Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

August 17, 2015

Sunday with the Skunks

Most evenings I am going out back a couple times, checking out what kind of nocturnal creatures are lurking about. In this heat wave I am often refreshing the bird baths and basins for the animals.

Last night was epic with my late night outing! And blog worthy in my mind...

Skunk is a word that brings fear and panic to many people. On my street, with some of the neighbours, a Skunk is like Bigfoot roaming the land... a mysterious creature to always fear, to run from, because it is going to spray you and ruin your day.

For us, a Skunk is exciting to see since we don't see them often. There is the odd sighting this summer. Spring of 2014 we had a big beauty who came out a few mid-mornings giving us some great views.

Two summers ago we had one show up in the evening while we had a few friends over for a BBQ. The women went inside while the boys stayed outside trying to get better views. Notice I said women and boys? Seems there was some debate over our maturity level that night. LoL!

I know we've lost 2 in the last year to car strikes. Years ago Angie and I had a mother Skunk and 5 babies in the garden late one night. It was back in the good old days, our younger days, where we stayed up late playing music, having drinks and we'd shine a flashlight down in the garden on occasion to see what may be wandering about and looking back up at us.

The other night I was out looking for meteors and had some company.

The next morning I am washing the back deck and took notice to a Skunk underneath. I think I gave him a bit of a soaking but not enough to flee. A bit later I looked and found him curled up asleep.

And then, last night. I am down at the back when I took notice to one in the garden, under the bird feeders. I watched him for a bit and suddenly a second Skunk surfaced in the vicinity. I'm thinking how cool this is. We have a lot of vegetation for the animals to hide in throughout the summer months. It's great cover for the birds, Squirrels and Chipmunks (which we are thrilled to see once again). The animals like to travel along the fence line, behind the wall of green as well. I bring this up because as I'm watching the 2 in the garden, a third one surfaces to the right of me along the fence line. "Holy s**t!" This one is maybe 5 feet from me, just doing his thing, wandering about.

The other 2 are maybe 10 feet from me.

With such close proximity, the fear of spraying sits in the back of my mind. I'm not going to do any sudden moves with them so close, not taking any chances on startling any of them. As I always tell people, keep your cool, don't lose your s**t around wild animals, and all will be fine. The problem is that as I stay in my spot here on the lawn, hunkered down, I begin to notice a number of Raccoon wandering about. I'm sure the older ones know not to mess with a Skunk, but the young ones ??? Last year one of our more sociable and curious born that season did get a good spraying. I felt bad for him because it was weeks before the smell wore down to just a faint scent. Poor guy couldn't get the stink off for anything. And last night there was a couple smaller Raccoon in the mix.

All I need is one of these new to the world little guys do something stupid in his lessons of life and we all feel the wrath from a Skunk on the defense.

I remained still, watching, trying to snap some photos. I had my macro lens on because part of my reason this night was to look for some moths. I've been seeing some neat ones after dark some work nights.

The macro is a very sensitive lens and any slight movement throws the shot off. I'm shooting free hand if I can call it that, not having the tri-pod out there with me for stability.

One of the first two wandering around on my left, some very close moments.

Money shot!  LoL!  Definitely not the end I want to be face to face with.

I don't know how long I was out there but I felt it was time for me to vacate the area. Too many critters wandering about, some of the Raccoons were getting close to the Skunks, all wanting a share of the food about the ground. It seems the House Sparrows threw a lot of the black oil sunflower seed on the ground that afternoon, or maybe a Raccoon climbed the pole and gave one of the feeders a good shake, as there was seed everywhere.

With me wanting to get back to the house, I had a problem just ahead of me. 2 Skunks on my left, one on my right. I have a small open spot to get through, less than 5 feet wide. Is that too close for comfort? Even as I do my best stealth like moves across the grass?

I took this shot just now, to give you an idea of the spot I had to get through using the old blue bin as reference to the width.

Getting to the other side of the garden, it's way more open, and I'd feel a lot safer there. A view from the other side.

