Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

July 21, 2018

A Moment of Acknowledgement

Today, July 21, 2018 is a day of memory. It was on this day in 2012 that Pierre the Pigeon (my bestest yard pal ever) made his grand entry into our lives. Little did I know what an impact he would have on me, and changing my attitude towards his kind. So many backyard adventures over the years. Who else can say their backyard visiting Pigeon had a spot on a Global News story? I know he touched the lives of many through my posts even though 99% of you never met him. He was one hell of a bird! Maybe you can recall a story or post I've done about him here or on social media. Think about how you now feel about Pigeons ever since you got to know him. We had 5 years and 2 weeks together. That sure says something about him. He was a great and loyal friend, and a real survivor in the wild world.

Thank you for coming to us on this day in 2012 little dude. I will never forget you.

2012 Pierre.

After many years of good feedings from me.

July 13, 2018

Meet Bear

A couple weeks ago I noticed a unique Raccoon appearing in our backyard. A beast of a Raccoon who obviously has seen a lot in his life. His tail is missing. Both his ears are chewed up. His left eye is damaged to some degree as well.

I don't see him every night. We are 2 nights a week so far.

He's not tame by any means, but tolerant to my presence. I believe he sees me as no threat. As long we keep stay a respectable distance from one another, which could be as little as 5 ft, all is fine. Any closer, he's off and running under the shed.

Initially, upon first seeing him, I did have concerns because of how beat up he is. I've watched him a lot, especially that first night. He's alright. He's just an old boy. He's a fighter and a survivor. I think if even some of his battle wounds could be tended to, that's not to be for him. He's come this far on his own. He would not want our help.

I don't say much to him when we cross paths. Maybe a hello or nice to see you. I do my thing. He does his. Maybe I should speak more? Maybe he could get a little more used to my presence just like Topper the Skunk?

He's funny to watch as he sits on his bum while he pulls edible things to his mouth. I witnessed him grabbing a flying moth and gobbling it up.

One night he was laid out on his stomach and again just pulling things to him.

If he could speak, I'm sure the first sentence out of his mouth would be "I've seen a lot of shit!" If I was able to ask him one question, I would really like to know what happened to his tail. Animal tails don't come off that easily, not that I know from experience.

Odd how he just showed up here. I have a pretty good tab on the creatures that come around our backyard. Where did he come from?

I call him "Bear" in my head. I've not said it out loud. I think it's a suiting name for him.

I last saw him a couple nights ago. I was changing the bath basin when I spotted him. He's easy to see in the dark with my head lamp, there's one glowing eye looking at me. Three other large Raccoons showed up over the next half hour. First a lone one. I heard the snarls and growls and thought "oh boy, here we go, it's on!" Then I heard this loud whimpering noise which sounded like a young Raccoon. I thought there was finally some kids coming around. Nope, not the case. I'm squatted down, filling the basin, when this other Raccoon raced past me, almost over me, bombing up the yard. Two seconds later here comes Bear. He was making the whimpering noises, chasing the other. I guess that's his battle cry? The first Raccoon went up a tree.

Bear stopped. Huffed. And then went back to where he was digging around. Not long after, a pair of Raccoons came through the gate, big animals much like Bear. He started towards them. Both quickly went over the fence and into the neighbour's yard.

I will keep watch out for Bear every night. He sure adds to the night life experience.

If you need a bird fix from me, here is our latest blog for Bird Canada that I did this month.

June 29, 2018

The Midnight Hour

A humid morning has given me a moment to punch out a blog. I like the title but not sure how the actual story telling is going to come across.

On June 6th I spent about 4 hours in Mississauga at the Mississauga Executive Centre, which is across Hurontario from Square One. There is a Peregrine Falcon nest site high up one of the office towers. This was my 2nd season for coming out to assist in the watch at MEC. We struggle with volunteers at MEC, much like many of the Peregrine sites these days. So I've made the time to come out during 2017 and 2018.

Peregrine fledge watches can be long, if you chose to make them so. They can be rather dull for lengthy amounts of time. Then when things start happening, it's a bit of a rush. I admit to having some freak out moments in my mind when the young birds are on the move.

This year at MEC there was only one hatch. Her name is Gigi. But this isn't about Gigi. This is about her mother, Midnight.

