Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

June 27, 2012

Can't See the Forest for the Trees... or Can You?

Ah summer, the sunny days are here...  so is smog, humidity, insects and lots of foliage.  Personally for me, summer is not my favorite season as you can figure by my previous sentence.  I don't enjoy stepping outside and feeling a need to shower after ten minutes.  And with all the leaves grown in, it sure makes things difficult to "bird" or find any  other sort of wildlife.

But I still make the effort to get out.  I try to ignore the mosquitoes sucking the blood from my body, the bites of certain fly species and ants crawling across my exposed toes.

Knowing my favorite stomping grounds rather well, taking observations in through the Spring before the growth, often I can still find something "wild" out there when I go out.  An open ear sure helps also.

The local park has had me find up to 5 Raccoons in the trees in one morning.  Lately I am lucky to find one or two.  This is a new spot for one in the woods...  or I've just never noticed him before.  Ducking down on the path, I could just see him staring back at me.

And knowing of a Red-tailed Hawk nest helped me locate this juvi RTH.  The nest has been swallowed up by the forest now.  I heard a lot of screeching in the woods between the siblings and an adult; and it took some time to see one further along the path from the unseen nest.

A Coopers Hawk nest was another hard find.  Once again, I knew where it was from sightings last Spring.  And a friend of mine had seen the young only days earlier.  They appeared getting near that time to fledge as well.  So I made certain I got out to the area sooner than later in hopes of a peek.  I had a pretty good idea where the nest was but once again, with all the leaves grown in, and despite some further directions from my friend, it still wasn't easy.  An adult on an old tree stump sure helped.

Even after I found the tree by the "white wash" markings (Hawk s**t) on the trunk, it was no easy task to find an open spot to view the young raptors.  I did find an opening and saw one chick briefly before it settled down low in the nest.  And then I waited, and I waited, and I waited just a bit more.  Nothing was happening, it was near time to get myself over to work.  So I started to head back to the truck, constantly looking along the west of the path for any other openings to the nest.  And just before I was to leave this path and head to the one to the parking lot, I caught a glimpse through some of the leaves.  There was a young Hawk sitting upright in the nest.  From the other angle, he was behind the tree.  I positioned myself with the camera, allowing ten minutes max before having to go, and I took a few photos and watched.  The Hawk watched me and everything else around him that caught his attention.  And not long after, an adult flew in quick, did a drop of something meaty into the nest and this little guy turned his back on me to feast.  But another Hawk now rose from the nest, and I could see a third as well joining the first at the fresh kill.  The second Hawk I got a great view of seems to be younger than the first, even by a couple days perhaps, but you can see the difference in the age/growth.

Here is the first young Coopers Hawk.

And here is the second.

Summer has only begun, we aren't even in July yet; but already I long for the cooler days months away.  But I am making the best of it.

June 19, 2012

That's Amora!

Oh sweet Mondays!  A day most people loathe but with the shift I work, it's an extra day of play.  I can pretty much forget about Tuesday to Friday though but that's another story.

I pondered ignoring the Falcons today since Sunlife is officially over.  My next real watch will be up at Osler in approximately 3 weeks.  But the idea of going back over to Harlequin's famous pair appealed to me.  I was at the banding for these chicks so it would be nice to see how they are doing after the last couple weeks.

I already knew the young male, Blaze, had been flying since Friday or somewhere around there.  His sister Mira took flight over the weekend.  And on my way to Harlequin, Amora made her first flight.

Lucky for us who want to get a good close up view (and photo) of a Peregrine Falcon, she didn't end up in the best of spots being behind Harlequin, on the ledge and canopy at the back entrance.  But not so lucky for her...

I was at the site for about 2.5 hours.  And was left alone with Amora at one point for about 45 minutes or so.  Mark was the only other "watcher" there at this time and he had to go scope out Amora's sister Mira who had once again taken flight to ?????  So, it was pretty cool in one way, for me to be standing here so close to this young Falcon.  I'd never been this close to a non-captive bird of prey before.  As the first moments passed, I began to feel some nervousness within.  Because here I am doing what we do through most of fledge watch, which is watching.  But now, if she takes flight again, it would be a new experience for me...  to follow her and in this case, most likely have to rescue her.  Why rescue?  Amora is too low to the ground to be able to take proper flight.  So if she chose to leave this spot, she would end up on the ground.  I got the details on how to catch a young Falcon a few times since we started helping out with the watches last Spring.  But hearing how to make a rescue and actually making a rescue are two very different things.  I stood there, with a large towel over my shoulder and waited.  I would have felt better if a more experienced person was with me but volunteers can be few and far between, especially during business hours on weekdays when most are working.

