Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

August 27, 2014

Ode to Red

I am not sure if I ever gave much mention to Red the Pigeon in my blogs as Pierre is who gets all the attention. But Red was a special bird and has a story of his own.

Red was a stand out bird amongst the flock and with this, I know he was around for over 3 years. I remember him from the days before Pierre who just celebrated his second anniversary with us in July. Even in the Sibley's bird guide, it shows under these common Pigeons (Rock Doves) that Red's coloring is considered scarce. So when Red flew in, he was easily spotted amidst the birds.

And back in the day, even though that was only a couple years ago, it certainly is "back in the day" for a wild bird whose life expectancy is approx 5 years... I didn't like Red a whole lot. Pigeons weren't high on my list of birds as Pierre hadn't shown me how interesting and personable they can be. Heck, even after Pierre flew in and warmed my heart, I still didn't like Red as he was a dominant bird, a real bully to my Pierre and I often referred to him as "The Ginger Pigeon". It was taken from a South Park episode on ginger kids (red haired children).

Red was not coming to my hand in those days, he was a just strutting cock around the yard, and occasionally showing his dominance over my younger Pierre. I get it, that's what animals do, and even some humans too. But I didn't like any bird biting and wing smacking my buddy. I found myself on occasion intervening with this all, stomping my foot and giving Red a scare, having him back off and giving Pierre some space.

I never hated Red, or any of them, but I sure had a disliking to his behaviour some days.

This went on for well over the first year with Pierre.

And then late in the summer of 2013, I started to see Red coming in closer to me with my now two hand feeders being Pierre and little Jesse. He observed from a few feet away for many weeks. Pierre and Jesse got the good stuff (sunflower chips, shelled peanuts), while the ground feeders were left with cracked corn, millet and occasional peanut bit. My buds also got my protection, feeding mostly in peace, rarely having to fight for food.

So, finally, one Autumn morning Red came to my hand. I don't quite remember if Pierre was there at the moment or not. I do know that over the time spent with him visiting, there were mornings I did some great stretches out there on the deck with Pierre and Red, keeping the distance between them as far as possible to eliminate the squabbling. Sometimes all it took was having them not in view of each other and not having to stretch out like I did. See, even I learned something with these birds. I only wish I had photos of these moments as I'm sure we all looked pretty comical, or at least I did. LoL!

Red quickly became one of the special birds from the flock as he bonded with me, and even Angie over time. I spend more time with the birds because of the hours I work. All through the winter, as Angie gets home, these birds have gone off back to their roosts.

And through the brutal winter we experienced in 2013/14, I was happy to see my pals coming in for a feed, no matter how cold it was, and whatever snow/ice and rain fell on us. I gladly put my coat on and joined them every morning.

Red figured out the spot to wait every morning, right outside the back door. I can't say Pierre liked this a whole lot.

And as winter was coming to an end, we took notice to Red having a companion. It was cool to see the birds pair up and look after each other like couples should do. My arm was a wonderful morning perch on those cold sunny mornings. A handful of grub and a safe spot to sit and soak in the rays for a while, as long as I had the time and my arm could stand being extended out for them.

Red became more tolerant of the other birds, not being the dominant force he once was in his youth. It's a zen moment hand feeding my buds and they aren't fighting.

And here's a rare moment with Red and Pierre getting along, hanging out with me while I watched the birds one afternoon. I love this shot because it's the only one I have of my two favorite birds together (wish I was in it) but the moment is in my memory.

Red and I back in May when I was on vacation, sporting the vacation beard.

I remember back in early May, when I was certain we were done with winter and snow, that I finally went and got the snow tires taken off the truck. The garage I use is less than 2 kms away. As I'm waiting, who do I see outside in the Husky service station lot next door, but Red. One can't miss him with his plumage and another physical trait I will make mention of very soon. He was strutting his stuff with some others, and they would fly back and forth from the gas station to the Walmart right across St. Clair Avenue. I thought it was pretty cool to see one of my buds, recognizing them like this, away from the house. Can you spot Red in this mobile photo?

