Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

September 28, 2012

Step Into My World (through video)

I still have a few stories kicking around in my brain to punch out on the keys at some point but not just yet.

Today I thought I would further add to my previous blog of there being no place like home and instead of adding many photos I thought I would share a few short videos of life here (all are a minute or less in length).

First off, here is our second backyard rescue Budgie "Moonie" after one year with us and he's decided to take a bath in one of Misfit's water dishes. The birds remain separated due to Misfit's unpredictable occasionally aggressive attitude. And we offer them a larger bath area which they do use very sporadically and lightly. This video makes me laugh every time I watch it; Moonie is just so excited about his bath moment and he's so lost in the moment. It's only a minute long, check it out right here.

Next up is Pierre the Pigeon.  Trying to tell people how he is with us doesn't do the experience justice.  The photos sure help but actual video is even better.  First up is out in the yard while I am enjoying a sunny summer morning, this was taken about 7 weeks ago, check it out here.  And if you want more, here he is a week ago when I was on holidays and a typical morning of getting up to fill the feeders.  He sure surprised me with this one as it is the first time he ever did this and with no coaxing whatsoever.  See it here.

We joke about how as the weather gets colder, that last video will be more of an actual occurrence.  I still wonder where he came from, who influenced him, or is he smart enough to figure out that we aren't going to hurt him and he can get fed well through us?  He's still a very wild bird and not dependent on us by any means.  There are days that go by where we just don't cross paths.  But when the next time rolls around, look out.  I think this photo I managed to take of us is testimony to that...

We have a new visitor this summer, a young Groundhog, and we named her "Clover".  Not for everyone but we think she's a-okay.  I mean, she's done wonders for the back lawn, chewing down all the clover and some other plant life growing through the grass.  She's very shy though and I hid along the side of the house, video'ing this very short clip through the back gate.

And lastly, with all the bird feeders around, we have a number of Squirrels who join the daily adventures out back.  Some have taken to us much more than others (or the other way around) as you can see here.

Thanks for viewing.  And stay tuned for more another day!

September 25, 2012

No Place Like Home

As some of us travel through the GTA and beyond in search of birds and wildlife; we really need to remember that there is no place like home. Especially to those of us fortunate enough to have some outdoor living space where we can hang bird feeders, and invite the creatures to us.

Many of these photos here were taken with my Blackberry, capturing some fond memories at home and have been some of my most popular pics on my Facebook wall of late.

Meadow, Pierre and one of the "Dirty Dozen"

The bond with Pierre grows every week.  And as the days go by between visits, when we meet again, you can really see his excitement and anticipation.

I am sure everyone viewing this is adding their own caption right now.  "How long did you say that leash of her's is?"

Never a dull moment with the Squirrels around.  And no nuts are safe.  LOL!  I was feeding some Jays off the clothes line and this one saw me tuck the spares in my pocket.

Super cute moment as I sat and had coffee out back the other afternoon and I swear this Squirrel was making an offering to Misfit.

A cold wet September morning brought one of the Chipmunks right to our door (something that never happened before...  they are so skittish with all the dangers in the area).

The early days with Pierre, who brought Angie, myself and our friends Dave and Andrea some good laughs at an afternoon BBQ.

Back in the late Spring, Meadow and momma Chickadee seem to be having a moment.

And who wouldn't take something from this capture of Clover the Groundhog in the garden?

A baby Raccoon was quite curious about our latest addition(s) to the yard with these granite Owls.

Meadow surely agrees, there is no place like home...

September 18, 2012

Hoo Hoo, can I say "Boo to the Zoo!"?

On vacation by myself this week, I am making good use of the camera where possible. I started the week off with a visit to the Toronto Zoo. Its not the same as going for a walk in the woods and finding wildlife in my travels; but then again, where else in Toronto can you find Lions and Tigers and Bears... and Snowy Owls (in September)?

I hadn't been to the Zoo in a couple years, not since sometime after they first opened their Tundra Exhibit back in August 2009. I don't think I ever blogged about that experience and will probably touch upon it at the end of this one.

