Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

September 23, 2011

A "What the ?" moment...

Well, today is the first day of Autumn. But the signs of it's coming arrival have been apparent for weeks.

Today I had four Downy Woodpeckers in the Lilac Tree. All looked to be females, or maybe juvis... all lacking the red spot on the back of the head. I haven't seen much of the Downys this summer. So while some squawk at the end of summer; I am happy to see their return here.

But now to the reason for my blog today. It's a "What the ?" moment here in my yard. There really isn't much to tell but it is making me wonder about it. Basically I went outside to fill the bird feeders and clean the baths as I do everyday. And a check on one of the feeders had me find it to be rather covered in blood.

As you can see it's on the perch, and the front of the feeder too. And there is even more on the roof.

So, ya, it's a "What the ?" moment here. Was it a Hawk? Maybe a Kestrel? Snagging a bird off the feeder and perhaps the struggle continued as it carried the bird up to a branch above? Maybe it consumed the bird above the feeder? The Hawks have started hitting the backyard in recent weeks as the colder weather moves in.

Another thought is some mammal trying to get into the opening of the feeder from the top and cutting itself on the metal? But the corners of the lid are folded over to prevent such things. It's a smooth rounded edge. But even if it were the case, how much would this creature put up with to get into the feeder, going to the point of injuring itself, and continuing?

Maybe it is an injured animal? But once again, would a bleeding animal go to the trouble of climbing up to this feeder, which is on a pole about 5 feet up, to eat? Isn't eating the last thing on the mind of an injured animal?

I see no carnage below. No remains of any sort. There are Pigeon feathers about but there are ALWAYS Pigeon feathers about.

Yes, definitely a "What the ?" moment that I will ponder in quieter times today.

September 14, 2011

My Year in Review

So, it's September 14th, 2011. I am 41 yrs and 364 days old right now. Yup, it's my birthday tomorrow. It's going to be a "wild" birthday for sure but I can't tell you what/why/how right now. I will save that for after the adventures planned.

I know far too many people who really get down on their special day. Personally, it's just another day, and I've really never been one to go all out and celebrate. Why get depressed? You cannot stop the fact that we are growing older with every breath we take.

I would like to share 12 photos with you. One from each month of the past year. And each one has a story to tell. There is a saying... a birth certificate shows we were born, a death certificate shows we died, and photographs show we lived. Enjoy!

September 2010 found Angie and I doing our first Raptor Encounter at Mountsberg Conservation Area when we visited for my birthday. I was in awe to have a Barred Owl sitting on my hand!

October 2010 had us finding an Albino Squirrel living very close to our home. Who needs the famous Trinity Bellwoods Park Albino Squirrel when we have our own? Ha ha!

November 2010 is a tough month. I could show you my comical use of the pumpkins after Halloween, my first Hooded Merganser sighting, our first encounter with the Gray Jays of Algonquin Park or my first meeting with Boo, a European-Eagle Owl I discovered at the Kortright Centre being housed at the barn of the Canadian Peregrine Foundation... which actually should be a blog on it's own with the chain of events that followed the day I first saw Boo. I have decided to share one of my pumpkin photos as it may give a reader the idea to do the same thing. I found it entertaining and hope someone else might. Yes, there be seeds inside...

December 2010 had me seeing a Coopers Hawk feast on a Pigeon in the backyard. Not the first time but the first for the winter season and many many more kills followed over the next three months.

January 2011 is a no brainer for me. I don't even need to look over the albums to know the moment of the month. It was seeing a pair of Long-eared Owls hanging out in a Spruce Tree near my home.

February 2011 could be a toss up as I went on a trip with Angie and Authentic Canadian Tours to the Nanticoke area where I saw my first ever wild Bald Eagles and Short-eared Owls AND Tufted Titmouse. But I also had the joy of discovering a pair of American Kestrels near home and spent a couple weeks watching them. Then, really, the moment is one I recently blogged about, which was me seeing a Northern Shrike for the very first time.