Red had a foot condition which we thought was bumble foot. It looked like a clubbed foot. I never gave much attention to it as it seemed like it was there for almost as long as I'd been feeding him. But he got around with whatever was going on and I chalked it up to life in the city for a Pigeon. It wasn't until one day when I shared a photo of him on a Pigeon Facebook group that someone pointed out it may not be bumble foot but something wrapped around his foot. It was thin black string or rope of some kind. Maybe Pigeon netting people use on balconies to keep the birds away? From further inspections, I could see he had lost a couple toes. The left foot was pretty bad with the material and he did have a little bit on his right. If only he could talk and tell the tale of what happened.

It was discussed on perhaps trying to help him and the argument continued on for days by myself, back and forth in my head. His condition is older, he's getting around with it, and he's not a young bird. I knew he was around for at least 3 years already and who knows how old he really is? What I'm saying is, I always have the fear of catching wildlife and turning them in, as my record with rescues isn't great... 5 of 6 never came out from their rescue. Its nice to know the creatures aren't suffering anymore, but it's never the best feeling to learn the outcome was "humanely put down". Really, from what I could see, Red wasn't suffering. He got around like the others, he ate, he bathed, flew like a champ and in my eyes was a survivor; especially making it through the hellish winter we just had. He evaded all the Coopers and Red-tailed Hawk attacks for another season. So, to me, I thought it was best to just leave him be and let him continue on with his life journey. Of course if I thought he was suffering, showed obvious signs of not being able to care for himself anymore, I would take action. There was a moment through this where I thought I would try and catch him, but the feeble attempt went unsuccessfully and I made the decision then to not do anything like that again unless I had to.

Angie and I just enjoyed our time with Red and kept an eye on him.

It was early June that we last saw him. I see in my photos, this is the last shot I have of him, and this was taken the morning of June 3rd.

Through the month of June I get pretty busy with Peregrine Falcon fledge watches, first at Islington and Bloor, then I help out at William Osler in Rexdale. The watches did go right up into July once again. I was giving my Pigeon buddies as much attention as I could in between work and the Falcon watches. Pierre often showed signs of his disliking to my absence with loud vocals at first sight of me in a week. If I knew Pigeon talk, I am sure his words were "Where the hell have you been? But I am really happy to see you!"

After the watches, it's nice to spend the rest of the summer at home, enjoying our birds. Unfortunately, so far, Red has not been a part of this. One week from now it will be 3 months since we last mingled.

Who knows what's happened? And with these wild birds, I probably will never know. The day will come when Pierre won't be outside our backdoor, and I'm hoping that's not for a long time yet.

It was nice to get to know Red in those last 8 or 9 months. He was a high light to many of my mornings before work. I do hope he's well and just off elsewhere. A friend of mine who keeps homing Pigeons gave me this bit of hope as one of his birds left him for over 6 months before coming back. But if not, he will be remembered as one of the stand out creatures to visit our backyard. Thanks for the memories buddy...

August 20, 2014

Raccoons in Toronto

I've found it upsetting with the recent news posts about Rob Ford and his rants about Raccoons in Toronto. How is this a top story, and for 2 days in a row? I've yet to skim the news today and see if Rob Ford saw yet another Raccoon last night in his wanderings about his property. Here are some links to 680 news on this... Monday and Tuesday

I will not make this a personal attack on the man but seriously, take into consideration where he and his family live, backing onto park space, the Humber River flows a stone's throw beyond that, and they are within a very short walk to James Gardens and Lambton Woods (two parks I hold dear to my heart through the winter months). Rob Ford is almost our neighbour, I can be at his house within a 3 minute drive. If he and his family have such a huge fear of Raccoons, perhaps they should move?

He states there is a huge increase in Raccoon populations here in Toronto but doesn't have much in way of facts to back that up. Perhaps he watched "Raccoon Nation" which says Toronto has the highest Raccoon population in North America. I will have to ask him the next time I run into him at our local Tim Hortons.

If you open the Tuesday link above, you will see the city does not track wildlife, and there is no way to tell how well any species is doing. Nathalie from Toronto Wildlife offered a different opinion on the status of Raccoon in our city. But really, nobody knows for certain.