I got there for opening at 9:30am. I went right for the Tigers and was happy to see one still awake and active for a few minutes, capturing a few portrait photos of this magnificent cat. And from there just walked the paths seeing all the other outdoor creatures including Elephants, Rhinos, the White Lions and so on. I hit the Tundra Exhibit last as I knew I would get lost with all the beautiful northern creatures, and have a main focus on the Snowy Owls. Why? Well, after the incident a couple years ago and more so after the experience with so many Snowys this past winter during the irruption, it was nice to see these creatures once again. It definitely is not the same as seeing the ones in the wild, but it is the closest I could ever be to see one alive.

Everyone loves Snowy Owls. Even the least of the animal admirers in the world. They are beautiful creatures. The pure white adult males strike everyone. But you can't knock the spotty females and juvis either.

So, it was like a shot to the heart when I finally made it over the see the pair of Snowy Owls and find the male in this condition as seen in the photo below.

Besides his physical appearance, he does seem okay otherwise. I watched him bathe and preen much of the 45 minutes or so that I spent with them. But seriously, what is up with that eye? And the left eye seems to be going the same route as the right as it's pinkish and irritated looking as well.

I watched people come and go from this enclosure. And like I said, everyone loves Snowy Owls. They all marveled at his beauty of being a big pure white Owl. What surprised me is how nobody took notice to his eyes, even when opened, well the one anyways. I wonder if they will see his condition when they go home and upload their photos?

I waited some time before I found a keeper in the Tundra area that I could talk to about this Owl's condition. The man was very vague and nonchalant about it, or maybe even evasive. He said it's been like that almost since the Owl arrived at the Zoo and that it was a mishap. I asked if the Owl scratched himself with his talon, or maybe the female did it to him. The answers were "no" and "no". I then asked if maybe a Bee had stung him? Owls can get Bee stings in their big yellow eyes because Bees can mistake them for large flowers. Once again the answer was a simple "no". He then said "it was mechanical" but wouldn't elaborate. What the heck does that mean? Did the Owl injure itself when first brought to the Zoo by ways of a freak out in the enclosure and hitting his face against something? I can only speculate.

The keeper ended our discussion with a "I will go have a look at him again". I felt it was more of a brush off than anything else. And through our talk, the man made little eye contact with me. I could tell he didn't want to have this talk with me. Did he have this discussion a thousand times already? Was he hiding the truth?

A friend of ours told me the Owl was like this back in the winter as well. So it's nothing new.

I've posted on the Zoo's Facebook page inquiring about him and shared a photograph. I wrote an email to the Zoo via their website as well.

Here is a photo of the female he shares the enclosure with. She was well hidden and over looked by most until I pointed her out to others. And it was pretty cool that I was able to share the little bit of Snowy Owl knowledge (and Owls in general) I have and talk about the irruption to a few.

After reading all the above, it may not strike some as deep as it does me. This blog is about this male Snowy Owl and maybe someone else reading it will either be able to shed more information on what is going on OR also make contact with the Zoo and perhaps bring further awareness to him and his condition? If that keeper I spoke with could have told me a great lie, the awful truth, whatever, I probably wouldn't be blogging about this right now. Maybe his condition is not nearly as severe as it seems? But the guy left me with nothing in the end.

I can now tell the part that I very lightly mentioned at the beginning of this blog about our first visit to the Tundra Exhibit and why seeing these birds was important to me.

Angie and I visited the exhibit not long after it opened. We were excited to see the Snowy Owls. Upon finding the Snowy enclosure, we were disappointed to not find any Owls within. From what I recall, there was four in the beginning (two adults and two chicks). We hung around for a bit until we saw someone who worked for the Zoo and asked him where the Owls were. He was saddened to tell us that they were recently killed by a wild Mink that broke into their enclosure and killed them all. I think shocked and confused should be added to our feelings of sadness.

