Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

June 30, 2014

William Osler Falcon Watch

Okay, I'm doing something really bad here (sort'a)... I'm doing a current blog while there's a few in the back of my head, or in draft that need to be completed. I do expect a lull in things through July and August, and plan to catch up through those months. But with the wildlife, you just never know though.

So, let's get at it here before things start happening again.

*warning* I am just starting to work on the first coffee of the day, so hopefully this all makes sense.

We had just closed the Islington/Bloor Etobicoke Sunlife Falcon watch last weekend. It was a fast and furious watch that you will read about very soon. Let's just say that a few of us really enjoyed the break this past week.

Normally for me, that's it for Falcon fledge watch for the most part until next Spring. Etobicoke Sunlife is our main site; although I do spread myself around when needed at Harlequin (Duncan Mills and Leslie area) or William Osler formerly known as Etobicoke General. Well yesterday (Sat June 28) was a day I was really needed at Osler as nobody else was available for the first part of the day.

I knew when I woke up Saturday that one bird, BLUE, had fledged on Thursday and was doing remarkably well. Later on Friday, YELLOW, had taken it's first flights. The birds have yet to be named due to a contest the hospital runs every year, so right now, we just go by their colored tape bands (used for quick, easy ID at the watch). Some miscommunication had me only knowing there were 2 more young Falcons to take flight, but I didn't know their tape colors yet.

I get to the site, working on that first coffee of the day, and in my sleepy stupor I'm thinking "ya, no probs, I got this". Sure I've spent many hours over the last 4 years at Falcon watches with others; never have I been at one all by myself so early on in a watch, as in kids taking first flights.

I easily spotted BLUE and YELLOW. BLUE on the south/east corner of the hospital, which Tracy refers to as the runway (where they take off from). My ears tuned into YELLOW who was screaming his head off in the hydro tower east of the hospital. It's a great spot for the young birds to build their muscle, going from the hospital to the tower and back.

BLUE on the nest ledge at dawn.

YELLOW near the top of the hydro tower.

As I'm viewing the two young Falcons, bins up on them, taking some pics, a Toronto Police officer takes notice to me. He had just left the emergency area when he spotted me in the parking area. I said "good morning" and went back to watching the birds. He approached me, said "good morning" and inquired as to what I was doing. I explained to him about the fledge watch, who the Falcons are, why we do this, the colored bands, etc. and he took it all in with great interest which for some reason really surprised me. If only the onlookers passing us knew what we were talking about, they'd be surprised too. I guess the smiles and laughter between us surely wouldn't point to a cop busting some long haired dude though, eh?

I guess our conversation lasted 10 minutes or so. He was full of questions that I was happy I could answer, and I broke a few myths during the chat like rescuing a young Falcon and the adult NOT rejecting it as many think the young birds are done with human contact. I hadn't been at the watch very long, only having the two mentioned birds in view. I pointed out BLUE to him since he was easy to see with the morning sun behind us. Suddenly he asks "Is that another one over there?" RED had popped up just over the Emergency area! I confirmed. Now he was ear to ear with a smile, being face to face with a Peregrine Falcon. His words "I can't believe I am looking at the fastest animal on the planet! Wow!" I think he even said that three times.

At the end of our conversation, the officer put his hand out to me, shaking my hand, and thanking me for doing this selfless act for an animal species. I said " thank you, but really we all should be thanking you guys for what you do every day!" He left thrilled and maybe let a few people off with warnings instead of tickets that day. I remained on site of course, suddenly feeling a larger feeling of pride watching over these young birds.

RED from the officer's view point.

Now on my own again, it was time to focus on the birds. RED being so low got my main attention. I still had yet to find the fourth bird.

I kept in steady contact with Tracy about the goings-on. While my common sense side surely could figure things out, it did get clouded when things got nutty as you will soon read.

RED wandered about the top of emerg, disappearing on occasion out of view, popping up somewhere else. I did my best to follow her steps.

She eventually returned to where I first saw her. YELLOW still in the tower screaming away. An adult sitting nearby him. I spot BLUE still in the same spot, but only for a moment longer, and then off he jets. He did a great flight over the south parking area, making his way back to the hospital. He missed the nest ledge and struggled to save himself along a window ledge below. A little glass tap to boot, raising my pulse some.

