Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

November 20, 2018

Raptor Season is Here

Winter came early it seems and as expected here are the raptors.

I've been watching a Cooper's Hawk hit up our backyard for a meal a few times. I've not bothered with photos although I wish I did on Sunday. The Hawk was on top of our brush pile, seemingly jumping up and down on it. It knows the Sparrows are hiding within. It then hopped over to the nearby bird bath, stood on that, and assessed the situation. I then watched it hop to the ground and pace back and forth in front of the brush pile. Along came a Squirrel who was rather aggressive to the Hawk's presence. The Cooper's flared out his feathers, spread his wings and jumped at the Squirrel. This sent the Squirrel running away. Now it was back to work for the Hawk. I watched him pace the front of the pile again. Then he went around the side, squeezing in between the pile and the raspberry bush. I lost sight of him for a minute or so. Then he walked out with a House Sparrow in his mouth. How clever!

This is not the first time I have seen a Cooper's Hawk on top of the brush pile. I do wonder if it is the same bird?

Cooper's Hawk from a couple weeks ago who I watched land on the brush pile.

The pile has been weighed down by the recent wet snow and probably because of this Hawk's actions too. I may add some branches to the pile soon.

I was comfortable sitting at the window with my coffee in hand and the cats with me.

I felt little desire to go outside and try to get a photograph. I also did not want to bother the bird while he was hunting.

A Sharp-shinned Hawk has since made an appearance with quick attacks but I've not seen if they've been successful.

If you didn't catch my last blog, I shared a tale within about one of the Red-tailed Hawks coming in.

I went out yesterday and enjoyed a couple Owl sightings.

First up was a Long-eared Owl. This is my 3rd of this species this Autumn season.

Then a short bit later, I was fortunate to see a Northern Saw-whet Owl.

Just over a week ago I had a similar encounter at another park, finding both these species of Owl in close proximity of each other.

Long-eared Owl.

Peek-a-boo with a Saw-whet.

Last night on my way home from work, I spotted a large dark bird atop a lamp post. It's one of the places I look for Snowy Owls at this time of year. No Snowy Owl but a Great Horned Owl. Last winter I saw a Great Horned Owl atop this same lamp post one night. I wonder if it is the same Owl? No camera with me, so I just kept driving along with my jaw hanging down just a tad. I'm used to spotting Snowys at night but haven't gotten used to the Great Horned sightings which have been few and far between.

The Great Horned Owl from last winter.

To finish this off, one of our locals has returned for another season. A nearby resident to us is this Eastern Screech Owl.

Here I thought I was done with the blog, publishing it even, when I look out the back window and see some movement just over the fence in next door's backyard. I can see it is a Hawk and it has something. I go out the front door, sneak up the side of the house and watch from our yard, looking over the fence. It's a (THE?) Cooper's Hawk with a small bird. Nice he's got his breakfast but my curiosity is killing me on what he happened to catch. Well, part of me really wants to know while another part doesn't because we do have some special backyard birds. I finally see it is a male House Sparrow.

Indeed raptor season is here!

November 15, 2018

Project Feeder Watch; A New Season Begins...

This past weekend was the start of the PFW 2018/19 season. Click on the link if you are not familiar with this citizen scientist program. It's hard to believe we are going at it again already. It's a fun winter project but how many of us are ready to dive into winter? It's also hard to believe I'm going into my 13th season of participating according to my personal data page (I didn't think it was that long).

Before feeder watch, I was counting and documenting visiting bird species to our backyard on the kitchen calendar. Then one day while buying bird seed at our local Wild Birds Unlimited, the owners Jim and Lynda, brought up the idea of taking part in this program. I haven't stopped since.

Why do I document our birds? Well, before signing on with the Bird Studies Canada project, I did it just because... to see who comes in, how many of each species and keep track of when seasonal visitors come and go. Like when I still had Red-winged Blackbirds and Grackles in November, I often wondered how much longer were they going to linger? The first couple years I can remember them still being here at this time but it's not been like that in a long while. I can recall one Common Grackle staying with us until mid-January and then he disappeared.

I pay a lot of attention to our backyard, who comes to visit, birds, mammals, butterflies. I guess I should say "we" because Angie really gets into it too. I keep a list of all backyard species who have set foot on our property, and there's a sub-list of what has been seen from the backyard. As the list slowly grows, it's always exciting when another new one shows up. Participating in Project Feeder Watch gives me reason to pay even more attention to the backyard. And lately I tell people this... in a busy world, it gives me reason to sit down, stop for a while and just enjoy the birds at home. The cats do love it too, either watching from the window with me, or just taking advantage of my lap as I am idle for sometimes an hour or more.

