Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

June 26, 2017

My 250th Life Bird

Hello! I'm baaaaaaaaack! The nest season is almost over and it will be the end of my nest blog which I hope many of you checked out. But this is not about that blog, this is about my 250th life bird.

I was sick all through the weekend, actually came down with it Thursday night. Whatever bug hit me, hit me hard and fast. I laid low through the weekend as much as I could. I even turned down helping TWC with a local wildlife situation near our home. I just couldn't move on Saturday.

Sunday when I woke up, I could tell I turned the corner on this illness. I was starting to feel a little better. I didn't want to push it and had every intention to lay low once again. Then the phone rang around noon. Long story short, it was a friend seeking any updates on a rare bird sighting not far from the house. A Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. When I think of this bird, I think Texas, as that's generally where one could see them reliably in the nesting season. It winters in Mexico and Central America. So ya, this bird is quite a ways from home.

I scoped the internet for my friend, giving him what I could find which was a pretty good location and last time it was seen. He thanked me and off he went.

The thought of this bird being so close to home played heavy on the minds of both myself and Angie. Over the next 2 hours Angie asked me 4 or 5 times if I wanted to go see it. I kept saying "no, I should rest". I was feeling better but my responsible side kept saying "be a good boy, stay home and rest". I worried about an exhausting walk in the field, standing around for who knows how long until the bird popped up... IF it popped up again. There was a thread on social media regarding the bird and people going to see it. Thankfully a few were keeping everyone updated on the sightings.

Angie asked me once again if I wanted to go see it. There was discussion about regret in the following days if I didn't go. She didn't want me to feel that. We don't chase rarities very often but this one was really close to home. I thought about it and this time I said "yes". We were in the truck minutes later and on our way.

A short drive to the park, a short walk to the location from the parking area and we were greeted by a few "bird people" as some call us all. One man quickly pointed out the bird to us. It was way out in the field and I caught a glimpse of it momentarily as it flew from a tree and then disappeared around a small hill. Unfortunately Angie did not see it at this moment.

There were some familiar faces in the small crowd, quick hellos were said and then everyone started walking the trail to hopefully find the bird way over across the field, somewhere behind this hill. No time for socializing when there's a rare bird to be seen. So no offense was taken by anyone for these brief greetings.

As we made our way over, there was a larger crowd already there with a few more familiar faces. The bird seemed to be doing the rounds about this field and people were in various spots, waiting, hoping it would come closer to where they stood on the trail. If there was 50 people there in total, 47 stayed on the trails. The other 3, well, there's always a few. They weren't aggressive, just eager. One woman politely asked one of them to please get out of the field and stand on the trail with everyone else. No arguing back, this person joined the group and that was that.

The bird reappeared. A long distant view for everyone but there it was. This is the scenario that played out over the next 45 or so minutes we were there. We had some great flight displays from this bird. What a tail on this creature! It never came in close for great naked eye views or photo opportunities but that's okay. It was awesome that everyone present enjoyed what was there and not a single person bitched about not getting THE photo.

As we saw more and more of the bird, we all started to relax and actually socialize among each other. Some people there I've not seen in a year or more. I was still feeling alright, not winded like I was a day earlier, and didn't mind catching up. When I'm unwell, I am the epitome of anti-social.

All in all it was a great little outing for Angie and I.

It's always nice to get lifers but even better when we can get these together. It's an even greater memory!

After we got home, Angie opened up the spread sheets with our life lists and added the bird. Little did I know that this was a milestone life bird for me... #250. I might'a celebrated this in the moment if I knew. Oh well, there's always #300, whenever that may come in the next decade or so.

Here are a few photos of the bird. Cheers!  The bird is in every photo except the first one; you may have to open them to full screen to see it though.  Just record shots that help tell the story.

Making our way over, a small crowd already gathered.

First long view of it sitting on a branch far far away.

If I didn't see it fly to this tree, I wouldn't have been able to spot it again.

Now I can really appreciate the tail on this bird.

When everyone is hoping to see the bird from where they stood and waited.

I was laughing at this moment below.

Always happens, look away and the bird does something.

Dude in the hat, please put down your notes and look at the bird passing by you!  LOL!  It's the only thing that comes to mind with this photo.  I'm sure he had many views of it by this time.