Amora would walk along the canopy to the edge, and then return back to the ledge and sometimes stare into the offices.  A big new world was in front of her and you could see her confusion often overpowering her curiousness.

During my time alone with her, I could see her getting restless.  She wanted to leave this spot but lacked the confidence to make the next move.  I felt I lacked the confidence in my own mind, on what to do, playing over a possible scenario of her coming to the ground somewhere in the parking lot.  But the others have told me, when it happens, you just do it.  You re-act quick and don't think too much into it.  The jist of it with a rescue on the ground is getting a towel over the bird and scooping it up, keeping the wings in on their body without applying too much pressure and watching out for those talons, holding it as such the talons are facing away from you.  And depending on where this all takes place, keeping an eye out for one of the parents.

Amora put on a good show.  She made me feel a lot of things during this time.  More emotions than any movie I have ever watched or book I have read.  And in the end, she just couldn't do it.  She stayed up on the ledge; and that is where she stayed all day, and I do mean, all day long.  From just before 9am until close to 9:30pm when Mark Nash of CPF and some volunteers made the rescue, catching her with a large net and returning her to a much higher level back near the nest, giving her a chance to eat, and rest, with her family, to try again tomorrow.

So tomorrow is now today.  I won't be visiting the site again this week.  I can only have hope for them, like I do with all the others, and wait for reports from those at this watch.

Here are a few more photos of Amora...

Preening and pulling out the down feathers.

What a good looking bird!

The many goings-on got her attention especially some American Robins flying in and out of some nearby trees.  She'd stretch her neck out and triangulate in their direction.

A lot of show with flapping wings but no go.

I did make a visit to the Sunlife site as well on Monday.  I saw one adult and one young both perched during the hot afternoon.

June 17, 2012

Father's Day with the Falcons

Friday was a bad day at Sunlife as some of you are aware from my previous blog. We visited Saturday and it was quite painful for Angie to be there so soon after the tragedy. But we did a scope and search that evening and located all 3 young Falcons plus one adult high up on the buildings.

I returned Sunday morning for a couple hours. Angie took the morning to catch up on our much neglected house and give it some "love" with a good dusting.

I located all 3 surviving siblings pretty quick upon arrival.  Two had flown in together onto the same ledge.  From what I could tell, it was the young male "Euro" and his little sister "Olympia".  Not easy to ID them from such heights but I did get a shot of the boy on the ledge with his green leg band and shortly after I caught another young Falcon in flight with a red leg band which meant that was "Windward", leaving "Olympia" as the other who flew onto the ledge.

Here is Windward in flight, speeding past us, one hundred feet plus above.

Suddenly one of the adults came flying in. And circled the tower a couple times.

So high up, so hard to capture with the lens; but so fun to watch.

Cathy, another volunteer watcher was with me, and we were quite certain the adult was Jack.  Pretty cool to see "Father Falcon" show up on Father's Day for us.

Another circle of the tower and Jack got some feedback from his children.  People down on Bloor Street with us this early Sunday morning also took notice to the screeching high above.

And seconds later out came one of the young Falcons; which turned out to be his son Euro.

I'd like to think that maybe this was the beginning of some flight training being passed from father to son.  And Euro, already a great little flyer for such a young Falcon, was keeping up to his dad.

Circling Sunlife, losing sight on the east, watching them come out on the west.

Euro even passed Jack at one point which must've been a very proud moment for both of them.

Euro's flying abilities improve every visit.  Today I could clearly see he is learning how to use the wind to glide, to conserve his energy for when needed most and his landings are matching those of his parents.

The fledge watch is officially over now until next year.  The young can fly, so all we can do now is monitor them, do head counts and wish them well.

But I am not leaving them yet.  I will continue to make visits in the coming weeks and hope to have more blogs about this family of Falcons.

June 16, 2012

Regatta Forever Free

Its hard to believe that 10 days have passed now since the watch began at Sunlife. Euro is kicking ass and taking no prisoners as he masters the art of flying. Windward has also been doing well but ended up in some trouble today and needed rescuing. But she's okay, spent the afternoon resting in a carrier, being monitored and looked over before releasing her on top of Sunlife at dusk. Olympia apparently is on the other end of the scale, being the youngest, and taking things rather slow. Seems she is in no real rush to catch up with her siblings but has taken flight in the last couple days as well. And then there's Regatta. Another female chick (Euro is the only male of the four) and she is somewhere in the middle of them all.

