Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

January 29, 2009

bits about my favorite bird visitor

I've always been more fond of Northern Cardinals than any other bird for as long as I can remember.

When the first feeder was put up in my backyard 4+ years ago... the first birds to arrive were a pair of Cardinals. I totally freaked out!

Today I am just posting some bits and pieces about these beautiful birds...

The brilliantly colored Northern Cardinal has the record for popularity as a state bird: in the United States, it holds that title in seven states. This common bird is a winter fixture at snow-covered bird feeders throughout the Northeast, but it only spread to New York and New England in the mid-20th century.

Population density and range increased over the last 200 years, largely as a response to habitat changes made by people. The cardinal benefits from park-like urban habitats and the presence of bird feeders. However, it is listed as a species of special concern in California and may disappear there because of habitat loss.

Other Names

Cardinal rouge (French)
Cardenal rojo, Cardenal norteño, Cardenal común (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • The female Northern Cardinal sings, often from the nest. The song may give the male information about when to bring food to the nest. A mated pair shares song phrases, but the female may sing a longer and slightly more complex song than the male.
  • The male cardinal fiercely defends its breeding territory from other males. When a male sees its reflection in glass surfaces, it frequently will spend hours fighting the imaginary intruder.
  • Brighter red males hold territories with denser vegetation, feed at higher rates, and have greater reproductive success than duller males.

January 28, 2009

Rob to the rescue once again...

About 6 years ago I got a phone call regarding this pair of Newts along with some other amphibians. What was said to me was this... "come get them or they are going down the toilet!"

I won't get much into the past really but let's just say that I've known about these guys (3 newts and 3 frogs) since they were purchased from a pet store. The frogs were all Fire Belly, some may call them toads, but it depends who you speak with. The Newts, well one was a Fire Belly and these two pictured... not really sure what they are anymore.

It seems their owner abandoned them and either I came and rescued them or they would meet their maker really fast. Can a Frog or Newt survive a flush down the toilet? I don't know, nor did I want to think of it happening to these creatures. I had history with them all and wasn't about to let them go like that. One day I will talk about the Fire Belly Newt who I fondly called "Bitch" because she was just that and deserves her own chapter.

The two pictured here, prior to me taking them under my wing, were named "Beavis and Butthead". I never liked such names for them and soon changed them to a couple I loved, though they were well before even my childhood... Ralph and Alice Kramden from the TV show "The Honeymooners". Ralph is the male, and the bulkier of the two, with a bigger appetite and Alice being the gentler, slimer Newt without the voracious appetite of her partner.

Sadly though, Alice passed on early in 2008. I'm not really sure what happened to her, she just stopped eating one day and died about a week later. It's not an easy thing to diagnose amphibians (or tarantulas as I have learned). Sickness? Old age? A combination of both?

Ralph has been on his own ever since. The only company is us, when in the kitchen with him and he watches from the aquarium, and his two remaining roomates, a couple of frogs. He seems content, just doing his daily thing of swimming around, watching the world outside the glass and pigging on blood worms (mosquito larvae) every two days. He doesn't make any noise.

I sometimes wonder if he misses Alice because they were rather inseparable. The one pic clearly shows that. They were seldom apart in the 15 gallon tank for any length of time.

As for the frogs... they too passed on... first losing Robin and then a year and a half later Fatso died leaving Kermy all alone. I thought he missed them because it became very quiet in the house with only one frog. They make this barking sound and I really missed the sound. I have friends over and they find the bark annoying and wonder how I could sleep with it. I wondered how I could sleep without it.

Kermy quickly found himself a couple new friends as Ang and I bought a frog each for the tank. I named mine Muddy and her's was Pickle. Pickle didn't make it to a ripe old age though... we lost him last year to illness maybe. Muddy is still here and keeps Kermy vocal.

There's not much to keeping amphibians... just feed them every couple days, give them lots of light and clean the water/filter every so often.

While they are not an affectionate creature such as a cat or dog; they are a joy to have around the house for visual entertainment and adding more of a soundtrack to an otherwise quiet house when the cat and bird are sleeping.

They must be contained as I have been witness to some little escape artists in earlier years, not under my care, and unfortunately any found were far too late (dead). They mostly live in water. They like to get out of the water for short periods but leaving their tank and taking a hop or crawl across the floor can be deadly.