Our time there ended on a high note, really getting some great views of the Flycatcher, even as far off as they were.

You can see why they are called "Scissor-tailed Flycatchers".

Here we are the day after, there are a lot of people that have gone down looking for it already but the bird is not being seen. It has probably moved on. I'm still not 100% health wise but I have no regrets.

June 5, 2017

Made a Friend

One morning in late May. I was out in the shed working on some bird houses. It was cold and rainy, and the rain was coming down pretty heavy. The yard was full of birds. There was a lot of European Starlings with their young. Oh those squawky young birds chasing their mommies around for food. Bottomless pits!

I am moving about the shed, hammering some nest boxes together when suddenly I sense I am not alone. I stop, look around and spot this bird sitting there watching me.

I was a little stunned for a moment but then highly amused. My initial "what's wrong here?" disappeared as I watched him watch me, then shake the rain off himself, preen, look at me again, squawk, and repeat.

I finished up what I was doing. The noise and my movements did not bother him in the least.

I talked to him and he looked at me rather curiously. He tilted his head from one side to the other. I asked him where his mommy was. I talked about the crappy weather we were experiencing. And then I lost the fight to not put my hand towards him. I kneeled down and put my finger tips to his toes and as soon as we connected, he stepped on.

I now stood up and he stayed on. I held him to the open double doors, looking out to the yard. He wasn't interested in going back out there. I gabbed away to him a little bit more. I took a couple short videos, a few "cellfies" and then enjoyed a few more minutes with him in total silence. I just watched him. He preened himself on my finger tips and occasionally let out another squawk.

I couldn't resist the "cellfie" as I call these photos.

Looking out at his family and friends.

The morning was moving fast. I had somewhere I needed to be with those bird houses, even with all the rain coming down. I moved him over to the handle of my lawn mower. He stepped down like he knew I needed to go.

I told him he should go see his family now. I told him he couldn't stay in here all day. I gathered up the nest boxes, leaving the shed doors open and started walking up the yard, heading to the truck. I walked backwards so I could see what or if anything was going to happen, preferably returning to his family. And he did just that. He flew out of the shed and to the nearby trees, squawking a few times, and then he disappeared from my sight.

What a wonderful experience this was on such a dismal day. I will remember it for many years to come, that I am sure.

He may have been a young and naive bird but obviously he was pretty darn smart to know where to go to get out of the rain for a while. I can't help but feel a little honoured with what happened. Sure Starlings aren't high on any birder's list and even I get frustrated when they dominate the bird feeders some days. But we connected, our two worlds met for a brief moment, we were just two living souls and not man and bird. That's the best way I can describe it.

I know I grinned through much of my work shift later that day.

I look at all the young Starlings still about the backyards and wonder which one is him.

Perhaps the next rainy morning we have I will open those shed doors once again and see what happens?

I posted one of the videos on my YouTube channel, even as I put my hand out of the shed doors with him still on my fingers, he never left. Video here.

I expect some to frown upon this but he came to me. I didn't coax him with food. I embraced a unique encounter. Sure I did not need to have him on my finger tips like that but obviously the boundaries between us were missing. It was like seeing an old friend. I let go of my frustrations at this bird species for a while. Maybe my story will alter your view of this type of bird as well.

May 18, 2017

Just Checking In...


Just thought I would pop in and remind some that I'm blogging more with my Toronto Nest Blog than this one for the next few months. Latest entry is here.

We spent a few days down in the Long Point/Port Rowan area while on a 2 week vacation. Nice area and I will blog about it soon, once I'm back on the grid, meaning vacation is over. Booooooooooo!

Speaking of nests, check this one out. Can you spot the nest of a Ruffed Grouse in this photo?

Here's another of a Northern Flicker.

See what you could be missing by not going to my nest blog?

But I will be back to this one soon enough as time sure does fly.

How long until you may be tired of the Raccoon ones coming? I can't believe it's that time of year already.

Here's a momma Raccoon near our home, covering the cavity where her children sleep inside. I'm sure this is to keep them from wandering around without her. What a good momma!

April 26, 2017

The Jerseys of Late

Good day,

Just stopping in to talk about the Jersey Pigeons that so many have taken a fondness to.

Unfortunately I don't have a lot of good to tell you at the moment.

