time out of vehicle can be seconds to a few minutes... so maybe it's just me being really fussy and preferring a quieter release spot just how I like things whenever I'm out in nature, taking roads less traveled.

I know a service entrance into the area. A small dirt road that takes you into the back portion. It's gated after dark but usually during the day it is open. Just in from the main road here, there's a couple walking trails. It's normally void of people and I might have seen one passing vehicle in the last 6 visits here. If I am releasing any birds here, I am in and out in about 10 minutes. If I am going to the CPF facility, I am not parking on this road. Man am I ever detailed here!

Okay, so let's get on with this. I park the car about 40 ft down the road from this gate. I have it well off to the side so if by chance another vehicle passes, it can do so with ease. I get out of the car, throw my hoodie on since I know it's going to get rather buggy where I take the birds (Mosquito City). I get my camera and am about to open the back of the car when I see a much older man than I walking up the road. He's not saying or doing anything out of the ordinary but my "spider sense" is tingling. I decide to hold off on opening up the hatch and exposing the bags of birds.

As he nears me he starts to scold me in broken English. "You cannot park here. You did not pay to enter the park. I am calling the police. You will go to jail." I know trying to explain anything to him is going to get me no where but I try anyway. I tell him that I have permission to be here, that I'm only going to be about 15 minutes. Before I could say anything else like the fact that he certainly did not pay an entrance fee to enter the park, he's cutting me off and like a broken record, he's repeating those lines to me. He never stops, just keeps walking, still yammering. He really pressed the fact that he was calling the cops and I will be going to jail.

I stay by the car. I'm not going to be confrontational although I really wanted to tell him to go fuck himself.

He gets to the gate and tries to close it on me. He's pulling the gate and about 3/4's of the way over, it gets stuck in the gravel. He's trying harder to close it but he couldn't move it any further. I'm just like "are you fucking kidding me" in my head. I'm not concerned by this because even if he did lock the gate on me, I just follow the service road down and it takes me through the park and out the main way. I'm also not concerned if suddenly the police show up and question me. I was not doing anything wrong. I've found with past encounters with police while doing something wildlife related, no matter with what organization or on my own, they've been very good. Peregrine Falcon fledge watches have the most examples but that's for another time.

So this guy realizes the gate won't move any more. Now he grabs the chain and tries to drag it from the post to the gate, to see if he can lock it. I'm still in awe at his actions. It won't reach. He yells to me now since we are so far apart, "the police are coming to get you, you are going to jail!" I just say "Okay, thank you, have a nice a day!" Then he disappears around the corner, walking up the main road.

I shake my head, take my time getting myself and the birds together. Still no sign of him. I walk down the path about 50 ft and start the releases. I see him return. He's by my car. I stop and watch. I don't know if he can see me or not. He then proceeds to hock up a loogie, clearing his sinuses and throat, and then spits the mess on my front windshield. MOTHER FUCKER! I've still got a couple birds to let out so I just freak out in my head, my blood is boiling but I stay on task. The guy walks away, heading back to the main road and I am assuming he went home as I never saw him again, not even after I left.

Unbelievable!

The releases went great. I was happy to see these birds go free. I am sure the birds were happier than I could ever be, to be back in their wild world again.

This could have played out so much better if the guy wasn't such an asshole. He might have even been able to join me and witness these birds return home. Oh well, his loss.

With bird releases, I never know how it will play out. Some birds fly off quick. Some birds disappear, especially at this time of year with the leaves pretty much grown in. Some surprise me and spend a few moments rather close, taking in their surroundings. This Magnolia Warbler was one of them. I could not have asked for a better finale.


It's never about getting photos. I usually do have my camera with me and I let the birds decide how this goes. I won't chase them as I know they've been through enough and even those initial freeing moments are stressful too, like "where am I now?"

Despite this ending moment, I still grumbled throughout the rest of the day about that man. I told a few friends about the incident. The reactions were all the same, some with an expletive or two, but all shocked at the behaviour of him.

I've pretty much let it go. It definitely was a blog worthy moment, not that guy deserves anything, but it's head shaking awareness that not everyone you come across is nice.

This came up in my Facebook memories today. Rather suiting.

May 22, 2019

Oriole Party

Good day! A quick blog about a recent occurrence in our backyard.