So, not 100% on Ralph's age now but I am almost certain he has past the decade mark, much like Kermy has. I have been told they are living well beyond their years. Who really knows? I think a lot may depend on the owner and their care they provide. A responsible human over an irresponsible human definitely is a huge difference on any animal's life span!

As I type this, I turn around and realize I have an audience... all 3 of them are glued to the glass of the aquarium, watching me. They are nosey little buggers and good company when everyone else in the house is asleep.

January 26, 2009

I've got a Red Poll!

............ On Saturday, January 24th I was thrilled to discover we had a new species of bird visiting the feeders. He is called a Common Redpoll. Ang was downstairs and I rushed her up to the kitchen to confirm this bird with me through the binoculars. She did and it was funny because earlier she had predicted we would get them at some point this winter.

On Sunday I spotted a female as well... must be his little mate. I hope we get more. Below is a little bit of info on them taken from

The Common Redpoll is an abundant breeding bird of the boreal and taiga regions, the Common Redpoll is seen in North America primarily only in the winter. Even then, it generally occurs during irruptions, typically every other year.

Irruptions are generally thought to be related to the lack of availability of food in their more natural winter habitat.

Redpolls have throat pouches for temporarily storing seeds. They may fill their pouches with seeds quickly then fly away to swallow the seeds in a more protected, warmer spot.

January 22, 2009

Freaked out cat lead to this act of defense and my injury.

October 19, 2007 is a day I won't soon forget. It was a Friday night and I was preparing to go out with my best bud Chris. The evening was warm and just prior to his arrival I went around and shut the windows in the house (safety).

As I went into the basement, I heard a holler like nothing I heard before and I knew it was coming from my cat Meadow. She was in one of the windows and hissing, snarling and freaking out. The windows in the basement are ground level so I figured it was an animal on the other side of the window. The curtain was closed so I couldn't see out. I didn't think much about reaching up and moving the curtain to see what the heck was going on with her and whatever was freaking her out.

Well, as soon as I started to move that curtain and I guess she felt something brush up her back side a bit... she turned around and got a hold of my right hand. Meadow is a fair sized cat and my hand disappeared beneath her. Four sets of claws and some good sharp teeth were all in my hand and wrist area. I screamed like I probably never screamed before as I pulled my hand out of the window with kitty still hanging on. Once we were in clear sight of each other, she realized it was me she had and she let go immediately. I cursed and swore, not at her, just because of the shock and pain I was in.

My hand bled and bled and bled some more. Meadow followed me about the house and I know without a doubt that she knew she hurt me. She kept a watchful eye on me but didn't get that close. I probably said the F-word more times in that hour than all week at work. The Lord's ears were probably burning as his name was thrown in for good measure.

Chris showed up and I left, with Meadow looking at me no more than 6 ft from the door. I hated leaving the house like that... she may be a cat to some, but she's family to me, and I don't like to leave the house with such negativity.

I probably had 4 or 5 sheets of Bounty wrapped around my hand. Chris being the always prepared handy guy broke out his first aid kit, cleaned me up some and away we went downtown for some cd/dvd shopping. My night was ruined as my hand continued to bleed, my mood was gone and I kept thinking about what had happened... oh, my fingers swelled right up to the point I couldn't even bend them anymore. I didn't tell Chris any of this as to not be a burden. We called it an early night and home I went.

Angie was already at the house and what was said is a bit of a blur now... but I ended up at the hospital on my will. They were quite concerned about me and this wound. I found out how bad a cat bite can be even when it's from your own cat who is mostly indoors and up to date on her vaccinations. I ended up on I/V anti-biotics for an hour in emergency before they sent me home with a powerful prescription to fill. If there was room in Queensway Hospital, they were going to admit me for the weekend. I was quite freaked out to think it was that serious.

Angie knew the seriousness of this because of a friend of her's had something similar happen to her and her arm ended up in a sling for 6 or 7 weeks. She didn't want to say anything to me until after we saw a doctor.

