Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

May 31, 2012

Bye Bye Baby(s)

I woke up yesterday and started my day in usual fashion; a morning coffee, played some Angry Birds, checked my email, a few household chores, a trip to Walmart to save us one on the weekend. It was a pleasant morning, finally having a break from all that humidity. Some love it but I certainly don't and especially while we are still in May. It just should not hit +38c at this time of year. I've been hiding out more at home lately just because of how warm it has been. But yesterday, wow, I could go out and not perspire after 5 minutes outside. I was very tempted to even visit my closest stomping ground but for whatever reason, I was pulled to remain at home.

The nest of Chickadees have been quite vocal and active the last few days. The little ones are sounding like Chickadees now. As I pass the nest box, that's all I could hear within was "chick-a-dee-dee-dee" over and over again, often overlapping with the siblings. On Monday, doing my usual daily bits out back, passing the house many times, I began to notice little bird faces peering out at me. Finally, a visual of the little ones! At least a face anyways. I was so excited, snapping a quick grainy pic with my Blackberry and posting it on Facebook immediately. I quickly finished what I had to do and raced inside and got the big gun out, my Sigma. This was my first real shot of one on Monday. What a cutie!

And then suddenly there were two peering out at me. One trying to push the other out of the way for a better view of his own. I could see the curiosity on their little faces. But they were also scared too, at times quickly dropping back down in the nest box out of sight if I made a move.

So with that on Monday, and similar actions on Tuesday, I knew that the time was approaching for them to leave the nest. I didn't exactly expect it to happen yesterday, or perhaps how it all happened is maybe what I mean?

It started off with more of one young bird peering through the hole at the big world outside. He was REALLY vocal today. And often had part of his head sticking out for a better view. The parents were still buzzing in and out of the house too. They were cleaning up it seemed, taking bits and pieces of whatever out and dropping it. They were also sitting in the big tree across the yard making all sorts of noises and calls. I thought it was my presence but I've been around through it all and the Chickadees have been pretty good about it. I just keep a respectful distance and they go about their business.

And again, occasionally there would be two faces staring out the hole.

The calls from the parents and babies within became louder, more intense.  I could feel the energy.  It was like a build up to what was about to happen. 

Out popped the first baby's head a little more, with even more calling.

And in a split second he was taking his first flight out. He went straight out, up and across the yard to the big tree over the swing. I can compare his flight to be similar to that of Woodstock from The Peanuts as seen in this one minute video from YouTube. It was kinda crazy, lacking style and control; but the little guy knew where he wanted to go and he got there in one shot. His landing had a couple stumbles and I thought he was going to fall but he kept his balance and stayed up there. Pretty awesome first flight ever into the big world! I'd say it was a 25 to 30 ft distance. And he joined his parents with even louder callings which probably meant "Come on guys, this is amazing! You need to see what is out here!"

And then another popped his head out. He/she was as fearless as the first. And just like that, out of the nest box he came. He too went right for the big tree across the yard.

And landed successfully.
A third little bird also made a quick dart out into the great big world, landing on the telephone wire that runs through the tree.
And then a fourth.  I was in awe, wondering how many were going to surface from this nest box.  I was watching the whole ordeal, taking photos AND texting Angie.  I so wished she was here to witness this.
Number four also went to the big tree where his family was.  I can't say the 6 birds all calling in the tree was deafening but what a hell of a lot of noise from these guys.  I wondered if that was it.
And then yet another little head peeked out of the box.  As you can see in the photo below, with the feathers puffed out on top of his head, he had a fearful attitude towards the idea of leaving the comforts of home.  But with the coaxing of the others, he took his first flight out, went about half way across the yard and then turned back to the nest box.  I don't think he knew exactly how to get back into it (not knowing what his house looks like on the outside)...
so he landed on the clothes line that runs above it.  He too joined the calling of the others but stayed in the lilacs that grow around their nest box.
And with everyone now out of the nest box, although I wasn't entirely certain that was it for a few more minutes, the parents went into action of gathering food and seemingly trying to locate all their young.  The babies were calling and hopping all over the place in the trees. 
The regular feeding of insects the past couple weeks was now replaced by bits from the feeders.  Unfortunately the peanut bits were still far to big to give to the babies and the adults would pull them back out, break them further on the branches and then give the young smaller bits.