Early last week it was unseasonably cold and wet. I'm talking +7 C and 10 - 15 mm of rain each day. Just not what we hope for in the middle of May, and neither did the Baltimore Orioles. Normally we may see 4 to 6 males around this time as they move through, and one or two will stay with us, finding mates and raising families in the neighbourhood. That cold wet spell sure boosted the number of Baltimore Orioles. Highest count was 22 birds all here at once!

It was a crazy awesome time. We couldn't keep up with feeding all these birds with just our 3 feeders, offering nectar (sugar water), orange halves and grape jelly. My mother donated a big bag of oranges and a few jars of jelly to the cause. I also made a make shift feeder using a slab of wood, driving some nails through it as spikes for old orange halves and filling them with grape jelly. It was obvious the birds were desperate as they were diving into my yard waste bin, going after all the discarded orange skins, and some even sat upon my jelly jar helping themselves while I was out back. Here are a few photos of the party.

The make shift feeder.


Just a few birds here.


A few more.


How many Orioles can you see here? 14 is what I see.


Another 7 waiting for a turn at the picnic table.


The kicker was this banded Baltimore Oriole. I wanted to try for his band numbers but couldn't sit outside through the steady rain with my camera. Also having 22 Orioles flying around, often chasing each other, no way this guy was sitting still for very long.


This fall out of Orioles only lasted a few days. Once things warmed up and dried out, the birds were moving along. I'm happy to report that we still have at least 6 birds.

Thanks for stopping in. Cheers to you all on Whisky Wednesday!

May 17, 2019

For Eva

I was doing a little bit of very local birding this morning. No shortage of Baltimore Orioles to say the least. Some new arrivals to the park included Great Crested Flycatchers, Blackburnian Warblers and 3 male Indigo Buntings. Who doesn't love to see an Indigo Bunting? I heard their song well before I spotted one, but it is a song that sticks with me year after year unlike so many Warblers' songs.


A nice short outing.

On my way out I was stopped by a woman who reads my blog, and has for a few years now. She recognized me as I walked past her. She introduced herself and had some kind words for me. Then we chatted briefly about the birds before parting ways.

Thank you for this moment Eva. It was an unexpected surprise. I know I haven't blogged a lot here lately, especially now that we are in nesting season and the other blog is fairly active; but your words inspired me to put a little more effort in here.

Have a great long weekend everyone!

April 30, 2019

Yard Bird #72

Yesterday yard bird species #72 stopped into our backyard. It was this Pine Warbler.


I was outside trying to take a photo of a very unique looking yet uncooperative Pigeon when I heard a funny bird call above my head. I quickly forgot about the Pigeon and focused on this other bird. I knew it was a Warbler but not sure what kind. I saw the yellow about the head which could narrow it down a few species but nothing definitive. Finally the bird came down to ground, going for a drink at our bath basin. Positive ID on the species. A couple decent photos. And away it went.

It's Spring migration! I can only wonder what the next species may be (IF we get another new species in the coming weeks).

April 19, 2019

Raccoons...

I did a nest blog on this rainy morning. If you like Raccoons, please check it out. Cheers!

April 12, 2019

Spring 2019 Catch Up

Well I am in awe that we are just about halfway through April right now. Where did March go? Where did the first 2 weeks of April go? Time sure flies...

Life got me pretty busy for a while and the weather kept me close to home where there's been little activity. But here's a bit of catching up on life with the animals.

I wasn't going to share this but I feel it is necessary because it really effected me. If you remember the new Pigeon visitor Claire. Well, sadly, she became prey to the winter visitor that is the Cooper's Hawk. While I did not see it happen. I am positive some feathered remains I spotted in a neighbour's backyard are that of her's.

I had seen her on a Monday around her usual time of visit. She quickly flushed from the yard before I even got my boots on to come out and feed her. I figured ed the Hawk came in and I hoped Claire flew off to safety. I did not see her any where. The next day I did not see her but I noticed a pile of Pigeon feathers in another backyard. There was some reddish brown wing feathers in the pile. I've had so few Pigeons coming in and can only think of one other bird with those colors of feathers. I have seen that other bird since but Claire never came back. What would you think?


I adored Claire. She was unique not just in appearance but also her personality. They all are unique but something stood out with her. It devastated me for many days after. I guess I always knew something wasn't exactly right with her. She wasn't like the other Pigeons. I refuse to say she was "slow". Maybe "inexperienced" is a better description? Seeing her sitting in the deep snow that one day during the storm was odd. Her staying in my hand when the Cooper's Hawk showed up was another odd thing. I'd seen her fly out of the yard at times and either hit the phone wires or clip branches, which I've never seen other Pigeons do.

