Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

August 5, 2020

Sinatra Update

It was nice to hear from someone at the Toronto Cat Rescue, sending us an update on Sinatra the kitten. If you need a catch up, click here for the story. 

Hi there - I thought you might like to know how the kitten is doing. 

Andrea is currently fostering him and reports yesterday that he is over 1kg, is in good health and spirits. He is eating well and stools are mostly solid. No behavioural issues, and is now waiting for neuter. 

Andrea’s mother has already expressed interest in adopting Sinatra. 

He has been fully vetted, vaccinated, and microchipped 😸 

He has been watching cat YouTube. 

And posing cute. 

Please let the rescuer(s) know they brought him in at a good time! 

Thank you again for caring for the wee boy and hope that you are well.

We knew we did the right thing for him, taking him in to the TCR.  He's in very good hands with them.

A life on the street is no life for any cat, especially a little kitten.  

I like this photo, even if it is a little blurry.  Sinatra feared the wasps that tried to share his breakfast.  There were times the insects were too much for him and he would completely back away under the shed.  I'm sure he's never been stung but they were intimidating and annoying.  I know exactly how he feels which is why eating outside isn't always my favourite thing at this time of year.

I noticed his plastic bell ball was pushed out from under the shed last night.  A squirrel or raccoon maybe had a moment with it, or it was just from the heavy rains yesterday.  Seeing it made me miss those 4 days with him and working with him.

Let's hope Sinatra gets THE BEST furever home possible!

NOTE: there's a lot of changes to Blogger that I see here.  Apologies if it doesn't look quite right while I figure out how it works now.

July 23, 2020

Cat Tale

This past weekend we had a new visitor to our backyard... a little black kitten. Both Angie and I happened to notice it on Saturday afternoon at different times. How cute but also how odd. Did a neighbour lose it? Or?

My trail cam picked up this image, which I then shared on our community Facebook page, asking if anyone was missing a kitten.

I got a few comments but no one claimed it to be theirs.

About 2 minutes after that cam capture, I got this one.

Our neighbourhood really isn't the best location for a little feral cat all out on his own.

I then posted about the cat to a Toronto Lost and Found pet page. That got shared from there to other pages. I never got anyone missing a cat but I got a lot of hands up to take him in. I'm sure there were some people with good intentions for the cat but how could I be sure? I thanked a few and said I would keep them in mind while we got a better handle on the situation, if the cat continued to come around, if no one claimed it.

The cat was back on Sunday. I went out and got some kitten food.

I should mention the cat took to hiding under our shed a lot. He would peek out at us but quickly hide again. He was food driven but preferred to eat as close to being under the shed as possible.

We estimate he was maybe 3 months old tops.

A couple more cam captures.

I wonder what he thought about this crew being so close to his hiding spot?

And then a couple opossums that come around.

He would appear when the coast was clear. Funny about the ring like appearance on his tail, eh?

He found the squirrels rather interesting.

We wound up feeding him at 8 am, noon and then around 6 pm. He quickly figured out the white dish we used meant food was coming. He would come out from under the shed in 20 - 30 seconds.

On Monday I tested the waters with him again, sitting on an old wooden bench nearby. He tolerated my closer presence while he ate.

On Tuesday I again moved his dish a little bit so I could see him better from the bench. He was okay with me sitting and watching him.

About 45 minutes after breakfast, Angie and I watched him playing in the grass near the shed. We think he was chasing a moth. It gave me the idea to bring out one of Merry and Molly's bazillion cat toys and see what would happen.

I brought out one of those those plastic balls with a bell inside. It didn't take long for the kitten to react and start batting the ball around on the ground. I texted Angie who was inside working to let her know what was happening. She came out to join me for a bit and we watched him have a really good time with this ball.

At lunch time, I went out again with the camera. I was happy to see him not run and hide under the shed. I still couldn't get close to him but this was a big step between us.

During these couple days, I was sharing on social media about the goings on with this cat with those on my page. It certainly got a lot of attention. A few people put their hands up to take him. A few were talking to me privately on rescue places who could help him. In such a short span of time, there was a lot of discussion with a few about the kitten.