And with all wildlife, there are good breeding years and there are bad breeding years. This summer we have two families scurrying around at night, a mom and 4 kids, and another mom with 3 kids. For where we live, I think this is about average. Of course there are some straggling lone Raccoons which I suspect are the males who have nothing to do with the family order after mating.

Raccoons are clever creatures and have adapted well to living amongst us here in Toronto. Our green bins are a buffet to them. It blows my mind how many people put their bins out on Tuesday night (Wednesday is pick up day) and are enraged that some creature came along, dumped their bin in the middle of the night and helped themselves to the mass of food waste within. The nerve of those things!

We never put ours out before the morning of pick up. We don't have a garage or any inside place to store it, so the bin sits out on our front porch. We use an old car battery on top and see the signs of them coming around, trying to get in, the bag ends sticking out are shredded but the bin is never spilled. Is this a mind set of humans, a habit that goes back generations, and they just cannot change it? Our fathers and grandfathers put the garbage out the night before, it's even in the cartoons we watched as kids. Heaven forbid having to get the bin out to the curb at 7am when one doesn't normally wake up till 8. I guess we are fortunate that the truck doesn't hit our street until well into the afternoon.

With all the Raccoons I see around our neighbourhood, they all have different personalities. Some are bold, some are skittish and some go either way depending on my approach. I've never EVER in all my life have come across an aggressive Raccoon. I guess the worst one was an injured one I trapped late one night last December, see the story here. That poor guy had every right to be pissed off at me. The family with the four kids, have two of each of these very different personalities. Two high tail it quick upon first sight of us, and the other two are very curious (I don't call them bold as they are just young).

It is my belief that when you show respect, respect will come back to you, even with the wild ones. Don't fuck with them and they won't fuck with you. If you yell and try to hit them with a broom or some other object, of course you will see a side of them that Rob Ford's nightmares are made of.

We live in our homes, but the outdoors is theirs. They use our walks, our gardens, our driveways in their evening searches for food and water. They sleep in our trees. Once again, if this kind of stuff bothers a person, then maybe they should move into an apartment building. It's unfair to label them as threats when they are on our properties and taking advantage of what we provide for them, like it or not.

A few of our neighbours grow grapes every summer. The Raccoons love grapes and know exactly when those things are ready to eat. It pisses these people off that they come in the middle of the night, pick away at their bounty of fruit, eating only the insides of the grapes and leaving the skins. The one guy gave up after a few years and tore out all his grape vines. The other guy would sit up most of the night, sometimes till 4 or 5am, waiting for the Raccoons to come, and he'd have a stick or a broom. But the Raccoon is the smarter beast, watching in the darkness, waiting patiently, because it knew the man was not a creature of the night, and eventually he would tire and go to sleep. It was always the case, the guy would eventually shut out the back light, go inside, to bed. A few hours later he would come outside to the mess and be enraged at the masked bandits. Both these men are dead now. The wife of the later still lives in that house and still grows grapes. She carries the tradition of trying to fight these monsters and shares the hatred of them only because they eat her grapes. There are days where I am not proud to say "I'm human, just like them".

I love the creatures as I do all wildlife. But that doesn't mean I biased in my blog here. People just need to be smart about things. Protect your green bins, as I said, it's a buffet to them. Inspect your homes periodically for wear and tear which something like a Raccoon, Squirrel, Opossum, etc may see as potential shelter and a place to raise a family. One cannot get upset if they grow fruits and vegetables, which may be natural food sources to the wildlife around, and the stuff gets eaten.

We have bird feeders and some come out to clean up under the feeders at night. They also love the bird baths and basins during the dog days of summer. Water is harder for creatures to find than food. We enjoy seeing them play in the baths, if we are lucky enough to spot them at dusk or dawn.

This young one took a cedar chip from my garden. Oh my goodness, the horror! Bad Raccoon! LoL!

Some say Raccoons are changing and not becoming true nocturnal creatures. I disagree. In my experiences, for the most part they are still creatures of the night. I do find for a short spell in the summer when I will see families out and about, mom and the kids. I'm guessing this is in the days after all the kids finally leave the "den" (where they were born), mom isn't nursing them as much, and they are trying to find food to feed a family of 4 or 5 now instead of just mom. But as I said, this is just my guess. It's what I see around here for not much more than a couple weeks, families out before sun set, or still up after sun rise. A few of these shared photos of mine are from the longest days of the year, where I was fortunate enough to see these creatures around 6am. I had the ISO cranked on my camera to get the shots, which may seem like mid-day.

