Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

September 29, 2014

Volunteer Emergency Driving for Wildlife

I recently signed on as a volunteer emergency driver with the Toronto Wildlife Centre. And last Wednesday (Sept 24) I had an interview with Nick Morley of TWC. Basically the interview is for them to get to know who is interested, kinda see what they are about, go over some general questions and even discuss a few scenarios when it comes to picking up an injured animal from someone's home. It's all common sense really but some people sure do lack that at times.

Anyways, interview went great, mine went almost an hour as we chatted about lots of stuff and exchanged stories, even learning we both have Tarantulas which was pretty cool. Not many people have such creatures in their home.

With volunteer driving, when an animal is in need and TWC needs a driver, an email is first sent out to everyone on the list. It's a quick way to get in touch with a mass of people instead of the calling one by one.

Saturday the 27th, I got that first email. They were seeking a driver to go out to Mississauga Animal Control and pick up an injured Coopers Hawk to bring back to TWC.

A Coopers Hawk in our back yard on September 7th.

I responded first. And then had to wait for them to speak with MAC at opening time. No problem. Angie threw a quick breakfast together in the meantime.

TWC call me back and it's all good to go but they asked if I could help out an injured Opossum near our home first. He most likely was hit by a car and an elderly lady saw him laying on the side of the road. She had no idea what he was but knew he needed help. A big shout out to 81 year old Marion who stepped in to help this guy by making the call to TWC and partially containing him with a lidless box over him and a brick on top.

An Opossum we went to see the release of back into the wild, thanks to the help of Hobbitstee.

The location of the Opossum was very near our house, and the thought of him being in pain, under a box on the sidewalk, was all just too much to bear and away I went.

There's not a lot to the "rescue" since he was mostly contained but it's still an adventure talking to strangers, people watching from the street, and seeing this box with an injured animal inside and not really knowing what to expect. How injured is the animal? How big is he? Will he fight? He cannot be transported with the box since there is no lid. I brought a carrier along with me that our friends Dave and Andi gave us for our Falcon watches. The fun would be to get the Opossum into the carrier. But as soon as I lifted the box, my heart melted at the sight of the tiniest 'possum I've ever seen in the wild. Obviously a little guy just born this year. He gave me no trouble, pretty much played Possum, and I put a towel over him with some heavy gloves I have, and gently put him in the carrier. I'm hoping his lack of fight was because of his lack in size and not that he was so far gone. In a few days I will hopefully have an update on him.

Marion was a nice and kinda comical elderly woman. She asked me about the Opossum. She thought he was a giant rat species of some sort and surprised to learn he was from the marsupial family. I commend her on wanting to help an injured animal she knew nothing about, and perhaps found a little intimidating with his razor sharp teeth and long rat like tail. She made a comment about my hair, but in a positive way, saying I had really cool hair. LoL! Her husband stayed behind the scenes, watching from a far.

I thanked Marion for what she did, saying the animals need a lot more people like her in this city.

From there I went to pick up the Coopers Hawk. I had the radio off in order to keep things as quiet as possible for my sick passenger. I turned the A/C on since the day was heating up fast.

I picked up the Hawk, had to sign a few forms, and cover his carrier before taking him outside to the truck (this was in hopes to keep him calm and not struggle in his cage). I'm unsure of his injuries or what really happened to him. Both he and the Opossum were very quiet and still through the ride back to Toronto Wildlife.

I took one photo with my Blackberry and this is it here...

Coopers Hawk on the left, Opossum on the right, in the back of the GMC.

It is frowned upon to add further stress to the animals with photo ops. And really, other than for documentation purposes if need be, who would want to have pictures of an animal that is really sick and could be dead before the end of the day? What kind of memory is that? Most of us who take photos do it for the joy and hold fond memories to our photos.