I've known about Midnight for a few years now. She was born in 2011, in Canton, Ohio. She is daughter to Mystic and Maverick.

Midnight used to nest north of my work at the Brampton court house. I'd heard about the site but never visited.

Over the last few years I have spotted one or two Peregrine Falcons roosting on an office building corner ledge by the Pepsi plant. There were times it was rather steady for weeks on end. Then lulls with no birds. It seemed to be more of an early Spring and early Autumn thing for whatever reason. The ledge of choice was not a good spot in the winter months as there is no shelter from the winds. There was a time when there was 3 Peregrines about this building. My friends Tracy and Bruce headed out that weekend and ID'd Midnight as one of the birds. So even after this, when I would spot a lone Falcon, I would think it was Midnight even though I would refer to this bird as "The Pepsi Peregrine". I never saw it on our plant but since it would seem I was the only person watching it and could see the bird from our parking lot, why not?

Two Peregrine Falcons on this building near the Pepsi plant. Revenue Canada is located here, it's at 5800 Hurontario. The birds normally sit at the north/west corner but sometimes the north/east too. I usually don't post locations to anything but maybe someone will catch this blog, know the area, and perhaps notify me of future sightings either here or in the vicinity. A scope would be needed to positively ID any banded Falcon sitting up on those ledges, but sightings are appreciated nonetheless.

An odd afternoon at Rev Can, one Peregrine chilling out with 2 Turkey Vultures above.

If you've followed my blogs the last while, especially in the winter, you know I embrace these wild moments near work... it's like a time out from my job. I forget the work day even for a couple minutes, which is sometimes all I need.

So a couple years ago Midnight left the Brampton court house site and wound up just south of my work at the Mississauga Executive Centre.

Anyway, that's some back story for you about Midnight. Let's get back to this morning.

Midnight was quite attentive to her child being where she was, low on a ledge over the CIBC bank, at the corner of Hurontario and Robert Speck Parkway. Gigi was screaming away as young Peregrines do. Midnight had flown in and perched on a lamp post nearby. She would then fly to a low building not far off. Then to another lamp post. Keeping in sight with Gigi. It was obvious she was communicating with her child on where to go next, and get off that ledge. I wish I had thought of taking another shot here, getting Midnight and Gigi in the same frame. It was a cold wet morning and I was there at the crack of light pretty much, and it was a couple hours before I relaxed at the watch and brought out the camera.

It was a thrilling morning with Midnight because in my times of watching, I've not witnessed adults coming that low to the ground for their young. I've heard about it from others but never seen it with my own eyes.

Local Gulls came in at one point and picked a battle with Midnight. They were swooping her, screaming away. I should have taken shots of this but did not (my camera was still in the truck at this point). Midnight never left this spot for a long period, keeping watching on Gigi. The Gulls eventually gave up, flying over Square One way.

Then later on, as Midnight sat on a lamp post, a pair of Robins came out and gave her proper shit. They let out a steady flow of angry chirps at her which I can only assume translated to "get the #@$& out of here!". Midnight stood her ground, still staying focused on Gigi.

Midnight is right over Hurontario here. Funny how many cars sat under her at the stop light and I bet so few people took notice to her. How often does one see a Peregrine Falcon sitting on a lamp post?

Anyone who knows the Square One area, certainly knows these buildings down the street from MEC.

Another time she did a bold low fly by the bank, and I'm talking just over street level, passing Gigi. Tracy and I were like "holy shit!" It was early in the morning, traffic was light, but there was a bus coming down Robert Speck at that moment. A few seconds later and this could have been a terrible outcome for Midnight. I do like to believe she would not have done this if the road was not clear. It's just something I have never seen with a mother Falcon.

Midnight brought in some breakfast, much to Gigi's delight. She had spent the night on that low ledge and was probably very hungry by this time.

Midnight really added to my morning watch. Naming the birds really personalizes things. I suspect even if she was an unbanded nameless female, after this time with her, I may not have given her a name, but I certainly would not have forgotten her and the time spent watching her this day.