I lost sight of the babies in the growth, only catching glimpses of them here and there now when they moved or an adult flew in. Time got lost with me, the camera was put down, and I was watching everything happening now. The babies were spreading out, leaving the big tree so close to their nest box and off to other trees in neighbours' yards. Two went two houses east, one went two houses west, one went to the apple trees at the back of our yard and the last guy, the timid one, flew towards the house and landed in the pines right out back. And the parents were flying all over the place, catching up with each of the little ones.

It was pure insanity and chaos, or that's what it felt like, as I got lost in it all and trying to keep track of everyone myself. It only got crazier when a Blue Jay appeared moments later and flew right into the pines near the timid one. The Jay was screaming, the little one's calls changed to a distress call and both parents flew in and surrounded the Jay, making angry sounds at the Jay. I am not entirely certain if the Jay was going after the little one. I've heard stories of such but wasn't waiting to decide what he was up to. I too stepped in, grabbing my claw rake and lifting it up into the tree, hoping to scare off the Jay by directing the handle in his direction. He was out of reach by mere feet and wasn't going anywhere, still screeching and screaming, making all the Chickadees very upset. I had a few peanuts in my pocket and tossed them far out into the grass. The Jay darted out of the tree and after the peanuts, scooping one up before the Squirrels moved in, and then he left.

I think it was about two hours from when the first young Chickadee left the nest box until it went all quiet out back, well, quiet for any sort of noise from any Chickadee. As I type this, it's nearing 24 hours later, and I have still yet to see or hear a Chickadee.

This happened a few years back when the Chickadees nested in that same box. Unfortunately Angie and I missed the first flights of all by mere hours when we went to Niagara on the Lake for an overnight. We were gone not much more than 30 hours and in that time, the babies fledged, and the family left. We were worried when we came home to no sight or sound of any Chickadees. I waited 3 or 4 days until I finally took the nest box down and unscrewed it to see what may have been inside... which was one very clean and empty nest.

That happened in June of that year (2010 I think). And we did not see another Chickadee in our yard again until later in the Autumn season. It kinda boggled my mind really. Here is ample food, water and shelter for these birds. They take full advantage in the colder months and why wouldn't they after the fledge in the late Spring? So much easier when there are half a dozen bird feeders about to help their young along. But I guess having them all go off into the wild is best, not relying upon our bird feeders as their main food source. We may move one day and who is to say the next family would even consider setting up a bird feeder?

I was so happy to witness the fledglings but sad too, as now it was all over. And the thought of them not returning again until October or November?!?! *sigh*

All I can say is "Bye Bye Baby(s)" and "Good Luck".

May 24, 2012

I Needed This...

So, after the horrors of Sunday (see previous blog); I decided to set out on the next available opportunity and hopefully find some of my masked friends, in much healthier states, in my regular stomping grounds.

Tuesday was the day. It was my final day of vacation and I really should have stayed home and got at a few things that needed to be done, the things neglected while off for two weeks. But tomorrow is always a day away...

I left the house shortly after 8am. Pulling out onto Scarlet Road, and what do I see, but one large adult Raccoon who unfortunately did not make it across the road sometime in the middle of the night. Argh! Not how I wanted to start this adventure.

I continued onward and was amazed at how much some of my favorite spots had filled in with foliage in a mere couple weeks since my last visits. I walked some trails and kept my eyes open to a few known resting spots and none were to be seen. On my way out, something caught the corner of my and I stopped for another scan and found this guy 30 ft or so off the path... when the wind blew and moved the leaves, his coat gleamed in the sunlight. I watched him for a couple minutes, waiting for another gust of wind and do what I like to do... take a photo.