I ended up being home for 10 days and it was 7 days before I could move those fingers again. The picture might exagerate the swelling a bit but I did have one really rounded out top on my hand. The puncture you can see near the one knuckle was from her back claw and that bled for hours. The side of my hand where my pinky is, she got one of her upper fangs in and actually hit bone according to the doctor... I think it was 4 weeks before the pain was gone.

A neighbour of mine told me about a co-worker of her's who got bit by a cat and he didn't do anything about it until it was too late. She said his wound looked like a small volcano erupting with a bloody puss. He was told to go to the hospital but still didn't until he began having chest pains. He was admitted immediately and died 4 days later from the infection.

I've had mixed reactions from people regarding this incident and some were very negative. One made a comment how he could not believe I had such a dirty animal for a pet. Karma showed him as he got severely bitten by his dog a few weeks later. Another told me to be careful as Meadow may now have a thirst for blood... and this guy was serious! A few told me that I should consider putting her down because of this. I stopped informing people what happened when asked. Smashing myself with a hammer sounded better at this point.

Never, even for a second, did I blame Meadow for what happened. She was freaked out by a raccoon at the window and only a screen separated them. So, in her fearful moment, she felt something at the back of her and acted upon it, defending herself.

I happened to come across this picture and thought I would share the story... not for anything really other than a bit of caution to anybody who reads it.

Please don't look at cats in a lesser way. They should be loved but also respected. I mean, if it were you, and you were in a threatening situation at the front of you and suddenly you felt something behind you... how would you re-act?

There are two great endings to this though... one was all the care and pampering I got from Angie.

The second is this... we get home from the hospital around 3:30am. We didn't see any sign of pussy cat... and I just wanted to get in bed and rest. I wake up around 8:30am and Angie is already up; but who is sitting at the far end of the bed and looking at me? Meadow. She just sat and looked at me. It probably was only a moment before I snapped my fingers on my good hand over my chest and she pounced up there, purring and rubbing her nose on my chin. Do you think somebody was sorry or really happy that I wasn't angry/upset anymore?

I always say "animals are people too". They are genuine in their emotions and have feelings... which I happened to be reminded of in that moment as I saw another of Meadow's.

January 21, 2009

Meadow and Maude 20 second video

A 20 second video from my cellphone of Meadow concerning herself over Maude. If you look closely at Maude... you can see she is about halfway through her "moult". This all happened August 16, 2007 and shot around 8:30pm. I can't believe it was that long ago. I know I am talking to Meadow through this but she was like this, going back and forth for hours, or she'd be on top of the tank looking down at Maude.

January 20, 2009

Maude turns 21 this year!

Meadow keeping an eye on her friend. see Maude in the top corner of the tank?

One of Maude's skins she shed. They shed much like snakes, pulling their bodies out of the old skin.

I got Maude when I was 20 years old and she was 2 years old when I got her. I am 39 now. That is a lot of years together! I never expected Maude to be with me this long (not that I didn't want her to); but she was my first tarantula. I've had 4 other tarantulas through the years, even 3 at once for about 5 years. It's been an experience and I've learned a fair amount about these creatures in the years... but this is about Maude, so I should stick to writing about her.

Why did I get Maude? Well, for one, she is a cool pet for a guy. Being a metal head and all that, having a tarantula for a pet is kick ass! Also, they require much less attention than most other pets. So, in my crazy drunken partying days and not coming home all weekend... having a tarantula was ideal. I'd feed her on a Thursday, top up her water dish, soaking the Bounty or sponge and away I went. Even in my few days after coming home, in a tired and trashed state, she was still okay till I got myself together again.

What kind of spider is Maude? Not exactly sure anymore. I was told by the breeder who sold her to me but that was so long ago and I never heard of it before... plus, she has to be part of a sub-species name because all I remember him saying she's a "Peruvian". I did a search on the net but there's a lot of Peruvian tarantula types. Someone once said she just might be some kind of banana spider and I was rather offended by that comment.