March 2011 is another stumper. I saw my first Eastern Screech Owls this month, and actually saw 3 different ones. I volunteered with the Canadian Peregrine Foundation at the Toronto Sportsmen Show, assisting in displaying the birds of prey to the public and got another meeting with Boo. And our first visit to an area in Whitby where we met a wild Barred Owl, who was probably the most photographed Owl in Ontario at the time (and didn't give a hoot about the attention); and "Jack" the hand-tamed Blue Jay. Owls are freaking awesome of course! But to have a Blue Jay jump in your hand... now that's beyond awesome!

April 2011 had some great early moments of Spring migration. From Turkey Vultures up close, to a Pine Warbler, to an Eastern Bluebird, more Screech Owl sightings but the moment of this month is when I happened to take a walk with 6 White-tailed Deer for over 45 mins and perhaps a kilometre or so. I am actually blogging about this story on it's own. I just need to sit down and finish it. This one was the most curious of me in the group. I almost had him eating from my hand.

May 2011 surely must be our trip to Point Pelee National Park for Spring migration. It's a magical place for any birder! Warblers, Warblers and more Warblers. I had so many firsts in that trip. But the Raccoon family I found in a tree cavity is another moment I won't soon forget. And then there were those weekends in Cayuga at Ruthven Park, participating in bird banding and actually banding some birds. In the end though, the Warblers win. I always wanted to see a Blackburnian Warbler of all of the species and I did; the other 15+ was about as great with so many added to my life list.

June 2011 had us at Mountsberg for Angie's birthday and we got to take some of our Owl friends for a walk about the grounds. But we also spent time with the Canadian Peregrine Foundation doing Falcon Fledge Watches. Yes, them Owls rock! But the continuing story of us with CPF and them Falcons takes it for this month. Spending hours on the ground watching those young Falcons like we were their parents. One can't help but not grow attached to them even with hundreds of feet in air space separating us. It also gave us some great quality time with some new people who are becoming friends of ours. Here is one of the Falcons at Etobicoke General Hospital, her name is Rain.

July 2011 was a slow month. It's too darn hot hazy and humid. There's nothing going on out there... or is there? We lost one of the Fire-belly Toads to old age (RIP Kermy). I had some amazing moments with Cedar Waxwings near home. I discovered a family of Red-tail Hawks around the corner from home. But the moment of July was discovering a pair of Chipmunks visiting our backyard. Entertaining little creatures and only once before, about 4 years ago, did we have one running around for a week.

August had me seeing so many Indigo Buntings beyond my imagination. I was finding them in every area I visited north of the city. I watched the Red-tail Hawk family for a few more weeks. Had a great sighting of an Osprey parading the sky with a large fish in it's talons. Moonie, our newest Budgie (I recently blogged about her), arrived in our backyard one day and was caught almost immediately. I got carried away in the world of Dragonflies, discovering so many species in our area. But the moment of the month was finding a nest full of baby American Goldfinches. They were maybe 10 days old. I had an amazing view of them in a large bush with a clear opening to the nest. Sure I've seen baby Robins and baby Red-winged Blackbirds before... but nothing like this. They were so tiny! I kept my distance but the parents were still stressed. I took a few photos, watched them for a few minutes and then left feeling grateful for what was shown to me.

Now we are back to September again. What can I say? The month isn't even half over. I've been participating in some Hawk Watches with a few others... just enjoying the high numbers of migrating birds of prey flying over our city and south over the lake. I've found a number of really cool spiders and a Monarch Caterpillar; both of which I haven't seen in decades it seems. And have been enjoying some moments with the Chipmunks before they go into hibernation. But there are two more weeks of September to go. And it's actually the start of a new year, the year in review for my next birthday. I think I will share one of my favorite photos from the month so far. A tranquil moment with one of our resident Chipmunks.

