Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

January 23, 2014

Tuesday Tale

Nothing matters but the weekend, from a Tuesday point of view!  Well, that is unless you have news reporter Laura Zilke from Global News coming to your home that morning.

"What what what?!?!?!?!" you ask.

Ya, that was me too earlier that morning.  I woke up in usual fashion, got the Budgies out of bed, made a coffee, ran an errand and had a brief stop in at a park down the road.  It wasn't a very exciting morning, but in the back of my head I was very happy I was not dealing with the aftermath of something horrible like I did last Tuesday.  See why here.  It's definitely good to have some plain ol' Rob's average kinda days, hanging with the critters week days when my wife and I cannot be together due to work schedules.

I was leaving the park when I noticed I had a text message.  It was from my friend Jimmy Vincent at the Humber Arboretum.  He basically said "Hi Rob.  How you doing?" and then cut to the chase about someone from Global News will most likely be contacting me shortly about how to help the birds out in the extreme cold winter days like we've been experiencing this winter.  He said he thought I would be a great resource.

I was like "huh, what?" in my head but replied with a simple "Cool!  Thanks Jimmy!"  My head was wondering about this Global bit but we were in chit chat about some other stuff I brought up.  I had no idea what was going to happen next.

I texted Angie and told her the news.  She immediately got back to me and said "you should do it!"

I'm home now, noticed a missed call and listened to the voice message from Laura at Global.  She explained her reasoning for the call and asked me to call her back.  No sooner did I hang up the phone that she tried me once more.  Of course I answer and my pulse picks up pace a little bit as she tells me about the story she is working on for the evening newscast.

It's a bit on the extreme cold and our feathered friends living outside, how we can help them through these difficult winter days.  She asked if they could come over to the backyard and see it in action, the birds, the feeders, and have me talk about what I do for them.  Now my pulse is really racing, and I'm getting all freaked out.  Being in the spotlight is so out of character for me.  I think I pretty much said "no" because of my nerves, that shy side of me coming out.  But Laura talked me through this, asked me some simple questions about how this all started, etc and I calmly answered.  She then said something about how I could do this in person with her.  And with Angie in the back of my head saying "you can do this" and Laura in my ear saying the same thing...  I said "okay, come on over".

She had to rearrange her schedule for this because of me having to go to work soon.  And said they'd be at the house in 20 minutes or so.  Twenty minutes...  holy!

I texted Jimmy Vincent once again and said "Global News is coming over to my house right now.  I am shitting my pants!  I need a shot of something 40%!"  I also texted my friend Murray Shields keying in similar words, heavy on the pants part and really needing a shot.

And I did just that...  threw back one shot of Jack Daniel's to take the edge off (not shit my pants... LOL!).

I kept myself busy so I didn't just sit and get nervous with my thoughts.  I cleared some snow, looked for birds out back, threw seed around to hopefully entice some Juncos in.  It had been a very quiet few days out back; and earlier I warned Laura over the phone, in my clever attempt to maybe have her change her mind and go to another option for the story (glad that didn't pan out).  I recall last year when the Toronto Star came to do an article on The Great Backyard Bird Count and how we saw no birds until I finally spotted a Coopers Hawk scoping the yard from a neighbour's tree.  Some may recall the blog and the article, how it ended up being Moonie, our blue Budgie, and I in the newspaper edition because of that Hawk.  Here is the online edition without Moonie and here is my blog after the fact with a photo of the newspaper edition including Moonie.

Back to the tale... before I knew it, a small blue SUV was coming up our street with Global News across the side of it.  I greeted Laura at the side of the road and met her cameraman, I think his name is Patrick...  if not, so sorry man, but surely you can understand the mental block I had.

We went out back and I showed them around.  It wasn't long before the camera was set up, Laura had me hook up with a microphone on my jacket and we were talking.  At times I really couldn't figure when "the tape was rolling" or not.  I answered questions the best I could, I think I only lost my speaking ability once when I gathered my memory on something.  I know I told a few short tales, explained some of the seeds I use, filled a feeder for them and kept hoping for some birds to fly in.

I could see a small gathering of Pigeons on the neighbour's roof.  They knew all about Pierre and the flock by this time.  But from our view, it was too hard to tell who was up there watching us.  It started with 2 birds, I figured to be Walter and Skye (they always come first and together), after that the numbers slowly grew.