Angie and I talked about taking him in. We knew it wasn't a great idea, mainly because of our budgie Moonie.

Merry and Molly have that cat vs bird instinct on occasion and we are managing that. Neither of us wanted to chance it further with a 3rd cat in the house. Secondly, we didn't feel that either Merry or Molly would approve. Merry acted out when I was outside with the kitten even though Merry and I were 100 ft apart she sensed something was up. When I came back inside, she was ridiculously clingy and vocal with me, following me all over the house. Now with Molly, she gets jealous if Angie gives Merry too much attention. What would Molly do if Angie gave the kitten attention over Molly? Merry and Molly are only 5 but we don't think throwing a kitten at any older cat is a good idea.

It was kinda fun having this cute little cat to look after out back, but we knew it had to be dealt with. A life outdoors is no life for any cat, especially a kitten. We were willing to work through the week with him but no longer than that.

It was difficult getting through to cat rescues. I've experienced this in the past. A couple never got back to me just like years ago with another cat. I was in shock when the Toronto Cat Rescue did reply to my plea for help. There was a lot of back and forth emailing with one volunteer. It looked promising that they could help us help the kitten. Then later Tuesday evening it was not looking like it so much. They recently stepped in to help with yet another ridiculous cat hoarding situation in Toronto. Who the hell could possibly be able to take care of 150 cats? I was thinking about the next rescue centre to try and contact or give the cat up to one of the people offering to take him although none of the situations were the most ideal for the kitten. I mean, all were better than life on the street, but all involved homes with other cats already present.

Taking in a feral cat, no matter the age, there should be a quarantine period for starts. Having cats in the house already makes this a difficult thing to do. It could make the other cats sick if the feral is carrying anything. Deworming is something that needs to be done as well as most likely a flea and tick treatment. Again, not things you want to bring into the house with one's other cats already there. Never mind vaccines and eventually a spay or neuter.

A feral would need a quiet home with people who have patience and understanding to the cat's needs. A feral kitten would adjust much faster than an adult but still, that adjustment period is there. A lot of people don't do any of this. Sometimes it works out. More often it doesn't. I hear a lot of stories where it isn't a happy household and they just live through it. If we could avoid this, we would.

Anyway, about 10:15 pm on Tuesday night I got the green light from Toronto Cat Rescue that they would take him in. Can I get a hell yeah?

I have a live squirrel trap at home. It's helped me with a number of injured wildlife situations the last few years. This cat wasn't bigger than a squirrel so it should do fine. Wednesday morning I set the trap with breakfast inside. The kitten was not there and I found that unsettling. He did show up about 15 minutes later than usual. I wonder if he was watching me from under the shed and wasn't sure about this weird thing out there with his food inside? His hunger got the best of him and in he went. He set the trap off in seconds which probably startled him but he devoured the big helping of wet kitten food anyway.

I let the TCR volunteer know I had the kitten. I called the vet clinic who was to take him in for the rescue. There was a delay here because the clinic did not get the notice about this cat yet and would not accept him until they got proper notice from someone in charge at Toronto Cat Rescue. Argh!

I was stressing because the clinic is in Scarborough. We live on the border to Etobicoke. The drive there is easily 45 minutes. How long would this all take? I have to work in the afternoon!

I started contacting some friends who might be able to step in if things were going to happen later. I was about to email our vet about fostering the kitten for the night if need be. Then my phone rang. It was TCR. The clinic was now informed about me bringing the cat in and I could head over.

It was a bit of an adventure getting the cat out of the trap and into my rescue carrier. He's tiny and young but he knew that his teeth and claws plus a lot of hissing were his defences. He had a bit of a freak out on me but I wasn't going to be intimidated. I firmly grabbed him with my gloved hand and put him in the carrier. Once inside, with the door shut, he quickly submitted. He had a bed of old work shirts of mine to lay on.

The drive to the clinic took about 45 minutes. Kitty just chilled out in the carrier and looked at me the whole way. Well maybe not in this photo but he did.