Molly helping me look for birds this past weekend.

Merry just takes advantage of the snuggle time with her daddy.

This is just a bit of what came around the first weekend.

I am thrilled there's at least 2 White-throated Sparrows staying with us. They are one of my favourite Sparrows and usually it's a brief visit here in the Spring and the Fall migration, then they move on. It's now been over 3 weeks. Hearing their peeps in the early morning brings a little smile to my face.

We've also got 2 White-breasted Nuthatches coming in daily. This does not happen every PFW season for us, and it's more not than do. They are a fun bird to watch as they go up and down the trees, visiting every feeder available. They are rather vocal too, so even when I don't spot them right away, I do hear them and know to keep watch.

Both these bird species I refer to as my "happy birds". They shed some light on me during these darker days as the weather gets colder. It's great they're here for my first count weekend, and I hope they stay.

The first morning of the count weekend did start off on a sad note as the Pigeon flock was here grazing...

...when suddenly in rockets a Cooper's Hawk. It pinned one of the Pigeons against the fence, giving the bird no chance to fight back, and seconds later the Hawk was carrying it away in it's talons. I'd been in a bit of an emotional slump the last week and was getting out of it but this set me back. I know it's nature. I've adapted a numb feeling to such things, I have to. But this particular morning, I wasn't able to stay numb as a feeling of sadness took over for for the remainder of the morning anway. Most of you reading this know I have a fondness for those Pigeons. I was happy to see my pals Charlie and Dorothy return since that successful attack by the Hawk.

Here's Charlie.

We had 7 Northern Cardinals on Saturday, and then 8 on Sunday! So for my count this weekend, I entered 8 since that was the highest number seen at once. My personal record is 13, being 9 males and 4 females one early evening during a count weekend some years ago. How many can you spot in this photo?

One of the males overlooking the brush pile I made for the birds this fall.

A Cooper's Hawk on the brush pile a few weeks ago. Yes, there's little birds hiding safely inside. Too bad the Pigeons can't get in there, eh?

We had 4 Downy Woodpeckers and 2 Red-breasted Nuthatches.

Two Hairy Woodpeckers also showed up, one male and one female. Normally we say "goodbye" to the Hairys by mid-September for whatever reason, but not this year. The cage around this feeder does pretty good with keeping the Starlings away, but is no match for the Hairys... and we are okay with that.

Three Robins appeared early in the morning and had a feed at the Holly bush. It was too dark out, and too early, for me to go try for a photo. I'm still hoping a Mockingbird or something else appears at some point. A couple Novembers ago we had a late moving Hermit Thrush stop in. Thanks to it being the feeder watch season and a count day, I was parked in my chair by the window to spot him!

House Finches and a pair of Mourning Doves were also nice to see on the first weekend. We don't get a lot of either but this fall, the House Finches are here daily.

House Sparrows and Pigeons make up easily 50% of our total birds.

Sunday we had a really nice surprise with 2 Fox Sparrows showing up. They spent the whole day with us, and again on Monday and Tuesday. Only once before in all the years of backyard bird watching have I spotted a Fox Sparrow come to our property. They are larger Sparrow and fun to watch as they kick the leaves around looking for food.

Fox Sparrows are rather skulky birds. These 2 would sneak in and out of the backyard at random. I'd grab my camera, get my boots on and they would be gone again by the time I was ready to go outside. The photo above was one of the few times I was able to sneak out the front door, then up the side of the house, to photograph one of them near our picnic table. Later in the day on Sunday I admitted my defeat and spent the last hour of daylight just sitting on the deck and watching them. I didn't know if they would come back again or not. I managed one photo just before it was dark out.

Having a dentist appointment and stuff to do made it difficult the next 2 days to try and get photos so I just made mental notes when seeing them.

It's almost the weekend and time for some more counting. What will we see? I may have had some sneak peeks the last couple mornings.

Yesterday there was a bold Red-tailed Hawk who came in. I was outside feeding my flock when out of the corner of my eye I spotted a large incoming bird. It went right after the Pigeons, flushing them all. One Pigeon panicked, hit the kitchen window lightly (having the screen on the outside helps with that) and then flew off. The Hawk chased the rest of the birds. Minutes later in came a Red-tailed Hawk again and was now after the Squirrels. I can't say for certain if it was the same Hawk or it was both of the resident pair making the brazen attacks.

Today a Sharp-shinned Hawk is here making life hell for the birds. No photos as the house next door is getting work done out back right now and all the noise has scattered the birds. I did spot the Hawk earlier on a branch and then dive at the House Sparrows.

