Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

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.

March 6, 2019

Happy (belated) Anniversary Charlie!

On February 27, 2018 I met this thin Pigeon. She (assuming it's a female but I honestly do not know) came to me at a good time, much like Fitz, showing up not too long after my old flock flew away for the very last time. I was missing my friends and happy to make some new ones.

I suppose it was a good time for her to come in and find me too. She was very thin. I could feel her bones through her feathers as she sat on my finger tips. No weight to this bird unlike Fitz, or my old boy Pierre. What I also noticed is how easily she got knocked around by the other birds in her flock. Survival of the fittest, right?

I named her Charlie, as in Charlie Brown, only because of the song and not the actual character. That one line stood out. "Why is everybody always picking on me?"

Over time Charlie grew. She's still a light weight compared to some of the others but not a thin bird on the verge of starvation like it seems when I meet some of these new skinny birds. What has also changed with her is her attitude. She stands her ground now. She pushes her way around the flock. She has also has that one edge over most of them; she knows she can come to me and get a good uninterrupted feed.

Acknowledging her day is delayed not because of me. I had last seen her on February 16. The 27th came and went without a visit from Charlie. There was no point in celebrating her one year coming around here if she did not come back.

Finally she did on March 6th. A small flock of birds came in and I could pick her out from them. Charlie is your standard blue gray Pigeon with a couple dark wing bars. What makes her stand out is the appearance that she is dirty about the shoulders. There's some discoloring to those feathers as you can see here.

I quickly grabbed my jacket, boots and some seed, then dashed out to see her. She was flying towards me as soon as she saw me. A feed for her. A couple photos for me.

"Nice to see you again little one!" and "Happy (belated) anniversary!"

March 2, 2019

Rob and Claire's Adventure

As some of you are aware, I've made friends with a new Pigeon. Angie named her "Claire" and you can read her introduction here. She's a funny one, still coming around most days near 1 pm. Friday March 1st was no exception.

Claire had flown in with some others. She came right to me and the other two scrounged around my feet. They were here for about 5 minutes when in rocketed a Cooper's Hawk. The Hawk landed down back, well away from us. Claire's two friends raced off in the blink of an eye. Claire meanwhile just froze up in the palm of my hand. She stretched her neck out, looking around, eyes bulging, but she had no intentions of leaving me. Was she that afraid to move? Or did she know she was safe with me? The Hawk never gave chase to her friends as I am sure it knew they got a good head start.

It's too bad because we were having a lovely visit. A beautiful sunny first day of March; we weren't bothered by the below normal temperatures.

So I am standing in the yard with a Pigeon on my hand and a Cooper's Hawk in the tree about 40 ft away. Normally I don't interfere with the Hawks being here but in a time like this, that's the exception. I want to spook the Hawk away yet not frighten Claire. The last thing I want is for her to leave my hand and the Hawk goes after her.

I turn sideways which basically makes me a wall between the two birds. I make some hissy kind of noises towards the Hawk and I am waving my free hand at it. 95% of the time this species of Hawk is intolerant to my presence. First sight of me outside and they fly off. Of course this one is part of the 5%. He's looking at me and I swear I could see it in his eyes, he's like "what?" I even took some steps closer towards the Hawk, pulling Claire closer to my body. She stayed still. Now being approximately 30 ft from the Hawk, it still wasn't flying off. Seriously?

Okay, plan B. Time to move Claire out of the hunting ground. I take her out to the front. To do this, we have to go up between the houses. Our home is in a very old part of Toronto. The houses are close together. The walkway is maybe 4 ft wide and that's being generous. I still have Claire close to my body and away we go.

First challenge is walking across this icy area, which I had cleared up earlier in the week, and then we got another good blast of winter. Oh, plus getting over or under the extension cord to the heated bird bath without falling down. After the fact, I realize I could have just unplugged it. Derp!

I wondered if this long narrow walk between the houses would freak her out. Even with the neighbour's furnace vent pipes blowing steam out. She stayed with me.

Now we are out front. Will she fly away now? Nope.

I'm talking to her. I tell her it's okay to go. She wants no part of that idea. I tell her it's almost time for me to go to work and I've still not had my lunch. I know she doesn't understand. I'm betting some of you probably would have said similar things.

I decide to set her on one of the pillars at the corner of our porch. Up she goes and there she sits.

I now return to the backyard and no apologies as I flushed that Hawk outta here. I'm not losing a friend today. I'm confident the Hawk will not fly in my direction, being towards the house. If it did, and Claire has stayed put, she's out of sight.

I go back to the front and check to check on her. Yes she's still there. I grab my camera from inside the front door, and snap a few photos of her since I felt this definitely was blog worthy.

I do wonder what she's thinking.

I go back inside. I've quickly heated up my lunch and I am going back and forth from the kitchen to the front window with my plate, checking on her every few minutes.

I finish getting myself ready. I am almost running late. I am willing to accept that my coffee fix may not happen once again because of her.