That little face. Those eyes! *sigh*

I gently talked to him here and there on the drive. I told him he was going to be okay, that I wouldn't let anything bad happen to him. I hoped my calm soft voice would put him at ease.

He cried his head off in the trap but not a peep out of him in the carrier. Hmmmm?

We got to the clinic and it was a very quick stop for me. I told them my wife named the cat Sinatra because his eyes often looked more blue than yellow over the couple days we watched him. You know Sinatra, old blue eyes, right? They thought that was great.

I never released his name during my posts those couple days. Personalizing an animal like that, especially in the situation we had going on, I didn't think was right to do. I didn't want anyone getting too emotionally involved like that. We all fall into this at the peregrine nest site, naming them, individualizing them, suddenly having a favourite. Then if something bad happens it seems to hurt a lot more. Having Sinatra here still living outside with so many dangers and a busy main road just over the back fence where we too often see dead animals... know what I mean?

But now Sinatra is safe and on the road to hopefully landing in a great loving home that every cat deserves. We hope to get some updates in the coming weeks but aren't sure if that will be possible once he gets moved out of the clinic. TCR has so many cats to try and help. I did get one update already and that is they have a foster family reserved for him once he gets cleared at the animal clinic. How awesome is that?

2020 has been one really whacky messed up year with so many strange and terrible things happening because of the pandemic. Helping Sinatra here like we have hopefully has given some a break from all the negativity, it has for Angie and I.

Toronto Cat Rescue is a registered charity, they rely heavily on donations. Angie and I are making a donation for Sinatra. I learned a few of our friends have done the same thing. Perhaps if you're feeling all warm and fuzzy after this blog, that you might consider contributing to TCR helping Sinatra and so many other cats? I will make it easy for you, here is the link to the donate page. There is a comments section at the bottom where you could put a little note about for Sinatra and The Muellers or something. If nothing else, please send your best wishes to Sinatra here.

June 27, 2020

Backyard Bird Species #80

We just had our 80th backyard bird species today. A Great Crested Flycatcher! The bird was sitting on one of our hummingbird feeders for a moment and then flew to the ground way down at the back of the yard.

Angie mentioned catching a glimpse of a different looking bird the other evening but it disappeared before she got the bins on it. What she described sure points to this bird. So maybe this is it's second visit? How to cool to have one stick around for the summer since we don't bird anywhere else other than home really.

June 26, 2020

Gray Hairs

While the actual peregrine falcon fledge watch at the nearby Etobicoke nest site is officially over, we still like to keep an eye on the family and monitor the young birds. With the kids out and about, you never know what you may see and there are times where you won't see anybody. That is what happened for Angie and I on Sunday afternoon. We were in the area and decided to have a look out for them and we saw no falcons at all. It was a very hot and humid afternoon so they all could have been hiding out from the heat for the time.

The next morning I drove Angie down to Islington subway around 6:15 am and decided to have a quick peek in the area, hoping to spot some of the birds. Quick peek? HA! Ya, right. Read on...

As I got to the intersection at Islington and Bloor, a juvenile peregrine falcon flew right over my car. I could tell it was a young bird by the colour and the frantic flapping of the wings as how the young birds often fly. It landed on a condo roof at the southwest corner. I parked in the first available spot on a side street that I could find. Then I got my camera and binoculars out, and went for a walk towards that condo. I was happy to see two of the young birds (there are four young this year) sitting close to each other on top of this building.

I could also see a young bird high atop the glass towers on the northeast corner.

It was great to see three juveniles so quickly. My friend Lucie who also helps watch this family told me she was only seeing three young the last few days. She told me she hadn't seen "blue" which is referring to the tape colour on the one bird's leg. "Blue" happens to be Nino, the bird I recently rescued from an alleyway. See that blog here.

Unfortunately I wasn't seeing any of the bird's legs from my angle, so I couldn't see any bands or tape colours. Knowing "blue" was missing made me sad. I rescued him. I held him. I had a soft spot for him because of that. I know it's a hard wild world out there for the young birds and things can happen; often we never know what. But I wasn't going to let my mind go to such a dark place.