Maude almost didn't make it home the first day. I went out to this farm near Stoufville, Ontario to pick her up. I took my girlfriend (at the time) along for the ride. It was a very hot summer day. We are driving out in the boonies trying to find this place and when I finally did, I was almost ready to not pull into the driveway. It was a pretty dilapidated farmhouse with 3 bummy looking characters up on the porch. It was a bit of a drive to get up to the house. The grass was probably 4 ft high on the front. The one guy takes us around back to this barn, cats are running around, couple dogs too. It's 30c and this guy has a sweater on! He's got long scraggly hair, very unshaven, dirty and looked like Leatherface's brother in Texas Chainsaw Massacre Pt 2. We go into the barn and towards this large steel door. He slides it open and within are dozens of tarantulas, just as many scorpions, even more lizards and quite a few snakes. My girlfriend is shaking with fear at the sight of all these creepy crawlys which were all contained. He shows me a few spiders and I finally pick Maude out for $40. He didn't want to part with her container and was moving her into a clear and much smaller container when Maude made a break for it... she got down to the floor and started a dash, my old girlfriend, in her fear, jumped and almost stomped on Maude. Luckily that didn't happen and I brought Maude home. Of course, Maude wasn't Maude yet... she didn't get a name for a couple days. Why Maude? Not sure anymore, just suiting I suppose.

I learned never to under-estimate any creature, great or small. If you think a spider is just a brainless creature that only lives on instinct, you are sadly mistaken. I set Maude up a nice home in a 20 gallon tank, where she still is today. I hadn't a proper cover and in my naive days, used a bunch of record jackets from my old 33's. I kept Maude's tank right by my bedside. Well a week or so goes by and I wake up to find the record jackets have been moved from one corner and of course Maude was gone. Funny that I woke up two hours earlier to get rid of the night before's beer and she was still in there, hanging out in her little skull house. The corner she got out from was opposite to my bed, which is probably good, because she may have just crawled into bed with me. I immediately shut my bedroom door, didn't inform any other family members home of Maude's escape and started a search. I did find her within minutes as I figured with the corner she got out, she went up the wall unit right next to that side of the tank. Sure enough, there she was on the shelf second from the top, hanging out on a paperback book, looking out at the room from this heightened view. I was relieved to find her but now it was a matter of getting her home again. I opted for the use of a small fish net instead of my hand. I was still new to this tarantula game but knew well enough she probably would bite me. So, home she went, and then I had a cover made for her out of plexi-glass. She couldn't lift it and she sure tried for weeks afterwards. Even the next number of years, as the plexi-glass sat, it would begin to curl up and when it did, she would see the light/gap and up she would go to that corner. I'd be able to hear her lifting that corner and there would be this tap noise as she played with it, trying to move it.

I've never handled Maude. Believe me, I have tried. She is not a very docile spider. She's not the meanest I have seen either or ever owned. She does give fair warning by lifting her front legs to show her fangs and it's up to the person owning the hand if they wish to pursue this any further. She will strike fast if provoked. I hear it hurts more than a bee sting and can give off flu like symptoms for 3 days after... providing you aren't allergic to the venom. Funny, in the spider world, it's the smaller the spider that packs the deadlier bite. There are far more dangerous spiders in the world than the Black Widow.

So, going on 20 years with Maude... how much longer do we have? She is obviously female and they can live up to 25 years. A male gets 5 years. I hope to get 25 out of Maude. While we have no connection in a physical bond like one would have with a cat or dog; she's been a part of my life for a long time. She's always there. She's good for conversation. She's good for keeping some people out of my house. She's entertaining to my cat, Meadow. Meadow has a bond with Maude that is fascinating and if I didn't see what I saw one evening I would never believe it.

Maude began a moult one afternoon while I was at work. I got home that evening and Meadow came running for the front door. She squawked at me in quite an excitable manner. She would then run to the bedroom where Maude was, she'd come back out while I was still getting my work boots off and then back to the bedroom. I finally get in the room and Meadow is on top of Maude's tank. Maude is in an upside down position and very still. One might think Maude was dying, but that is not the case. If Maude truly were dying, she would sit in a position with her legs tucked under her body. What Maude was going through, could certainly kill her. It is an extremely difficult time for them, exhausting and stressful. So, how did Meadow know what was happening to Maude? I mean, maybe she didn't know Maude was shedding her skin but she definitely knew something was happening to Maude. Spiders don't talk, they don't make any noise whatsoever. They are gentle creatures in their walk and make no sound that way either. The moult is an incredibly slow process and can take up to nine hours so there was no excitement in the tank in way of big movement.