For starts, Jersey One, has been MIA for about 2 weeks now.

I'm hoping he's just off with another part of the folk somewhere in the area.  I can't say Jersey One is my favorite of the pair but he is the kinder one, spending more time with me during visits, hanging out on my hand.

As for Jersey Two, well, he's at Toronto Wildlife.  He's been there since April 21st.

About a month ago I was feeding them and I noticed that wet look about him.  He smelled pretty bad too.  I couldn't quite nail it but it's something like old vegetable oil.  I can only wonder what he got himself into.

I made contact with TWC regarding him.  It was advised that if I could catch him, to bring him in (with advance notice of course) and they would most likely be able to clean him up.  It took a while to do this because either his timing was off, not arriving until too close to work time, or he got away from one of my few failed attempts; and with Angie's broken foot troubles we had been to a number of doctor appointments through the weeks and I've not been around or too consumed with my own life.

The fact he was still able to fly well and in every other way was a perfectly healthy Pigeon, I wasn't overly concerned.  I knew in time I would be able to get him.

Actually, the story of my grabbing him is kind of funny.  Believe it or not I had the assistance of Pierre.  That Friday morning Pierre is waiting outside the back door.  In comes Jersey Two.  The day before we had a really cool rainy day and I knew my bird pals were quite hungry.  Jersey had no patience on waiting for Pierre (King Bird) to finish up and he flew to my left forearm...  Pierre is feeding from my left hand.  The birds got into quite the coo coo cooing argument right there and next thing I know they are getting aggressive with each other.  They are biting at each other and wings are flapping, whacking each other.  I knew with his distraction to the fray, that this was my chance.  A quick grab with my right hand and I had him in that bander's grip I mentioned in my Pierre and TWC blog a couple months ago.  Jersey Two quickly submitted, probably very confused to what was going on, why his human friend was doing this to him.

It was a bit of a wait before we hit the road to the centre.  I wanted to wait for morning rush hour to die off.  I figured no sense in us sitting in traffic, crawling the roads; better off to keep him in a dark quiet spot at home until it was time to leave and have half the drive time.

He was a little restless during the drive.  I spoke softly to him.  I don't think it had the same effect with him as it did with Pierre.  This bird has only befriended me in the last 7 months; it's going on 5 years with Pierre.  But overall he was pretty good about the confined road trip.

I dropped him off and now it's a matter of waiting, hoping he comes home sooner than later.

And I've got just as much hope that his side kick comes back too...  sooner than later.

They've been such a joy to have around as you can see.

That's the thing with wildlife, we don't always know what happens to them.  I know someone else out there is befriending them, probably getting the ball rolling on these birds having trust in people.  It's funny when new birds fly in and jump right on me, being like "what up dude?"  I love them all but no way they can sense it just like that now.

Please wish the best for both of them.

April 21, 2017

Please Check This Out...

Hello!  How's it going?  Is anyone out there?

I've shared the news on social media but this is for anyone who may somehow follow me, finding out about my blogs through other means...

I've started a sub-blog called Toronto Nest Blog and you can view it here.

Why would I do something like that?  Well, more for me than anything else, keeping such data and adventures separate from my regular blog.  It's only seasonal, running from April until July, when I am helping monitor nest boxes in our area, mostly being Tree Swallows.

I may touch upon the latest with our Peregrine Falcon fledge watches or any other nests of interest I may chance upon.

Of course if anything else happens throughout this time, I will be right back here keying about it.

Life is getting back to normal around here as my wife's broken foot heals.  We may not be running after the Warblers as hard this year but we will still be out there.

As I key this, I am listening to the morning sounds of the first White-throated Sparrow in our backyard for the season.  They don't stick around us for more than a week or two so this is nice.

Anyway, I hope to see some of you over there.  I've done 2 entries this week to get it going.


April 12, 2017


Hellooooooooo! Welcome back. Sorry for my absence. Life got pretty crazy ever since my wife Angie broke her foot on the first day of Spring. All the more reason I share this blog now, since it was her last outing with me (for a while anyway) on the last day of winter.