September 11, 2011

Fall Migration Hawk Watches

Well, it's not officially fall yet; but sure feeling like it more and more, and definitely looking like it if you stop and take notice to things going on in the wild world around us.

European Starlings are showing their "winter colors" already turning speckled. Some bird types are starting to flock up, like the Black-capped Chickadees who are making their presence more often to the bird feeders. Also seeing the return of Downy Woodpeckers to the backyard.

And if you visit some of the parks along the lake in the GTA such as Rosetta McClain Gardens in Scarborough, Lynde Shores in Whitby, High Park in Toronto and I would like to know if there are some in Etobicoke or further west as well; you will see small groups of people gathered, with binoculars in hand and maybe some big cameras... they are doing "Hawk Watches".

Funny that they are called "Hawk Watches" when all birds of prey species are being observed which also includes Eagles, Falcons and Turkey Vultures.

Angie and I took part for a couple hours in one at Rosetta McClain Gardens on Labor Day weekend. A great bunch of people doing it and while many of the birds do fly high above... you just can't help but get into it. I anxiously waited what raptors would fly over our heads at any given time. All heading south as the weather slowly changes.

You name it, we saw it... Bald Eagles (young ones when I was there), Osprey, and so many Sharp-shinned Hawks along with Coopers, Red-tails, Broad-winged and Northern Harriers. Throw in American Kestrels and Merlins for good measure. It's a wonder we saw any other birds hanging around while these raptors flew over head.

This is a young Bald Eagle... perhaps a 2 or 3 year old. They don't get the white head until the age of 5.

An Osprey I saw with a fish in it's talons... not taken on this day. But there were a number of these flying overhead too.

A few days later I was at Lynde Shores searching other migrants like Warbler species and Hummingbirds; and was pleasantly surprised to find another Hawk Watch on the go. I witnessed Turkey Vultures, an adult Bald Eagle and some Sharp-shins.

I've never been to the High Park one. Word is they act like it's an exclusive thing, members only, and snub any outsiders. As I said, I have never been, but word from many is the same... strangers and non-professional birders not welcomed.

I guess I do my own Hawk Watch all year long. I am always on the look out for these bigger birds in the area. And I do notice certain times when more are around. But it's all a learning for me too. And while watching so many migrate further south than where we are, I do find many more around the GTA in the colder months. Look at my backyard as an example... it's a blood bath for them Pigeons as soon as the snow falls.

I am in awe to see Bald Eagles flying over me at this time of year. A bird I was fascinated with as a kid, learning of their near extinction back in the 70's, and always dreamed of seeing one.

So, if you happen to be around the lakeshore over the next few weeks, look up above, and you just might see something really big, beautiful and cool that is a bird of prey. It's okay if you aren't certain what species it is, you might want to learn more about them after such a sighting. I know I do.


A Sharp-shin Hawk flying higher up over Rosetta McClain Gardens.

And another of the dozens of Sharpies I saw there. Too far out for a great shot but the more or less silhouette shots are pretty cool. You get the idea of what we are looking at.

Good numbers of American Kestrels were spotted through my time at the watch. Small birds of prey, too hard with my lens, so I am sharing one pic I took near home earlier in the year. The most colorful bird of prey we have!

Even flocks of Canada Geese fly over as they move further south before the weather turns really cold.

And yet other non-raptor species are on the move too. My Baltimore Orioles left almost two weeks ago. But to see such beauties as these is great during migration... a female Scarlet Tanager!

And the Hummingbirds are on the move too! Just females to be seen now as the males left a couple weeks earlier.

More and more Turkey Vultures can be seen over Toronto right now. I really should do a blog on these birds being here... because they really are a tropical bird!

I took dozens of shots but with them so high above, how many silhouettes do you want to see? This one came out pretty good. Debating on the species... Coopers or Sharp-shin?

But with all these migrating species, let's not forget our year round beauties like this male Northern Cardinal.

September 6, 2011

Bugs Bugs and more Bugs...

