Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

June 24, 2013

Layton and Shania, first to fledge

I can't believe almost 3 weeks has gone by since we started the Peregrine Falcon fledge watch at Etobicoke Sunlife.  And so much has happened throughout.

I had no idea what this watch was going to be like, how it would feel with Big Frank gone.  But with a mutual friend named Bruce stepping into Frank's big shoes, he sure made it a lot easier than what I had been envisioning.  Bruce put in 14-16 hr days for nearly 2 weeks!  I racked up over 40 hours in 10 days myself and Angie also put in more hours than ever before.  The Falcons had even more support from others as they have for a number of years with Kathy and Bailie in the area a lot throughout the days.  Others deserving mention include Sandra and Rene, plus our friends Dave and Andi made a couple stop ins, and Cori all the way from Scarborough another day,  to see how things were going.

It's been a difficult watch at times, very exciting at others, and a lot of the time just boring as all get out waiting for something to happen.  The company was great, the weather was perfect, so that certainly helped.  But after hours and hours of nothing some days, it's just exhausting.  And then when the stress hits when the young birds start bouncing around...  hoo boy!  I had a few moments where I was gasping watching them.

I wish I took notes throughout this as so much is crammed in my memory now and with this sudden heat wave, I'm just plain exhausted, but really need to get some of this out of me and to whoever cares to give this a read.

The first chick to fledge (take flight from the nest) was Layton.  A female, the heaviest of the bunch, and named after Jack Layton.  It was agreed with those involved to name these birds after some famous Canadians.  I was at work when Layton took flight, actually I was just getting ready to pack it in for the weekend, as it was about 1:55pm on Friday June 14th when she flew.  It was no surprise that she ended up in need of rescue from the watchers later that evening.  Females are the heavier of the two sexes and almost always need help the first flights out, it's just the way it is.

But I raced down there in high excitement knowing we had a fledge that day.  I had bet the first fledge being on this day, and on Big Frank going first, since usually the males do take flight first; but whatever, we finally had one off the ledge.  By the time I got there around 3:15pm or so, Layton had got herself into a spot where she would spend the next 5 hours with me, face to face, before I left for the day.  She was just to the side of the south entrance to Sunlife, about 15 ft above the walk, and maybe 20 ft away from Bloor Street.

The funny thing through our encounter was all the passersby that wondered what the heck I was looking at, or we if Angie or Kathy were there with me.  It was Kathy who gave me the idea to stand in front of her along the way, hopefully keeping her from getting the idea of flying down into the street.  The ledge she was in was pretty tight and if you weren't looking right at it, you missed it.  So here I am with the big Sigma pointed up a few times, towel over my shoulder, and for the most part just looking right up at her.  I'd say 3 in 20 people asked me what I was so focused on.  And then they were quite thrilled at the sight.  One guy though, he was really curious but wouldn't ask.  He kept looking around the area to the right of me, and of course he was missing the bird completely.  He then leaned on the wall in front of me, totally clueless a Peregrine Falcon was over his head.  I could tell he wasn't playing with a full deck so I kept my focus on Layton, or appeared to be, just not making eye contact with this man.  Next thing I know he's leaning on the same light standard that I am, opposite side to me of course, and still out of eye line with the bird, and suddenly he starts singing "Rain Drops Keep Falling On My Head"!  What the hell dude?!?!

Raindrops keep falling on my head
But that doesn't mean my eyes will soon be turnin' red
Crying's not for me
Cause I'm never gonna stop the rain by complainin'
Because I'm free
Nothing's worrying me 

I wanted to laugh out loud.  But I stayed quiet and on the bird.  Eventually the guy walked away, still turning every now and then to look in my direction.  8:30pm was coming up, both Angie and I had been up since about 4:15am, and with Bruce and Kathy still on watch, we said "goodnight" to them and of course Layton as well.

We were barely home half an hour and we get a call from Bruce that Layton came down to the sidewalk and they picked her up, with a bit of chase across Bloor, and up it too.  She was released back on the roof about 10pm that night.

We spent a lot of the weekend at Sunlife, probably 6 hours each day.  Not much happened through those days with the young birds.