I could easily see the 2 Skunks on the left. I lost the other one in the vegetation. I kept pondering making a break for it, walking light and quick, but didn't... yet. Minutes pass, many perhaps, when I hear the dogs a few yards over being let out and they were barking like crazy. Lucky for me as the third Skunk showed himself now. He raced up the lawn towards the house, and then up the walkway to the front. A couple Raccoons scattered up the trees thanks to the dogs. Now it was my turn. I kept one eye on the two foraging to my left. Raccoons in the trees were watching me now. I swear I could hear them placing bets on my outcome as I passed the Skunks. LoL!

All went well as I hoped and really did expect to play out.

I stopped for a moment, watching the action under the feeder pole. Thanks to the dogs, I was now down to one Skunk and one Raccoon.

Good ground cover down there as you can see.

I think this is a great candidate for "CAPTION THIS"

Just as I was about to leave the area and go inside, one last photo opportunity presented itself...

I do wonder with all these Skunks about if our very nearby Great Horned Owl will ever find her way to our backyard? This species of Owl loves to feast on Skunks because they have no sense of smell. I recon the Skunk's bright white stripes even on the darkest of nights are like a bull's eye. It certainly would be a bitter sweet moment if it ever does happen. I have heard a Great Horned Owl from our backyard but yet to see one.

Spot the our local Owl?

Thanks for stopping in! I hope all of you in Southern Ontario are keeping cool through this nasty heat wave we are experiencing.

August 10, 2015

No Place Like Home

A quiet few weeks have passed and I'm just enjoying life at home.  The backyard is THE place to be at this time of year.  No summer traffic traveling to and from places, cold beverages are a step away, BBQ always ready to go and it's just rest and relaxation with our crew of critters.

I have to admit I've kinda gotten turned off of the whole going out and birding, sharing what I see, because it's turning into no matter what I see, someone wants to know where I saw it.  And it doesn't matter what.  Red-winged Blackbird in some reeds.  Where was this?  Lovely Cardinal in the woods.  Please tell me.  It's going beyond the Owls.  Half the time I am uncertain if an individual wants to see the bird or attempt to recreate an image I got for themselves.  Digital photography soars to new levels.  It's competitive with so many people.  And some people lack the passion, the adventure and often don't know what they are shooting even in the realm of Toronto's most common bird species. 

My best answer to much of this is I bird locally in the west end of Toronto, 98% right around our own neighbourhood, very close to home...  if not for the sake of the birds, I just don't want strangers lurking around here.  I try not to be mean about it.  I know not everyone is a selfish asshole, although I bet some call me that.  LoL!  It's not like I am hoarding some rare species.  I do try to encourage these people to just go outside, pick a place in their own area, go for a walk.  Just open your eyes and ears, and shut your mouth.  Have fun.  Don't go out with expectations.  Even if you only see a Cardinal, embrace the moment with such a beautiful bird.

My absolute most favorite shot of a Northern Cardinal I have ever taken. Full frame bird photos aren't always necessary or the best. I hate people bragging how close they got to a bird to get the shot. This was with a little point and shoot Canon Powershot that some "pros" out there made a lot of fun about.

Which brings me to what this brief blog is about...

A highlight for me in our backyard the last couple weeks has been a family of Northern Cardinals coming in.  We have Cardinals all year long but it's a little more special right now with dad bringing the kids in.  The kids are funny looking, very vocal and fluttery (demanding).

It's so nice to watch the dad take such great care of his children, ensuring they both get well fed.

And over a few days, I can see the kids develop, one advancing quicker than the other, feeding more and more on his own.  It's probably an age factor as even a couple days old with bird siblings makes a difference.

Mom has been coming in too, but isn't nearly as hands on as dad.  It's something I should try and look up because over the years I do see mostly the dad feeding the kids.  Even after a decade of birding, I still wonder about things with our most common visitors.

We are very fortunate to have a backyard. It has taken years to create what we have here. We cherish moments like these. You know that saying "There's no place like home"? So very true for Angie and I.