I bring my jug of sunflower out, pouring some into my hand. I hold my palm to her chest. She eats. I give her a second helping as I mutter under my breath what a fool I am. She gobbles that up.

Ever since losing Dorothy, I stay with my buds until they leave the property. She doesn't seem ready. I figure I might as well scoop her up in the palm of my hand and coerce her to fly with a little lift. Finally she does, but only a few feet over to the neighbours roof over his porch. UGH!

I silently wished her to fly away. I cannot protect her all day. Seconds later, she's gone.

I tell ya, this has never happened with any of my other Pigeon pals. Sure I had some protecting moments with Pierre and the Jerseys but nothing remotely like this. I wonder if she realizes how much care I have for her?

Hashtag #slavetoApigeon

February 28, 2019

Dusk Walk

Winter started off rather slow but has February ever made up for it in southern Ontario. After weeks of bitter temps, high winds, snow and ice; Angie and I finally put our foot down last weekend and didn't allow old man winter to keep us locked up for a long overdue dusk walk.

We have a few areas we like to go and normally we don't share our "secret spots". They may not be highly productive like going to some of the more popular areas, but for us, one or two nice sightings and no people is far better than numerous species sightings and being around a lot of people. We aren't truly anti-social but a nature walk is like yoga for us and sometimes we need to turn off much of the world, tune into nature and enjoy some quality time since we don't see each other all through the work week. Plus, more importantly, having undisturbed areas is better for the local wildlife.

It was a short outing, more time spent in one small area watching mammals before dark than a big hike down the trails. It was a mild late afternoon, just before the brutal wind storm came in the next morning.

First up, I saw a Deer. Then another. Then another. They were way out across the field on the side of a hill, but still nice to spot. Can you find all three of them?

Then Angie spotted a Coyote atop the hill to the east. The Coyote watched us, then tuned into another yelping somewhere out in the field west of us (where the Deer were).

Next Angie spotted 4 Deer running through the field. We assumed it was the Deer I saw, plus another, since they were no longer on the hillside. Their white behinds stood out in the last light. Can you find all four of them?

As we made our way back to the truck, I spotted the second Coyote way out there. It was hunting, sniffing the ground, probably looking for rodents.

The other stayed up the hill, still watching us, and it's mate.

A couple Song Sparrows quickly flew by with that last light, tucking themselves in somewhere for the night.

We both cannot wait for milder weather and more of these walks.

I recently did my first entry of 2019 for my Toronto Nest Blog if anyone feels like some more reading.

February 12, 2019

Meet Claire!

I had thought about doing this blog last week, but out of respect for Dorothy I chose not to. No apologies to anyone stumbling in here not liking Pigeons. Hey, it's my blog, my backyard, my visitors. I live in Toronto and Pigeons are a big part of it. Pigeons and I have come a long way.

Anyway, this bird has been coming around for a number of months, probably since last summer. She certainly stands out in the flock that she flies with.

I've always taken notice to her when she is here. She walks around with the others, feeding from the ground and I thought had paid little attention to me.

On Tuesday January 29th she surprised me by flying to our picnic table, looking up at me, and then flying on to my arm. There was no coaxing involved. I was tossing millet to the ground for these birds; none of my hand feeders were present so I wasn't throwing the good stuff down. I know she's been here when Charlie, Fitz and/or Dorothy have been here and obviously was paying attention. I was happily surprised by her actions. I quickly got out the good stuff being raw sunflower chips and she gobbled them up. I gave her another handful. Gone in minutes. Then a third handful. As she ate, I could not help but feel her bones protruding through her skin. Much like some other birds I've befriended in the past, she was a real light weight and probably very hungry.

I'd like to think these birds know that I will look out for them, I will not hurt them, and in my hand they are safe from the bullies in the flock. Suddenly there was an alarm call from a Sparrow and the birds were gone in a flash.

She returned the following day, the day after that, and so on right up until Saturday.

Each time it was in for a good feed and then quickly gone again (they know danger lurks). The visits have been between 12:30 and 1 pm. Interesting how she had a schedule. Breakfast came from somewhere else. I was the lunch spot it seemed. Angie got to meet her on that Saturday and named her Claire (Angie gets to name most of the critters here).

A Cooper's Hawk had been showing once again and the Pigeons disappeared. Four day later Claire returned with some friends. It's been like that the last week. Not daily visits. Just random and early afternoon. She made me miss getting my Tim Horton's coffee before work the first day. That was a bit frustrating but forgiven. I just made sure the following days I was all set to leave for work before she arrived.

Claire is a gentle sweet bird and I hope she's with us for a very long time.

February 6, 2019

Farewell Dorothy?

It's with almost full certainty that my friend Dorothy did meet her demise to the Cooper's Hawk a few weeks back. I've seen Fitz and Charlie since that weekend, most of the recognized flock, including Dorothy's unnamed partner. I know the Pigeons have lengthy time outs from the backyard at this time of year but I don't think that is the case here. As you can see, Dorothy's chest feathers are unmistakable, and I am sure I saw that with what was left in the talons of the Hawk.