Spending as much time as I possibly can this season at Sunlife, watching the chicks, getting to know them, and of course having names for them all, really pulled me in and a growing affection for all these young flyers was happening. And having a special experience with each one minus Olympia has made this watch all the more memorable. Today was Regatta's day with me.

Regatta had made it over two condos east of Sunlife this morning. She sat on the edge of this tall building for some time over the 90 minutes I was there. O'Conner (mom) circled and flew low over Regatta as you can see below.

It was paralyzing to watch Regatta way up there on the edge of this building.  She flapped here and there, hopped along the edge and a few times I thought for sure she was going to lose her balance.  One can't help but watch and worry when they hang so close like this.  One wrong step, off they go, and a person can only watch helplessly as the bird drops and it's up to that bird to save itself.

But Regatta never fell.  She moved further east along the condo.  Blue leg band here is my proof to all that this definitely was Regatta in this spot.

And finally, after enough of the walk and hop along here...  and many passes by mom...  Regatta took a big leap and went flying east along Bloor.  She made it almost to Montgomery which is approximately 1km east before she turned around and headed back to the buildings.

She passed the two condos east of Sunlife, going around the back, and we happened to spot her lifting up towards Sunlife in between.  Frank and I made the decision to get over to the other side as her lift and potential landing were looking a little careless.  We met another volunteer, Cathy, across Bloor and made our way to Aberfoyle Cres. that runs just north of these buildings.  It didn't take very long before all three chicks that were out flying free (Regatta, Olympia and Euro) were found on the top ledges.  Windward was still resting in a carrier waiting.

Here I believe is Regatta on the right, and Olympia's backside on the left.  Olympia sure enjoys laying about but she's definitely not unwell.

I left soon after spotting all three chicks.  The parking meter had run out by now and work was calling.  So I went on my way and feeling good about the young Falcons despite the last 24 hours a voice in the back of my head kept telling me to call in sick and spend the day with these birds.

Angie showed up to the watch after work, arriving shortly after 4pm.  It wasn't long after that I got a text from her that one of the chicks collided with the Sunlife building.  My heart sank.  It's best to leave what happened with this, to be read through Angie's blog at this link to the story.

But learning through Angie that it was Regatta, I was in shock.  Well, whichever chick it was, would have shocked me regardless; but the fact that today's watch for me, it was all about Regatta in my sights.  Little did I know that this was the last time with her.

I beat myself up for much of the rest of my shift, wishing I played hooky from work and was on site when this all occurred.  Not that I, or anybody else for that matter could have done anything with what happened to Regatta.  She collided with the window, breaking her neck, death was instant, and her lifeless body fell to the next roof below.  But I could have been there for support to Angie, Frank and Cathy; as they would be to me.  Working as a team on this watch, we stick together through thick and thin.

I guess I've been lucky with all the watches so far, having nothing like this happen.  Not even a rescue of any sorts.  The birds have done well or done nothing during my time.  I imagine a rescue will happen one day, and if it saves the bird's life in the end, it will be unforgettable.  But so is something like this.  The visual I have is enough but nothing compared to what they saw and heard.

The Sunlife watch should be wrapping up later this coming week but it's going to be quite different.  You just can't shake this kind of stuff, looking up at a smaller family now.  Others have seen this more than a few times, and some deaths haven't been as quick.  It's horrible!  But as my friend Tracy put it the other day...   "I think of all of the rescues we've done so far and birds that now have a second chance. The joy and the sorrow are in balance. If it were not for the rescue in 1998 of Windwhistler, we wouldn't have Tiago, Kendal, Storm, Hurricane, Ely, Dougal and 35 others. Its so worth it."  You guys remember Windwhistler's story don't you?  

I know I went on a ramble here.  Just dealing with it all through this right now.  Some other things happened today on top of this, overall it's been a real crappy day.  But work is done, I am home with my family who are all sleeping as I key this, I got a couple shots of 40 Creek in a glass here and tonight I raise the glass to Regatta.  She will always be forever free...

Here is my favorite photo I got of Regatta with her sister Windward.  Windward is on the left and she took flight first.  It seems WW is giving Regatta some pointers about fledging by getting those wings moving.

June 15, 2012

On Windward

Yesterday I had an up close visit with Windward. She had left the nest ledge at Sunlife, flew across Bloor Street and ended up on the small Bell Canada building at the corner of Bloor and Eagle. And that is where she stayed for a very long time, over 8 hours.  So a whole lot of time was spent looking around, and a lot of stretching for both her...  and Frank and I.