True fact.  I've loved Cardinals all my life.  Even as a small child, I would cut them out of books.  I was always drawn to their beauty.  When Angie and I started dating, she made mention of how I should put up a bird feeder in the yard.  We did that soon after, just going to Walmart and buying a feeder pole, a cheap green gazebo feeder and some seed.  It took 2 weeks and the first birds to find the feeder was a pair of Cardinals.  I'm sure I have made mention of this in another blog over the years.  I left Angie one very excited voice mail at her apartment, full of colorful expletives with my excitement at seeing this lovely couple.  Alas, it was long before the days of owning a camera so there is no image to share.  The one in my head, I can still see it, I remember exactly where the set up was out there.

July 30, 2015

His name is Petey!

We are well into week 2 with this new Pigeon coming around. A real character who I often wonder about. Like where did he come from? Who conditioned him to be so "domesticated"? I know I have influenced a few of our visiting flock thanks to my minglings with Pierre, but those birds who do pick up on it, it's a very slow process to come to hand. A lot of skittish attempts for days, weeks and even months. This guy... I first notice him one day, and the next he's like my bestest friend EVER!

A lot has happened in a week with this bird which Angie has named Petey.

I had my concerns in the first few days because here he is, and it was like this was where he was staying, not going anywhere, and he really wasn't a part of the flock. Petey was either in my hand, on my shoulder, head or up in the one Pine tree behind the house on the same branch (never a different branch). He'd be there from my waking moments until I left for work. He would nap or watch the other Pigeons but keep his distance. I'd get home well after dark and wondered if he was still out in the yard sleeping in that tree. I should have looked but never did. This didn't bother me, if he's safe and happy there, so be it. Of course when the seasons change (ack, winter), I know a branch on a Pine tree is not a very good roost for one lone bird. Thoughts of what to do with him months from now went through my head. Build him a coop? Trap him and pass him to a buddy of mine who keeps Pigeons? Would he stay with that guy or find his way back to me, since buddy does let his birds fly?

Over the weekend Petey made that decision for me. He slowly worked his way out of the Pine tree, mingled more and more with the flock and was spending less time here. This week his arrival is usually around noon. Obviously he is following the other birds to various feeding spots. It's nice to know they aren't dependent on this house for all their food.

If Petey is here, he lets me know. As soon as I open the back door, he is coming right to me, like it or not.

Last weekend Angie had her first sight of Petey, me peering in the kitchen window at her, with him on my head. I guess my 6' tall stand gives a good view for this young bird?

People are either loving or loathing our new yard pal. Best line, insert sarcasm, "How can you like both Pigeons and Peregrines?" Some people just don't get.

Here's a bunch of photos.  Don't be hating now!  ;)

He's a great groomer.  Looks after my hair and nails.

Peace to the Pigeons!

Large dominant male of the flock giving him some grief.

Mirrored sunglasses...  oooooooooooooooo!

Just hanging out.

Petey's signature...  one white claw.

Loves my shoulder.

Nibbles or kisses to my nose.

Word to the 'world wide web'...  "Better get used to me!"

Artsy shot, focus on him over my first thing in the morning look.  LoL!

Here is a video link to 14 seconds of him and I.

Pierre and the missus are certainly not being ignored.

Watching this flock, it's like a community.  The birds are all individuals, with their own appearances and personalities.  I like watching the relationships between them all.  The birds come and go, and as birds leave, new birds come in.  Walter disappeared about a month ago.  Now we have Petey.

Walter here who sure looks like Petey but is (was) twice the size and very aggressive.

We are in the dog days of summer now.  I don't get out much so most of the animal stuff right now is all here at home.

We are enjoying this male Ruby-throated Hummingbird visiting us numerous times a day, mostly late afternoon and evening.  I can't enjoy him until the weekends due to my work hours.

Raccoons always kicking around the yard.  Did I ever blog about the 2 orphans (who we think are orphans)?  I found 2 young ones dead on the main road by us the other day.  It would appear the pair were trying to cross Scarlett Road together and did not make it.  I hate seeing such things.  I hope it's not our little yard pals.  I keep looking out for them but with the blazing heat/humidity this week; I'm not looking too hard.  After work I just want to come home, shower and zone inside.  This was from last Saturday...

If I do get out, which is once every other week it seems.  I'm not seeing a whole lot.  There is one bird who is presenting itself to me semi-regularly this year and I consider myself blessed.  Who wouldn't feel blessed seeing a Great Horned Owl?