It was otherwise rather quiet in these woods this morning. Barely a bird singing. So I moved on to my next area. I guess the one tree I was heading for is almost like a sure thing for seeing these guys (you can't always predict nature). I do enjoy the thrill in finding the wildlife in my travels and these almost certain spots I will normally pass for a quick peek, to monitor and basically check in that things are going okay.

And I was happy to see this one spot indeed had a little family within. The following pictures tell the story of my next ten minutes or so with them before I moved on with my day and a smile on my face, a glow in my heart...

First glance.

His sibling was rather curious about what was going on with the outside world.

And finally mom stirs for a moment to have a look as well.

Mom rolled back over while the little ones looked on.

Passing the tree about 45 minutes later, everybody was back asleep. A silent "thank you" sent out as I continued my way out of the woods.

Note, the shots are cropped, even with my 500mm lens, as I make it a habit to keep a more than respectable distance from all wildlife.

May 21, 2012

Demons Are Among Us... and it's Not the Raccoons

It's funny how my blog prior to this was about all the wonderful sightings I have had of Raccoons in the last little while. Everybody knows I love them masked creatures much like all the masked birds around us. Even Robert Bateman obviously has some love for them as well, here's one of his paintings of this Procyon species.

But on Sunday morning I was once again reminded that not everyone shares the same love for Raccoons and nature in general.

We were at Col. Sam Smith Park in Etobicoke at the foot of Kipling Avenue south of Lakeshore Blvd. We've been frequenting the park a fair bit over our holidays in search of migrating Warbler species (birds). Many of the birds stop at Col. Sam since it is the first piece of land they hit after crossing Lake Ontario. They will feed and rest at the park for a short bit before continuing their journey to wherever their nestings grounds may be.

Angie happened to notice a young Raccoon hanging upside down in some Dogwood shrub near the west marina. It was a very upsetting sight, seeing this furry little body tangled up deep within the bush. We wondered how it got there and ended up in such a position. I ruled it out as perhaps he got lost, or was ill from the get-go, and just not meant for this world. Things like that happen in the wild.

We spent another 30 minutes or so wandering the park before heading back to the truck. Heading up the main path now towards the parking lot, and suddenly I take notice to a mowed area of grass, which happened to be on the backside to that certain Dogwood shrub. From a distance it looked like two piles of dried grass raked up. But after witnessing what we did so close to this area, my heart sank and I quickly realized these were two more Raccoons laying dead in the morning sun. Two brothers perhaps, nearly side by side, traveling Earth together, and now the beyond, still side by side.

I called the City of Toronto Animal Control. I didn't know what else to do. I had to report this. And the guy said it's not unusual they get calls of dead Raccoons due to poisonings by people in the city. He asked for a more specific location, which isn't that easy to give in a large park along the lake. I offered to move the little bodies near a land mark, which would also allow them to not be seen by most passersby, behind a fire hydrant. The "two brothers" were easy, since they were out in the open. The first one was the hardest for me emotionally. He was no more than a foot in length, still warm and soft. I went back to the truck before doing this and pulled out some work gloves. I could feel the "dead weight" of him as his limp body just sunk over my hands when I lifted him from the grass. After laying him down behind the hydrant, I turned off all my emotions, and quickly moved his brother right along side of him. The third, the one in the bush, was the most difficult physically. He was deep in the bush, in the thick tangles of the branches. I tried from one end, where we first saw him, but it seemed too difficult. So I went back to the other side, where his brothers were, and more out of the public eye, with another attempt. But it was even worse. So back around to the front I went, just rushing in, breaking branches to get to him and finally I did. It was a long walk back around to where his brothers were behind the hydrant. How could I not look at this creature in my hands. I felt terrible for him and the others. Trying to imagine what happened, and then trying to shut it out.