Meadow spent the rest of the evening and throughout the night with Maude. She'd come to see me for a bit, I would or would not go in and check in on Maude. I slept in the other room that night and left those two together. Meadow spent most of the time right on top of Maude's tank looking down at her. When morning came and I stirred in the bed, Meadow came running into the room. She wasn't as frantic this time. As I got up from the bed, she raced into the other bedroom. I walked in to check on Maude and there was Meadow sitting on top of Maude's tank, purring loud, and there was Maude, resting next to her skin. They do this as a sort of defense I guess in their much weakened state (they are too exhausted to even crawl to safety after a moult) and if a predator were to come along it may be confusing to see two tarantulas sitting side by side.

I hope you have enjoyed my lengthy bit on Maude...

I do have a video I am attempting to post on here. I made it with my cell phone the night of her moult and you will certainly be able to see the excitement in Meadow.

January 18, 2009

At What Cost?

So, part of our typical weekend will involve a visit to our local "Wild Birds Unlimited" store in Etobicoke. We've become pretty good friends with the couple who own and operate the store. They provide a board for all customers to share their bird sightings of the month.

This bird of prey, photographed here, *****please note, the pictures attached, I borrowed from the internet, and were not taken by this photographer I found in the Orillia report from 2006 mentioned below***** was on the list and it is a rare Northern Hawk Owl.

I asked our friends, Jim and Linda, about this sighting, and if they knew more. What they shared, if true, shocks and disgusts me. I know Jim and Linda certainly wouldn't lie to me but who knows about the original teller of this tale. Even if there is some fibbing involved with this particular tale, there is truth in the story as a whole from the past, the present and most likely the future too. It seems this Northern Hawk Owl was hit by a car and word is, a photographer, was attempting to lure this Owl out into the open with feeder mice purchased from a local pet store.

It seems, since this is such a rare bird, from much further north of here, and it happens to migrate south in the winter for food... when one has been spotted, bird watchers flock to the area in hopes to see it. Most want to get pictures and some would pay money for the photo too. Word in the store was $5,000. I've done a slight bit of research this evening and it would seem $250 or a good bottle of wine was also on the list depending on the shot or species but the Northern Hawk Owl wasn't on this list I found.

Also, in my little bit of internet research this evening, I have found other reports of people baiting mice to lure Owls out into the open in hopes of getting a good picture AND it's happened more than just this one time where a car has come along and run the Owl over on a dirt road during his feast. I found a report of the same bird, in the same town of Orillia from almost 3 years ago, with the same demise. This site also included a bit of a war of words on a message board between the photographer and some others. The photographer admitted to using bait and not only this time either. He didn't admit to what had happened being his fault though. I found similar reports of other birds of prey also reported being run over due to feeder mice being tossed out into an open space, like a dirt road, from some ignorant photographer.

I have learned this species of Owl apparently is not too shy of humans... which can be a downfall (as you can see). I wondered for a moment on why the bait was used, especially on an Owl who didn't fear humans; I am guessing in a forested area you can't get that prize picture (cha-ching$$$). So, a self-claimed bird lover/photographer is either not using common sense or really isn't the bird lover he/she claims to be.

I know there are laws to protect the animals but I don't know if I could wait for a Forest Ranger or whoever to come along and deal with the situation. Rumors of the latest is that they are hoping someone else out trying to snap pics of the Owl, took some in his fallen position, with the mouse still in his clutches. If it's a wild brown field mouse, then they cannot blame anyone. If it's one of them pet store white mice, then they have more to work with.

What a ridiculous and sad ending to the life of such a beautiful graceful winged creature...

January 17, 2009

It's our 5th anniversary...

So, it's our 5th anniversary today, for Angie and myself. How did we spend part of it? We had a good friend of ours join us for the morning for a nice breakfast and an opportunity to snap some pictures out back of the birds. Another brutally cold morning with a wind chill of -29c. We had lots of bird action but it was difficult to keep the camera going with freezing fingers. These are some of the better shots that I took. I anxiously await our friend Brian's pictures because his camera has some $2400 lens and he snapped shots at different spots.

I recon I have Angie to thank for getting me so into this bird stuff. I probably would'a gotten there all on my own eventually but I am kinda pokey about things.