Relatives to my Raccoons at home?

And last, but not least, our new additions to the family, Merry and Molly, keep me hopping, jumping, cleaning and screaming.  LoL!  It's insanity having 2 wee little kittys running around the house.  Angie has been doing some regular blogs about them since their arrival like this one here.  We love them so much.



As always, I would like to thank you all for stopping in here and seeing what the animals and I have been up to.  The August long weekend is almost here.  Have a great one!

July 23, 2015

Son of Pierre?

While celebrating Pierre's 3 year anniversary on Tuesday, spoiling him as I do, I took notice to a young Pigeon standing near us. He was watching the goings on, tilting his head from side to side, and really did have a look of curiosity about him. He was in a flock of about 8 or 10 birds, and even though he looked like many of the others being an overall dark bird and nothing unique about him physically, that look of wonder to him got my attention. I threw some corn down to him and the larger birds just pushed him aside in the feast. I made a few efforts to ensure he got some grub despite the bullying.

Next day, July 22 (for the record), I am outside with Pierre and the missus once again. They are enjoying breakfast at my hand. I suddenly feel a little nipping at my ankle. Then something tugging on my shoelace. I look down and without a doubt I know it's the same young bird.

He's now looking up at me.

He takes flight up to me, lands on the waist line of my shorts, trying to hang on there. He's flapping away like crazy, looking at me and finally lets go as this isn't a place to try and get comfortable. If he wanted my attention, he certainly got it now.

Moments later he takes flight again and now lands on my head.

Pierre isn't pleased about this and starts one of his tantrums. The missus continues to eat, cleaning up the last of the sunflower chips from my hand.

The young bird isn't quite sure what to do now.

Pierre gets aggressive and tries to chase off the bird. Food gets gobbled up and off goes the missus to the bird bath. Pierre decides to follow.

The young bird may have saw this as an opportunity and now went for my shoulder. He lands and looks me in the face. He vocalizes to me, nibbles at my nose, walks the length of my arm from shoulder to hand and back. He's still talking to me. Another walk to my hand, he nibbles on my finger tips. I break out some seed for him and he eats. I'm wondering why I don't have a camera on me for this.

I somehow get him to leave my arm and wait on a tree branch while I went inside... for a camera.

I return, put my hand out and he comes right to me. He begins the vocalizing once again, walking hand to shoulder and back. I feed him again, I take some photos and a video you can see here.

I'm wondering if he could be one of Pierre's kids? It is possible although I will never know for certain. I don't think the love of a parent sticks with a Pigeon once the kids are out flying with the flock. And definitely not with my boy. There are days where food is more important to him than his mate and he will kick her out of the way in an instant if he's exceptionally hungry.

A name for him will come at some point. I recon once Angie meets him. She likes to name them, and really I am out of names for my flock. It is too difficult to keep track with a few who look way too similar and usually I can only tell once they are on hand with me.

Say "hello" to ????

July 22, 2015

What a Week and a Bit!

Well we were riding a high with our Peregrine Falcon family in Etobicoke until recently. A call came in about a downed bird and I was asked if I could meet security and check things out. I was up in Vaughan at the time, hopped into my truck and raced down the Hwy 400 to Islington and Bloor. I won't talk about the speeds but I did get there in some pretty impressive time.

I met security and they took me for a walk where the bird was reported. Nothing. An extended search. Still no downed Peregrine Falcon to be seen on the roof tops over the concourse. Hell, I would be happy to find a Pigeon who needed help at this point. Still nothing. Mixed emotions on coming up empty as my adrenaline was still rushing. I'm happy to not find an injured Falcon, or worse yet, a dead one. But come on, give me something. I was denied. Eventually I did find comfort when I cooled down that there was no bird to rescue or recover.

A while later, I am on my way to work. I get the call that they are still reporting a downed Falcon and if I could go again as they have pin-pointed where the bird is. Unfortunately I cannot. Our friend Tracy makes the trip and sadly she did find a downed Falcon. A young male named Glider. He had hit the glass towers, breaking his neck, dying on impact (at least it was quick) and his lifeless body spiraled down to the Earth. No I did not see it with him but have experienced this in prior years. The impact is loud. The visual is crushing to ones heart and spirit.