We sat at the picnic area near the Arctic Wolves and had some lunch, trying to overcome this hit of terrible news. And eerily enough, there was a sudden gust of wind and what blew to our feet was one lone Snowy Owl feather. We picked it up, not exactly sure what to think, and brought the feather home with us.

Some months later, we learned through others, and some very reliable sources that in fact the Owls were not killed by a Mink at all; but that they perished in the summer heat due to unfitting conditions for Snowy Owls. How awful is that?

I always have mixed emotions about visiting the Zoo. I like to think they do more good than anything else, like with the Polar Bear and Penguin programs, and bringing awareness to many thousands of people every year. But maybe keeping Snowy Owls is not their thing?

My initial blog ended here with that last quote but I must add this below...

Whoever runs the Zoo's Facebook page started commenting back in the thread after a number of concerned comments were posted by others who saw the picture I shared with my initial concern. It was nice to get some sort of reply from them...

The Toronto Zoo Hello everybody, and thank you for your concern for our snowy owl.
This male owl continues to receive treatment for a stubborn eye injury and condition, which has perpetuated for well over a year. Both our Zoo Vets and specialists (animal opthalmologists) continue to monitor his condition and his eye on a regular basis, hopeful it will eventually heal with continued treatment.

At this point it's best for both his mental and physical well being to be in his exhibit, opposed to inside our animal health care centre.

Hopefully this provides you with some insight, and again, thank you for your concern!

My reply...
Rob Mueller Hi. Thanks for this above post. Much appreciated. It might be a good idea to have Zoo workers in the Tundra area informed on what to tell concerned onlookers like myself. The man left me with nothing after inquiring. And the volunteer I spoke with had no idea anything was wrong and went into a bit of a panic mode.

The Toronto Zoo That's good advice, thank you for bringing it to our attention, Rob.

Meaghan Edwards Thanks for giving the head's up. I'm glad he's still allowed out on exhibit, fresh air does everyone good :) I think it might be a good idea to maybe put a sign up to inform of his care.

The Toronto Zoo Hi all, since this photo was posted our Zoo veterinary staff wanted to advise that his eye seemed to be improved today (open) and to also reassure our visitors that this snowy owl is very regularly monitored by both our specialists and our keepers. A sign communicating his condition is a great idea and something we will follow up with!

I've asked friends if they plan on visiting the Zoo over the Autumn season to please keep me informed on the Owl's progress, and share photos with me. I am pondering another visit later in the year with cooler weather and hopefully more active animals AND this Snowy Owl in a much healthier condition.

September 11, 2012

Raining Swainson's?

I spent the later part of this afternoon working in the yard. My dad and I built up a new shed and the back has been scattered with what I kept that was stored in the old one.  Around me I could hear many bird species coming in and out of the feeders and baths, hanging out in the trees around me. Grackles and Red-wings, Cardinals, Jays, Downy Woodpeckers, American Goldfinches, and even a Chickadee made a few appearances. I know all the regulars in the 'hood by sound alone nowadays. Its music to my hears and keeps me in tune with the wild world.

And speaking of sounds, I suddenly heard the sound (loud) of something hitting the roof of the shed. It hit the skylight right above me but I didn't see what it was at first. Even when I peered out the door, looked up and around, I still saw nothing. It was a short bit later when I went outside that I believe I found what had struck the shed... a bird. Right away I knew it was a species of Thrush but needed the guides to be certain. And with agreement from Angie and confirmation from an expert we know, it turned out to be a Swainson's Thrush.

I examined the bird and found no signs of trauma like my worst fear being that a cat had caught it. It was clean other than the ants were already going after it's eyes. Could it have struck the roof of the shed that hard and broken it's neck? I guess that is possible. But it really seemed like it fell from the sky or off a tree branch above. I didn't see what happened so I can only speculate.