I walked around the area for a bit. My ears tuned into the screams of a young falcon. It was across the street from the beer store which is next to the condo where the two birds above were hanging out.

I followed the screams. I soon also tuned into a lot of very angry House Sparrows. Okay, where is the falcon? Suddenly I see it. It is on a one story building, which is a selling office for soon to be built condos in the area. I have concerns for this bird because he is very low to the ground. I also have concerns for this bird because he is quite wet and we haven't had rain in over a week. We get wet pigeons at home on occasion and they are wet from foreign oily substances so my thoughts went to this possibility.

I wish I could see his legs!

I think the bird realized that I was observing him and decided to make a break for it. It took flight out over Bloor Street, low I might add, and headed towards the glass towers where the nest is. I've seen way too many young falcons hit that glass, flying in at such a low level. I lose sight of this bird as he goes in between a couple of the towers. At least he didn't hit. But where did he go? He didn't get a lot of height. I head over to where he went and keep my eyes and ears open for him.

There's some screaming sparrows again. Is the falcon nearby? Nope, it's a Red-tailed Hawk just hanging out.

Now this is where things get pretty crazy.

After walking about the ground level of the glass towers, I make my way to an upper level garden area on the northeast corner. I can see the two juveniles still on the roof of the condo across the street. Suddenly there's a lot of screaming and in comes an adult, mom I believe, and she has a pigeon in her talons. She lands on a hydro pole right outside the subway and starts to prep the pigeon to feed to the kids.

Now in comes two young falcons. Both birds go for the condo roof, where the other 2 siblings still are, and one misses it by a couple feet. It hangs onto the wall for a moment. In comes dad right under the bird, trying to bump it up. I saw dad (Lucky) do this a few times during the 2019 watch. It is something to see! Anyway, all of that was unsuccessful and this young bird jets off the wall and heads towards the glass towers. I lose sight of him. The good thing is that I have confirmation of all four kids still alive and well; though one may be struggling by what I have witnessed so far. I just wish I knew which one.

Then one of the kids comes down from the condo and lands on a power line near mom. He's screaming his head off as he wants the food.

I was very happy to see it was "blue" who I really should start calling Nino.

Watching Nino and how spazzy he was, and right over the morning rush hour traffic was a bit concerning. It was one thing to be screaming but he was hopping around a lot, from wire to pole, back to the wires, to another pole. Then he made a few jumps at or even on top of mom to try and get at the pigeon. All I could do was stand there, watch and wait to see if I had to intervene.

"Feed me! Feed me!" as the feathers fall.

Mom continues to work on the prepping.

Nino is getting very impatient.

Now he starts trying to get on the pole with mom and hopefully eat.

I'm not even looking at my settings or shots despite how overcast it became. I was too in the moment of watching things here.

I'm glad Darcy (mom) didn't drop the pigeon or Nino might have went down to the street after it.

Nino lands in another spot but only for a moment.

He's really trying to get the pigeon now!

Again he comes up empty and then flies to the southwest condo to join his siblings and wait to be fed.

It's pandemonium now with screaming kids when the meal finally arrives. They all disappear on the roof. I hope everyone living in the top floors of that condo were awake by this time. If not, I'm sure they were now.

I think this still is mom but am not 100% certain. Whoever, this bird sat on this pole at the intersection and let out some serious stress calls.

I went on a search for the young bird.

I hear a lot of screaming and see a young falcon coming out from between two of the towers. It's trying to make it to the roof top. It doesn't quite make it. One of the adults is racing in, trying to bump the young bird up. Unfortunately the kid hits the glass before the parent could get to it. I let out a big "FUCK!" as I watch it go into a spiral towards the ground. About halfway down it regains it's composure and quickly jets off and away from the building, again disappearing around the back. I give chase which is futile but I try to keep up running up the sidewalk. No luck in spotting the bird when I got around to the other side of the building.

I do see two of the young now on a roof top of a building just to the north of the nest tower. I see another on a ledge of the nest tower. Come on, where is the fourth?!?!

After checking every nook and cranny, using some of the reflective glass to look to the upper mezzanines if the bird landed there, and even walking to the north subway parking lot where I could get a better view of the roof tops all had me not find the last bird. I decided to go back to the front, out along Bloor and maybe see it there... somewhere.