We seem to have an exception to this in a small lone Raccoon we named "Annie". She seems to come out a little earlier than the others, or is up after the others have turned in for the day. She's only been around for a few weeks and we can only guess that maybe she's an orphan? She can't tell us so we can only assume. She gets out looking for food and water before the others get to it first. Or she's still out looking for it after they've gone to bed. Her size is comparable to the young ones that we see following mom still.

Annie may come off as bold but I think it's more about how hungry she is. There are times when I'm filling the feeders and she's hanging around, waiting to spot stuff being spilled as not every peanut makes it into the ring. And there are times she's running off quick at the slightest movement from us or something else nearby. We don't hand feed her or wave peanuts at her to entice her. But she knows where the food is and at times can be seen in the garden beneath our feeder pole (the feeders are 12 ft or so above ground with a metal umbrella on the pole to keep Squirrels and Raccoons from getting at the feeders). We don't chase her, we don't yell and throw things at her. We just sit back and enjoy the sight of her if she hangs around for a bit. I don't see anything wrong with that.

Here is a video of Annie from last Saturday. I couldn't sleep and decided to fill the bird feeders and baths before Angie got up. It was around 6am. Annie snuck up on the picnic table while I was doing the baths and knocked my seed cup over. I figured "finders keepers" and let her have at it. I had our little Canon Power Shot camera in my pocket and took this short video. The camera has great zoom and I was not in her face. I hate that I feel I should spell everything out here loud and clear. Ugh! Anyways, click here if you would like to see little orphan Annie.

And for the record, we don't see her every day/night. Sometimes 3 or 4 days pass before the next visit during our waking hours. She knows there can be food found here but she is not reliant upon us. As with the other Raccoons, she is smart and an opportunist. She's figured this all out on her own at a very young age and I suspect she will have a good long life for a Raccoon in our area.

So, I ask that those with this fear of these creatures coming around their homes to sit back and think for a moment, maybe they do a better job at critter proofing their homes, maybe they can learn to live with these wild creatures in their areas? The city is full of all kinds of wildlife, it's not just us humans and that's it. I'd like to believe most of us would like to keep it that way too!

August 18, 2014

Budgie Talk

I feel a need to type something out about Budgies today. It seems more and more there are people finding Budgerigar birds coming to their bird feeders or flying around local parks. People want to help but don't know what to do.

I can't offer much in way of suggestion for a bird in a park. Put your hand out and call to it, if it was a hand raised bird, you just might luck out and have it come down to you. If it's sitting low, try and throw a shirt or towel over it, then gently scoop the bird up.

But if it's coming to your backyard and visiting your bird feeders, you should have a better chance at catching it. Well, that is, if you care to catch it. Should you or shouldn't you? I say you should, and just because you have caught it does not mean you have to keep it. I think some people get that bit in their head that they are then stuck with the bird. There are many animal rescues around that may help out, and in some areas there are specific Parakeet or Parrot rescues that may take the bird in. I had one Parrot place offer to take in a little blue Budgie last fall if we didn't find a home for it. Another good place is a site like Kijiji as people post lost pets on there and maybe that Budgie's family posted an ad as they'd like to have it home again?

Any regular readers here know we have two Budgies, and both are backyard rescues.

First is Misfit, who is going on 7 years with us now.

She showed up in our yard all those years ago around late May. She lived outside, visiting our feeders daily until mid-September, when I finally caught her and brought her inside.

Misfit certainly was a survivor for all those months out back. Sure the weather was warm but we had some wicked thunderstorms that summer. Angie and I would sit out on the deck on weekends come first light, and wait to hear her. She slept in a neighbour's huge tree a few doors over. She seemed to wake up later than the other birds. But weather wasn't her only threat, there were the Blue Jays. The Jays knew she was foreign, something that should not be here with us, and they would chase and scream at her often. So many times we would see Misfit fleeing from one of the Jays, flying for her life. One would think with such aggression from other larger birds that would kill her if they caught her, that Misfit would give up and move on to another area for food. But not Misfit, she hung around. She learned her pecking order with the wild birds. If the Jays came in, Misfit left. But them little House Sparrows who can be terribly aggressive... Misfit just knocked the hell out of them and kicked them off the feeders.