I think we were maybe 45 minutes outside by this time.  I had a sweater, a hoodie, jeans and just my runners on, and that -20 something chill was starting to hit me.

And then, just like that, the birds started to show up.  A few Juncos and House Sparrows, then a male Downy Woodpecker, then a Blue Jay and then the Pigeons.  I scoped the crowd but Pierre wasn't present.  I could see little Jesse but he wasn't taking to my hand.  And then everyone flew off.  Something was up, a Squirrel was crying in the tree (alarm call).  It felt like forever at this point for something to happen again.  I thought for sure we were done, it was so cold and we were all uncomfortable by this time.

Suddenly the birds started coming in again.  It's obvious it only takes one or two brave souls to pave the way for the others and everyone was back.  A bright red male Cardinal was in next door's tree which was a highlight.  The Pigeons flew in, running around like the comical stooges they can be, and finally, to my surprise and delight in came Pierre.  Woo hooooooooooooooooo!

photo courtesy of Laura

It's a bit of a blur now because I got lost in the moment, hoping so hard he was going to do what he does with me all the time, come to my hand.  And he did.  But soon after something spooked everyone again and they all took off.  A false alarm and in a minute or two they were all back and Pierre was right back in his spot and then with me.

Laura asked me if she could try to mingle with Pierre.  I said "of course".

Pierre flew to his perch by the backdoor on the clothes line rail.  I gave Laura some peanut bits for him and told her to walk slowly up to him and see what would happen.  It was funny to see Pierre, as expressionless as bird's are in the face, but we knew what he was thinking.  He watched Laura, then he'd look around her at me, then at Laura, then at me.  Laura slowly raised her hand towards him.  He gave me another look.  Maybe I said "it's okay", maybe I gave a nod of approval, maybe I just thought this stuff but whatever it was Pierre took a few nibbles and then jumped into her hand.  How freaking awesome this was!  What a stellar ending to their visit to our little piece of land in Toronto!

I took this shot from the video over the computer screen.

Of course right after they left, I was on the phone with Angie, and then I let this bit out on my Facebook page.  The rest of the afternoon while I worked away, my phone was going nuts with notifications, messages, texts about the story, when it would be on, how cool this was, etc.

As evening came closer, Global News went to air at 5:30pm, I was getting excited even though I could not watch it.  6pm, my phone is still going as the anticipation from my friends grew.

The story airs and I thought my phone was going to explode.  Angie gave me a great detailed play by play of the story.  My mom and our friend Lee were taking pics of their television screens as the story went on and sharing their shots with me.  I felt like I was there.  The comments from so many friends came pouring in afterwards, all who took the time out to watch it from where they were.  It was great!  Then the online links started showing up soon after, allowing others who missed it or not in the area, could give it a view.

TV shot of Laura and I talking about the real Christmas trees we try to collect for the birds after Christmas, they love to use them as shelter both day and night.

So cool Pierre flew in.

If you weren't watching Global News that night, here is a link to the online version of the story.  I am not sure how long this link will work as I know they eventually take the stories down over time.

So, this typical Tuesday turned into something not nearly that thanks to Jimmy at the Humber Arb and Laura from Global News.  It wasn't just a thrill for me but for Angie and a lot of my friends.  A feel good story to so many and I hope someone in Toronto who saw the story learned something from it, not just from me but the other person who was interviewed.  Maybe another bird feeder or two will pop up?

Send some love to these fine folk through Facebook or Twitter.  They rock!

Just copy/paste any of the below links into your search browser...

January 19, 2014

Beautiful Hawk, No People (well, hardly any)

On Saturday January 18th, I went out birding for the afternoon with a friend of mine.  Our destination was eventually going to be States side, late afternoon, somewhere in the Buffalo, New York area for Short-eared Owls but we made a few stops along the way.  One being where I met this Hawk a few weeks earlier.

It wasn't our intention to see this bird.  Snowy Owls were on the brain for the spot and I completely forgot about this bird until I saw him.

The bird was roadside up a ways, and being large and dark, snow blowing around, my friend for a brief moment thought it was a wild Turkey.  I did too and then it clicked...  it's that Hawk.

A number of people in cars were about the area scoping out the Snowy Owls.  And one guy was photographing the Hawk.  Such a different scenario than my last encounter.