I tuned into a very angry Robin up by the A&W restaurant. Angry birds mean something is around that is upsetting them. Perhaps a missing juvenile falcon? In this case, YES!!!!! The bird is in a small tree right out front of A&W. I can see him clearly but it's too dark to get any views of the legs for a band or tape colour.

Photo of the spot taken days later, without a falcon in the tree, just for this blog.  Trying to give you a better visual...

The bird senses me watching it and takes flight, fleeing the scene, flying low and disappearing like the other times, going in between the towers and out the back.

You know I stopped taking photos at this point. I had a towel with me and was prepared to do a rescue if need be.

I was going on 3 hours of being on site. That was a lot longer than what I wanted or expected of my visit.

My phone was completely dead now. I should add that I was updating a couple of my watcher friends throughout. I was quite sweaty from the humidity. I was dying of thirst. I had to get some groceries for the week soon as well as get ready for work.

I walked the perimeter of the towers two more times, looking for the bird, either high up, low like the other two spots earlier this morning, or grounded and needing rescued. I got nothing. After telling myself it's okay, he's almost definitely okay, I left.

I use these reflective angled pieces of glass to help me see to upper floor levels that aren't always accessible to the general public.  They have unfortunately assisted me in finding missing young falcons who unfortunately turn out to be recoveries instead of rescues as the birds struck the glass with such force, instantly breaking their necks.

Thankfully CPF's Tracy who is a good friend of ours was already getting me some relief from a man named Bruce that some of you may know. Bruce is one dedicated guy to the falcons year after year. When I got home, I quickly made contact with Lucie who volunteers at the watches and lives down the street from us and this nest site. She was soon on her way to help Bruce locate all four young again. It took a while but they did get them all, and high up on the towers. YAY!

I wanted to call this blog "SHIT SHOW" or maybe "A Moment with Nino" but I think Gray Hairs is rather suiting because a morning like I had with these young birds surely put a few on my head.

I wonder what my next spot check on them will bring?

UPDATE - today, Friday June 26th I decided to have a quick look around.  Quick turned into one hour but that's okay.  I saw nothing for the longest time.  Finally when I searched the other side of the towers, I spotted both adults sitting and looking to the north.  A short bit later 2 of the young falcons flew in.  I have been on a cat sitting gig all week and couldn't stick around.  I searched all around the towers and all the nooks and crannies to be certain no one was in trouble or "not with us anymore".  Here's why I really posted this update.

I spent some time in the alleyway across from the towers which is where we can view the nest ledge.  I can walk up and down this alley and view all the towers and nearby condos at all angles except the very north side.

As I went through the alleyway, I passed a couple folded up, rather weathered lottery tickets on the road.  Other than noticing them, I kept on walking.  Now about 30 minutes later I am passing this spot again.  Those lottery tickets are still laying there, having been run over a couple more times.  I decided to pick pick them up and check them out.  Maybe just a couple loser tickets someone threw out their car window?  Most likely, right?  Both didn't have any claimed prize stamps on them which happens when someone cashes in a winner.  I thought "what the hell, I might as well scan them".  The 649 was a loser.  The Max ticket had the winning song go off from my phone and look what the winning amount is!

If anyone was with me, I would have said "breakfast is on me!" Oh well, the money can come in handy. It's like I actually got paid for my time down there this year. Or rewarded after the chaotic morning earlier this week. Whatever. How cool is that to end this blog?

If you are new to my blog and/or unfamiliar about Peregrine Falcon fledge watches, you may want to give this blog of mine a read... it's all you need to know.

June 20, 2020

Falcon Rescue 2020

Hello! I hope anyone reading this is doing well as we are still in this pandemic. Blogging for me is not coming so easily what with Angie working from home so much and tying up our computer station. Then there's been the falcons recently, the fledge watch as I participate in every year.