I look back for RED and she's not to be seen. Dammit! All it takes is a split second of not looking at a bird and then they are gone. I wait, and wait, and wait a little bit more. Suddenly she pops up over the emergency roof again and seconds later takes off!

The bird heads south/east across the field and into the backyards of a subdivision. Can I say "oh my fucking nerves!" now? And almost instantly right after the flight, another bird comes from out of nowhere and is right behind this one. It happened so fast, that I automatically assumed it was an adult keeping an eye on the kid.

I managed a second shot of the first bird, who I thought was RED, because that is where RED was. Little did I know at the time it wasn't, it was WHITE, the fourth bird!

Thank goodness for the camera in these times. But with every watch and carrying a camera, one must be prepared to put the camera down (or drop it) if it came down to rescuing a chick coming to ground. I always have a plan in my head on where the camera will go with my surroundings. Or in some cases, if I sense shit is gonna hit the fan, I put the camera in the truck, losing potential photo ops, but have myself as ready as can be to help a bird. The care and concern for wildlife always comes first. And here is where the camera was put away while I went off to seek this bird out in the subdivision. I was hearing angry birds in someone's backyard so that is where I started my search. I quickly spotted RED on someone's rooftop; the colored tape in full view.  A fence and a small backyard separate RED and I.

From where I stood, I was still able to make out YELLOW in the tower and BLUE on the side of the hospital. Seconds after one of my visual fixes on BLUE, he takes off over to the hydro tower, lands briefly and then takes off again heading west (away from me), I watch him pass the hospital and make a turn north out of my sight now. I'm texting Tracy again, slightly freaking out at this point. I know I could figure things out but needed a voice of reason in my moments of panic when the birds were leaving my sight and ending up in places like RED here. I told her I had a feeling the missing bird, WHITE, was somewhere in the subdivision as well due to the overwhelming amount of pissed off bird sounds in the area, not realizing that WHITE flew right over me. I was so tempted to leave site and go to the street where I saw RED just to be sure. I didn't though. I wanted to keep her in my sights.  I did walk the field behind the houses for a quick look about the other roof tops, following more angry bird sounds.  I spot another juvi!  Holy crap!  I back up, trying for any tape color, and to get a view point of both young Falcons in this neighbourhood.  I get a fix on RED and next thing I know she takes flight, going over a few houses and I lost her. Heart beats increasing now. Potty mouth nearing extreme as I'm walking and scanning, listening, following bird sounds.

Are you confused after reading that?  Imagine how I felt in the moment!

It's a bit of a blur now through the next while as two chicks disappeared on me.  I still didn't have a visual confirmation on tape color of the bird in the tree.  My mind is racing wondering what the heck to do.  Then it would seem the answer came to me as the bird in the tree took flight and headed straight for the hospital.  It gained some height but not enough to reach the roof top.  I finally got the tape color...  WHITE.

Then another Falcon flew in, landing on the low medical pharmacy building just north/east of the hospital. It was RED!

WHITE left the window ledge now and went to the hydro tower to join YELLOW who finally quieted down.

Okay, things were starting to come together, or rather the young Falcons were. *phew* I wanted to go try and seek out BLUE but RED was pretty active on that low roof, so I decided staying with her was probably best. I was told BLUE was doing spectacular, which seemed to be the case minus the one little window ledge mishap.

RED flapped her wings a lot, bobbed her head, and eventually did short flights from one side of the roof top to the other. Great! Build them muscles girl! Learn how to land properly.

I positioned myself closer to the tower, and the truck. I figured if RED was going to take flight, it would be to the tower with her siblings. From this point, I could see the other two high up the tower too. Tailgate open, ready to leave the camera behind if anything were to happen.

An adult appeared, with food, and it sent YELLOW jetting after it to the hospital roof top.

This sent RED into a tantrum, wanting lunch too! But it wasn't enough to get her flying anywhere.

Nom nom nom.

Ten minutes later the adult took part of the carcass and flew off with it, going around the hospital and heading west. With that I figured it was going to feed BLUE now. I put my trust in this belief.

RED quieted down some and went back to her exercises.

By this time Tracy had let me know troops were on their way, extra sets of eyes were much needed with 4 newly fledged Falcons, and relief to me. I was going on 5 hours there now, and while this is only half of what others have done at other watches, I'm doing what I can. It was blazing hot and humid as it reached noon. I'm a soaking parched mess.