The Hawk, being quite accustomed to people showed little fear of us, and put on quite a flight show about the field and over the roadway, always returning to the ground somewhere in front of us.  Click on the photos to enlarge them for better viewing.

It was cool to see the bird do his thing right in front of us; but I couldn't stop the feeling this was all an act for us present. One could easily turn this into a cat or dog prancing around while a person dangles a treat in front of them.  But without the crowd of papparazzi around him like last time, that feeling was pushed away from my mind, and I enjoyed the flight show of this big beautiful bird for another minute or two before the bird realized he wasn't getting anything in return from us and I swear he gave us a look of discontent...

and flew off...

The Hawk is a bit of anomaly.  And if anyone were to experience him/her as what we did this day, without the crowds and stories from some others, they'd think they just had the most amazing experience.  I envy a person like that right now but this experience certainly did make things better for me about the bird.  I see him as clever, an opportunist and of course still wild.

My friend and I had a great day out and about even if we did not see any Short-eared Owls like we were hoping.  But there's more to my bird outings than just seeing birds and taking photos, there are memorable moments with friends and stories to tell at a later date.  We had some good discussions and laughs on our road trip and we saw a number of birds and got teased by countless Deer and one large Red Fox at dusk.

If you missed my last blog about this Hawk titled "Beautiful Hawk, Ugly People" please check it out by clicking on the highlighted title.


January 14, 2014

Why I Didn't Like This Monday...

Ugh, Mondays, they come so fast and ever since I've been back on a 5 day work week the last near year, I am not a fan of them once again.

But this past Monday, January 13th 2014 certainly was exceptional and I don't care for a repeat any time soon.

I thought the worst thing to happen to me was going to be my dental appointment.  I go every 6 months like a good patient, doing my best to care for my teeth, but I never enjoy the visits even as nice as the folk are in that dental office.

Of course then came work.  I don't hate my job but it's just that...  a job.  I go in, do my thing, earn a living and that's it.  I work to live and not live to work.

10pm comes along, Monday is almost over, it's quitting time and I'm on my way home.  I'm looking forward to just kicking back with some mindless old tv programs I have on dvd and eventually drift off to sleep.

It's 19 kms from the Pepsi parking lot to my driveway.  I am at kilometre 18, almost there.  I'm already thinking about how I must creep in the house so as to not disturb Angie or the Budgies, how Meadow will be waiting for me at the door, and I can't wait to get out of my work gear.  It's not "whiskey Wednesday" but a cold non-alcoholic beverage is looking good.  Yes, I'm so close to home now, I might as well be where my thoughts have me.  And then this happened...

I take notice to a couple cars ahead of me swerving on the road.  I slow down, uncertain what is happening, and then I see it...  a small lump in the road.  As I get closer, I see it is a cat and thought him to be dead.  But as I move around him, I see he is still alive.

I don't like seeing "roadkill" of any sorts and it's even sadder when it's a cat or dog (which is rare but I have seen a few over the years) because they were someone's pet(s).  But when the animal is still alive, that totally changes everything, as I simply cannot feel a moment of sadness and continue my journey.  I have to do something...  anything.  And honestly, I don't know what that will be until I am in the moment.

I put the four ways on and pull over.  It's late and Scarlett Road isn't that busy at this time of night.  But with the cat in the left lane, my truck in the right, I need to do something fast because who knows when the next car will come along.

The cat is bleeding from his mouth and looking up at me.  And his breathing is very deep.  He looks fine otherwise.  So the only one to hit him was the first vehicle and anyone who passed him afterwards just moved around or drove over him, ensuring not to run his body over.  Lord only knows how long he's been laying in the road.

An image I found in a Google search (artist unknown).  A good similarity to this big fluffy multi-colored boy I'm blogging about.

I keep gloves in the truck and a blanket too as Angie and I get more and more involved with wildlife.  I know moving him is going to be painful but I can't leave him out in traffic suffering.  And honestly, I just knew he didn't have much longer.  I hate to say that this isn't the first time I've been with a strange cat in the final moments of his life.

I lowered the tailgate to the GMC, set the blanket out on it, put my gloves on and picked him up as gently as I could.  He made no hisses, no growls, his body was pretty limp, and dead weight heavy.  His fur was drenched from the rain we had earlier and passing traffic splashing water as they passed him.