Wow, my second blog in 24 hours! Holy! Anyways, enjoy!

In the summer, as nesting season ends for the birds, and the leaves fill in the trees... it really is difficult to have a great day of "birding". I discovered a couple years ago how cool it is to photograph insects during the warmer months. It's mind blowing to what many of these tiny creatures look like when their images are blown up on a computer screen. Mother Nature is one for detail!

Today I found a Black and Yellow Argiope (Garden Spider) in Whitby. A big beautiful Spider for sure.

It's funny because a friend of mine sent me an image of one over my phone that he photo'd the day before at his in-laws. I had some envy as I am always hoping to see different creatures of the wild in my travels. It's been years since I have seen a Spider as big and interesting looking as this one. How funny is it to have one sent to me over e-mail and then I find one the very next day.

About two weeks ago something similar happened with me and the Praying Mantis. Someone was talking with me about having a number of them in her backyard. I made mention of not seeing a Mantis in probably twenty years or more and how I had hoped to see one again soon (since I love photoing insects). And what happens? Soon after I find myself in the company of one Praying Mantis! I did get the bonus package as this one had in it's clutches a Cicada, and he wasn't letting go, no matter how much the Cicada fought to free itself.

You can see in this close up now that the Mantis had chewed it's way through the exterior of the Cicada to get to the good meaty stuff inside.
The Mantis blends in so well. I only noticed this because the Cicada was flying hard to get out of it's grasp. I heard the loud buzzing of wings. And then I saw the Cicada, which looked like it was stuck to a piece of grass. Of course this really got me interested in what was really going on; because how could a large bug like a Cicada be stuck to a blade of grass? Man was I surprised and delighted! I thought about breaking up the battle at first, but this is nature, and the Mantis has to eat. The Cicada was at the end of it's life cycle anyways so why not feed another over rotting on the ground?
Dragonflies were in abundance this summer.  I saw many species.  But the White-faced Meadowhawk has to be one of my faves now.  The red and black body is stunning!  Dragonflies eat Mosquitoes...  so let's give a cheer to the Dragonflies!
Not sure of this species.
And yet another insect that started with someone sending me a picture of one they saw around their home.  We learned this is called a "Bee Fly".  And what a large fly it is!  Once again I was envious of their find; but within days I had myself finding one in a field near home.  Funny how this has worked out for me with the insects.  If only it worked as so with the Red Fox.  I have been looking for Fox to photo all year but with no luck.  There's even one who walks my street from time to time, in broad daylight, but I have never been ready for it.  Ah well...
Japanese Beetles.  An introduced pest of a species...  so I have been told.  Yes, you are seeing double here, actually quadruple!  Interesting looking creatures, eh.
A cool accidental shot I got of a Bumble Bee flying into the Bee Balm plant I have out back.
This could be another Meadowhawk if I am not mistaken.
A Red Lily-Leaf Beetle.  A new one for me!  And one last odd ball story to go with it.  The day before I found this guy in my garden, and yes, he was eating my Lillies...  I had heard about them on the morning news radio (680 News).  I thought "wow, what the heck does this bug look like?"  And lo and behold, one day later, I find one feasting on my plants!  Mixed emotions about the whole thing really.  You know, cool to see, but darn it all to hell for eating my plants!

So, for a lover of nature and photography, there is always something out there to see and photograph. Sure bugs are just that... bugs... and nuisances to say the least. But they are interesting. They are certainly detailed. And they all serve some kind of purpose on Earth.

September 5, 2011

New Backyard Rescue Budgie

Meet Moonie... our new Budgie!

On Wednesday August 17th, Angie noticed a little Budgie out in the backyard. And within 45 minutes I had the Budgie in the house with us.

This is the third Budgie we know of to visit the bird feeders out back in four years now. Misfit was the first, who is still with us. A second Budgie was spotted last September for one day and never seen again. Now this one shows up. Boy, for a couple bird nerds like Angie and I who said we'd never own birds to suddenly now have two is a bit of a mind $#@%!