March 19th Angie and I had an encounter with 2, but quite possibly 3 Coyotes. We had decided to go for a walk at dusk, the "golden hour" as some call it. It was a pleasant evening, the very last official day of winter. It had been sunny much of the day and +5 Celsius. Although I'd been unwell all weekend, the thought of fresh air and possibly some wildlife sightings enticed me. For Angie, it was getting a good walk in, getting her steps, and perhaps seeing a few birds and whatever wildlife presented itself to us.

First sight as we started our walk.

The animals stayed atop the hill. One kept an eye on us even though we were quite a distance away.

While the other looked on elsewhere.

This is their first light, as brief as it will be. They probably took in the last warm rays of the sun before the cold night set in.

All I can say is that it was an amazing sight to see these creatures. Of course the camera side of me wished for something much closer, getting some kick ass photos, but the nature side of me embraced this because it's not very often that I see Coyotes, especially more than 1. Most Coyote encounters of mine have been accidental. Quick views, I don't have the camera ready, and before I know it the animal has disappeared. So seeing these two taking in their morning atop this hill was very peaceful and I was quite grateful to witness it.

We continued our walk that had barely begun, heading away from the animals.

Then, X amount of time later, heading back, we saw a possible third elsewhere.

Another crop job just like some of the previous shots. There was actually a fence between us as well which added to the challenge of getting a photo. This could have been an amazing photo without the fence, without the distance, but I'm good with that because it was an amazing encounter.

When I share Coyote sightings on social media, most people are just happy about my encounter. Some do ask for locations to hopefully experience this as well and some want to know just to avoid the area because they are fearful of these creatures especially when walking their dogs or taking their kids out. It's the fear bit that I'd like to touch upon.

Why be afraid?

Sure a Coyote is a wild animal. It is a predator, and a smart one at that (never mind those Road Runner cartoons).

You live in your home. The outdoors, that is theirs.

It is my belief that respect must be given to all wildlife and their home(s). Coyotes won't come out and attack a human, adult or child. Like most wild animals, it would rather take the high road and keep clear of us. Leave the animals be, don't chase them because you will never catch up to them. Don't mess with their "children". A human would totally lash out and probably get quite aggressive with another who messed with their kids. Why think it's wrong for a parent animal to do the same?

Really it's just common sense. It's mind blowing how some lack this even in the slightest.

Reports of Coyotes biting humans involved scenarios where people habituated the animals, feeding them from their back doors basically and then taking that one step too close, trying to hand feed the animals. Whether the bite was intentional or not, in the end, it's that animal who loses. A reported Coyote bite lands the animal becoming a specific target, being shot and tested for rabies. The person may get a scolding for interacting with these animals as they did, and probably a round of rabies vaccinations. Some would learn from the experience while others unfortunately would gain a hatred for the animals.

Unintentional bites can happen when hand feeding any animals. I've been nipped by a few overly excited Squirrels in my day. It hurt like hell but it was me, putting my fingers holding the food towards the mouth of the animal. Sure I might call them "a little bastard" in the moment but I know it was my fault.

Another scenario is a person trying to save their pet from the clutches of a Coyote. This is why I am a firm believer in not letting cats roam freely outdoors and keeping your dogs on leash when out in the wild. The smaller the dog, the greater the risk. Keep the leash short. Or better yet, avoid areas where Coyotes are known to be seen. Usually there are signs posted either by the city or even handmade ones from locals which I have seen near our home. Some are almost laughable but the point is made. I am almost tempted to stop this blog momentarily and go to where I have seen one of these handmade signs posted and take a photo of it. NOTE: I started this blog days ago. Last night I went to where one of the signs had been on a post in a nearby neighbourhood for months. That sign is gone. In it's place is a sign of a missing cat now. True story! I will leave it at that.

It's not just Coyotes you have to worry about taking your pets. We heard one horrific tale of a Great Horned Owl taking a person's small dog when it was off leash out in the wild north of us. I've heard and even know someone who had their pet rabbit attacked by a Red-tailed Hawk. My friend's rabbit survived but with a vet bill attached, others not so lucky.

Don't take it personally, to the animals, these are just food sources and nothing else.

Cornering a Coyote, much like any wild animal, can be a cause for you to get bit. Why a person would want to do this, or how they could, is unimaginable to me.

Honestly, animals are very much like people. Put yourself in any situation instead of the animal; what would you do? I use this same analogy when it comes to photographing wildlife, especially sensitive species or situations like nesting birds.