It was an exciting "maiden voyage" that morning. I only wish Angie was able to be a part of it. But with us having lots of other plans on the go, she stayed home and kept us on track with other things. And she was happy I was able to help this time because Lord knows how many times I've had to turn down helping the Owl Foundation over the last 3 years. With emergency volunteer driving, there really isn't a lot of warning time, most often it's ASAP. We do what we can, when our schedules allow. Especially at my job, there isn't leeway on start times, coming in late, and anything else not to their liking goes on file. I feel guilt when I cannot help an animal and I feel very proud when I can. Whether I've played a part in saving the animal's life or just helped him get to a better place where his suffering ends quick and peaceful.

Prior to these two creatures, I've turned in about half a dozen animals to TWC, and only one made it back to the wild world again. I'm hoping my luck, and the animals', turns around some to a better ratio.

Please wish these two guys all the best at their stay in the hospital and may they see the light of day again.

So many of the animal rehab centres can use more volunteers and donations. Donations don't always have to be $$$ either, they all have wish lists. Come on, check your local centres and see if you can do a little something for them as well. Think of the animals!

I know right now that TWC really needs volunteer drivers from the King City area over to Markham. Please click on the link here and maybe you or a friend could be of some help one day.

September 24, 2014

Holiday Beach

Hey all, I'm on holidays this week and really shouldn't be blogging. I was trying to stay off the computer this week but here I am, quiet night at home after a few days away and thought "why not blog?" It's not a time waster on the internet. And maybe the whiskey is inspiring me too? LoL! I deserve it even if it's not "Whiskey Wednesday"! Hoo boy, I'm off to a ramble already...

Okay, so this week off I wanted to do at least one thing different. And I did it! Something unlike me as I prefer the norm and comforts of home and nearby but I guess the birds and wildlife can make me a braver sort. I pondered sometime ago to visit Holiday Beach out in Amherstburg, Ontario (near Windsor). I follow them on Facebook and enjoy their posts of Fall migration from Hawk Tower. I've heard tales from friends about this marvelous spot and everyone paints a fantastic picture of raptor migration with their stories.

So early Monday morning I departed to the area. I hadn't much of a plan other than spending the day, finding my way to Leamington by evening, hopefully finding a hotel room in town, spend the night and then hit Pelee National Park the next day. It was an exciting journey into the unknown, traveling way across the 401 into new areas. I wanted to leave by 4:30am but found myself just crawling out of bed by then. I had packed the day before so there wasn't much to get ready other than a coffee, some cereal, and clean myself up quick. I was on the road by 5:15am.

I was stunned how busy the 401 was already. It's scary how many cars were out there and people were in such a rush to go ??? Work I imagine. It was disturbing to think how many people probably just jumped out of bed, barely woke themselves up, and got in the car and went. Some real aggressive drivers, not that is any different from any other time on the 401. People racing to Assholeville to be amongst their people.

Anyway, I was glad once I was out of the city limits and traffic eased off.

The approx. 4 hour drive went by pretty quick as I cruised to the sounds of Arch Enemy and Teenage Head. I guess it's not real cruising music to some, and there are some tunes that do make me want to put the pedal right down but I won't; I need my licence.

As I passed through Tillbury, I saw the signs for Pelee. Part of me just wanted to turn off there and go to what was familiar to me and enjoy that. But the adventurous side pushed me onwards. I had jotted down the MapQuest directions on a piece of paper but as I got closer to Windsor, it suddenly wasn't making much sense. My GPS that a friend gave me did not recognize Holiday Beach Conservation Area nor the address I entered. I did not see the turn off I was looking for according to my notes, and one exit before the border, I took it. Oddly enough, it brought me to the street I wanted. From there, the directions were still incorrect to some degree. I had a road map in the truck as well but for the time being I just used good old common sense and was happy I knew which way south was, to Lake Erie. I headed that way and figured in due time I would run out of road and then make the important decision of going right or left on that last road and not straight into the lake. ;)

Even at the last road, nothing signed anywhere for Holiday Beach. I sat for a moment, no traffic to get upset with my delay here and I played "eenie meenie minny mo" on which way to go. Ha ha! Joking! I opted for right for some reason and within a minute or two of driving I saw a sign for the park. Woo hoo!