He layed on the blanket for a short bit, blood oozing from his mouth.  His breathing shallowed.  His eyes slowly closed.  And then he was gone.  I was sad but also felt some relief that he was not suffering anymore.  I tried to make good of the situation, that I helped him in his final moments, hopefully brought him some comfort and as a lot of my friends stated...  I helped him keep his dignity.  He wasn't left for dead on a cold dark road and didn't eventually meet more tires and be spread across the pavement.  I was feeling pretty shitty right now but I know I would be feeling even worse today if I didn't do anything and saw his remains on my way to work.

 The cat has no collar or tags but maybe he's micro-chipped.  I will be keeping an eye out for lost cat signs in the neighbourhood in the coming days.

I brought him home and put his body in a Xerox box and put it out in the shed.  Toronto Animal Services gives the option of either having them come pick him up from the sidewalk in a bag or box; or I will bring him in on my way to work.  I'm dropping him off because leaving a bag or box on the walk could bring some other mishap with someone walking by and taking it.

The only photo I took, so I can remember his markings if I see a sign come up in the 'hood.

We have this thing against people letting their cats roam free outside.  It's not just about the safety of other creatures they come in contact with and often kill but also about the safety of these cats.  Scarlett Road is like "death hill" as I see far too many animals killed each year.  There is a golf course and a few large parks on either side with the stretch I drive daily.  Deer, Raccoons, Skunks, Opossums, Squirrels, Cats and even a Northern Saw-whet Owl I've seen on this road.

How is it that someone can think letting their cat run around outside anywhere, on it's own free will, is a good idea?  We couldn't imagine just opening the door and letting Meadow go, not knowing, and not even thinking, that she might not come home again.

I shared this image on social media I took after I put the cat in the box.  Its really upset some but most of my friends get it, as sad as it is.  This is the blanket I layed him on at the back of the truck.  You can see the pool of blood that dripped from his mouth, and even see his body outline from the muddy wetness. 

This wasn't a fun blog but it's my therapy and if a reader sees this and gives a second thought about opening their door to let the cat out tonight, then it was worth it.

This blog is Meadow approved.  Please keep your feline friends safe.

And give them a great loving home with a pampered life in return for all the love they give you.

January 12, 2014

Junior, where have you been?

We had a wonderful surprise this weekend as an old friend of ours came by for a visit.  We call him Junior, as in Smokey Jr, because we know without a doubt this little guy is from the bloodline of a friendly Squirrel we knew some years ago that we called Smokey.

I took this pic of him with my Blackberry on Sunday afternoon.

Junior was a popular and regular visitor back in the summer of 2012.  And somewhere by winter time he disappeared.  One never really knows what happens with our critters when they disappear...  move on to new territory or have they died?  It's a troubling question for me with the ones I've given names to and have some sort of unique "friendship" with out there. 

But on Friday, over a year later, this little gray Squirrel with half a tail and one bold yet very gentle personality showed up in the yard.  Almost immediately I knew it was him.  I kind of forgot about his tail defect but his attitude I did not.  We have at least a dozen Squirrels running around the yard some days, and with only 3 gray ones, it's easier to identify them, especially when one looks at you like a long lost good friend and charges right to you.

If only they could talk and tell us their stories because I'd sure like to know his.

Here's a Pierre video from November 2012 and Junior crashes in.  So funny!

Here's Junior's most likely Grandmother or great Grandmother "Smokey" from the summer of 2007.  The photos were taken with a disposable camera so pardon their lack of clarity and size.  I really like the first one with the bit of sunlight coming through over my shoulder but looks like it's from my fingertips.

Smokey was a wonderful addition to our life outside.  She'd spend hours with Angie and I all summer long.  And my father loved that Squirrel too.  How she'd raid his jacket pockets while he was elsewhere doing something and would happen to look over at her.

Hopefully I have more photos, videos and stories to share with you all about Junior over the next while.

January 10, 2014

Beautiful Hawk, Ugly People

We recently came across this Red-tailed Hawk in our travels of Southern Ontario.  A big beautiful bird sitting on top of a roadside construction sign.  What really got our attention was the crowd of people, mostly photographers, surrounding this bird.

Can you see the Hawk in the shot?  Upper left sign to the red car.