I've found the only two recorded cases where Coyotes have actually killed a human in North America. Click on the links to get the full stories.

First was a 3 year old in Southern California back in 1981.

Second was a 19 year old Canadian country folk singer from Toronto, killed in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

The second incident hits closer to home, not because she was a Canadian and born in the same city as me; but because she loved nature and was on a nature walk. They list some possible reasons as to why this happened but in the end it remains a mystery.

As terrifying as both these attacks were, they are the ONLY two known cases where this species of animal has killed a human being. Now, for random attacks that ended in cuts, gashes, stitches, rabies shots, etc is considerably longer if you check this Wikipedia link. This is just information. This is NOT to spread fear. The list of incidents don't give too much info overall, I am sure there was much more to each individual story.

My actual Coyote encounters overall, I can probably count on two hands. If there was a total of 10, 8 were from respectable distances because I can think of only 2 really close encounters. One time a Coyote cut across a path right in front of me and never stopped even for a moment. The other time, similar scenario, I'm walking a path, a Coyote cut onto the path right in front of me, it was walking the same direction as me and continued on ahead, taking very little notice to me. Of course I'm like "damn, I want a photo of his face" but what can I do? Just enjoy the moment, consider myself lucky to see such an animal in my day time walk and be happy with it.

Here is a rare "face to face" moment with one recently. Intimidating stance and glare but there was easily 100 ft between us and the animal. Then in the blink of an eye, quickly disappeared into the field, not to be seen again.

The last few Springs I've heard Coyotes yelping in the hydro field near our home. I've been in the backyard after dark when the calling has started. It was exciting to hear. Early on in this past winter, I was out looking for Screech Owls after dark, and got to hear some Coyotes really belting it out in a golf course across the Humber River from me. It was very loud. It was a tad spooky since I was in the dark other than my head lamp. I knew they were across the river which ended any uneasy feeling I may have had. It would be my lack of experience and understanding of these animals that would set in the uneasy feelings.

Here is a great YouTube link to some Coyote yelping after dark. As they state in the video, please take notice to the reactions of your pets. I played this rather low, one of our cats ignored it completely, while the other's ears went flat and soon ran out of the room.

I'm just a guy who loves nature. I'm not a scientist. I'm not a behavioral analyst. Some people say I am a bit of a whisperer but I call it some good fortune with wonderful encounters of all kinds of wildlife. I've always been respectful. I'm in their house and I don't forget that. I hope people act in similar fashion. If you are fearful of these animals, then just don't tread where they may be.

March 14, 2017


I've had a few reunions recently. All were pretty cool but one was very touching to my heart and soul which you will see.

First off, we were quite a ways west of our home last weekend and I stopped into a very popular Screech Owl spot for a very brief moment. I first saw this Owl back in 2012 and most years in the month of March when we are in the area I try to see "him". I've been successful every March except for 2016 when the Owl was not showing. It was a peaceful moment with the bird and not another person seen; I wasn't there more than a couple minutes mind you. It was a quick view, kinda like a "hello" and away I went. I snapped a couple shots for the blog and they do look like pretty much any other photo I've taken of it years before.

It's nice to know this bird is doing well and surviving out there in the wild.

Then just days later I chanced upon another Screech Owl I know, who is no where near as popular because this bird's location has not been shared publicly. This Owl lives minutes from our home. Last winter I saw her quite often with my outings but this year, not so. The last time I saw this bird was back in November 2016. I don't actively seek it out and it's another one of these "nice to know it's still around and surviving in the wild" scenarios. A pass by, a short view, smile and continue on.

We were fortunate to see 2 Owls last winter but what I hear from another who frequents the area daily, it's only her this time around. I suspect this to be a female because her partner last year was considerably smaller.

She was trilling in the early morning of my encounter. Spring is just days away. Is she calling for a mate?

You can see the throat expanding in the second photo compared to the first. Attaching a very short video here as well.

Notice how enlarged it is?

Hopefully she does have a mate. Hopefully it's the same bird as last year; it was quite timid and often ducked back in the box upon noticing being observed. The 2nd Owl was rufous so easily distinguished from this one.

