Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

May 1, 2014

Wish Birds

This past Monday Angie and I had a lifer, this bird being a Whip-poor-will.  A bird neither of us imagined we would ever see but only hope to hear on a full moonlit Summer night.  And I must add that this is or rather has been Angie's wish bird for almost as long as we've been into the birds together.

I can't really step in on her part of the story and I encourage you to visit her blog about this adventure by clicking here.  She's done a great re-telling of the afternoon.

And as for me, I caught the tail end of it all, seeing the bird get taken out of the downtown corridor and relocated just north of Toronto, away from all those big buildings and that reflective glass.

The Monday started out as any other Monday, disgruntled that another fine weekend had come to an end.  We spent part of Saturday visiting our friends, both human and feathered, at Mountsberg Conservation Area (Mountsberg Raptor Centre) for another raptor encounter.  We love seeing the great people who look after these birds, and of course, love just as much, and maybe a little more so, seeing the birds that live there.

Sunday we had lunch with some fellow Falcon watchers at the Longest Yard in Etobicoke, while momma Peregrine Falcon sat on her eggs across the street and some 20 stories up.  It was great catching up and feeling the vibe of the insanity to come in mere weeks when the Falcons have hatched and are ready to take their first flights.  O'Conner can be viewed live via the webcam here, and as you can see she's keeping them eggs warm (I got this photo from the site just now).  The first hatch should be in the next week or so (there's 4 eggs).

So yeah, Monday came, and I just wasn't into the work thing.  I was over-tired and actually feeling a little unwell.  Too much fun on the weekend perhaps?  Or maybe it was Angie waking me up extra early because she couldn't find her house keys?  But I'm at work, it's mid-afternoon, just started my shift, and not long after I start getting texts from Angie about seeing this Whip-poor-will downtown near her work.  I can feel her excitement and it grew with the texts and the story that happened down there...  did you go to her blog yet?  You really should.  Link here again.  :P  but don't forget to come back here to finish mine...  LoL!

Both of us were wishing I was down there for the moment.  But obviously I couldn't.  I can't imagine my bosses letting me leave work at the prospect of seeing a new bird, even if it is one that is nocturnal and endangered (which I might never see in my life).  And I'm glad with my job there is little room for error thanks to the computers, scanning product I pick up with my forklift and then having to scan the trailer door it is to be loaded on because my mind certainly was not on the task at hand of getting a load of Pepsi products to Ottawa that afternoon.  I was day dreaming of Whip-poor-wills.  A bird I can only sorta visualize in my head because they are hard to put together unlike a Northern Cardinal, Blue Jay, Great Horned Owl, etc.  They blend in so well with tree bark for one, and some of their features make them almost Owl like.  A very cool and unique looking species.  But whatever, that's where my head was.

I told a couple of my co-workers about what was going on.  Two of them started in on some Whip-poor-will song together in the shipping office.  It was funny as hell!  I don't know the tune but am reminded that there are some good guys I work with, we have some laughs through the shit of each day.

And I guess someone above took pity on my wantings, and soon along came the supervisors asking me if I'd like to leave work early.  The work load wasn't that big.  I already knew the bird was enroute to north of the city to be released.  So I said "let me get back to you".  And I began to frantically text Lev who had the bird.  Minutes seemed a lot longer and I called his phone probably sooner than I should have, leaving a voice mail of excitement and hope, much like my texts.  Lev got back to me and we set up to meet where he planned on releasing the bird at dusk.

So, as you can guess, I went back to my superiors and said "yes, I want to leave".  And off I went halfway through my shift, battling rush hour traffic from Mississauga to a spot north/west of the GTA.  One of my good buds was texting me about the buzz of Angie's adventure, saying that she really had one on me now with a bird because they are incredibly difficult to spot.  HA!  Little did he know at that moment but I told him in the next text what was unfolding.

I ended up being a little early so I grabbed a coffee and waited, enjoying the sights of a couple Caspian Terns over a small pond.  Then the song of returning White-throated Sparrows added a soundtrack and I suddenly forgot where I just came from...  work.

Lev came along a bit later and we walked to the area he suggested.  A little bird chit chat, a joke or two about some other stuff and then it was time to release the Whip-poor-will.  I didn't know what to expect, like if the bird would just jet off upon release or chill for a moment.  Whatever it was, that's the way it was to be.  I asked Lev if he could hold it for a few seconds just so I could get a good look at this legendary bird.  Legendary?  Hey, they sing songs about this bird in old country music as Angie tells me.  And I know more people hear them at night, and sometimes all night long, and never seeing them.  So ya, legendary seems to fit.

Lighting was pretty crappy by now.  And in my tired state, and now excited state, I didn't pay attention to camera settings, and took this...

I had said to Lev on the way in that I was only hoping for a couple "for the record" photos and not anything museum quality.  I guess I got what I wished for, eh?

Lev set the bird down on a log along the path, and the bird chilled out for a short bit.  He looked a little rough, but expected as such with the big adventure he had in the last few hours.

I got a couple photos in after watching him briefly when he suddenly took flight from this log stump and flew right towards me, passing me on the left side of my head.  Boy did I ever get a good look at him then!

We watched him fly off a little ways, landing in the grass.  This happened to be in the direction of the way we needed to go to get back to our vehicles, so we proceeded very slowly.  I squatted down as we neared the bird and snapped another couple pics.

Well, if that's the Whip-poor-will adventure for me.  I guess that was it...  well almost.  As we passed bird in the grass, he took flight again, obviously gathered his bearings by this point; he took height and flew off far away from us, letting out little snippets of his flight call too.  That was a pretty cool addition and a great ending!

It was amazing for both Angie and I to see this bird even if the sightings were a couple hours apart.  I am so happy she got to see her wish bird.  And I'm even happier this bird was safely removed from the dangers of downtown Toronto.

Now what is my wish bird you may wonder?  Well, at the moment it is the Loggerhead Shrike.  I know where they can be found in Ontario and over the last 7 or so Springs, I've made the attempts to spot one in the area of Carden Alvar...  but no luck so far.  Maybe this Spring will be the one?  Mind you, this past Saturday I did get to see one (again) at Mountsberg.  Her name is "Pierce" and she's one heck of a character.  A captive bred Loggerhead Shrike who is going to be a part of their educational birds team.  We've met Pierce a couple times now and she always puts on a little show of what Shrikes are known for and why she has the name Pierce...  taking meal worms and piercing them on thorns in her enclosure.  What a pretty and wicked little bird them Loggerhead Shrikes are.

Loggerhead Shrikes are a species at risk here in Ontario.  And places like Mountsberg along with the Toronto Zoo and African Lion Safari are involved in a breeding and release program to hopefully keep their numbers up.  Hopefully with their help, I may see one flying around Carden soon?

What is your wish bird, if you have one?

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