Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

February 17, 2017

This Week With Rob and the Animals

Hey hey! Family Day long weekend is finally here in Ontario. A nice 3 day break in February and the weather is looking amazing with near double digit temps and more sun than cloud. Is anyone partaking in the GBBC?

Some of you may recall Moonie and I pushing it a couple years ago. Thanks to Facebook "on this day" app, I got the reminder from when we appeared in the Toronto Star.  What a time that was!

Angie and I plan on a couple outings, even if just locally.

Last weekend we endured quite the snowfall for Toronto, nothing compared to other parts of Ontario, but it was a decent snowfall for us over the last few winters. It snowed most of Sunday, big fluffy flakes, then small flakes, then back to big flakes, and it went like that throughout the day. We decided to take Merry and Molly outside to experience it for the first time in their 22 months of existence. It went pretty good. Their curiosity got the best of them and they ignored the chill to explore a bit. Merry is more used to the leash/harness thing while Molly does prefer the kittywalk but she did pretty good this day. I figure the excitement of being outside again after months of not, the snowfall, it preoccupied her.



We all look forward to warm sunny days in a few months when we can stay out for hours.

With the snow, I took advantage of some local Cardinals for photos.

Then the big bird find this week was chancing upon a Barred Owl. I hadn't been out since Saturday, so Wednesday I finally made the trek to a new area for some exploring. New area to me, more or less, a vast area I've been a few times over the years but there's so much to explore. I'm so glad I made the choice to go, and stick it out with a lengthy walk despite seeing only 1 Red-tailed Hawk and hearing a male Northern Cardinal belting out his song. I was not in search of anything particular. It's not very often I, or Angie and I, go out with target birds in mind. Just taking things in as they come along is the best way to go about things, you may be pleasantly surprised with some finds, but you won't be disappointed since you have no expectation.

There was nothing to tell me that there was an Owl about. Usually I tune into birds screaming at one roosting. But that wasn't happening. Sometimes I find Owl pellets under a tree, or lots of spray (poop). Nope. I was just walking (lots) and suddenly passed one sitting in a tree not more than 10 ft off the ground. We were maybe 20 ft from each other. I saw him. He saw me. In my head I was like "holy shit!" I quickly backed up as I did not want to spook him and have him fly off.

I spent about 10 minutes watching the bird. It looked at me a couple times but for the most part focused on the ground. The sun was shining bright, the ice was cracking, and I think he was thinking there was prey moving about beneath him somewhere. At one point he left the tree and flew to a nearby conifer, a tree so close he probably could have just jumped to it. It started to cloud over and the snow began to fall. Huh! Smart Owl or what?

I snapped a few photos, took a short video and then walked away. A silent thank you to the moment. A grin on my face the rest of the day.

It's hard to describe the feeling of finding any species of Owl on your own. One that has not been reported. It's just you and the Owl, or maybe having a few friends with you for the moment. What I mean by this, no people, no bullshit. A zen moment.

Here are a few photos of the moment.

Camouflage masters at times!  I wonder how many Barreds I may have passed by over the years?

Well, time to get at it, run a few errands and get that thing called "work" over and done with.

I'm looking forward to the Family Day weekend with my family.

I hope you all have a great one with yours, no matter how you spend it.

February 9, 2017

Unusual Finds

I decided to go for a walk Monday (Feb 6), checking out a new area (to me) that I've been wanting to do so for quite a while now. I pass this area twice daily through the work week, and have been for 17 years now (say what?!?!).

I had a sampling of the area about 2 weeks ago, finding a way in further north. It was dusk, it was snowing quite heavily, so my time was limited. About half an hour out and I had 2 Coyotes come out in front of me on the trail and accidentally flushed a Great Blue Heron even though I never left the trail. Now what would a Great Blue Heron be doing in Toronto in January? Unusual find for sure!

I did not get a photo of the Heron but no mistaking what I saw. I did capture one of the Coyotes walking ahead of me. Look at him being a good citizen and staying on the trail.

As I said, I've been wanting to explore this area for years, and Sunday I did some Google map searching to find other entries to the trail, and hopefully learn more about it. Luck have it, I did spot an entry, and it's not too far from my work. That certainly helps me with ability and time to explore before my shift.

It's always exciting to explore new areas. My senses seem to be more in tune. I have no target birds in mind, I'm happy to see/hear anything and take mental notes of the species about. It started with the most common finds anywhere I go around Toronto... Cardinal, Black-capped Chickadee, Goldfinch, Tree Sparrow, Crow, White-breasted Nuthatch, Junco, Downy and Hairy Woodpecker, plus a pair of Red-tailed Hawks. I also found a Raccoon sleeping in a tree cavity. I seem to have a knack for finding these masked beasts wherever I go.