Covid 19 certainly added to our struggle in 2020 with so many closures including easily accessible restrooms; something needed when spending hours at a watch and drinking coffee. A lack of people interested in volunteering to watch over the nest sites throughout the Toronto area was nothing new but I am sure less people wanted to come out during these trying times. The young birds weren't able to be banded early on made keeping track of the young at the watches a challenge too. With so many people working from home, there was a plus side being far less traffic in the area.

I helped out a little bit early on at the Mississauga Executive Centre with the 2 chicks there. One went missing for a few days which prompted me to get out there and help look for him. The night I found out about his disappearance, I couldn't sleep. I think I slept maybe 4 hours total. I was at MEC for about 5:30 am the next day and began my search. Almost 4 hours later I gave up. The other bird had not fledged yet and wasn't going to that day either.

I returned the next morning and still had no luck. I believe it was the following day the missing chick appeared, all high and safe, not needing to be rescued. Yay! Unfortunately the bird's sibling lost her life in one of her first flights, colliding with that damn reflective glass. Ugh!

Then it was on to my regular site to monitor at Islington and Bloor, the site we call Etobicoke Sunlife. Four young birds here. None banded either. One chick fledged on the Tuesday if I am not mistaken and was flying around like a pro, as if he had been flying for years. I missed that as I was at work. The next day I arrive first thing in the morning and I could not locate him. His 3 siblings were still on the nest ledge.

A short bit later in he comes from the west. He does a great landing on the nest tower. Seconds later he takes another flight only this time it didn't go so well. He missed the roof, and thankfully the reflective glass as well. He clung to the side of the building near the top for a short bit. I stood on the sidewalk below and waited to see what would happen. In came one of the adults who tried to push him up but was not successful. The young bird now took another flight, trying to gain altitude but he lacked the strength to do so and flew south across Bloor Street. I quickly followed on foot. I watched him head west across Islington Avenue. Ring-billed Gulls were not pleased with the sight of this falcon and caused him further grief. I lost sight of the bird and could not locate him with my search. I decided to head back over to stand where I could watch the other 3 on the nest ledge and maybe this one would show up.

The remaining 3 young birds all fledged in a very short time frame. It got pretty silly with them all out of the nest. One did the most amazing thing I hadn't seen before at such an early stage of flying; he left the nest ledge, flew to the condo roof east and then about 10 minutes later he flew back to the nest ledge. It was a perfect landing. In the past I have seen young falcons attempt this and miss the ledge, either hitting the glass (even lightly) or the wall. It would be weeks into the summer before we would see any of them back on the nest ledge.

I left to start my day and get ready for work.

I learned later on that the missing kid ended up on someone's porch and had to be rescued. Another kid ended up stuck on someone's balcony and also needed rescuing. So grateful for the couple watchers present to help these 2 young falcons.

The next morning I arrive on scene. I don't see 4 chicks during my head count. I decide to go for a walk and search the perimeter like I do, hoping I do not find a dead falcon on the ground anywhere after a window strike. Minutes later there's a guy flagging me down on Bloor Street. Long story short, he had come into work to find one of the falcon chicks sitting in his parking spot at the Bell building which is across Bloor from the nest tower. The bird had moved since and was in the alleyway behind the building. Luckily for me, he was in a narrow fenced off section and while he had some distance to run away from me, he eventually would corner himself.

The finder stayed on the other side of the fence in the alley. He took some photos and videos but was ready to help if need be. One of his coworkers followed me, holding the carrier for me, and also being ready to be a blockade if the falcon got past me when I tried to catch him.

This was going to be my 4th rescue ever of a peregrine falcon chick. It was very early in the morning. So I was a little shaky initially. Having an audience was making me nervous. Deep down I knew I would get this bird though. It would only be a matter of time and opportunity.

My first attempt to towel him failed. I was slow and the bird got away on me. He ran from me. I kept my slow walk towards him only because I knew he wasn't going to get far. He motored along and this was kinda funny... he hopped up on a small rock and then just glared at me. Why? Did he realize he wasn't getting much further? Did he think "okay, I gotta fight this monster" and those couple inches in elevation gave him the confidence? Only he knows for sure. But this is where I finally caught him. The whole ordeal took less than 2 minutes but it sure felt a lot longer while it was happening.