I dunno if it was the shortage of sleep, the road fatigue or ??? but I kept running into sort of road blocks, not real ones, just these moments where I suddenly wasn't sure what to do, and just like those kids' adventure books called "Choose Your Own Adventure" I was playing just that with my adventure so far. And each choice was a good one, which eventually brought me to my destination.

Even in the park, skipping my little gate entry fiasco with an automated pay to park machine, I found some roads blocked due to landscaping crews. I ended up driving through a playground to another road that eventually led me to the parking area I needed to be at. From the parking area, I still could not see Hawk Tower with all the trees. I did not spot the tower until a corner around one path and there it was almost in front of me. Talk about building the suspense!

I was in awe at the tower, how high it was. I don't know why. I mean, it's called "Hawk Tower" so of course it's going to be tower like. I viewed the grounds momentarily as I thought about the tower and the people high up there. It seemed like a long walk up, which was a lot of time for me to think about stuff, maybe build my nerves up or knock them down. I am not exactly the most out going social person, especially to just walk up to a group of strangers and start chatting but that is what I did.

I took those 3 flight of stairs up, reached the top, kinda looked around for a minute or two, and then just walked up to somebody and introduced myself. I said who I was, where I was from, why I was here (as I heard so much about the place). Lucky for me everyone was quite receptive and nice. I have been to other places where the reception was cold if anything at all.

I had heard a lot about this place over the years. Some fantastic bird stories and some bits about the people. Mostly good. Some did make it sound like a super serious place where you watch/observe, you don't speak and maybe you will be welcomed back for another visit. Shit like that can be a little intimidating. But it was nothing like that. A reminder that one should never pass judgement through others opinions... go find out for yourself.

So, from the get-go, it was an enjoyable experience. I didn't bother the watchers too much, just watched them point out the birds, take in their ID's, occasionally ask how they knew it was what bird when they were so high up and listen to what they had to say. Over time more people climbed the tower, some regulars, some newbies like myself, but everyone had a great time.  We all conversed here and there, mostly bird talk, sharing our sightings and tales from elsewhere.  It was cool to learn one of the guys, Scott, took part in the Peregrine Falcon fledge watch at the Ambassador Bridge.  So basically we got to talk shop about the joys and woes of chasing Falcon chicks around.

Here are a few photos before I continue from story...

First bird of prey for me to see was this adult Bald Eagle. Wicked! A resident bird to the area but I was a-okay with that.

Sharp-shinned Hawks were in high numbers that day.

I saw a number of Coopers Hawk, Red-tails, Turkey Vultures, some straggling Broad-wings (high up but a new species for me) and American Kestrels throughout the day as well.  The Kestrel species has been declining the last number of years but I found it hard to believe as the flew by semi-regularly.

Heck, they even netted one in the afternoon.

I believe they said she was a second year female.  Shitty thing was they were doing the adopt a raptor program, something I knew of, but thought it was only on weekends (not that is shitty) but I couldn't find a freakin' bank machine to pull some cash out on my way down to Holiday Beach from the 401.  I should have taken the extra 2 minutes out when gassing up at the local ESSO to do it (they have RBC machines on site).  So I missed the op to adopt this bird, have my photo taken with her and then get to release her from the tower.  Damn!  They also netted a couple Sharp-shinned Hawks which I missed seeing as I went for lunch.


What I didn't realize is that they count other birds and creatures there too, not just raptors.  The Monarchs kept them busy and so did the Blue Jays.  That day alone there was over 2,500 that passed over us!  Holy cow!  I never thought Blue Jays migrated as we have them visiting our feeder all year round.

So cool to see them right over our heads...

It was a steady stream of them throughout the day...

Look out, they're coming right for us!

Over 50 Jays in this shot, and one Duck!