Oh, and then there was a pup tent set up just off the creek. It was in fairly good condition. I decided not to go anywhere near that in case someone was sleeping inside, or watching me from afar invading their "space". My imaginative side started playing horror movie scenes at this moment. Yep, keep moving along.

I was probably in the area for an hour before deciding it was getting near time to leave. I had barely touched the area really and have all intentions on returning.

No the blog is not done...

I'm making my way back to where I parked when I heard a sound. A rattling bird call of sorts. I knew the sound well but thought "no way in hell, not in February". I began looking for where the call was coming from. I knew I was right but I wanted a visual. It took some searching in this woodlot but I did spot the bird finally. Belted Kingfisher!

I don't see a lot of Kingfishers in my travels during the warm months, they aren't the most social bird out there, often fleeing at the sight of humans. But to see one in the middle of the winter? The bird (female) flew up and down the stream and I was not able to get a photo for record. That was fine.

But then I heard another Kingfisher south of where I stood. No freaking way?!?! I thought maybe I missed her flying back over me and decided to investigate this further.

I found the bird and indeed it was a second Kingfisher. A male. The creek was partially frozen but he was diving into the open spots and I watched him twice successfully pull out small fish to eat.

It was a blast to watch this bird move about the woods, staying near the shores of the creek. I stood in one spot, hoping he'd forget about my presence, and maybe land in decent range for viewing and a photo or two.

I didn't exactly get my wish of closer range or a decent photo, but the show was excellent and I managed a few shots to bring back with me to tell of this moment. Maybe Kingfishers aren't that exciting to some people but I like them, especially when they surprise the heck out of me like this. One would have been a pleasant surprise, but a pair was a great surprise.

Here are a few photos... if you click on one, it will open to full screen, not that they are National Geographic quality.

About as good as I could capture, slightly cropped, dim light, but the images in my brain are super sharp!

Nice they found some open water although really our winter hasn't been that bad; hence probably why they decided to stay.  Same with the Heron the other week.

Trying to follow his flight across the landscape was a challenge!

One of the catches.

Okay, that was super awesome! Time to leave now.

I'm making my way back, quite satisfied with my outing, but I'm still looking and listening as I walk. Now something else has caught my eye and it's not wildlife. It's this...

Of course, it was not this obvious to me, as this is at the bottom of the hill, a fair distance from the path.  I regret not taking the initial sighting photo.  But it's an old wreck (duh!).  I love old cars, especially North American models.  I'm thinking Chevy Vega.  Thoughts?

The only solid thing left on the car.

Straight 4 cylinder?    I've never owned a 4 banger so I know very little about such engines.

Years, decades, of settling in.

How many decades will it take for the plastic to break down?

The only proof on the car that it indeed was a General Motors product.

I really hoped to find a serial number, some kind of emblem.  Anything.  That's just me, being curious and adventurous.

May have to research this one rainy day.  The tail light could help ID this car.

Gas cap on the right side of the car.  Hatch back model.  All clues to what this once was.

A bit of a mystery how this car came to it's final resting place in these woods.  My guess is a long time ago it was rolled down that hill, before the trees grew in, before the industrial development and fencing at the top of the hill.  Tall trees surround this car, proof it's been here for a very long time.

My last unusual find was this dog house. It's been here quite some time as well, but looks like it's never been used by any creatures about the woods.

For a walk with no people, there was enough signs of them. I am happy it was just me and the birds... and some unusual finds.

I should note I did not forget to say exactly where I was. One reason is I've had in the past where someone decides they want to try and follow my foot steps, hoping for the same kind of adventure, only to be disappointed. Then they contact me about their disappointing outing. Seriously?!?! Another, I hope I've inspired someone to get out there and try a different area instead of your usual haunts or following reported birds. You never know what you may find.

January 23, 2017

They're Back!

Finally! They're back! Snowy Owls are in our area once again.

It's a much slower year for this species of Owl. So few have been seen in Toronto this winter. And any that have been seen, aren't sticking around, or being reliably seen may be a better way of wording it.

After weeks and weeks of nothing, I was beginning to doubt my spotting skills. But then... just like that... I first spotted one on January 16th, then moments later, about a block away, I spotted a 2nd Owl. They were just there, beacons of white in the darkness.

I've had 8 encounters overall in a week with these 2 birds. Encounters meaning "sightings" of Snowy Owls and not counting individuals.

