Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

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.

April 11, 2018

Wildlife Wednesday Vol. 4

Time has flown, hasn't it? Hard to believe it's been 3 weeks since I last blogged. I figured if nothing else, might as well throw a Wildlife Wednesday out there.

I've not been out a lot to be honest. Things are getting busy with the nest boxes, setting up for the nesting season (stay tuned for a blog there soon)... which is on a delay because of this never ending winter weather.

The only thing that comes to mind to blog about right now is what may have been my last Snowy Owl encounters for the 2017/18 winter. As you may be aware, I've had quite a few night sights and encounters especially the last couple months.

Despite me even recently having 5 Owls in one night with my drive home, I'd still been wishing for some day time views but never bothered going out of my way to look.

Stunning all white Snowy Owl that surprised me on April 2nd at my exit off the 401.

Another Snowy near my exit that same night.

Anyway, someone must have been listening to me because I was suddenly, and finally rewarded with a few day time encounters.

First being, driving into work one day, I happened to spot a Snowy Owl near my exit. Thankfully I was a little early and had ample time to go venture over to where the Owl was and have a better look. I had my camera with me which gave me more reason to go and see. I worked my way around the back roads and figured out where the Owl was. It was a windy rainy afternoon and the Owl was in a closed off area but I could still see it from the adjacent parking lot behind a warehouse. Within a minute or two of me viewing it, the Owl took flight and grabbed something out of the grassy area between us. It was a small rodent and the Owl flew to a nearby rooftop to consume it. That was exciting and put a smile on my face going into work.

Then last week I was fortunate to see 2 Snowy Owls Friday morning. They were on the same fence line, about 100 ft from each other.

It was great seeing this Owl dive after who knows what and then return to the post.

The next day Angie and I went out for a dusk walk in the same area. We encountered 3 Snowy Owls and nothing else. Best was seeing this Owl fly down into the field and grab some dinner.

What an end to the season I must say. Although winter still seems to be holding it's grip on Southern Ontario, so was this really the end?

It certainly was a banner season for the Snowy Owl. So many people got to see and enjoy these birds in many areas, sometimes even quite unusual spots like much closer to the downtown area. We must remember they are here only trying to survive, they are not here for our personal entertainment. The Owls must be respected and given the space to do their thing without harassment from us. Sadly 4 Wednesdays in a row now there has been a call to pick up an injured Snowy Owl in the Pearson Airport area. I'm unsure what was wrong with them, but it's been like clock work, about noon every Wednesday for a month now a driver is needed to pick up one contained by staff. Unfortunately there was also an incident of one getting sucked into a jet's turbine recently.

There is speculation that while this was an incredible year for them, they are yet another struggling wildlife species on our planet. Someone sent me a link a while back but I cannot find it. I've read this in a few spots I've researched.

The Snowy Owl is not considered endangered under the Canada’s Species at Risk Act. In 2017, however, the International Union for Conservation of Nature uplisted the Snowy Owl to “vulnerable” status. The IUCN speculates that the declining population may be attributable to the effect of warming temperatures on prey availability: lemmings are especially sensitive to temperature changes because they depend on deep, fluffy and thick layers of insulating snow to breed successfully.

If anyone has read any articles regarding their status lately, feel free to add in the comments.

Lastly, some may think the Snowy Owl is my favorite Owl. It's not. I don't have a favorite. I like them all for one reason or another, much like any other bird or mammal species. I've been blessed with all my encounters for a few winters now, never really having to go out of my way. They are a welcomed break from work when I am on my break. They are a treat to see on my way home, helping me forget the work day. And recently awesome to see during the day before work.

Well, it's Wednesday. Cheers to those of you who have popped in for a peek at my latest blog.

March 21, 2018

Wildlife Wednesday Vol 3

Holy hell, here we are with another Wednesday already upon us! And my 3rd installment of Wildlife Wednesday.

I really tried to fill the last one for anyone reading my blog. It was fun but also turned into something more like work, which took away the fun of blogging. This week, it's not as jam packed and that's more because we were busy with a few things plus we had some home stress.

A couple weeks have passed and I checked some Long-eared Owl spots I've known about. One LEOW is still hanging around, enjoying the recent sunny days on his branch, exposed to the world, which funny enough has pretty much no humans noticing him sleeping the day away out in the open like this. C'mon people, stop staring at your phones! Look out! Look up! Look around! And I don't mean just for traffic which sadly some cannot even do. Lord knows how many people have walked right past this sleeping beauty.

Still seeing Snowy Owls as recent as March 19th with 4 along the stretch of the Hwy 401 that I take every night. Unfortunately there was also a shout out to pick up an unwell Snowy at Pearson airport yesterday morning. I didn't count my encounters this time around. I'm just enjoying the sights even if it's me just passing them by.

We had a daytime visiting Skunk a few mornings ago. It was snowing, windy and about -15 celcius with the real feel. Brrrr! This big healthy beast was roaming around, trying to dig into the frozen ground and under the bird feeders for anything to eat.

I did some ninja creeping moves and set a big pile of freeze dried meal worms down at the back. I wasn't sneaky enough for this guy and he scurried under the shed as they all know it's safe place to hide. I stepped back and eventually he crawled out, finding the bounty and had a good feed. I'm not hand feeding or habituating him. I just helped him along on a cold day, in a tough time of the year when food is not so easy to find.

One of the Toppers came by another night. And so did an Opossum as Karen asked me about in the last blog. No photos of this visit but I assure you, we get them semi-regularly. A few Sundays ago there was 2 Opossums wandering around the backyards at the same time. Sad to see them not get along but it's about territory and survival of the fittest, especially as I mentioned at this time of year when food is harder to find.

Random cute Opossum photo from our backyard.

Charlie the Pigeon still comes most days. That funny Squirrel is still here but not as bold lately. No new migrants showing up yet. None of my old Pigeon flock have come back. I've walked the Forgotten Land recently and all is quiet there. Forgotten Land? Do you follow my nest blog?

I spent some time at the Sportsman Show. I almost didn't get to it because of an issue at home with our old furnace. Frustrating. Worrisome. Our Budgie spent a few days with his "grandparents" so he didn't freeze his feathers off. We all deal with home stress at times, it's the "joys" of being a home owner. You are never prepared for it and often neither is your bank account.

It was an exhausting few days, always listening to the furnace, the day in between waiting for the part, and the next day or so after the fact. This sums things up.

Here I am in one of my happy places, spending time with Alex the Great Horned Owl once again. Hard to believe a year has passed since we last hung out.

We also spent a day with many of the members of the Ontario Eastern Bluebird Society on the weekend. They had their annual general meeting. Lots of talks ranging from Ontario Turtles to Chimney Swifts and lastly one regarding the plight of the Piping Plovers at Sauble Beach. All have their negative tones because of humans especially the Piping Plovers. Sad some care more about a manicured beach than doing something to help this endangered species of bird. More on that another time. In all, it was another happy place to be with many other Bluebird enthusiasts even as we talked about 4 long time members who passed away since our last get together.

As always, thanks for stopping by here. Hopefully see ya next Wednesday for the 4th edition. Cheers on Whisky Wednesday!