To most, she was just a Pigeon, one of many; but she was one of my friends. I know this is the way of the wild and I don't begrudge the Hawk doing what it does.

Dorothy was a sweet bird, gentle to me, but carried her own in the flock. She didn't let the bigger birds, like Fitz, push her around. She came into the yard at a good time last year, just weeks after I watched my old flock fly off for the very last time (assuming they had enough of the terror from the Cooper's Hawk). This month would have marked 1 year with Dorothy.

I will be pleasantly surprised if she shows up at the kitchen window again, but I feel it deep down, she won't.

Dorothy, like so many others, has made our backyard a special place.

Having a few befriend me periodically is good for my soul. They help me forget the nonsense of the world around us.

How can someone call her a "flying rat"?

My famous line to people, which I am sure I have posted here in the past, "I always know where I stand with a Pigeon, it's people you never know what you're going to get".

Thanks for your friendship little one, and the memories.

January 26, 2019


We've had random visits from a Cooper'a Hawk the last couple weeks. For the most part I haven't seen the bird as it hides really well nearby. The lack of other birds is a sign. The stressed out Squirrels is another. While watching the birds from the kitchen window, I have seen the Hawk fly in or through the yard chasing other birds.

This winter I've gone a week or more without seeing my Pigeon pals Dorothy, Fitz and Charlie. I'd rather them be away and hopefully in a safer spot. I am sure this is not the only Cooper's Hawk around; January 20th proved that when I saw two in our backyard.

I really cannot differentiate these Hawks. Sometimes I think observing their attitude and hunting technique may help. Remember the unique hunter I had here a little while ago? Something about this Hawk from this past weekend reminded me of that bird. She came to ground and disappeared inside our Holly bush, trying to catch a hiding Sparrow.

It's been interesting watching this Hawk. She caught a Pigeon on both days. I did not see either take down, which I am okay with. It's a lot easier to watch things after the struggle is over from the prey, especially when one has a soft spot for these "victims".

Usually the Hawk is done with a Pigeon in an hour or so, something smaller, half the time. It's a matter of catch it, kill it, and eat it. This bird, this weekend, it went on for hours. Saturday was easily 3 hours of leisurely consumption. Sunday was even longer. She plucked. She ate. She had a time out and watched the world around her. There was a lot of personal preening happening throughout the meal too, leaving it and flying to a nearby branch!

As for these photos, anything from Saturday was me outside after I thought she had left. I was going to photograph some Cardinals and Nuthatches in the snowfall. Turns out the Hawk was still here and right behind our Holly bush. I guess she learned from me that this is a good hiding spot? Ha ha. She startled me as she flushed with the last remains of the bird. She carried it further down near our shed. I took some photos from where I stood, maybe moving side to side, but not any closer.

Sunday, after over 3 hours since I initially saw her, I looked out the window again and she was sitting in the snow, looking rather full and proud of herself. I decided it was a good time to try for some photos and went out the front door, sneaking up the side of the house and making my way to my viewing blind being the Holly bush. She was down near the shed. I could see she had consumed most of the Pigeon by this time. I took that the distance between the Holly bush to the shed was an acceptable distance for us, going by the play out one day before. I still took a very slow (quiet) approach to getting to the bush, being as quiet as possible. My light steps seemed to amplify in the snow.

The Hawk seemed to take little notice to my presence. Squirrels were running up and down nearby trees nattering at her. Chickadees and White-breasted Nuthatches vocalized their disapproval too. She was pretty much "ya, whatever" to the complaints.

Here are a few photos from the two encounters with her.

Saturday it was dark and stormy all day. She is way down back. Full zoom and some further cropping to the images.

I hate to think that is Dorothy (one of my hand feeder pals) because the wings are the same and even the chest pattern looks very similar. I didn't see her out there but I wasn't glued to the window watching all morning. Time will tell I suppose. February would mark 1 year with Dorothy coming to visit.

Oh Dorothy!

Sunday was an exceptional encounter. The lighting was much better. It wasn't storming. The temperature was around -30 Celsius with the wind chill. Brrrr!

I thought I spooked her and away she went; but I think it was the two p'od Squirrels who were right above her in the trees, racing up and down, jumping on the fence.

She landed about 15 ft over and I wasn't complaining about her being in better light.

About 4 pm, she flew off, leaving the last of the Pigeon on the ground. I thought that was it for the day. She had her fill. I happened to be looking out the window near 5 pm and caught sight of her flying in, grabbing the carcass, and then flying off out of the yard. I assume she took it with her to wherever she was roosting for the night?

As I key this blog, 9 Pigeons have come in. None are my pals. I call these "the commoners". They don't seem to be very wary of the threat that has been here lately; so perhaps these are some new birds who may learn the hard way this morning? Wouldn't that be fortunate for the She-beast (as I call her now)?