The hours spent at a watch can have a little pay off with these moments. It rocks for someone who likes to take photos. But you got to invest the time, focus on the birds (pun intended) and be prepared to put the camera down if a Falcon gets into trouble. I wish I kept the business cards I have been given by guys wanting to come out for photo opportunities, asking me to call them when things are good. Yes, this has happened a few times over the years. Do I ever call anyone? #-@-*-!-n-o spells FUCK NO!

Some of you know Gigi's story. Please keep it out of this blog. This is about Midnight. Thanks.

June 4, 2018


Sunday June 3rd had us discover the 69th bird to visit our backyard. It was a cool morning so I opened the kitchen window to listen to the birds while I made coffee. Suddenly I heard the unmistakable call of a Black-billed Cuckoo right outside our kitchen window. I looked out the window, had a glimpse of the bird and dashed for the camera. I open the back door and am about to step outside when all of my Pigeon pals come rushing to the back of the house. They're happy to see their human friend who they think has come to feed them. The Pigeons ended up spooking the Cuckoo and I watched it fly off, over the houses. So no record photo of this bird to share.

Here is a Cuckoo of the same species I saw in my travels last year around this time of year in High Park.

They are skulky birds and can be difficult to find, often heard more than seen.

I did not expect a new yard bird as migration is over now but these birds do nest near us so why not, eh?

It's another cool morning, once again the window is open. Coffee is on. My ears are open and the Pigeons have been fed. Ya, as if it will be that easy.

Til next time.


May 31, 2018

May 2018 - Backyard Excitement

We've enjoyed this Spring migration big time. We have had a number of new species of bird come to visit our backyard. Both Angie and I agree it has to be the fountain that we bought last Summer. I made a collage of some of the excitement. From top to bottom, left to right... Brown Thrasher, Eastern Towhee, Yellow Warbler, Nashville Warbler and Black-throated Blue Warbler. The Nashville was not a new species but the last visit we caught of one here was over 5 years ago. We actually had 2 Nashvilles and 3 Yellows that hung around for a good part of 3 days.

But it did not stop there. We also had an Indigo Bunting. Seen once but also heard 2 other mornings. Crap shot from the kitchen window.

Lastly, a Bay-breasted Warbler.

It's great having bird friends I can share the excitement with, who get excited like I can.

Another nice surprise was having baby Northern Cardinals appear in our backyard. This is not new for us, but it's much earlier than we've ever seen them in past years. Odd is that usually by now we are drowning in baby European Starlings, and a family of Robins spend time with us, but so far not this time around.

Squirrels took over one of my Owl boxes again and this time they had babies within. It's been a blast watching them come out of the box and explore the big wild world around them. Lucky for them the Red-tailed Hawks are not nesting in eye sight of our yard this year because last year the Hawks were flying in and picking Squirrels out of the trees semi-regularly.

Skunks appear randomly morning and night.

Raccoons too. I can't wait to see some young'uns this Summer.

I've had one Opossum encounter this month.

We've also seen a Rabbit in the yard. Second time ever with this species.

A banded Baltimore Oriole is coming in. There was a banded Pigeon for a couple days too! I'm working on getting the Oriole's band numbers but will admit I've not been trying hard. It has frustrated me because the birds have been battling a lot and I gave up for the last week. If he continues to come around as things settle, I will focus on that band (pun intended). I have 2 of the 9 numbers so far, they are 22.

The Pigeon left us after 2 days, probably headed back to his owner.

Speaking of Pigeons, my two nameless friends are still visiting.

The above bird certainly has some Pierre like habits. He is often found waiting for me in "Pierre's spot" with my waking moments. As I wait for my coffee, I peek out the window, and there he is. He's quite vocal some days too.

Then there's this one. I am certain is a female. She has her own personality, as they all do. Funniest of late is me chatting with the guy next door along the fence line. She gets right there in between us, like she is one of us. My neighbour thought she was pretty comical. I knew what she was up to though, she had arrived and wanted lunch. But one not catching on to her intentions would think she was listening to us quite intently.

How's that for excitement in our backyard?

We are at that time of year where birding is not a big thing now. It's all about the backyard. But if you care for some away from home excitement, the only thing I can throw at you is that I am still seeing Snowy Owls. Most recently was May 25th along a stretch of Hwy 401 through Pearson Airport. I was stuck in late night construction and there was an Owl sitting on a lamp post. We also encountered one at a local lake park while on vacation. So weird to see these Owls still hanging around. I've heard from others who are spotting them in various parts of southern Ontario as well. What gives?