I have heard enough argument about what a nuisance these creatures are. But who has the right to kill them by whatever means they choose or have the ability and access to? How can someone call themselves human if they can do such an inhumane act? To me, it appeared the little bodies were disposed of down in the park. I cannot see all three of them dying in such a close vicinity of each other (20 - 30 ft). The one in the bush was obviously tossed. Which makes the whole story in my head even more f**ked up.

It was awful what these young creatures endured, barely alive a few months, and to have it cut short. But it could have turned into something even worse if a Fox or Coyote found them and decided to make a quick meal of them. Heck, what if it were someone's dog? Col. Sam has an off leash dog area far from this spot; but most people don't follow the bylaws.

Seriously, look at this face of one of a few babies I saw last Spring. How could anyone bring such harm to them? Monitor your house once in a while, ensuring the roof is still in good shape and other possible points of entry are not possible. Don't put out your green bins until the day of trash pick-up. Place something heavy on the lid in the days prior to pick up (I use an old car battery). Don't grow grapes if you don't want to share them. What else is there?

I believe in karma. Be a good person and good will return to you, even in the smallest signs; you just have to see them. And well, being bad... you know where I am going with this. I don't wish harm on anyone out there but won't object to such people having 20 years of bad luck or something.

I don't re-live this occurrence in my head. I don't spend my waking moments thinking about it. This blog is just a bit of venting and therapy. I think I did the right thing even though others would rather have had me toss them into the garbage. And it just strengthens my will to do better for the animals we share the planet with.

Here are a couple of my other Raccoon blogs. Thanks for viewing. Happy stories coming soon...
Me and My Masked Friends
More of my Masked Friends

May 18, 2012

More of My Masked Friends

It's been a whole lot of birding around here the last couple weeks. Birds, birds and even more birds. But through the travels, and looking up into the trees, I do enjoy the sightings of my masked friends.

A few big blogs coming up soon but please enjoy these shots in the meantime...

that's one well fed adult up there on that tiny branch, and his mate is sleeping behind him, if you notice her ears

probably wondering if I got a sandwich for him

curious creatures they be

I felt bad waking this guy up, he was just there

this is a mother we saw a couple weeks ago, she looks barely into the stage of an adult herself

I have never had a bad experience with a Raccoon

this guy was up and running around at 5pm this afternoon, a little early I'd say

My favorite shot from 2011, which made the Green Party's calendar this year. I am hoping for another sighting like this very soon.

Thanks for viewing. Have a wonderful and safe long weekend!

May 17, 2012

Pelee Snippit

singing male Yellow Warbler

Angie and I just returned from the Leamington area, a 4 day vacation with our friends Jim and Lynda, hitting the "birding capital" of Ontario being Point Pelee National Park. It was an excellent time with mostly great weather. Our species total hit 86 by the end of it all which is pretty darn good going 95% by sight over sound. If we could ID a few more by songs only, we certainly would have hit 100 species.

It's been a funny Spring this year. It hit early, even as much as April was cooler than usual, everything is earlier. This year was far different than last year when we visited. We saw almost double the Warbler species in 2011. We saw a lot more Orchard Orioles in 2011 while this year we saw less than 10 in total. Much of the time the birds were high up in the trees and we were teased with their beautiful songs being heard while the birds were hidden behind the leaves. But it's a fun time, especially with having my other half being just as passionate about the birds as I am... and a couple great friends on the same level. We found a lot more nests in the park this year and even had a few Owl species as well (which was awesome as both were lifers for our friends); but this time of year, it is all about the songbirds passing through as you can see in the couple shots I am sharing.

I will post a lengthier blog in the next week or so with a few great memories from this trip. Stay tuned!

singing male American Redstart

May 13, 2012

Birders Are Crazy

Birders. People who love birds. And to some, even other birders, to a point of bizarre craziness that leaves heads shaking... or a burst out of laughter.