But come Monday June 17th, it was Shania's turn to take flight.  She had a rougher go of it than Layton, a few more bounces and tumbles, many hours on some condo window ledges, Pigeon netting, a flight over the houses south of Bloor Street and tried to make it up to the nest ledge without success and I watched her strike the reflective glass.  My heart was in my throat as I watched her struggle to make the climb to get up there, not realize the glass is a solid structure, hit it and tumble down the side of the building, trying to grasp at the glass without any luck of course and come to the ground out of sight of us due to the mezzanine on the second level.  I knew the strike wasn't fatal and she worked hard to stay in the air, which helped break her fall.  But I still felt some panic when she disappeared.

Here is Shania hanging off someone's balcony.  

Shania around the other side of the condo, just above Bloor Street, hanging off someone's screen window.  You can see the look of "what the hell am I doing?" on her.

She spent maybe 15 minutes on this window before darting off and flying south across Bloor into the neighbourhood.

As the minutes passed, which seemed like forever, waiting for her to pop up somewhere, all sorts of crazy worrying thoughts went through my head.  You can probably nail a few of them if you think about it.  And then suddenly she popped up, almost exactly where her sister Layton did a few days earlier, just on the opposite side of the entrance way.  Go figure!  Maybe she watched her sister from above on Friday?  I'm drawing a blank on how long this went on for, I just know it wasn't nearly as long as Layton's stay up there, as it was later in the day.  In the end, the bird beat me in the staring contest, and I just had to get my butt home and to bed for the 4:30am wake up.  And just like Layton, Shania came down to the sidewalk less than half an hour after I left the nest site.

Oh Shania...  you and your siblings are giving me gray hair!

Stay tuned for more on our local Falcon family!

June 19, 2013

A Momentary Leave of Absence

Hi Friends,

Sorry I've not been around lately. We are in full swing with Peregrine Falcon watches. Angie and I are focused on the Etobicoke Sunlife nest site, home of Jack and O'Conner.

I started a blog about the watch but there just isn't the time to finish it. I've put in approximately 28 hours of watch time in the past week, add 8 hour work days, time in for house chores, pet care, sleep, etc. and computer time just isn't there.

I will return next week with a full tale on the goings on. It's been very exciting and very stressful. Anyone remember my stories from last season?

There are 4 birds up there and one is named after our friend Big Frank. I don't want to give away too much of the coming blog but lets just say if it wasn't for the people watching over these young Falcons, as of right now, 3 of them would not be here with us as I key this.

Please check in next week with more on this all. Thanks for stopping by and I trust you are all doing well.


A couple photos from the watch. And here's a link to why we do this.

June 7, 2013

5 days with Rob and the Animals.

I feel like I've got some sort of blockage lately, ever since my last entry regarding a friend to many... Big Frank. From his passing, it was about a week and a half until many of us gathered to mourn, honor, laugh, cry, reflect on our lost friend. The time in between has been a daze. Now closing in on a week since the funeral, my head is scrambled with so many blog ideas and don't know where to begin.

I could start up with what has happened since last Sunday, which has been a lot actually.

Sunday morning Angie and I went and grabbed some breakfast and coffee and sat down at the Etobicoke Sunlife Peregrine Falcon nest site. We're a little early for the Falcon fledge watch on this day but with Frank gone, CPF naming one of the chicks after Frank, we are finding this time around to be all the more meaningful.

Meet baby Big Frank.

It was a quiet morning. We saw both mom and dad, O'Conner and Jack, buzzing around a little bit but no sight nor sound of the chicks. I believe it was Jack who caught a Pigeon over us and paraded with his kill for a little bit before disappearing to clean it, most likely eat some and then return to the nest with the remains for his kids.

Jack on the hunt.

Score!  Pigeon in his talons.

After an hour or so, we headed home and rested up for the big adventure to happen later that afternoon out in Binbrook, Ontario.

Moving forward to 4pm now, us in Binbrook, meeting the founder of Hobbitstee Toggenburgs & Wildlife Refuge and a friend of hers to release 5 young Red Fox back into the wild. Seems mom had her den, and these kits, a few months back, some development started nearby and mom abandoned all out of fear. Thankfully some people took action to help the young Foxes, and even more thankful that such wildlife centres exist to help our wildlife friends in need. It was an exciting brief moment watching them all return to the wild, and quite happy to do so. They are young but already skilled hunters. Really there is not much more us humans can teach them once they know how to track and catch their own food. We all wished the little guys and one girl a great life, getting a second chance at it, as they disappeared one by one into some woods on a large farm.