The visits from Pigeons have been few and far between. Charlie and Fitz make random appearances every 2 or 3 weeks. I miss the bonding times with these birds but am okay with them not coming to visit, and hopefully are safe elsewhere. I've not seen a Cooper's Hawk here in a few weeks now. The Pigeons will probably be on alert for quite some time yet.

Note: I do not begrudge the Hawks. It's nature. They play their role. I feel some guilt making friends with these birds although at times they come here and are just that way, obviously being familiar with kind humans elsewhere.

Topper showed up the other night. I hadn't seen her in a few months. I know it was her because of her actions. She came wandering into the backyard near 11 pm on Wednesday. I watched from a distance down back and she made her way down my way. As she neared, I took a side step to make way for her. She stopped, got a tad spooked and started to quickly back up. I said "Topper" and she stopped. She sniffed the air and listened to me say "Hi Topper". She then put it in high gear, running in my direction, almost over my feet and went straight to the shed. I "accidentally" dropped some treats that I know she enjoys, to which she gobbled up. I said "it's so nice to see you again Topper" among other things. Whatever I say, "Topper" is added to the sentence. She may not understand my ramblings but I know she knows my voice and that one word... Topper.

I didn't get a decent photo of Topper to share but here's a great memory from that first summer as a wee little Skunk. She really helped me in those many weeks I was home recovering from my fall off the roof and healing 2 broken ribs. Who wouldn't love to have morning coffee with a baby Skunk?


For a recap, Topper was born in the summer of 2017. At some point I happened to notice an injured Skunk wandering our backyard. I called in to Toronto Wildlife Centre the next day about this sight. They said if I could catch her, to bring her in for assessment. The next night this Skunk showed up again and I was successful in catching her with my live trap. Long story short, she was severely injured and she was a lactating mother. Eek! They could not ethically bring her back her because of how severe the injuries were (most likely a survivor of a car strike). I was asked to keep an eye out for baby Skunks wandering around. I did just that as well as inform some of the better neighbours around here. About a week later 3 small Skunks showed up in our backyard. We monitored them and they seemed to be doing well on their own; of course with a little help from Angie and I leaving helpful bits like dried mealworms in random spots for them to discover. The young Skunks stayed close to our home for the rest of the summer and through the fall, especially Topper. She reappeared in the spring and made many appearances in 2018. How great it is that she is back once again! Perhaps this year she will have young of her own? I suspect Topper is a female as I did encounter her somewhere around December with a larger Skunk, they were walking side by side out back, digging and feeding together.

I hope the return of Topper eases any upset some readers may have felt from the tale of Claire.

We've had some issues at home with one of our cats, Merry. Constipation! Of course at first we didn't know that was the issue. Even the vets could not say 100%. Good thing Merry's mommy and daddy are very attentive and intuitive. A lot of monitoring of her behaviour lead us to this diagnosis. We are thankful the newer vets to have seen her, since our usual vet is now semi-retired, were good about looking for the more probable reasons to what was going on before doing more intensive and costly tests. It's a long messy story that I would rather not share.

It's stressful anytime a pet is unwell and a puzzle to determine what is wrong since they cannot just tell us. We almost canceled our vacation plans because of how rough things got and we still were without any improvements. Then just days before we had some turn around "movements" and also having a great cat sitter on board eased our worries.

Cats are an odd animal at times. Having a couple Calico cats amplifies everything by 100. It's like there is a switch inside them and it doesn't take much to set them off. Merry's constipation issues made her fear having a bowel movement and whenever she finally did, she would flee the box, still pooping and leaving a trail throughout the house, or she would go someplace else like on my coat I let her sleep on occasionally, or my pyjama pants another time. It was never intentional with these accidents and we knew that. I hope others in these situations do as well.


She may not be a baby anymore but she will always be that way to me.



So you've had a bad story, a good story, a shitty story. How about a fun story?