I was reminded today of how nutty birders can be. Never mind the gasps you occasionally hear, as their breath is taken away by the sight of something as beautiful as a male Scarlet Tanager (see below).

saw this guy at Col. Sam Smith Park this past Saturday

I am talking about the rush, the flock, the masses of people that come charging at the sight of something not so commonly seen because one person shouts out something like "Black-billed Cuckoo!" and catches the ear of 20 or 30 others. I was not there for this moment (Angie and I left about an hour earlier) but a few friends were. And I can only visualize it in my head how it must have looked.

Black-billed Cuckoo I photo'd in 2011

It seems a couple people took notice to this not commonly seen bird in a tree. And as I understand a light bit of talk about this between two people was overheard by another who basically yelled out in full booming voice to anyone in the vicinity. And boy was his call heard by other birders who came running in from every direction, separating through the shrubs of dogwood, tripping over logs, slipping on wet grass to get a glimpse of this bird. From what my one friend said, basically it was enough to send the bird flying off late this morning, and nearly ten hours later, is probably still on the move, fleeing the park.

It's a laughable scene to me, I wasn't there, so no point in getting angry about the yelling individual and the stress put on this bird with people charging in from every direction. I just watched "The Big Year" again with Angie last night. It's a fun and light movie about birding, not every detail is correct, but most of us who take part in this "passion" will get it. And many of us have had a moment like this or heard a similar tale.

Lucky for me, I chanced upon this Black-billed Cuckoo in my travels June 2011. I was alone and not a soul was around to share him with. Not that you'd ever hear me yell out like the above tale.

And with this, I am taken back to May of 2011. Our first trip to Point Pelee National Park; Angie and I went with our good friends Jim and Lynda. It was 3 days of birding in the area. And I am not sure what day this happened on but the rest of the story is crystal clear. We were sitting in the picnic area with probably 60 other birders. Everybody relaxing after their walks that morning. Suddenly someone comes over to the area and says rather loudly "Tennessee Warbler over here!" and pointing to an area just behind him. And in mere seconds, everybody, and I mean it when I say "everybody" got up and ran to the trail nearby where this bird was just spotted. Lunches were left, camera equipment too. Thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment left all over the picnic area with no one watching over anything. Even purses sat on the tables too! A thief would have scored!

It was at that moment, after viewing this bird, that we said to each other... "this was our initiation into the next level of birding". We basically had our super geek moment, where to any non-birder, we surely looked like a bunch of lunatics. And to look at this little Warbler, a very drab dull species indeed. In the world of song birds, the females are the less colorful of the two sexes. But trust me on this, that the male doesn't give off much more of a "wow" factor to see. Sure, they are a pretty little species of Warbler but nothing spectacular to view.

The funny ending to this tale is two weeks later we are at a bird banding station just outside of the GTA and what do I get to band... a female Tennessee Warbler! As I held this tiny little bird, I said to her, "you sure caused a huge commotion back in Pelee the other week". I don't remember in the craze of it all if we were viewing a male or a female. Seemed it didn't matter, it was a Tennessee, another species for many peoples' list.

Female Tennessee Warbler

A video was recently made called "Shit Birders Say". It has a lot of good points in it on the basic adventures with most birders.

You'll have to agree that birders are a crazy lot. Mostly loveable but definitely a little off.

We have had many birding adventures this Spring with migration and more to come. Hope to have another tale to share!

May 4, 2012

My Little Friend(s)

Three years ago is when I first really took notice to the American Robin. Sure, I've seen and watched them ever since I was a kid. In school we were always taught that the Robin is the first sign of Spring. In 1958 "Rockin' Robin" was a chart topper recorded by Bobby Day and covered so many times by so many people including Micheal Jackson and The Muppets.

I guess seeing them all my life, I just blended them in with the natural scenery, like being a part of the lawn. You know, nothing too exciting.

"New Season - American Robin" by Canadian artist Robert Bateman

But one day 3 Springs ago this Robin showed up in my yard. And with my ever growing passion for birds and awareness to them all, I got thinking about this Robin on a very cold Spring morning. What do Robins eat? Fruit and insects. I have bird seed and peanuts in my feeders. What could I possibly offer this Robin to help him continue his existence through some very cold wet Spring days when fruit and insects are lacking?