I took notice to a guy walking around with binoculars. I asked him if he was here to see the Falcons and pointed them out to him. He introduced himself to me as Winston and he was here to help. Woo hoo! Bruce was on his way too and as much as I was ready to go home for the afternoon (returning for the evening hours), I stayed with Winston until Bruce arrived.

Winston did a perimeter check while I watched the 3 young birds, and he returned with news BLUE was on the west side of the hospital. A smart bird he be, getting some shade, unlike his siblings on the east.

Before I knew it, Bruce was on site now too!

After some communication of the goings on so far that morning plus a little catching up, I left for home. I checked on our kids both inside and outside, had a quick shower, and then crashed hard on the couch for an hour. My head was filled with Falcon thoughts and the sounds of the screaming kids.

I got my first real taste of a Falcon watch as some of my counterparts have experienced many times over in the past years. It's amazing how one site can have overflowing support while another site struggles to have more than one or two people looking after the birds. It would be great to build a network across the GTA, having all sites in contact with each other through the weeks of fledge watch. The watches don't all start at the same time, and maybe people would be willing to travel from one site to another depending on the needs of the birds?

A Falcon watch isn't for everyone. There are some pretty stressful moments, some very dull times with nothing going on, heat and humidity can be a real bitch, tragic and heartbreaking deaths on occasion. Then the excitement of seeing really cool Falcon activities occur, watching the chicks grow both physically and mentally, the parents teach right in front of us, the kids learn (some not as quick as others), and hanging with other people passionate about the birds is great. We make new friends, reunite with others not seen since the watch a year before, and the conversation from the curious people passing by can be educating on both parts like between the police officer and myself. The hospital staff have been great too, lots of questions and interest. They sometimes come and check on us as well.

Ya, it's not for everyone but it IS FOR THE BIRDS!

And when the day is done, the sun is settling, and we catch our breath... we occasionally take in a stellar dusk sky like this!

June 25, 2014

Busy Days

We were without internet access for a few days due to some Bell glitch. It seems it's an issue all over, and the simple repair is replacing the power cord to the modem. I'm no tech guy, okay, whatever works. So with that, and just over a week at the Etobicoke Sunlife Peregrine Falcon Fledge Watch, just not been around, not had the time to blog or do much else on the computer.

I have lots to catch up on, but not today.

How about a couple short videos of some of the action around here. Would you be surprised if there was not a Pierre the Pigeon video in this? Well surprised you be! He's been quite vocal with me when we run into each other because I'm not here as much for his breakfast and attention. Poor guy, withering away to nothing I bet. LoL!

Okay, first video was shot last night after work. It was a hot stank day, humidex of 35c or so. I always tell people that animals love water, it's something that can be hard to come by, more so than food. And offering it outside is much appreciated. Almost every morning I wake up to empty baths, or really muddy ones. Here's what happens at this time of year, a couple of the Raccoon kids were enjoying it. See the video here.

Here's a shot of the lovely family from about a week ago.

How about a moment with a young Peregrine Falcon who has just discovered her wings? She's not very good with them yet, which is why we do the fledge watch, and help the young birds if they get into trouble. Watch Skyla the Falcon from our Etobicoke Sunlife nest site here. Skyla was about one story up from the ground, but some how found her way home, way up to the roof tops of the Sunlife tower, some 20+ stories high. She's a beautiful girl and we wish her all the best in the coming days, weeks, months, years... hoping she learns how to be a surviving bird of prey and may we learn of her nesting somewhere in North America in a couple years from now.

Thanks for stopping in. Stay tuned for some interesting stories that must be told, both happy and sad. I've gotten shit recently (again) by those who can't handle the darker side to reality, and the yucky stuff our animal friends may endure living in our city. I don't believe in hiding the ugly. Life is a mix of good and bad. For some, only choosing to live in the sunshine, ignoring the dark moments is sad. How can we change things if we ignore what is happening out there? How can we embrace the great moments without sinking into the shittier times once in a while. Sure I hate sad stuff too but it doesn't do any of us, human or animal, any good to hide from it.

Be back soon!

June 11, 2014

It's Falcon Fledge Watch Time Again!

Oh boy, oh boy!  Here we are just days away from the 2014 season of "Falcon Fledge Watch"!  Season really isn't the word I should use, since the watch window really is only 2 or 3 weeks, depending how things go.

I thought I would go over the watch once again, seems I do this almost every year now since Angie and I have become more involved in our Etobicoke Sunlife nest site.