The finder took a video of the rescue which you can see here.

After many thank yous to the finder and his coworker for helping me, I brought the bird in my carrier to the car and let him have a time out. I went and got a coffee, and watched the other birds including the adults. I never really looked at the bird I rescued, to make sure he was okay, not bleeding or anything. He ran like a champ so I was sure he was alright but I decided to have a peek. You know, see him in a moment of clarity. I took this photo and then covered him back up.

He wasn't happy with me and gave me a hiss.

He was later banded and finally released back home with his family. He was named Nino and his band is C 13. He has blue tape which is a temporary thing but really helps us during watches, seeing tape colours instead of looking for band numbers.

Here's hoping Nino does well and maybe we'll find out about him being somewhere on territory in a couple years. That would be amazing to me.

Hopefully this blog reads well. I've been up for about 18 hours now. I really need to get some sleep.

Thanks for stopping in to give this a read, and not forgetting about Rob and the Animals.

May 29, 2020

500... WOW!

Well it has been over 6 years in the making but I finally hit a big milestone with my volunteer work at the Toronto Wildlife Centre; I released my 500th bird!

When I finally signed on as an official volunteer with TWC, I started keeping a log book of my goings on be it rescues, releases, grocery shopping and anything else. I kept track of the count with my releases as I found it interesting how they added up.

It is never a competition, not even for myself. It's just been something of interest to me. Sometimes it was just one bird to be released, like a pigeon, somewhere in the west end of the city which is where I live. Sometimes it was one, five, maybe eight migratory songbirds either needing a drive north of the city in the spring or west of the city in the fall. I prefer to not go too far out of range especially since I work a 40 hour week, Monday to Friday. I do what I can, when I can. I wish I could do more but other volunteer gigs require more structure like doing an actual 4 hour shift. If Angie and I worked the same hours, then perhaps I could give up a couple weekend mornings each month (she might join me in this too); but we don't so our weekend time together is pretty important to us.

I should add that I am thankful for Angie's support with my volunteer work. She comes along with me on occasion when possible and if something happens to interrupt our weekend, she'll say something along the lines of "What are you waiting for? Go to it! Text me when you are on your way home and I will start lunch (or dinner)".

This spring I figured I would hit #500. I slowly inched my way to that number with a couple robin releases, a few early migrants being some White-throated Sparrows.

This robin I released back in one of my old high school stomping grounds in Rexdale. Driving though an old neighbourhood near Albion Mall sure brought back a lot of memories.

I was at 494 a couple weeks back when the an opportunity arose to help once again. It was a pigeon and a some more WTSP. I picked up the birds, unsure the total until I got there. Was my 500 here? Nope... five birds... so here I was at 499. Oh man, what a tease! I laughed about it and really wondered after the fact on when and what will be the 500th release because that was next.

Here is the pigeon that was almost #500. He's a bit fancy, isn't he?

Unlike migratory birds who go to proper green spaces outside the city during migration, pigeons need to go back to where they were found, which is their home. Their community is there, their family and friends. Yes family, as many are paired up with another. This pigeon was rather freaked out come release time. Who can blame him? He doesn't know what is going to happen to him next. So he spent a lengthy amount of time just cowering in the back corner of the box. I leave the flaps open for him to see the outside world. I stand to the side or behind so he cannot see me. Then it's a waiting game until he's comfortable enough to come out on his own. It sure does help if he can see his own kind which is what happened here. I do prefer them to fly off to higher ground but he plopped right down there near this other bird. He looked around for a while and then began to preen. He was relaxing now, knowing he was back home. After I grabbed the box, got in the car and started it up, both he and the other bird took flight to a nearby roof top. Now I could leave. That's just me of course. He was deemed releasable but I prefer not to leave any birds on the ground like this. Knowing he was high and safe made me feel better.

I'm no hero in this but honestly, it is sad to say, that I know a lot of people who wouldn't drive across the street to release a pigeon. I still get a lot of flack from some about how the centre will rehab pigeons.

I know, "Okay Rob, let's get on with this. Where's #500?" Hey, I have to build up the story just a wee bit.