But how can one not help? And yes, a Budgie in the wild, in Toronto does need help. First off, they are captive born, and don't have necessary survival skills needed. Second, they are native to warmer climates and almost certainly would not survive our sometimes lengthy frigid winters.

But Misfit survived four plus warm months out back.  And when I brought her in, what a wild bird she was.  It took months upon months of working with her to bring her around to some point of trust in us.  She sure looked like hell too, very weather beaten, and tired from her continuous struggle for survival amongst the variety of species she had to fight with for food.

And with Moonie, it's easy to tell she hasn't been outside for very long.  And that she is a young Budgie, probably in the age range of about 4 to 7 months old.  She's just got that really clean baby fluffy look about her.  And the simple fact she is very much the opposite of how wild and aggressive Misfit was.  Moonie is a gentle, submissive kind of bird.

The day after I caught her, I took her to a pet store in Mississauga for a wing clipping.  I thought it be best for us all in case she ever got out of the cage on us.  This transition stage can be rough.  She needs to adjust to her new surroundings and her new flock.  And with good working flying wings, she can be a handful at times when I am tending to her cage, and fly out.  It's easier to catch a fluttering bird than a flying one.  And our ride to the pet place some 20 minute drive from home was unbelievable!  She is so go with the flow, take life as it comes at her, I was in awe.  No bump in the road, braking for a light, or anything else bothered her.  And when I accelerated she opened her wings slightly more like feeling the force lift her wings.  Look at this photo...  is she not one UNstressed bird riding in the truck with me (I am sitting at Islington and Dundas with her on a red here though).

So 48 hours later, both birds were very well aware of the others' presence.  I thought a little more of an introduction might help

Unfortunately over the last couple weeks, we are realizing that housing the two birds together in the same cage just isn't going to happen.  Misfit's mood swings from okay with things to darn right pissed off and ready to kill this bird.  I've seen them sit for 90 minutes with no squabbling whatsoever and the next time locking beak to beak, high screeches, Misfit pounding her beak on the perch between them, and seemingly trying to de-feather Moonie by pulling at her chest feathers.

So, we've now decided that it's best to keep them in separate cages. They get along fine this way, cages next to each other, and there are no squabbles... and no fear of any physical harm coming to one of them. They tweet and play, eat, drink and sleep just fine. Misfit gets her fly time while Moonie stays locked up. As Moonie gets more comfortable with everything, she will get her time out as well (while Misfit is locked up).

But this is our limit. Two birds is enough. Having a cat, a newt and three Toads as well. Yes, we are done. The zoo is closed.

But if another Budgie or other pet bird flies into the yard, I will most certainly try to catch it. And if I succeed in doing so, I will do everything to find it a home... if not the actual owner.  Sad really that there is always a spare bird cage in the house for such incidents.

 People need to educate themselves before buying any pet.  The thought of a cute little Budgie sitting in it's cage and singing all day like Tweety from the Looney Tunes is way off.  Having one that will sit on your finger, do as you say, and never fly away is wrong.  An open window or door to a bird in a house is way too tempting.

The fact there are people breeding birds and animals for money, to be sold to others who have no idea how to care for the creature, and missing the fact that this is a life long commitment (or should be) is just wrong.

I guess if I want this to NOT happen again is to take down all our bird feeders.  I recon the noise of the others here singing and feeding draws the lost ones in.  And I sit and wonder about Moonie, where she came from, picturing her flying high above the houses, being so young and lost (though she has no idea she is lost) and well pretty much oblivious to the big world she is soaring over, how dangerous it can be.  And how lucky she is to have landed here.  And yes, how lucky we are to have her with us now too.  She's a funny little thing.

Last bit, Angie just pointed something really interesting out to me.  Meadow's birthday, so I figured, since I got her so young, is July 17th.  I caught Misfit on September 17th.  And now Moonie was caught on August 17th.  Hmmmmmm....