Glider at the banding ceremony on May 28, 2015.

It wasn't more than a few days when reports came in that our seemingly star bird Mel was in trouble. Mel was the first of the 4 chicks to take flight and was doing amazingly. I was not a part of this story and have only heard bits and pieces, but on his final hour(s) he somehow managed to get into someone's condo in the area through an open window or balcony door. He was rescued by Mark Nash, founder of the Canadian Peregrine Foundation. His injuries were quite severe and poor Mel died before getting to Mark's vehicle on route for medical help.

Mel at the banding ceremony.

Mel during his early days of flight about the area of Islington and Bloor.

What can I say? RIP you poor Falcons? Way it goes? I know... "this *bleeping* sucks!" I can say that it's not been a great couple years at our site as we've got a 50% mortality rate with our fledged birds. In the big picture, we really are powerless to help these young birds at this stage. Nobody can do anything standing on the ground watching them hundreds of feet up in the air. Of course some measures could be taken to coat the glass towers, even those top panels by the ledges where the birds go, to give them some idea that this is an obstacle and they cannot fly through. Damn that reflective glass. Sadly it's turned into yet another year that I would sooner not think about. I wish the surviving birds Ferris and Ninja to be safe and may we meet again when you are young adults setting up territories somewhere in North America.

But this is all old news now. It's so weeks ago now!

How about last week...

If you live in the GTA and aren't living under a rock, I am sure you have heard about the oil spill in Mimico Creek. A tractor trailer rollover at Hwy 427 and 401 on Monday. The load was some tranformers, which when tipped over, spilled out some 8,000 litres of mineral oil, a lot of which poured into the creek nearby.

I saw the remnants of the accident on my way home from work Monday night. The wreckage was barely recognizable as a transport truck and trailer. I surely muttered some expletives as I passed it all and had no idea the shit that would follow because of this. It seems no one did.

A "shout out" came late Tuesday morning via Toronto Wildlife to any and every volunteer that could help with this. It was the early stages and just getting people to a meeting area where many Ducks were being rounded up was a start. I didn't have a lot of time but wanted to help. I arrive on scene at West Deane Park to a mass of media, fire dept and of course the rescue team from Toronto Wildlife.

It's a bit of a blur now, just so much was happening. They had already caught over 30 Ducks by this point and most were already up at TWC now. I ended up taking another 4 Ducks to the centre and on my way back west, as my time to start work was very near, I stopped in at a No Frills and grabbed some more boxes to drop off to the rescue team.

It was something to see with the media, gathering all the footage they can on this breaking story, and in my time there, a few of them followed Stacey and I to my truck with the Ducks. A couple camera crews and one man from The Toronto Star. They video'd or snapped photos of us putting the boxed birds in the back of the GMC. I could feel my nerves getting all jittery with the attention. A few questions were asked, which I answered the best I could in that moment. I so wanted to put my sunglasses on in front of the cameras. I couldn't stop shifting my eyes from one camera to another even though they weren't the ones where the person was who asked the questions. I later learned that my hair and backside were shown on CP24, and later on CTV news.

Wednesday I was back in the area trying to help out any way I could before work. Once again, not a lot of time. In my brief stint I played my role as a volunteer driver shuffling rescue staff to and from various parts of the area with equipment and ducks, as well as a CityNews camera woman. Angie and I grabbed a whack of Gatorade to pass to the rescue peeps, which was greatly appreciated. Even if I cannot do much search and rescue, helping those who are doing this, is another way.

More Ducks being loaded up and heading to Toronto Wildlife.

After yet another Duck rescue, Andrew assists Stacey back across Mimico Creek. A lighter moment during a crazy morning.

Thursday I set out on my own, searching Mimico Creek, starting from Eglinton and East Mall and following it down to Martingrove and Rathburn. A little over 2 kms one way. I spent nearly 3 hours in the area searching for more oiled Ducks.

Starting my search just south/east of Eglington and East Mall in Etobicoke.

Dense greenery along the creek, making it difficult to scope out for ducks.  I did find many foot paths going to the water and occasionally I did have to make my own.