We are always seeking others to come on down to the site, hang out and help monitor the young birds as they take their first flights.  Why do we watch over them, or rather watch from under?  Well, the nest is some 20 stories up the east tower of the Etobicoke Sunlife centre (formerly known as the Shipp Centre at Islington and Bloor).  The young birds need to build their strength in the first days of flight, and basically figure things out, like what is beyond the nest they spent their first weeks in, and once out in the world, how to get back home where it is safe.  Remember, this nest is some 20 stories up.

So in the first days of flight, we watch the young birds, and help them if they get into trouble.  And believe me, they can get into trouble.  Their first flights, with the lack of strength often have them coming low to the ground.  Some find their way back up to the nest, taking short flights, slowly making their way up.  Some, not so fortunate, end up on the ground, be it the sidewalk or perhaps out in the middle of Bloor Street.  That is where we come into play, or maybe action is a better word, doing our best to quickly retrieve the confused bird before he meets a truck grill as one deadly example.

Young birds sometimes end up on nearby condo balconies.  And most people living in these buildings have no clue about these birds nesting in the area, and how a young Falcon may need help getting back home once landing here.  We've seen cases where they come down to the balcony floor and look through the clear glass "fencing" that surrounds the balcony.  They don't understand how they can see outwards but cannot go anywhere.  Another rescue is needed where we communicate with the building management, the condo owner, and retrieve the bird.

These are just a couple examples of why the watch is needed.  It's all about helping the Peregrine Falcons.  Once a bird on the edge of extinction here in North America, they have come back in good numbers in the last couple decades.  They have gone up the list from endangered to species at risk, or special concern.

A bird that normally nests on cliff sides has taken to skyscrapers in the city.  Why?  A great food supply is my guess.  Pigeons everywhere!  Although their kills may include European Starlings to local Ducks.  One of our watchers witnessed our resident female O'Connor bring home Mallard Duck on more than one occasion through the summer of 2013.  You have to agree that Peregrine Falcons do a very good job of population and species control in our cities.

It is estimated that 80% of young Falcons do not survive their first year.  The chances of survival rises each year for a bird until they reach adulthood, when then on they hopefully live a long healthy life with all the growing up and learning stuff mostly behind them.  So in one season, where I've been a part of 3 separate nest sites, with a total of 10 chicks to help watch over...  according to statistics, only 2 of the 10 would live to see the next Spring.  I know us participating in these watches surely helps bring up the chances of survival into the next year!  Just simple rescues in the first weeks, getting them home again, to try another day, and hopefully learn from the experiences.

Angie and I are entering our 4th season of Falcon fledge watching.  It's grown a little each year, but last year was more like a leap and bound with ESL losing it's key senior watcher Frank Butson, aka: Big Frank.  He passed away mere weeks before the watch.

With us and many other Falcon watchers at sites across the city having jobs, mortgages, families, etc; it becomes difficult to devote the time needed to look out for these birds.  That is where having more eyes to the sky is needed to help.  Not everyone works 9 to 5 jobs.  The flexibility these days with work hours can bring willing people in any day of the week, any time, from dawn to dusk.

There is no set amount of time required to come to a watch.  We ask others to do what they can, when they can.  Be it 30 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours, 3, 4, 5, whatever.  Even just giving someone else a break to grab a coffee, use the washroom, or just hanging out and offering some company during the slow periods where nothing is happening.  Believe me, there are times when there is absolutely nothing going on.  But when things start happening, look out.  These are wild animals and unpredictable.  A young Falcon so high up on a building ledge, flapping his wings, running back and forth....  when is he going to take that first flight?  And as we watch, it may go like this...  "Oh my goodness, he's right on the edge, he almost went off.  Here he comes again!  Shit!  He stopped himself!  Oh no, there he goes!"  And away goes one of four young Falcons.  Now which way did he go?  Did he go around the building, did he make it across to the next building, did he spiral down losing altitude and end up on the concourse?  We never know.  And having extra sets of eyes on them surely helps.

It's fun but incredibly stressful time with the birds.  Some people can't handle it.  Especially when you put names to the birds, personalizing them.  But for me, as stressed as I am, I take it all in, and love to watch them grow.  They develop personalities rather quick and you can see who is who at times without needing visual confirmation of the colored band tape we normally use.

This year we have four chicks.

Sunni who has a yellow band.
Heaton who has a white band.
Pierre who has a blue band.
Skyla who has a red band.