The night sights are great. It's just the Owl(s) and myself. I can sit in the truck and enjoy the view of them on a post, or them being active and hunting. I don't get out, I don't chase, no need to. And there's no other people around.

It's not favourable to photographers but someone who loves birds and nature, it's awesome. Traffic may be whizzing by but I'm in the moment with the bird(s).

Last winter I finished off the season with 59 encounters which began October 29th actually and ended in early April. I'm curious how often I will see them this time? Stay tuned.

First Owl. I saw it 3 nights in a row on that same lamp post in a parking lot.

Second Owl. Like I said, about a block away from the other. I've spotted it on the same post numerous times too.

It's fun trying to get a couple photos, and after I get home, I have to seriously manipulate them to bring out the Owl. Nothing worth printing but cool to share what is a rare sight this winter in our city.

I hope you've enjoyed seeing what I saw.

Have a great week!

January 19, 2017

Wild Moment

I'm still sitting on a blog, waiting for the grand finish which has not happened yet... a moment I hope comes soon so I can complete the tale. Until then, here's a moment with a Red-tailed Hawk I had from last week.

I had gone out one morning for a walk. It was pretty dismal other than a couple Tree Sparrows and one Junco. In the distance I did see a pair of Red-tailed Hawks courting in the sky. It was like a dance. Ah yes, despite the calendar saying "January", things are starting to happen already with some of the birds. Love is in the air!

A third Hawk was in the area, a lone bird, and while it may not be getting some tail anytime soon, it did get something else, tail too, sort of...

This Hawk was flying much closer to my standing point than the pair.

First it lands in a tree near the parking area.

Letting me see it from various angles.

Then it drops to the ground and sat there for well over 10 minutes.

Then it takes flight even closer to where I was standing at the side of the road. My camera is awfully slow for flight shots in most scenarios.

it lands in the small ditch and suddenly pulls this out of the leaves!

I would have loved this photo if the fire hydrant wasn't in it. I was so in the moment, didn't even notice it.

It then takes flight to a nearby tree to feast on it's catch.

The meal was done in no time at all!

It was pretty amazing to see although at one point I did feel sadness for the animal it caught. But that is nature. Seldom do I ever experience anything like this. Here I thought my outing was going to be nothing more than a pleasant but cold walk with very few birds. This Hawk sure made up for it.

A couple construction workers took a moment out to enjoy this episode of "In the Wild" with me. They thought it was pretty amazing. One guy commented that they see Hawks all the time out in the fields wherever they work, but this was a first to see one catch a meal right there like that. I bet they will be watching the Hawks a little more intently in the coming weeks, eh?

January 11, 2017

Hold On...

Hi everyone! I'm working on a blog at the moment. It's about my Pigeon friend Pierre and I having our biggest adventure EVER. It's near completion, but in the meantime, if you'd like to read something else from me... we do a monthly entry to Bird Canada and our latest blog came out yesterday. You may view it here at this link.

I just found this photo from October that I never shared as well. Anyone care to comment with a caption about this?

It makes me think of the more pleasant nights and I sure miss our nightly furry pals.

So ya, hold on, be back soon.

Cheers on Whisky Wednesday!

December 22, 2016

Days Before Christmas... Mother Nature Gave to Me

Hi everyone! What a week it has been. A few surprise bird moments right in our own backyard, sightings we never expected.

9 Days Before Christmas, Mother Nature Gave to Me... a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker!

Early December 16th I saw a funny bird fly into our Holly bush. It was my waking moments, I knew it was something different, but still half asleep and needing to make coffee, get our Budgies up, I quickly wrote it off as a Starling and my imagination.

About noon, as I am preparing myself for work, I saw a funny bird once again fly into the Holly bush. Now I'm wide awake and focus on what's going on. The daylight sure helped. Holy schnikes! A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker! The bird was picking at our Holly berries and then flying off with them. I was quite thrilled by this and hoped the bird would return for Angie to see, and the next day was the start of our 2 day counting for Project Feeder Watch. Thankfully the bird did return on Saturday. It spent the morning with us, then flew off in the early afternoon, not to be seen again. What's even more peculiar is there was at least 3 other people I knew of in Southern Ontario to suddenly have this species show up in their backyards. What gives?

Don't ask me, I'm just a bird!