Of course we pull over.  Angie opted out of getting out of the truck and enjoyed the view of a Snowy Owl off in the distance, in a field on her side.  We both initially thought the Hawk must have been injured to sit along side of the road with a growing crowd of people around her.  And that was the first thing I asked a couple guys upon my inspection of the bird and scene.  They said "no, she's fine, she's just used to people".

How interesting I thought this to be.

I took in a couple minutes with this beautiful bird.  I observed her, took some photos of her as she looked on at us all.  Having her lock eyes with me for a moment was all I really wanted, just that connection in my head, her and I, and not the dozen plus photographers around us.

I lost my zen moment with her that I fought pretty hard to get with all the distractions as one guy started yelling at another individual to get his truck out of the way, as it was interfering with his shots.  These two individuals interacted as the one kept questioning the other on why he had to move his truck and why buddy couldn't move his equipment.  Eventually truck guy fired up his vehicle and moved ahead.

I watched as a couple guys with big lenses moved in closer and closer to this bird.  I stood back with a couple other guys and we were shaking our heads at them.  One guy was maybe 5 ft from the bird now, just crowding in on it.  And as he broke this barrier of what most of us would call "that line you don't cross" this prompted a few others to move in too.

There was no point in arguing with this group of people on this because their return statement definitely would be "the bird doesn't mind" as it sat there and did nothing with their invasion of his personal space.

The small joy of seeing this bird quickly disappeared and I returned back to the truck.  As I was about to open the driver's door and get in, I took one more look back and saw the Hawk leave it's roadside perch and dive into the field mere feet away.  Obviously it just got something to eat and somehow I highly doubt a rodent of sorts would come running through this crowd of people in the field but I could be wrong.

Getting that kill shot...  on private property.

Somewhere on another road in the area, I got talking with some other guys out taking photographs.  I brought up the Hawk just over that way from us and the even larger crowd on him now.  They scoffed in disgust about the goings on over there, the disrespect to the bird, to the farmer's land and of some pudgy little fat bastard who baits the birds for pictures.  Ah ha, I knew it!

The act of baiting birds of prey, mostly Owls, is a non-stop argument the last number of years.  Personally I am not for it.  I like to let things happen naturally when I am out and about.  And it's not my thing to throw another live animal out to his death so I can capture the action in photographs.

When I look back at so many of my photos, I can remember where I was and what happened in that outing whether it was some laughs with Angie and friends, or some great bird sightings.  But that's just me and that's my friends that share this kind of enjoyment with me.

Some might say "well you took photos Rob!"  Yes I did, standing on the shoulder of the road, more than 20 feet away from the Hawk, no baiting was done while I was there, and after 5 minutes or so I moved on.

And when I look back at this Hawk, I only wish her a good life and hope she doesn't end up injured or dead by such close human interaction.  *sigh*

Super cropped close-up...  hence the graininess of this photo.


January 3, 2014

Yay! Pierre Came Home!

If you read my last blog about the Toronto Ice Storm and caught the end of it where I expressed my concerns for my Pigeon pal Pierre.  Well, great news!  He came home on January 2nd, 2014...  roughly 2 weeks since I last saw him.

The last week or more, I've been watching out the kitchen window for him.  Some Pigeons would fly in and I'd be scoping the group out for him.  A couple times I thought he was in the mix but always came back inside with a look of disappointment I am sure since that is what I felt inside.  Sure it was nice to see Jesse and give him a feed along with the others; but they aren't Pierre.

We had a great morning on the deck with his return.  He had a big feed from me, and lots of belly rubs.  I think he was showing some affection towards me as he was trying to nibble at my hair and nose.

Angie came out and snapped a couple quick photos before returning to the warm house.  It's in the -20's with the wind chill right now.  I wasn't bundled up for this moment but didn't care much either.

He's hitting his 18th month mark with us in the next couple weeks.  And I hope for many more to come.

Pierre has a little fan club out there now.  And it's funny because not that many have met him.  Even non-birder friends think it's pretty cool the "friendship" we have.

I knew from the get-go of our first weekend with him, and how unique it was, that he was special and was going to become one of our flock.  Funny reading that old blog now.  See here.

We had quite the weekend as you can see in this picture.  Some people really thought there was vodka in that cup.  Haha!  It's just sunflower seed.

A lot of people out there with backyards open their hearts to the critters, and have those special ones in the mix.  I love hearing about others "backyard friends" and if you have one, tell me about it in the comments below.