One last thing. I released my 300th bird for Toronto Wildlife Centre. A Chestnut-sided Warbler. A mini-milestone for me with the volunteer work I do for the centre. As always, I am grateful for TWC and the dedicated people involved. It's great I can call some friends of mine now too! It's hard to believe I'm almost through my 4th year with them as an official volunteer. The top photo is the actual bird I released, bottom is another Chestnut-sided I saw recently just for a better view of this species.

Anyone following this blog may notice a lull in posting these days. I'm heavy into the nest box monitoring now. I blog there a little more at this time of year. You can check it out here.

Hopefully it won't be too long again before I am back here with another blog.


May 8, 2018

Takin' A Break

Angie and I just started a 2 week vacation. Finally! Almost 6 months since our last one.

I've been pretty tied up the last month, cat sitting for some friends a good part of 3 of the last 4 weeks. Throw in that never ending ice storm and me getting sick, that didn't help for much in way of outings and things to blog about.

The cat sitting was a blast. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.

For starts, this lovey boy named Oscar certainly made coming to visit a pleasure. Such a gentleman and oh so affectionate.

His brother from another mother, Riley, took some work to get to where we ended up. He's not mean, just very timid. The first couple days he was pretty spooked of my presence in his house. Then, little by little, going his speed, we had signs of growing trust and finally some admiration for me, and affection. It's a great feeling when an animal comes to trust me.

The money I made from this gig will be put to good use soon as I intend to upgrade my camera gear.

How about that ice storm? It was brutal to say the least. It just wouldn't stop. 4 days of rain, freezing rain, ice pellets, winds. Ugh!

This Pigeon just dealt with it.

What could he, or any of the animals do?

Pretty red Cardinal in the ice and snow.

This Robin spent the weekend with us. We put out meal worms for him.

And I went to the park to take more sumac berries for him to snack on as well.

This Cooper's Hawk also spent the weekend with us. He prowled the Holly bush where the Sparrows hid within. He sure put on a show chasing them.

A pair of Crows came in too. We see them away from the yard but seldom in it. They were grabbing peanuts to help them through the cold dreary days.

Another one we don't see in our yard but also spent the days with us was this Song Sparrow. Sorry for the B&W photo but my settings were still set when I took that shot of Oscar at the start of this blog. I mis-ID'd this Sparrow as a Lincoln's because it didn't look like a Song to me. A few friends helped me with this one and were kind enough to not make fun of my mistake.

A new friend appreciated the hand outs.

I have another new friend. He waits in Pierre's old spot most mornings now. It's sweet but also tugs on my heart a tad.

If I haven't mentioned it in a previous blog, I'm not naming my new pals. We named a few earlier in the year and they all disappeared. There was Fitz, Ginny and Charlie. I could just be overthinking things but the first Pigeon photoed has been coming in on and off since February. No name. Still here. What would you do?

The weather is improving, being more like Spring, with a few Summer like days already being thrown at us (28 c humidex). The birds are showing up, returning for the nesting season. I've done a nest blog recently, hope you check it out. Link here.

It was like a reawakening once again, as our night critters disappeared during the stormy days and are now back.

I love this shot.

So nice I can put water out day and night again without it freezing.

Day time visit. He must have been pretty hungry.

We've had a few appearances by either one or more Hermit Thrushes. A rare visitor to our backyard. Prior to this spell, we only ever spotted one in late November of 2016 at our Holly bush.

A Ruby-crowned Kinglet spent an afternoon with us too. We don't see these very often in our backyard.

Egrets are down the street.

Turtles are showing themselves in the warm sun. Someone's unwanted pet Red-eared Slider sunning near a Painted Turtle.

It sucks the Slider population is increasing in the local ponds. I counted 5 last weekend. They will eliminate our native species Painted Turtle in no time.

I had all intentions to publish this last Friday, on my last day of work. Oops. So much has happened in our first few days but that will be for another blog soon.

Enjoy May, and the birds. I'll be back in a couple weeks. Cheers!

If you really need just a little something more, check out this video I recently took. A nice time out hand feeding a Red-winged Blackbird.