I have a natural food supply of Holly, Raspberry, Blueberry and Viburnum (Cardinal Candy) shrubs which unfortunately had been picked clean by many critters through the earlier part of the winter. So what now? Dried meal worms is what we came up with through the help of our friends Jim and Lynda at Wild Birds Unlimited in Etobicoke. And each day I would set out a small pile of the mealworms in the same spot for the Robin. It didn't take very long for the Robin to figure out that I was a bringer of food and this one spot near our swing set was where he could find food pretty much daily until the ground thawed, the insects came out, and worms surfaced (it was going to be some while longer before any berries showed up). And we continued this right through until early June when he disappeared.

Occasionally I did see a Robin through the summer at the bird bath, or hunting in the garden, and I wondered if it was him? He never came to the feeding spot and the mealworms would disappear overnight by some other creature.

Summer turned to Autumn, Autumn turned to Winter and the Robin was long gone.

Moving ahead now to the next Spring, I am outside one morning in March and suddenly there is a Robin above me making quite a bit of noise. I just knew it was my friend returning. How could it not be? He was right above me and I just happened to be around the swing area cleaning up. I had already purchased some dried mealworms a few weeks earlier so no time was wasted in setting some out for him. And he went right for them. This time allowing me a much closer and longer viewing of him. Once again this carried on all through the Spring. And we were rewarded through the Summer months with more regular visits from him, a female, and later on in the summer with some young Robins.

And once again, as Autumn arrived, it wasn't long before he and the others left us.

Here we are again, another Spring, and guess what? My little friend returned once again, and so did his lady. The mealworms have been set out many times again, but now in two spots, because while they are mates, there still is a bit of a need to feed, and both birds are quite hungry at this time of year when the natural food supply is certainly lacking... and squabbles occur, with a "survival of the fittest" or the loudest taking place, allowing the winner to feed first.

Only, for some reason this Spring, the European Starlings started to notice the feeding spots and it turns out they have a liking to the dried mealworms as well. Starlings are aggressive birds especially in large flocks. So there is not much the Robins can do when 12 or more Starlings come in and chase them away. I know the Starlings got to eat as well but it pissed me off some. I was now standing guard while the Robins fed. Pretty cool that I now have this bond of sorts with these Robins. There was a trust between us... at least I'd like to think so. The Starlings would sit in the trees above and watch while I set out the mealworms, to which the Robins would run in and eat in peace with me standing ten feet away.

It's been a cold wet Spring, especially through April. And somewhere along the way between Angie and I, we had figured on tossing berries out to the Robins. I guess it started with old blueberries in their feeding spots and the Robins enjoyed greatly while the Starlings had little interest. One rainy day, me not wanting to go outside, I tossed a blueberry from the back door to the male Robin. He ran away at first, unsure what I had thrown at him; only to turn around soon after and investigate. Upon realizing what it was, he gulped it down quick; and now a new form of feeding had been introduced. A game of sorts as we toss the blueberries out in small handfuls and he would chase after them like a puppy after his ball. He'd scoop up the berry and run off with it to a safer eating spot. It took a while longer with the female, she showed up weeks later than him. But now both enjoy the berry feeding, and we enjoy watching the show of them chasing, catching, running off, and eating them elsewhere.

Oh boy! A Blueberry!

Sometimes they go down in one big gulp, or at least they try to.

Other times they pierce the berry, pull the skin open and eat the insides first.

This is my favorite shot. Looks like a clown nose, if only the berry was a red kind.

This is from last summer. A young Robin, offspring of my friends I am betting. And you can see the effects of all the berries on his throat being purple-ish.

Thanks for viewing. I hope the berry feeding catches on with some of you, even if you don't have bird feeders. Most of us see Robins on our lawns and in the early months of Spring, these birds would greatly appreciate the little help from us to keep going day to day. Angie's boss and his wife have caught on and enjoy the show with their Robins nowadays. Who is next?