The colors make good for quick spotting.  The colors stand out even without binoculars or scopes.  And it's easier to remember red, blue, white and yellow instead of the birds' names in the moment.

I fell in love with a green band at Etobicoke Sunlife last year.  Her name is Layton.  She blew us all away with all she did through the watch and the months after.  Here she is playing with her sister Shania high above us.  Never in my life prior to this did I believe that young birds might play.  Silly of me to think that.  It's moments like these that are a real pay off after hours upon hours of not a whole lot going on.

Not convinced, how about Layton doing a food transfer above us with mom?

Or this, Layton playing with her dad Jack.  See how much bigger she is than her father?  Female birds of prey are always bigger.  I think Layton got some real good lessons in flying by chasing her father, and copying his every move.

Jack was awesome, taking Layton back home every time, showing her where and how to land.  Once home again, Layton would stay there, almost like realizing she needed to rest after the big work out she just had.

If I may take a moment to talk about the other kids from last year...

Shania, with her red band, freaked me out so many times as she struck the reflective glass of the Sunlife building.  There's a big downfall to this site, and a few others in the city...  reflective glass.  The birds in this young age don't realize that glass is a solid object.  To them, it would appear they could fly right through it.  And a young Peregrine Falcon, being the fastest animal on the planet in a dive, still can go pretty darn fast flying straight, or trying to make it up to her home being that nest ledge.  Shania hit the glass at least 6 times that I witnessed, sometimes spiraling down and out of sight, other times losing altitude momentarily, before getting her bearings straight and saving herself, then flying to a nearby landing spot for a break before trying again. 

Unfortunately Angie witnessed one young Falcon 2 years ago hit the glass, break her neck instantly and spiral to her death.  Her name was Regatta.  I was watching Regatta just hours earlier and she appeared to be doing so well.  All it takes is one mistake like this and it can be fatal.  It is the mot horrific thing to witness, even with me not being there, I can just imagine.  And us watchers can do nothing at this point but watch in horror and then recover the body.

But then we had a similar incident with Lizzie.  I made my first rescue with her.  And while things didn't look the best for Lizzie in the hours afterwards, she did make a full recovery.  She had a lot of catching up to do with her siblings but as far as we could tell, she did fine.

Then there was little "Big Frank".  A Falcon named after our fallen friend. 

Talk about stress from all those who watched this little guy try and become a self supporting Falcon.  Frank was rescued a couple times through the watch.  One morning he was found sitting on a set of steps along Bloor Street, reeking of garbage.  Lord only knows what kind of trouble he got into after we closed the watch for the night, the evening before.

All four of our chicks survived the summer at ESL and moved on come Fall migration.  We hope to have reports of one nesting somewhere in North America in the coming years.  My bet is on Layton if her brazen cocky attitude doesn't get the best of her.

Here are just a couple success stories from the watch at ESL that I can think of in this moment.

First, we have Skye.  A young male Falcon who happened to be one of the birds we watched our very first year.  He was rescued once or twice as a chick and is currently a resident male at the Don Mills nest site...  you know, the famous Harlequin nest site.  You may have read about it in the Toronto Star through the last couple years.  Skye wasn't always the male there though.  The former resident male, Kendal, got into some trouble last summer with the wicked storms (so we suspect) and is recovering at The Owl Foundation right now.  We hear he's doing very well.

Then there's Windwhistler.  A Falcon in our city, who was born at our ESL site many years ago.  Windwhistler turns 16 this year!  And according to others familiar with his young days, he too was a bird in need of rescue during the fledge watch.  But now, here is he is, still the male at 18 King Street in downtown Toronto....  AND with well over 80 Falcons to date that he has called his children!  Think about that one for a moment.  And one of his sons, Tiago, nests at the Sheraton Centre downtown, mere kms from where he was born.  Even with this dual nest sites, it's an incredibly rare thing.  How many of you know of Peregrine Falcons nesting less than 2 kms from each other in a city?

These are just a couple of so many success stories out there with the Falcons across North America and the watches from the people.

The Falcon Fledge watch begins this weekend, June 14th 2014.  There will be people around most times, doing the best they can, with the time they can give.  Keep an eye out for any of us usually at the corner of Bloor and Eagle, directly east of The Longest Yard, sitting on the steps to the Bell building.