Long story short about her capture. A friend of ours gave us a bird cage and we left it outside for most of the summer on the picnic table near the feeder area. We figured Misfit came from a bird cage and would hopefully recognize one and remember there is food in it. If nothing else, it would be a safe place to go and feed when the Jays and Blackbirds came around. It didn't take very long for Misfit to figure it out. The funny thing is the Blackbirds and Chickadees caught on, and many times throughout the day we could see these birds in the cage at the seed dishes and the millet sticks.

So, come September, the thought of bringing her in as the weather turned cooler was becoming more apparent. And finally one day, while she was in the cage, I snuck up to the cage and shut the door on her. I had to be sneaky in my approach. Our lot is 25 ft wide and the cage was on the left side. So I walked in the direction of the cage but made my way towards the right side of our property. Misfit kept eating but would always be on watch. My approach was not aggressive so far, and she was used to me being around by now and didn't feel I was that much of a threat. I could never get real close to her but close enough as now. And in the next moment that she put her head down to take some seed, I rushed over and shut the door on her. Of course this totally freaked her out. She was terrified and in a rage. It took months to calm her down. A lot of understanding and patience was involved over the next while. We didn't force anything on her, just let her get her bearings of being in this house, gave her space, and showed her respect (didn't try to handle her at all).

Now after all these years, she is a very sweet bird. While we still don't handle her, there is a unique bond between us and one helluva story which I left out a lot of bits. I guess the most memorable and touching is when she got sick due to a mishap during her egg laying days and one broke on it's way out of her. You can read it all here, it is still my 5th highest read blog of all time.

Next up is Moonie who just celebrated his third year anniversary with us yesterday. His story is quite simple, which suits him just fine as he is a very different bird than Misfit. He is simple to say the least. Not stupid, just a lot less care for anything, a very go with the flow little bird. I always say he's not worldly like Misfit and it shows. He flew in one day and within 20 minutes he was in the house with us. See even his capture was real simple. Angie does a great re-telling of him and that day here. I have my bit as well, see here.

I don't think I can ever be brief on anything in my blogs especially if its something I have passion about and there are stories to share.

So, three different Budgies mentioned above and three different ways of catching them if you opened the links.

A cage is great but not everyone has a bird cage kicking around. Most of us do know someone with one sitting around, just start asking around. If it's summer, the bird is visiting the feeders, then I suggest trying this. Have the cage up off the ground, near the feeders and see what happens. With it being summer, time is on your side (and the bird's).

If you can get really close to the bird, the shirt or towel toss is great. It's heavy enough to bring the bird down but not enough to hurt it. Just be sure when you are gathering it up to be careful, be gentle, as you don't want to harm the struggling bird's wings. Also be sure you have a place to put the bird after catching it.

Take time out to monitor and think about the situation before making that attempt to catch the bird.

I've heard a few times people say something along the lines of it being cruel to take a Budgie out of the wild, and putting it in captivity. I get it, the free bird bit. But a Budgie in Canada is not a wild bird. They do not live and breed here. A captive raised bird somehow gets loose in the wild and suddenly must figure out how to fend for itself; it is scared and will be hungry in no time at all. Not all of them are lucky enough to find food fast. And not every bird feeder out there has suitable food for a Budgie. This lost bird has little knowledge or experience of the outdoors and can be easy pickings to a predator. And if somehow, it manages to find a food source, and survives all the dangers through the warmer months of the year, the weather eventually will catch up to the bird. A Budgie will eventually freeze to death with our winters. So you tell me what is a more cruel fate?

Someone even once said that "cruel to catch them" bit who kept other exotic birds. Hashtag #WTF?!?!