But now let's move to the last reunion. Meet Sabrina! Formerly known as Skittles.

11 years ago in February I almost ran over the tiniest of kittens in front of the house. I threw my car in park right there in the middle of the road late in the night, jumped out and gave chase to the cat, but quickly lost sight of it in the darkness. I went home bothered by seeing this wee little cat out on it's own, especially in the coldest month of the year. I kept a look out for it but did not see it again. Well, that is until some weeks later when I happened to go down to the old shed for something. I opened the door and there was the cat sitting on a shelf looking at me. We both startled each other. She quickly backed up, then darted out a small hole in the roof. It was obvious she was making a home of the shed judging by the numerous mouse parts I found scattered about.

I began to leave food out for her and it took over a week for her to ease up with seeing me. I set up a box in the shed, put some old t-shirts within, and draped a couple heavy towels over it. It took her no time to figure out that I had made her a bed, well more like a shelter, and she could hide inside, being as warm as she could for being outside in the late winter.

It's funny to think back to this time. It was before Angie lived here. We were obviously just getting into the birds because for years now I am in the shed morning and night. Why was it so long between my last visit to the shed? Maybe I did and don't remember now so many years later? But whatever the case, it was weeks before I saw that cat again. I remember how startled I was at seeing her but also amazed. I knew it was the same cat I almost ran over.

Gotta give her some credit for being a survivor at such a young age. She learned how to hunt on her own. She found that small hole in the shed roof and knew it was the best possible shelter she could have for herself at such an unkind time of year weather-wise.

I just found this cell phone photo of her on Facebook. She's laid out in her box.

Meadow, my last cat, made it clear that she was not keen on Skittles living here, not even down back. One afternoon Meadow slipped out the back door and went right for the shed. It always was a one cat house with Meadow AND it was also a one cat backyard with her too. You can easily see that with this photo of Meadow and another homeless cat named Smudge.

Meadow was always on a leash and harness and her getting out to where Skittles was, was accidental. So lucky for us Meadow wasn't into much free roaming. She left the house with a purpose and I can only imagine what she would have done to Skittles if she got to her. Skittles was not home and Meadow couldn't figure out how to get inside the shed but she knew damn well there was another cat living in there. She must have smelled Skittles on my hands.

More than a few cats have felt Meadow's wrath, even with her on leash, she had no problem letting them know this was her home and they were not welcome. Most cats never came back. Swear on that one I do!

I remember Angie and I sitting on the deck one weekend talking about Skittles. She was growing up fast. She was hanging around the back of the yard, showing herself a lot more often to us. She had become quite comfortable with her surroundings, and us, she wasn't "skittish" like her baby days. I think we were talking about somehow trying to make this work with her and Meadow or something. Then suddenly Skittles jumped up at the bird bath and pulled a Red-winged Blackbird right out of the water. We both jumped out of our chairs and started running to help the Blackbird. I remember wiping out on the wet grass that early summer's morning. Angie half debated stopping to check on me but she knew the bird needed help ASAP and she kept going. The bird was quickly freed from Skittles's clutches and we decided that we really needed to find her a home.

Finding any animal a home isn't easy. Skittles had youth on her side but the fact she was living outdoors all her life, she was not spayed and had no vaccines were against her. But luck have it that Angie found someone through her work. The following weekend Skittles was off to meet her new family. They changed her name to "Sabrina" and Angie took that as a good sign since it's the name of a comic character she enjoyed reading the adventures of when she was a little girl.

An unfortunate incident happened recently. The death of a person who was related to Skittles, er, Sabrina's owner occurred. Angie knew the deceased woman as well. We went to the memorial service which happened to be in the condo party room of where Skittles now lives. So we got to have a little reunion with her after the service. It was wonderful to see her again after all these years. She's a lovey girl, living the life of a spoiled rotten princess as it should be. She was affectionate so that made it all the nicer to mingle with her. I like to think that she remembers me. Hey I can pretend! She couldn't tell me otherwise. LoL! I did feel sadness for the family and friends of the deceased but I took what positive I could from the situation. Most will get that I am sure.

I'm sure there are some people out there from my past, that if I had a reunion with, I'd be quite delighted about but y'all would never hear about it in my blog. This is "Rob and the Animals" after all.

As always, thanks for stopping in.