There is paid parking all around the area.  It's $2.25 an hour to park, Sundays are free up until 1pm.  We are mere steps from the Islington TTC subway station. The restaurant options are many along Bloor Street and in the ESL buildings, a variety store is steps away also for various needs. Or just pack your own lunch. There are washrooms in ESL too.

If you have any further questions, you may contact me right here on this blog in the comments section below (I promise to get back to you asap).  Or you can email Angie and I at

We, and especially the birds, appreciate any time you may give to help watch the kids over the next couple weeks.  Even our over protective mom O'Connor does even if she doesn't act like it.  LoL!

Just imagine being a part of this and learning of one of these young birds reaching adulthood, having an active and successful nest site somewhere in North America. Wouldn't that be a great feeling, knowing you helped look out for that bird way back when?

Etobicoke Sunlife definitely isn't the only Falcon site in Ontario that seeks others to come assist with the watch, but for the moment, I am only speaking of our local site and it's need starting this weekend. Please consider coming out?

I've been very fortunate to have some upclose moments with the Falcons in recent times, this past winter was my first ever opportunity to share the species with the general public at the Toronto Sportsman Show, talking to others about these amazing birds.

Here's some other links about the PEFAs if interested...
wikipedia, the ROM or how about one of many fantastic YouTube videos seen here or this

June 6, 2014

The Bluebird of Happiness

Yesterday morning I was up around the grounds of the Humber Arb, doing a little spot check on our bird house, as I am very excited about the Tree Swallow nest within (Angie is very excited too). I seem to have a certain route I normally take through the area, spot checking for Raccoons in a couple trees, Deer in others and following the trail through the middle of the meadow.

It was a good visit so far, Yellow Warblers was the species of the day, little yellow birds seemingly everywhere, calling and buzzing around. Song Sparrows scattered adding to the musical mix. And the sunny morning with a cool breeze made for a comfortable walk. The blazing days of summer, that meadow can be brutal as there's no place to hide from the sun.

So, nearing the nest box area, I tuned in to a certain bird call and I shunned it off in disbelief. It sounded like an Eastern Bluebird. I have been told that Bluebirds used to nest in the meadow many years ago. And once in my near ten years of strolling these grounds, I chanced upon a small flock (I think that was 2 Octobers ago and there was either 3 or 6 Bluebirds passing through that day). So while not impossible for them to be around with these bits, I still don't believe it just because of the few hundred visits over the years, I've only ever seen the species once.

The call I heard didn't last long, which helped my mind make the decision that it was my imagination. I just made some other call into one.

I'm walking along, slowly and softly like I do, hoping to not spook birds/creatures and see them before they see me. Even with such a tactic, in most cases, they usually win. I see our bird house just off in the distance, and then suddenly I see a flash of blue come up from the path ahead of me. It was from the corner of my eye, but I know that blue very well and no way I could tell myself that was a Blue Jay. I stop in my tracks and a certain phrase I've used this Spring with awesome bird sightings ran through my head because there was no one to say it to. A couple expletives which I will tell you in another upcoming blog. Obviously it's not meant in a harsh way, it's just some emphasis on the great moment and bird.

As quickly as I caught that flash of blue, I lost it in a tree nearby. I go into "super stalk" mode, scanning the tree, tuning out other bird calls and a plane flying overhead. The mere seconds seemed like minutes until I spotted the Bluebird again. He was low in the tree but with the heavy cover of foliage above him, he could easily be mistaken for something else black in color. I watched and admired him for a moment before I put the camera on him and snapped a couple shots. I knew I wasn't getting anything museum quality but definitely wanted something for the record and to share with others.

Shit shot, crap shot, adjust the settings, I'm thrilled right now but I still curse and mumble a bit under my breath, hope the bird doesn't jet off in the meantime. I am a good 40 or 50 ft from the bird, and I wasn't going to move. Auto focus wasn't picking him up, so now I'm holding the 500mm lens up at him and trying to adjust the manual focus as well. Finally after 8 or so shots, I got one. And then, just like that, he was gone. The territorial male Red-winged Blackbird seemed to be part of that reason.

I spent the next 20 minutes looking and listening for the Bluebird again. I did a quick sweep of the meadow, looking for signs at the number of nest boxes for him, or maybe his mate, but came up empty. I did think I saw a female at one point through this but can't confirm.