6 Days Before Christmas, Mother Nature Gave to Me... an Eastern Screech Owl!

Here it is Monday morning. Yawn! The weekend went so fast. I dropped a bunch of Pepsi stuff off at Toronto Wildlife, had a peek about the park nearby (cold and quiet), and then I went home to finish up morning chores and prepare for work. Well, once again, around noon, I'm looking out the back window and I see something sticking out of our Owl box, which is about 40 ft away from the house. At first I'm thinking it's just a Squirrel but thought to grab the bins and have a better look. The shutters were closed so peeking through them didn't allow me to get a good focus at first. But when I did. My jaw hit the floor.

I know without any doubt that I said "holy *bleep*" over and over and over again; and by *bleep* I don't mean "shit" either. I quickly got myself dressed to step outside, going out the front door, slinking up the side of the house and creeping onto our deck at the back of the house. I was shaking with excitement. I joke to my closer buds that I was harder than a $3 jaw breaker. Yes, I was very excited.

I watched the bird, snapped half a dozen photos, and made my way back inside, going the same way to the front. I made sure I phoned Angie at work before I put this sighting out on social media.

The Squirrels were giving him some grief and I hope that has not effected him coming back. We've not seen him since.

Upon advice from others I've communicated with through some birding pages, I've put stove pipe around the tree. It's really worked in stopping the Squirrels from running up the tree. I may look into what can be done from above at a later date.

Both birds are new species (that we know of) to come to our property.

4 Days Before Christmas, Mother Nature Gave to me... a Great Horned Owl fly by!

We had a bit of a snowfall in the last couple hours before my work shift was done. It was big fluffy flakes but for some reason it still created some chaos on the roads. The drive home was slow. I made a detour not far from the house as traffic was really backed up on my regular route. I'm taking it slow 'n easy. Not as slow as what most were doing, but slow enough. Suddenly on my left, I see a large bird come flying across the road, full speed and getting lower and lower as it crossed the road. I almost came to a stop to let the bird pass even though it still had height over me. And it disappeared in someone's backyard on my right. Now what kind of bird would be on the hunt at almost 11 pm? A Great Horned Owl! No photos but the action is embedded in my brain. I can see it even as I key this. The darkened snow covered road, large flakes still falling and this bird... whoosh! That was the last thing I expected to see. There is a large woodlot very near here, multi million dollar homes on big lots with ginormous mature trees. Of course this is great Owl habitat.

We are mere days away from Christmas. I don't expect anything else but can't help but wonder if I will be blessed again. I'd really love for that Screech Owl to show himself again, more so for Angie to see him. The knowing there is one in our 'hood is pretty awesome.

I didn't think I was going to do another blog before the holidays but here is one. I didn't think I'd have such sightings this week but here they were. It's great having eyes open to the wild world around us!

All the best! Might not be back till 2017 now. Cheers!

December 16, 2016

She Heard My Call

I do believe in energy, an unseen vibe I guess is another way of putting it. Not everyone believes in this kind of stuff, but I do. Let's take yesterday as an example. I keyed out that catching up blog, touching upon my Pigeon friends in one part. Then 3 hours or so later, minutes before I am ready to go to work, I see a lone Pigeon sitting on the clothes line pole by the back door. Not many Pigeons do that so I knew it was one of "my birds". Lo and behold it was Pierre's missus! That's what I call her... "the Missus".

I see dozens upon dozens of Pigeons out back some days but I know "my birds". There's something unique about every one of them if a person takes the time to look for it. Then there's personality traits with each of them. However it may be, I knew who that bird was, and I was delighted to see her. 45 days away is a long time!

This is not the first time over the years where I've been missing "my birds" and I post something, usually a blog, and within a day they start showing up. Or is it just a coincidence? Unfortunately it's not worked with wishing for an Owl to visit our backyard or me picking a decent winning lottery ticket (don't need a lot, just make life a little more comfortable).

I gave her a good feed even if it meant it was delaying my leaving for work and getting that much needed medium D/D on the way. But it was so worth it.

I'm hoping my big boy Pierre will be next to show up in the coming days.

This crazy windy cold yucky last days of fall which sure feel like February weather are bringing in the birds. Hopefully blow a rarity into the yard, even if it is going to be Mr. Pierre. He sure is a rare one now being absent almost 7 weeks now.

So far this morning a heck of a lot more Pigeons flew in. A few others I recognize, who have also been missing for a while now. Time will tell.

If you missed yesterday's blog, here is the link.

I came across this online piece about Pigeons. Whether you like them or not, you should give it a read. 21 reasons why Pigeons are so great. Click here.

Shout out to Margie for commenting yesterday. Thank you! And may you and yours have a wonderful Christmas, New Years and beyond. Cheers!