Anyway, if you take part in PFW, please take a moment and tell me a bit about how it goes for you. If you don't, maybe I've inspired you to look into it?

For the record, our weekend finished with 18 species and 107 individuals overall. Not bad for a Toronto backyard, eh?

This image came up in my Facebook memories today. You all know so many creatures love our backyard, and on occasion we do get a really unexpected visitor. This is Nix. He used to break into our yard when he was a puppy, sneaking in from his yard that runs behind the shed. Oh what fun that was. We still see Nix but he's much too big and less adventurous being 9+ years old now.

Lastly, if you feed the birds, I hope you have cleaned your feeders for the season, doing this semi-regularly at the very least.

October 31, 2018

Happy Halloween 2018

On vacation and hoping for something to blog about after it's done. Until then though, wishing everyone a happy and safe Halloween. I thought I would share a little bit of the fun I have around here with the cats. Some of the photos I may have shared in the past, but there's a few from this week too. Pets are like our kids, forever being that. The bonds can be quite strong between a person and their animal, and the memories with them can last a lifetime.

Meadow was a blast to share any festive times with. She loved our quality time and put up with my silliness.

Purr and play. I really embraced these times as she got older.

Merry when she was a kitten. This photo won her first place in our vet's Halloween photo contest.

Another Halloween as she got a little older. Funny thing is this year she's quite intimidated by that mask. I've been "working" with her on getting to know that it's not real. Calico cats sure have, um, explosive personalities.

When Merry and Molly were kittens, we said that Merry was going to be the little devil.

How wrong we were. But that's another story, isn't it Molly? Don't let that "Iza pumpkin!" cuteness fool you.

The look of humiliation. Or "are we done yet?"

I can get away with a lot more of this with Merry than I can Molly. She seems to enjoy the time with her daddy.

Oh, it's Franken-Merry!

Merry says "enough with this foolishness!"

I hope you all have a great Halloween with your pets too!

October 18, 2018

The last Month or so...

Just a quick bit of this, that, whatever as there's nothing really stand out to blog about.

As the weather cools, we're seeing some different birds around our favorite areas.

Like this Northern Harrier. All I can say is "Look out below!" as that's his poop falling from the sky below him.

There was 2, but possibly 3 of them flying around this particular afternoon. It was fun to watch them frolic in the sky above us.

Purple Finches have shown up in Toronto. Angie and I saw a couple dozen last Sunday. Ron Pittaway shared his annual Finch forecast and it looks like his predictions are correct once again. I wonder what other Finches we will see at home, or nearby, in the coming months?

Still lots of Sparrow species passing through. We saw so many White-crowned Sparrows just last Sunday.

White-throated Sparrows in no small numbers as well.

Tons of Golden-crowned Kinglets. I love their call in the fall.

Not quite as many Ruby-crowns but they were around too.

On Thanksgiving weekend, 11 Owls were released to various parts of Southern Ontario thanks to The Owl Foundation. Angie and I were fortunate enough to be able to release 2 Eastern Screech Owls in Toronto. Thankfully another volunteer driver was able to get the birds up to us because otherwise we would have had to pass on this opportunity because of so many other plans with family and friends. Even with this help, it was still just over a two hour drive around the city taking these Owls back to their territories.

One of the Owls after release. Both were wished a happy wild life as they flew off into the darkness.

Prior to this, we released one Screech Owl about 4 years ago. So it was great to be able to do so again.

My birthday was a month ago and we did a private raptor encounter at Mountsberg. A nice visit with friends of both the human kind and a few feathered.

Hanging with Shadow the Barn Owl. He says click here if you would like to learn how to have your own private raptor encounter.

Yard mammal activity has dwindled lately. So weird to not see 8 or more Raccoons (two families) wandering around at the same time.

I've not seen Bear in about a month. We had a nice evening together the last time I saw him, which was on a Whisky Wednesday.

I hope everyone is okay. Not all our neighbours like our wildlife friends. We just hope no one will go out of their way to hurt them.

Topper still comes around.

We have another Skunk wandering around who looks very much like him, but is a first year. We call him "Baby Topper". He's not nearly as tolerant as Topper though. Angie sees him most evenings just before it gets dark. I have to wait until the weekend for those last light encounters but he's still wandering around some nights after I get home.

Well, I guess that's it for this blog. No real story telling but some tell me they prefer these mostly photographic sightings kinda blogs. To each their own. I'm sure a story will present itself soon enough, just watch what I wish for, because not every story to be told is a nice one.

If you have time and feel like a couple more reads, here you go...

I did a nest blog last week which if you did not check it out, please do, as I think it's worth a read. See here.

And if you still have time for more, our latest blog for Bird Canada came out last week too. See here.