Oh well. The moment I had was amazing. It put a spark in my step through the afternoon, and a smile on my face. Sure not many will get me saying "I saw a Bluebird today!" Perhaps if I explained where I saw it, and how few I have seen there in ten years? Angie was thrilled for me. My pal "Grizzly" at the Arboretum was too.

With the remainder of the day I found myself occasionally back near that tree with the Bluebird, and less agitated by some daily things that usually piss me off (idiot drivers, crap at work, etc). Everyone talks about how much better life would be if they won a million dollars, which is true, but in the meantime, acknowledging and embracing the little things that happen in a day, can make a huge difference. Thursday was a Bluebird for me. What will today bring?

Maybe a random sighting of an Eastern Bluebird isn't your thing? Whatever it may be, bird related or not, I hope you find it.

Thank you Mr. Bluebird!

June 2, 2014

We Have Tree Swallows!

Early last Spring, or maybe it was late last winter, my friend Jimmy Vincent from one of my favorite walking places being The Humber Arboretum, presented a late wedding gift of sorts to Angie and I. A lovely handmade bird house he had built over the winter in his spare time at home.

On the roof of the house is a heart etched in with R + A inside the heart.

Both Angie and I were very touched by this gift. So personal, so cool, so us!

Jimmy said to take it home and enjoy it. To which I did.

Angie and I talked about what to do with it. At first it was thought to just keep it inside with some of our other cool bird items. But then we thought about setting it up on the grounds of the Arboretum. The thought of some birds nesting in it one day would be amazing! A gift of a suitable nesting cavity to some birds in need of one.

Jimmy was all for the idea and a couple weeks later, when the ground thawed enough, I met him up at the visitor centre, and away we went to set up the house. Jimmy being used to setting these things up, did just that in no time at all, once we picked out what seemed to be the perfect spot.

I did my best to monitor the house through the Spring and it seemed to go unnoticed by the birds. I got lost through the months of June and July with the Falcon fledge watches. And sometime in August I had another visit to the Arb grounds and checked on the house. I had found a partial nest inside, which turned out to be a dummy nest for a House Wren. I did not know that the male will set up numerous nests in an area and lets the female pick out the one to use. I almost took offence to the lady Wren disapproving our lovely little home! LoL!

As Autumn rolled around, I stopped in again and cleaned out the house. To my shock, something had gotten inside the house and died in there. No idea what but there were thousands of ants all over the last remains. I wasted no time in scraping that box clean, no wondering over what it was.

After the harsh long winter we had, Spring finally arrived, and while I had visited the Arb many times over the winter, now it was time to place some focus on our house once again. The house was facing more of a south/west position and have heard from others that south/east seems to work best. So I repositioned the t-bar the house was set up on, thus having the cavity hole facing the magical position of south/east.

Here we are a couple months later and after a check on the box on Sunday June 1st, 2014, I see we have some actual residents. As I neared the box, I thought I saw a bird on it, but wasn't entirely certain. I put my bins on the box and sure enough there was a Tree Swallow hanging on the outside the hole. I took a photo from this distance for records in case he flew off and maybe this all was just a tease of him hanging out there.

But as I neared, the bird put his attention on me, and flew up to the roof of the house. I watched him for a bit and he watched me. Of course other things got his attention in the meantime, other birds flying around, some kids on dirt bikes going along the trails, which both of us frowned upon.

I decided to inspect the inside of the box. Normally I wouldn't but after being on numerous field trips with nest box inspections, I know enough that a little peek will not cause too much disturbance other than temporarily upset the adults. Of course, upon opening the door, one must do it very slowly, because you never know what is going on within. The most important thing is to ensure if there are chicks inside, they don't accidentally leave the nest box because they may not be ready to do so.

As I removed the latch, I slowly opened the door, and watching the inside as I pulled the door/wall away. There was no sound or movement within. And as light got into the box, I could see there was a lovely little nest within. It had the famous feather lining that a Tree Swallow does. A quick look down into the nest, it was empty.

I took this with my mobile phone...

I then shut the box, apologized to the angry Tree Swallow sitting nearby hollering at me, and quietly strolled away.

This is pretty awesome to us. Our nest boxes at home remain empty this Spring so it's nice to know our "other" house has some action in it. I will be doing my best to monitor this box in between work and the rapidly approaching Falcon fledge watch which begins sometime next week.

Stay tuned for upcoming reports on this nest.

If you'd like to know more about Tree Swallows, please click this link and read on.