The last of the 5 Foxes tasting freedom once again.

Here is a great video made by the fine people at Hobbitstee telling the tale of them going home with the photographs I took of the occasion. Please ensure you have sound on, the music is very befitting to it all.

After a long chat with our new friends at Hobbitstee, we headed for home; but at last minute decided to stop in Burlington at the lift bridge where another nest of Peregrine Falcons are located. What a change of scenery at this nest site compared to what we are used to in Toronto. Instead of big buildings, we got one big bridge and a lot of water being Lake Ontario. We met some of the volunteer watchers and saw the Falcons (both adults and 3 of the 4 chicks).

Burlington lift bridge.  Nest is near the top and centre of the back tower.

A closer view of 3 of the 4 chicks and Cirrus the adult.

Monday rolls around, back to work, and in my time at home I take it really easy. I enjoy our backyard with Meadow and the Budgies. I stopped at one of the local parks briefly before work and enjoyed the sights of a new family of Mallard Ducks.

Local momma Mallard Duck a her kids, she's got 6.

Something odd happened on my way to work. I missed my turn onto Britannia in Mississauga and ended up going further south on Hurontario. I see a dark spot on a certain building and to my joy and surprise it's a Peregrine Falcon! Why the joy? Well, I spent all last summer watching this bird numerous times a week. It then disappeared come October, migrating obviously. Come April of this year, the bird returned. It disappeared for the whole month of May and now has shown itself again. Of course I don't have my camera with me but that's how it goes. There's more to the story about this bird but it's a blog all on it's own.

Tuesday I make another stop at Etobicoke Sunlife in the morning to check on our local Peregrine Falcons. I am treated to mom and dad hanging out together on the cameras. I then hear some loud squawking, even with me being 14 floors below on street level and across the street I might add. I watch and watch, and suddenly I see the wings of a baby Peregrine Falcon moving about the ledge. And then I see it's head! A fellow watcher told me that Big Frank the Falcon is growing up fast and moving around a lot more than his 3 sisters. So, I'd like to think this is Big Frank saying "hello" to the world.

Jack (top right) and O'Conner from Etobicoke Sunlife.

Is that Big Frank the baby Falcon?

I return home after an hour, entertain our Budgies and Meadow for a few hours while I do chores and get ready for work. I planned on leaving early to hopefully scope out the Pepsi Peregrine Falcon as I call it even though it's not hanging out on our plant. And guess what! I see the bird again, and I swear on my precious parts that the bird is still in the exact same spot as a day earlier. I have my camera this time and take a few photos. It's 1:30pm, just like yesterday when I saw it. I also saw it in the same spot at coffee break around 8:30pm too and with that I do mean both Monday and Tuesday. So I am concerned. I compare my 1:30 to 8:30 photos and I am quite certain the bird still has not moved. Or is this Falcon that particular to sit on the same ledge, the same spot between flights and hunts? I dunno. I suppose. But for me, not giving away of too much of his story for another blog, but this is quite different behavior for this bird compared to the past year.

Suddenly, while I am watching him at the 1:30 mark on this Tuesday afternoon, a couple Turkey Vultures show up, circling the field across the street from the Falcon. I am thrilled at the flight show they put on, gliding with ease when suddenly they shift over to the building the Peregrine is sitting on. And they land on the roof top, one level above him! And the birds are aware of each other. I'm wondering what is going to happen, even through the big stare down... but nothing did. When I see Turkey Vultures, I see death. They don't kill things but do enjoy feasting on the dead. Ya, sounds kinda gross, but they are nature's natural clean up crew of our deceased animal friends. My imaginative brain starts wondering if the Vultures smell death on my Falcon? Like his perching for 24+ hours at this point is a sign of illness and the Vultures know it. And a bit later, the Vultures took flight, leaving the Falcon to his thoughts still on the same ledge.