Catch nets of sorts for the oil spill.

Some real shallow spots.

It was a pretty walk and the area is just full of birds.  I noted Song Sparrows, Catbirds, Baltimore Orioles, Indigo Buntings and many others through my journey.

A few Rabbits seen in my journey.

First Duck I found across the creek.  *note*  just carrying the little point/shoot camera with me, fits easy in the pocket if I need free hands

Super zoom crop shot of the oiled Duck.  I stayed on the other side of the creek since I did not have the tools to try and catch a Duck.  I should add items like a large net to my artillery but really at this point, rescues aren't my thing...  but over time, they may be.

Rescue on site rescuing the Duck.

It was near time for me to leave. Toronto Wildlife asked me if I could help them with one more thing, if time allowed. They had 4 juvenile Pigeons that needed releasing somewhere, with a flock. Everyone knows about our flock thanks to my posts about Pierre. I said "absolutely" to bringing them home. What's another 4 birds to the mass we have here? And if they stick with this flock, they will know this is a pretty good place to come for food and water as well as following my birds, finding a decent roost.

Young Pigeons ready to be set free into a great big world.

Two birds left their confinements in seconds, finding spots in the trees along the property line to land and get their bearings.

Ho hum.  Remaining two birds who were really pokey. In time they both left and went up to a nearby tree. 

About 15 birds were present.  No Pierre and his regular crew; but another group we call "The Helmets".  A few of them appear to be from the same line with white caps on their heads (helmets).  I had to get ready for work.  I really wanted to stay home and watch how things went with them.

There was nothing to really distinguish these young birds from the others.  If only they were banded, I could see if they came back or not.  I wished them all well and away I went.

Friday arrives and I am exhausted.  I am sad too.  Today, July 17th 2015, would have been Meadow's 12th birthday.  I think about her every day, I miss her so much.  Milestone moments like this and others to come in the first year are going to be crushing.  As much as I think about all the great moments with her over the years, cherishing the bond we had, I cannot break the overwhelming feeling of sadness.  Our new kitten couple, Molly and Merry, tried their best to keep me occupied by tearing up the living room and getting into things so I didn't have time to sit and think.  It worked only temporarily.  I had much to do around home before work after days of neglect and even my being so busy was only a temporary fix.

Having a birthday in July...  nice warm weather and lots of outside time.

One of Meadow's favorite things to do on her birthday, and any other summer day...

I want this day over with sooner than later.  I want to sleep and wake up to Saturday.  But I still have work to get through before that can happen.

Really at this point the animal moments have come to an end but I have to add this last bit, something that may offend some but it was a breaking moment from my mood, and maybe there was some kind of creature or dozen with little eyes and pulses involved?

I'm at the Husky station near work picking up some lottery tickets.  As I get out of the truck, looking for some money, I take notice to this woman at the pump filling her car.  One hand pumping the gas and the other is on her crotch.  Okaaaaaaaaaaaay.  And?  Well, this other hand was really raking her pubic area.  I mean hard and fast.  No way it was not being noticed by those around her.  I go inside the station, get my tickets and in she comes.  She's trying to keep herself together at this point but it's still clear as daylight that she is very uncomfortable.  She's paying for the gas and I overhear her asking the attendant if they sell bug spray.  I'm dying on the inside and keep going.  The only thing at the Husky that could help her is maybe a splash of high octane gasoline and match.  Bwahahahaha!  I needed that.  Hopefully she found something to ease her suffering later that day. And a reminder on the importance of washing your hands after pumping gas (I have hand sanitizer in the truck).

So far this week is pretty low key. I'm good with that. Cheers on this Whiskey Wednesday!

If you are still with me after that last paragraph, still wanting to be my friend, on a final note.... 110 Ducks were rescued from the creek along with 1 Sandpiper. Something of this magnitude has not happened with Toronto Wildlife before (let's hope it does not happen again). They handled this quite well with lots of help from volunteers and people from the public, those who live in the area. My daily roles in this were small, I say I am but one pixel in a big picture. All of you could pride yourselves and be a pixel too by helping out. How? Donations either financially or visit their website and check out their "wish list" if you do not have time to be a volunteer.