Moving ahead some days later, a few more birds are ready to go. I was grinning the next 15 hours about #500 coming up. What will the species be? My first bird was a White-throated Sparrow. My 50th bird was a Red-tailed Hawk that someone shot with a pellet gun. My 100th bird was a White-throated Sparrow. My 150th was a Black & White Warbler. My 200th bird was a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. My 250th was a Black-throated Blue Warbler. My 300th was a Chestnut-sided Warbler. My 350th was a Swainson's Thrush. My 400th was a Northern Parula. My 450th was an Ovenbird.

Yes, I am still dragging this out.

A few people at the centre knew of my upcoming milestone bird because I told them so. It wasn't bragging rights but just my own excitement to the occasion. They were kind enough to mark the release bags for me, giving species names. It doesn't always happen but I do appreciate it when it does. I don't always see the releases because they can happen so fast, and depending on how the bird takes to the release, some disappear in the blink of an eye, getting lost in the leaves of the nearby trees.

I will admit that a few of my milestone releases I hand picked when there was a few birds to choose from. Other times I just looked the other way and let my hand pick. What was I going to do here? There was a Northern Flicker, a Northern Parula and a couple White-throated Sparrows. As I left the centre, driving along, I pondered this.

Fortunately Angie was able to meet me on her lunch break for this moment. She too had time to think about me, the bird species and what #500 will be. She even said I know what you want to pick and I know what I think you should pick.

The Flicker is a big bird that we could probably get a photo of without too much challenge. Then there's that beautiful little Northern Parula, such a colourful little warbler. NOTE: at the time, I even thought that this was going to be my first Parula to release. Now that would be something! Then there's the White-throated Sparrow who has made it to a couple of my milestones.

In the end, my choice was a White-throated Sparrow. Now why would I pick such a common bird like that? A bird that many barely bat an eye at during migration because they are plentiful. Well the reasons are many...

This sparrow was the first bird I ever banded. Yes, I have banded a few birds in my day.

It is as mentioned my first and 100th bird release as well.

The White-throated Sparrow is a highlight for me during migration. It is an early spring migrant so when I start to hear their song, I know winter is truly behind us even though I can find overwintering WTSP some years. I get excited to hear that call even if I cannot see the bird right away. The White-throated Sparrow adds a soundtrack to our backyard periodically for a week or two every spring. It can be just one bird, sometimes 3 or 4. Then come the fall, they return for another stopover. Their call is rather broken in the autumn season, sounding like a teenager going through puberty. I am happy to see and hear them once again. Of course there is some sadness as well, knowing the warm weather is rapidly coming to an end. Lastly, I can relate to the White-throated Sparrow. Just one of many, an average being, not flashy, and just trying to get through life.

A backyard WTSP from this spring. Well, he is a little flashy, isn't he? HA!

Here is #500. I wish he would have stayed for a better photo opportunity.

Here is me at the release in my usual position to let them fly out. Posing for the camera is not my thing either.

Here is a much better photo of another White-throated Sparrow that was ALMOST 500.

I look forward to many more years of volunteering with the Toronto Wildlife Centre in any way that I can.

If you have time for one more read, not quite as long as this one, you might find this one about my 50th bird release interesting. I'm always saddened that there are people who find joy in hurting animals. Someone shot this Hawk with a pellet gun. BLOG HERE.

Before I go, I should add that there is more to a release than just releasing the bird. There's the driving. Being in a busy city like Toronto, going anywhere takes time, and sometimes a lot of it. The centre is 11 km from our home and 30 minutes to get there is not unheard of. Then to get out to Mississauga or Vaughan as examples for the migrants, maybe mid-town for a pigeon, you're gonna hit some traffic and depending on time and where, it can be a lot. I've had easy drives. I've had unexpectedly long drives due to construction or an accident. It's all a part of the gig. I've had people just assume I am taking all these birds to our backyard. Simply put "NO!" When I explain the finer details, some are rather deterred. You don't stand in front of a release. You don't let your friends stand in front. You do not chase the animals once they are free. They've been through enough. If you want to take photos, take them from where you stand.