How did we spend the rest of our day? An afternoon nap, a dinner out and the rest is up to your imagination...

I am learning more about the camera and toying with the photos to brighten them up especially with such a dull grey sky. Bear with me people, I will get better at this...

I took the Cardinal pic, just because. The bird flying off is a pigeon and I think shots of birds in flight can come out pretty neat. The pigeons were hanging around behind us in hopes of a bit more feeding or hopes we would move on and allow them to pass and get at the seed I had spread about to lure others in from the cedars. The Cardinal waaaaaaaaay up in the tree is what I was 5 years and one day ago... alone (not that I minded but sharing life is much better). The other pic is of a Gold Finch... wait'll you see him in 6 months (get your sunglasses on for his bright plumage).

January 16, 2009

Meadow has the right idea in this brutal cold snap.

So, another cold brutal afternoon in January here and this morning my car wouldn't start due to a frozen gas line. Meadow had the right idea, as she has had all week... stay in bed and keep warm. It would have been great but I was out there playing around every half hour or so.

It turned out to be a hooky day as the car finally started later in the afternoon... much to the delight of Meadow and Angie.

Have a great weekend!

January 14, 2009

So, we have a rat! What's wrong with that?

It's winter, food is scarce and more than just the birds come around the backyard for a meal. We once again have noticed a rat making appearances at the back (much like last year... same one?).
We don't mind. He's gentle, just takes what he wants and then goes back to his home.
I've made mention of this to people and more often than not they freak out, telling me I am crazy, that rats are filthy, carry disease and there's never just one around.
Well, he must be an outcast or something. He's the only one. I figure he feasts off the trash at the back of the Chinese Food place (Yummy Yummy) behind my fence other than the seeds here.
I will let him stay. Maybe it's a good thing for a not so social guy like myself? Oh, you want to come over? Well, hope you don't mind a rat running around. Sounds good to me although my tarantula Maude seems to really help with that anyways.

All you need is a little patience (and food)

All you need is a little patience, food and a good spot to have something really cool happen such as this... a White Breasted Nuthatch and a Downy Woodpecker in hand. Along with...

one Black Capped Chickadee and the biggest surprise of all (so far) one Red Winged Blackbird.
The Chickadees seem to be the most easy going about landing in for some food but not always. We have had them so often though that we almost expect it now.
I'll never forget the first time with Angie when a Chickadee landed in her palm. We were at James Gardens in Etobicoke, just walking around (with seed) and checking out the birds. We sat for a short bit and suddenly this little Chickadee was on a branch overhead, looking at us and making quite a bit of noise. I couldn't get the words out about sticking her hand out with the seed but she knew what I was going on about, she did just that and seconds later he was in her hand feeding on black oil sunflower.
Another day I may share the adventure with the Red Winged Blackbird which is probably the coolest bird experience I've ever had and I was glad Angie was there to share it with me (as it happened to her too).

Lets help our animal friends through this cold spell!

So, here it is the second full week of January 2009 and it's suddenly turned really REALLY cold. Freezing is more the word. I'd like to add a colorful metaphor prior to the word freezing but won't as I have no idea who may read this. Wind chills are going down around -30c, give or take a few degrees, the next few days. All I hear on the news is about what it will do to the people out in this weather. Okay, fine. But, most people do have a choice (most, not all)... and if you choose to be out in this weather and freeze to death... that was your choice. I'd like for others, or hope that more people, will think about our animal friends. For one, please keep your cats and dogs indoors (their paws can get frost bite too). Next up, and just as important to me, is to think about the wildlife. Yes, survival of the fittest is the rule but there is nothing wrong with helping them out in times like this. Food is scarce in the winter for everyone and what is around right now is probably frozen. I got home after a very cold and seemingly long day, skipped past my illing girlfriend and spent the next 25 minutes out in the backyard... cleaning up the feeders, chipping out the ice, topping them all up with seeds/nuts and even put out a couple extra feeders along with more nuts and seeds about the grounds (I cleared the snow in spots out back before work). I only hope that many more people have done similar things for our wild animal friends and not taken to the "ooooooooo, it's too cold outside to go fill the feeders" attitude. The pictures attached are enough to give me the chills. What's it done to you?