And it was cool to have a moment of eye contact with her as shown below.  I was reveling in her beauty and the fact of how young she is, how she has much to learn in the coming weeks and hoping she lives a very long life somewhere in North America.  Just because she was born here in Toronto, does not mean she will remain here.  Peregrine means "wanderer".

After she and her siblings leave the nest later in the year, it may be two years or so...  if they survive (approximately 90% of raptors unfortunately do not survive the first year)...  before she and the others might be spotted and reported once they start nesting/breeding.  We have one Falcon from the summer of 2011's watch at Osler who sticks in our head, Rain, and hope to hear of something about her come 2013.  We watched Rain one evening as she got herself on a tiny ledge on the 9th floor of William Osler Hospital and stayed there through the night.  It was our first Falcon Angie and I really focused on in our first season of watches.

Stretch those wings Windward!

I spent 90 minutes at the watch on Thursday before work.  It was so hard to leave.  I wanted to see her make it back to the nest ledge.  It was going to be a lot of work for the young Falcon.  She was on a two story building here, and the crossing of Bloor Street would be nothing; but getting back up to that ledge 18 or so stories up is another thing.

Late afternoon reports had her making the flight back to the north side of Bloor and disappeared somewhere around Sunlife and the surrounding condos.  Even with some searching, she still was not to be seen.  Not much anybody could do but wait, and wait, and wait some more.  But somewhere just before dusk, she and her 3 siblings all appeared back home.  Whew!

This is how I left the site yesterday, looking up at Windward perched not far from the GMC.  I wished her well and said "see ya tomorrow!"  Now tomorrow is today and I am off for another watch...

June 13, 2012

Euro had a big day out!

I've been trying to visit and contribute some time at the Peregrine Falcon fledge watch at the Sunlife financial building at Islington and Bloor almost daily since the watch started last Wednesday. Be it an hour or two before work or an 8 hour day as I did on Monday with my day off.

Euro, the only male in the group of four "newbies" took flight first. I missed his first flight(s) but was fortunate to witness some bigger exploring by this very young Falcon.

With the nest being 18 stories up (give or take); it's rather difficult at times to know who is who up there when one of them is on the move. A scope is a necessity. Or take lots of photos and blow them up on the computer when you get home as I do.

We knew one of the chicks left the nest ledge and ended up on the condo building to the east of Sunlife.  We noticed him on the railing of the condo through a reflection on the Sunlife building.  He spent some time on that rail, sitting, walking a bit, stretching his wings and repeat the same process.  At this point, we were speculating it was Euro despite knowing Windward and Regatta (two of the three females) had since also taken some flights as well in the last day.

It was a long wait, probably an hour, from when we first noticed him on that rail before he decided to make a move.  And up he came from the railing as you can see below...
and began to take flight south, out towards us on Bloor Street.
Once out in the open, who knew where he was going to go next?  South, across Bloor, over us and to?  But he turned and began heading west...
lifting himself as seen here below, passing the nest ledge and his siblings.
He got right up over Sunlife and headed towards the next building west, and slightly north.
I was half a block up Bloor Street now, heading towards Islington, trying to keep an eye on him.  I nearly "sacked" myself on a bicycle post because my main focus was on him and not exactly what was in front of me.  Most people down in the area know about the Falcons and the volunteers who keep watch over the young for about two weeks each June; but for those who don't, seeing people moving up and down the street with binoculars and cameras, constantly looking up at these big glass buildings, may have other speculations.  Some do ask us, some just look at us rather oddly.  Anyways...

Euro sat atop this building for a short bit.  He seemed rather proud of himself and what he accomplished.  Stretched his wings a few times, some good hard flaps and then a rest.  Moments later I could see him triangulating as he began to think about where he was going next.
And then he took flight once again.  Almost like a jump up and off the ledge...
a very slight dip down, then taking air and rising high as he began flying east again...  oh, and with this shot below, upon viewing it at home is when I got my positive ID on who this young Falcon is.  Notice the green band on one of his legs?  They chicks get a color coded band for easier ID purposes during the watch.  The band does wear off and eventually fall off over time.
back towards his home building at Sunlife...
and then he flew in and onto the ledge above this window, right below the ADP sign where the adults often enjoy hanging out.
This may not seem like a lot to some, and maybe it doesn't seem like much to Euro either; but it sure did to me.  He has only begun his lessons in flying over the last 48 hours and being hundreds of feet in the air, circling these large buildings, flying over the traffic of Bloor Street way down below.  I would have to say this was a very big day out for him.

A reminder, if you click on each photo individually, you should get a full screen photo, which is far better than the smaller versions you are probably viewing.

Thanks for looking! 

June 7, 2012

Spare a Couple Hours For Some Falcons?