I took photos of the bird only for ID purposes. 
As you can see, the bird is a mostly solid color across the wings and back of the body.  One of the clues given to it being this species of Thrush.
As always, Mother Nature does some beautiful work with the birds among us.
In 7 years of backyard birding, I have never seen a Thrush species here other than the American Robin.  And I thought we'd never see one.  I suppose anything is possible as even to this day, we still get new species surfacing (or being noticed), even if only for a day or two. This past Spring we had Golden Crowned Kinglets stopping over in our Pines during their migration.  Last year a Catbird came around one day and a pair of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks stayed with us for 12 days during a wicked weather spell in May. So why not a Swainson's Thrush?
I was going to bury the bird but after hearing from our expert friend, he's in the freezer now, bagged and awaiting some further examination when we meet up soon.  Perhaps he can give us a better idea on what happened.
It reminded me of one afternoon some years ago when a male Goldfinch dropped dead off the fence while I was outside. Alive one minute and dead the next; and he really was dead by the time he hit the ground.  Not much else to the story but here is the blog about that afternoon.

I guess if you are a bird and need a place to die, this here is the place to do it.

And for the curious friends from Facebook who know about the building adventure of this shed.  Here it is, just needs some finishing touches...

September 4, 2012

Praying for a Mantis

A couple weeks back people began reporting through Facebook and other means about the sudden appearance of Praying Mantis about them. It seems August is their month. And as I thought back to the one I found last year, it was in August as well. A nice bright green one that happened to catch a Cicada in a field near the house and made a meal of it.

I had hoped to find another Mantis this summer, especially with having this new macro lens. And luck have it, one came my way. Seems one got into the warehouse at work and I ran into someone who found it and was escorting it outside. They knew my love for all creatures great and small, and handed me this one.

A co-worker and I took it out back and set it free. I really wanted to take it home for a photo shoot but I thought that would be selfish of me. The Mantis crawled up the exterior wall and came to a stop about 10 feet above us, where the siding began.

The next day I come to work, I happen to go out that door and noticed the Mantis was still in the very same spot. I thought to myself, "if you are still there when it's quitting time, I am taking you home". And sure enough, nearing 30 hours later, the Mantis was still there. So I managed to bring him down with a long broken piece of pallet, gently bringing the wood near him, and he climbed onto it. I put him in my Tim Hortons cup and away we went.

The drive home, this creature became very active, not liking his new surroundings. And it was an eerie scratching noise he made on the underside of the cup's lid.

We make it home, and I break off a couple branches from the yard waste bags out front of the house and bring those in as well. I knew where I was going to leave him for the evening, in my 10 gallon cricket container I use for the Frogs' food, being live crickets. In mere minutes, the Mantis took a liking to this yet again new surroundings, especially with all the walking meals below him. And it turned into something like Godzilla hitting Tokyo, only on a much bloodier scale than any of those movies.

The Mantis would grab a cricket, pull it in towards him, and then bite the head off the cricket, discarding the cranium, and enjoyed the gooey innards dripping from the opening where the head was once attached.

Here he is waiting for another victim.

He devoured 4 crickets in 30 minutes.  I guess it was safe to assume my bringing him home was a good thing?  Poor guy was pretty hungry!

I left him in the tank for night, as planned, and he did not eat another cricket. He rested in the leaves of the branches I brought in for him. And the next morning, I brought him out for a little photo shoot.

Shooting live insects, even one like this who seems to spend much of the time still, is not difficult, because he does constantly make the slightest moves... and that macro lens captures it all.  But I made the best of it over nearly an hour in the kitchen.

I even tried to entice him with another morsel but he was not interested anymore.  It was this cricket's lucky morning.  Unfortunately, he met one of the Frogs later that evening.

The Praying Mantis sure is alien like.

Not sure what you call these things he captures his prey with.  I should read up on these guys more.

As I said, it was a lot of fun with this Mantis in the kitchen.

But I had to let him go back to the wild world, and fulfill his destiny of finding a mate, procreating, and unfortunately meeting his death at the hands of his female partner.  She will do much like what he did with those crickets, biting his head off and devouring him after "the deed" is done.  Nature is harsh but Mother knows what she is doing...