The Pepsi Peregrine.

Incoming pair of Turkey Vultures.

Falcon and Vultures take notice of each other.

Not interesting enough for one Vulture, perhaps not dead is more the reason, and away it goes.

Second Vulture departs, making an impression of Prince of Darkness.  Haha!

8:30 that evening, as I mentioned, the Falcon is still on the ledge. I'm wondering out loud via social media to my friends on what to do. I knew the answer but needed to vent, which is nothing can be done, not with him 10 stories up from us. We gotta wait it out and see what he does. If he comes down to the ground, then hopefully we can help.

Wednesday rolls around now. I decide to get out to 3 of my haunts that have brought me and Raccoon babies together in previous years. I'm desperate for some cute baby photos for our 2014 calendar. I come up empty once again, only finding an adult sleeping in a tree. I did see a lot of birds that morning, mostly common stuff around here for this time of year. The coolest bits were a nest of baby Red-winged Blackbirds, 2 Yellow Warbler nests, a couple vocal Red-tailed Hawks and after some help from others on identifying, quite certain a Willow Flycatcher gathering nesting material.

Willow Flycatcher.

3 baby Red-winged Blackbirds.

Can you spot the Raccoon?  They blend in well at times.

Despite all this running around, I'm still home with a few hours to spare for chores, entertain our own pets as I ensure, and get ready for work. As you can see, Meadow is quite delighted to be out back Wednesday morning, enjoying her favorite shrub that is now blooming. It's some kind Weigela bush.

Meadow loving her shrub and reminding us all to stop and smell the flowers.

I leave a little early for work again, checking around for the Peregrine Falcon, but I don't see him. I check again at break time and still no sighting. I enjoy a few Rabbits grazing about the industrial area and find it strange that some Mallard Ducks are settling down for the night along a sidewalk.

One of many Rabbits near work in Mississauga.

Mallard Duck pair.  They were asleep until someone walked by them (not me).

So close to the main roads, glad he never crosses them.

I think about these creatures above and how they've adapted to being around people, especially in an industrial area. I see them all through the warm months here.

Thursday is here and it's another day gone in 3 minutes, now being 11:57pm. I ran errands this morning, getting my comic fix up at my friend's store in Vaughan, and do some sneaky birthday stuff for Angie's upcoming birthday on Monday. Wow, am I taking a break from the wildlife? I mean, it's 11am already, and I need to be home and prepare for work, and hang with our animals a bit too. It sure was looking that way until I'm less than a kilometre from our house when the next wildlife adventure occurs and unfortunately it's not a good one.

Someone hit a Deer that decided to cross the road. I know why it chose to cross the road, I have my own thoughts on how the accident happened, but long story short... it was a terrible and very sad moment. I watched this big beautiful animal kick and convulse, gasp, bleed and die on the street. There was nothing anyone could have done for it. People just looked on in shock and sadness, some even cried. I went home sad and angry. It was 5 minutes to noon and I felt like cracking the 40 Creek and chilling out. But I sucked it up, got ready, gave Meadow and the birds a great hour with daddy and then went to work. The Deer incident consumed much of my thoughts, whenever I wasn't thinking about work. Even as I did a quick check on some spots in the area for the Peregrine Falcon, not finding him, the Deer was still there in my mind.

I've been home for almost 2 hours now. I've filled the birds feeders for sunrise. Smudge, formerly know as Beggar met me out back while I did the feeders. It seems to be our night time ritual with the warmer weather upon us. He follows me about the backyard in the middle of the night and tells me some great adventures he's had while I've been working. I like to believe none of the stories involve him killing song birds. Sometimes I think he wants food, other times I think he just wants the company. I give him kibble offerings and some days he's devouring it while others he prefers the pats (a couple other neighbours are watching over him as well). I still hold out hope we're going to find him a home. I come inside to a waiting Meadow, and a jealous one at that. But as I lock the backdoor and pick her up, all is right in her world once again. Purr purr purr.

I know tomorrow when I get to work, a co-worker of mine is going to ask me again, like he does most days, "What did you do before work? Did you go birding? I don't know how you keep going with all you do."  As I skim this blog over, and all that's happened in the last 5 days, I wonder that myself.