A busy time ahead over the next few weeks and if you have any time to spare, perhaps you might consider this...

Peregrine Falcons need your help. The Canadian Peregrine Foundation have started Fledge Watches around the GTA and beyond. We will have a team of volunteers on the ground at each nest site we monitor. This year we have a happy problem. With the success of the Peregrine Falcon recovery, we have 30 sites to monitor so we will need as much help as we can get. Fledge watching involves being on site to watch over the fledglings when they are learning to fly. Often they come to the ground and need to be rescued. Please contact me or The Canadian Peregrine Foundation if you are interested in helping in your area. Each watch lasts about 10 days. Any amount of time you can spare would help, the more the better of course! No experience is necessary there is always a senior watcher present. You will help by watching fledglings and keeping track of them as they learn to fly. Rescue training will be provided. No amount of time is too small! A few hours would be appreciated, it will give someone a break or cover an important time when help is most needed. The difference you can make is stunning.

We have the best example of what a difference a fledge watch can make to an endangered species, right here in Toronto. Back when Peregrines first returned to southern Ontario to nest, a young chick named Windwhistler was hatched at what is now Etobicoke's Sunlife Centre nest. He is now legend and never would have been had it not been for fledge watchers. Windwhistler was rescued after his first flight and is the best example of "so what, you saved one bird, what good does that do?" Windwhistler is now 14 years old and the resident male at our 18 King St nest. He double dipped for a few years being resident male at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Toronto too. He is as far as we know Canada's most prolific nesting male, with this years brood of 4 bringing his total to 41 young. Several of those young are now producing chicks in Ontario and a few US states. This season his Great Grandchicks have been hatched at Canada Square (Yonge and Eglinton) in Toronto. We are trying to construct a full family tree. We are somewhere between 80 and 100 Peregrine Falcons being related to Windwhistler.

So there my friends is the difference saving just one bird can make!!! I hope you will consider joining one of the many fledge watch teams around southern Ontario. Check to see where you might get involved.

It is estimated that 90% of birds of prey do not survive their first year. That is nine out of ten birds! So going on three nest sites close to my home being the Mississauga Executive Centre in the Hurontario and Burnhamthorpe area, the Sunlife building at Islington and Bloor, and the Harlequin family on Duncan Mill Rd in the Leslie and Hwy 401 area who have in total ten chicks between the three sites. Only one of these babies, according to statistics is going to see beyond his "first birthday"!

And now two weeks into the "fledge watch" season, with these ten chicks, we are already down to eight. Two of the three young Peregrines at MEC did not survive their first flights. It was unfortunate but nesting birds up on tall buildings face many challenges as they learn to master the skills of flying. Both birds had collisions with the surrounding high rises and plummeted to the ground. Of course CPF staff and volunteers dashed to the fallen chicks and attempts were made to save them but the damage was far too severe in both cases and both birds succumbed to their injuries almost immediately.

But going back to Windwhistler and his story above, he is as put "best example" of what volunteers have done in the past, and may very well do this season.

It's tough to make the time with full time jobs, families and other responsibilities; but I still make the effort with an hour or two every couple days; and maybe someone else out there can too. Most of the time is just watching, and talking, sharing stories from the wild and then perhaps coming home with a story or two from the time at the watch. Maybe it's witnessing an adult catch a Pigeon and bring it home to the babies? Maybe a territorial squabble or chasing away some seemingly potential threat? And then there's the further drama of watching these chicks up on the high ledges, and anyone with an ounce of care for these wild birds, will build up some emotion and excitement as they watch and wonder if this is going to be their first flight. If this is it, how is it going to play out? Will the chick fly well and make it to another ledge? Will he tumble down and end up on the ground which is where the watcher(s) must take action? I've not had to make a rescue yet or even witness one going into my second season of fledge watching. I am comfortable being an extra set of eyes on the birds as they start to move about and explore the big world around them. And listening to the more experienced people I am spending time with is a learning experience as well. Our friends Frank and Tracy are two of the best story tellers I have ever met. If nothing else, what better way to spend a few hours on a beautiful day than with great people with similar passions and making new friends with other volunteers.

I thank you for taking the time out to give this blog a read... and so does Oscar, one of the educational birds with The Canadian Peregrine Foundation.

Currently I, and Angie at times, will be at the Sunlife site, up until around June 18th, give or take a few days. The watchers here will be right across the side street from The Longest Yard restaurant where a great full view of the nest ledge can be had. Maybe we'll see you there?

Here is a link to the album I have started through Facebook from watching some chicks to a banding ceremony at Harlequin.