As mentioned, we made it Las Vegas. What a town! The strip is a crazy busy place. I am grateful we did get a full day out with a guide to explore the land away from the city. I ended up with 29 lifers. My photos weren't spectacular because I spent more time watching the birds with my own eyes, taking in the moments, and not concerning too hard about the photos. That's just me. Highlights were 3 new species of Hummingbird, a few Phainopeplas (Phaino-what-now?), Clark's Nutcracker and ending the day with 9 Burrowing Owls. Of course all the birds we saw were highlights but I figured I would stop before I got too carried away with a list. I'd highly recommend the guys at Bird Las Vegas if any of you ever want to visit Las Vegas and add some great birding to your trip. Here's a couple photos.

Burrowing Owl


Anna's Hummingbird


Vermillion Flycatcher


Greater Roadrunner


Gambel's Quail


A new species of Pigeon!  Band-tailed Pigeon.  How many can you see?


Clark's Nutcracker


As I key this today on April 12th, I want to acknowledge Meadow. Four years ago today we said "goodbye" or as I prefer "be seeing you". I had an emotional moment last Friday thanks to Facebook memories. It was a picture of Meadow and I at the vet, when she took ill. I was hopeful it was going to be okay. The words in myy post showed that as did the look on my face. Little did I know one week later she would go to sleep forever in my arms. The photo gutted me. One would think today I would feel something similar, but I don't. I celebrate the life we had together, the bond between her and I. She was my best friend, as it can be between a man and his cat. I never had to worry about Meadow. She never got into trouble. She loved her leash and harness while being outside with me all day, every weekend, every summer and pretty much any other sunny day through the seasons. If I was gardening or doing other projects outside, I never had to keep watch over her. She smelled the flowers, rolled around on the lawn and just enjoyed the time. Of course anything I was working on took much longer because of the numerous breaks with Meadow. Ask Angie about how long it took me to wrap Christmas presents with Meadow. I think about her every day, it's difficult not to because of the memories, and a few momentum(s) in the house. I miss her. I know some of you knew of Meadow quite well, almost as if you met her, though most did not, or she wasn't very welcoming to that many people. Everyone respected that and appreciated what we had. Angie was a big part of Meadow's life too. Their thing was a slow heat and years in the making. She can pride herself on being Meadow's favorite second human because there was no third, fourth, fifth, etc.


One of them Meadow breaks...


Another...


I loved to make little memes with her, and since today is Friday, here ya go...


As you can see it's been a bit of an emotional ride lately. I will hopefully get back on track with some regular bloggings soon. Remember I do a nest blog through the warm months.

Cheers from myself and the animals (this guy sat out back with me the other Wednesday)!

March 13, 2019

Wild Drive Home

A short blog about my drive home last night...

The ramp to the 401 east happened to be closed when I got off work. Normally I either go up the road a bit, do a u-turn and catch it on the south bound side, or make my way over to the 410 and get on the highway there. Last night I decided to take the long way home, driving the back roads for something different.

I know some roads to drive where I could possibly run into an Owl (Snowy). It's been quiet this winter for them overall but I still very randomly pass the occasional one.

So I am driving down one of the dark roads. One eye on the road. One eye looking for white blobs on top of lamp posts, fences, etc. Suddenly a dark shadow flies right in front of the car. I hit the brakes and narrowly missed something. Now what would be flying around at 10:30 at night? An Owl, right? Only this was smaller than a Snowy and it was not white. Hmmmm.

I pull the car over and scan the area. The Owl appears on a lamp post near me. Holy s**t, it's a Long-eared Owl! The Owl leaves that post and once again flies across the road, diving into the field. It comes back up and lands on some sort of metal piping system sticking out of the ground. I drive the car to a better spot for parking, which happens to be about 20 ft from where the Owl was. The bird did not flush. I sit for a minute, just watching it. Then I step out of the car for a better view with my own eyes, and not through a dirty windshield. NOTE: I remained on the pavement. The Owl observed me momentarily and then went back to scanning the field. I watched it fly out and dive down three more times. I was in awe. I wished I had my camera with me. This was epic!

I got back into the car after trying to get a capture with my cell phone. This here is the best I could get.


As I continued home, I did pass a Snowy Owl. A big beautiful near all white specimen who also took flight into the nearby field. Traffic was busy in this stretch so I didn't pull over for another craptastic capture.

Being involved with wildlife rescue centres and transporting animals, I hear stories of Owls that clip cars when hunting road side. I could never imagine experiencing that. The heartbreak in the moment. I had my own close call here and with a much better ending. I did wish that Owl to be safe and stay away from the road as I drove away.