I had Budgies as a kid and then a few decades without. I forgot how social of a creature they are and require lots of stimulation. Both our birds have some favorite toys which they play with for hours on end. We don't keep ours together for more than a few hours a day, but even being next to each other, they have each other. We give them the chance to fly, if they chose to. Misfit still likes to go for flies, and Moonie we have to entice to stretch his wings. We take them out in the yard with us on the warmer days of summer. They love the heat. We keep them out of full sun though. And they love being out back with the tweeting Sparrows. An open window on cooler days have them singing away with the birds outside. When outside with us, we never leave them unsupervised as anything can happen in an instant. A friend of mine lost his two birds to a cat coming in the yard and knocking the cage over while he went to the garage for something. He tried to get the birds back over the next 3 days as they were hanging out in a nearby park. Unfortunately some Crows took notice to the birds on that last day and chased them out of the area; just like the Jays, knew the Budgies did not belong here.

Okay, hope this will help someone out there in the future. Best scenario would be no lost or escaped Budgies flying around Toronto but we know that will never happen. It would be great if they weren't $15 pets. Easily disposable when they become a nuisance to someone. And remember, they do NOT make great gifts! I am saddened at the Christmas season when I see pet stores advertising Budgies as Christmas gifts. Hell, even Big Al's aquarium place was advertising them one year! They had a photo of a Budgie with a Santa hat on. And Big Al's is a fish place. Why the frig did they go to selling Budgies for Christmas?

Taking a Budgie into your home, it is not just a pet, but a family member. The bird will see you as part of it's flock. Be appreciative of that... we are. We love our little feathered kids!

Here is one other link that someone with a Budgie or two, or temporarily helping one out, may find useful. It's a Budgie forum full of Budgie lovers. Check it out here. I am a member but don't get on there much myself.

August 15, 2014

Meadow Update

Hello! Sorry for my absence but with all that has happened with Meadow, I'm sure anyone popping in surely understands.

I miss blogging but a bigger part of me right now just doesn't have it in me for "writing" something out as much as there are stories to share. I guess it's exhaustion. I do find blogging a good way to vent at times, and I love telling stories... but right now, just haven't got it. Sorry.

But for a quick update, her condition has improved greatly. What has only been a couple weeks sure feels much longer. There were little signs of the Meadow we know and love coming back every day. Some days I really had to watch her to see them, but they were there.

She went for a check-up 2 weeks after this all happened, and we had some blood work done. The vet was thrilled to see how good she looked. And she gained a pound back (lost nearly 3 through this which is huge for a cat... which equals roughly 25% of her body weight). Not good at math? A 200 lb person losing 50 lbs in 3 weeks. Now that's crazy, eh?

They checked her pancreas numbers. A good number for a cat is 0 - 3.5 When Meadow was sick, her number was 25.3 approx. Her re-check, the number is 3.6! Woo hoo! I remember the vet said, even if her number was still 25, he wouldn't be concerned, as it can take a year for that number to come down. He just didn't want to see it rise. Way to go Meadow's insides on turning this around!

As of today, she's pretty much her old self again. I know she's a little shy or leery of my approaches to her after everything I've had to do to her for 2 weeks. But it was all for her own good. Once she realizes I'm not coming to mess with her, she calms down, and the purr motor starts up. She's not avoiding us like she did through this all.

It's been grueling to say the least, and I am completely burned out. Of course I am taking joy in her recovery but I think it's going to take a little while to come around to my old self as well. We had some other challenges through this ordeal which included her eating habits. What a mess! She got turned on to Fancy Feast through her sickness. I swear they put crack in that stuff because it seems to be the one food that can get any cat, as sick as they can be, to eat. Fancy Feast is junk! It has approx 2% protein content to a can. A healthy does is up around 5 times that amount. Her previous food was 7%. It doesn't sound like a big difference but it is and it will make a difference in your cat's health as they get older. You can get 2% protein in a serving of Lay's potato chips; does that paint a clearer picture?

But with lots of work and experimentation with other foods researched and recommended, we seem to have a new one which she is taking a liking to... Wellness "grain free" Core Salmon, Whitefish and Herring blend. Of course with good food, comes a heavier price tag; but she's worth it.

So, please bear with me here.  I will get back into things soon.  For now, I really want to enjoy some time with my kitty.