Other birds I saw were Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons galore!  Apparently I had just missed the rare visiting Snowy Egret that had been seen over the last couple weeks.  Lots of Mallard Ducks in the marsh too.  A Belted Kingfisher put on a good flight show for us a few times.  Cat Birds called constantly.  Lots of American Goldfinch flocks flew overhead.  Northern Cardinals popped in and out of the foliage below.  A few Yellow-rumped Warblers bounced around in a Willow Tree.  And small flocks of Cedar Waxwings perched in nearby trees giving us great views as well.  The raptors continued as well of course, mostly Sharpies.

Cedar Waxwing

Great Egret out in the marsh with some Mallard Ducks

A Yellow-rumped Warbler if I am not mistaken

A couple Sharp-shins putting on a show

A Great Blue Heron

Around 1pm I decided to go for lunch.  I asked about any nearby trails that I could check out during my time out as I wanted to see more of the area.  A few were pointed out to me and only one stood out, a walk around part of the marsh.  I got better views of the Gulls and Herons, lots of Frogs or Toads hopping around and I chanced upon this Muskrat.  He was quite close to me and not overly concerned either; so I had my sandwich right there, watching him do his thing which included some snacking as well.

My view of the tower from the marsh trail.

Nuclear power plant across the lake.

I guess the funniest part to my visit was with my return to the tower after lunch.  People came and went; and at one point this woman shows up, talks with those she knew momentarily and then took notice to me.  Her expression was like she knew me but I had no clue who she was.  She asked me if Angie was with me, or maybe it was "is your wife with you?"  I'm even more dumbfounded by this person now.  Who the heck is she?  Soon after she explained she recognized me by Angie's latest blog, which was about our weekend of camping on my birthday weekend.  It turns out she is a regular reader of Angie's.  Holy small world or what, eh?  She introduced herself as Karen and quickly I texted Angie.  Turns out Angie is a regular reader of hers.  LOL!  She thought this was hilarious.

So, over the next couple hours, in between birds flying over, Karen and I chatted quite a bit.  It seems we have a lot in common, meaning how Angie and I feel about various animal/wildlife related subjects and Karen is on the exact same page.  I was like "Damn, if you didn't live 4 hours away, I could see you becoming part of our flock of bird buds!"

Another individual came up to the tower that I recognized as one of our first bird guides to the Pelee area a few Springs ago.  Of course he didn't recognize me as he probably gives guided walks to hundreds of people each year.  His name was Todd.

It was near 4pm and I had to pull myself away from the fun.  I knew I had a good 45 minute drive or more to Leamington, and still had to find a place to stay for the night.  I remembered where the hotels were but had no clue who had vacancy or not.

I thanked Jenna for being such a kind host.  I guess she was the main counter (watcher?).  Said my goodbyes to Karen.  And away I went.

Oh, there was some discussion prior about looking for the pair of Eurasian-collared Doves being seen in Leamington.  Karen gave me hopes of an easy find with these birds.  I did my best to not believe her, in order to NOT get my hopes up and be disappointed if I didn't spot them.  I'd never seen such species, or think I haven't.  There was some discrepancy with that mystery Dove we had back in July.  Some say Eurasian, some say African which is a domestic breed often called a Turtle Dove or Ring Necked.  I lean more towards the domestic according to most guides but some still argue and say its the Eurasian.  But no matter, I saw the birds for sure with this pair. 

It's another funny story as I was slowly driving along Seacliff where the birds were being seen.  I happened to notice someone else driving quite slowly, stopping at various flocks of Doves on the wires.  I finally pulled up next to the person and asked them if they were looking for those birds.  The woman said "yes".  From there, we ended up looking for them together.  I never did get her name but she's from the Toronto area as well.  Between my spotting, going by something Karen told me about their aggression to other Doves, and this lady's scope...  we got the birds.  We were both quite thrilled about this!  The birds were off some ways across the field but the scope gave us excellent views.  Here is my blog link to our backyard Dove story from July.

After I got my hotel room, and something to eat...  I went back to the school area and saw the Doves a little closer this time with the last bit of daylight.

It was a perfect ending to day 1 of my little solo getaway!

Thanks to everyone who made it so great...  Jenna, Scott, Dan, Gary, Karen, Todd and others who I did not get the names of.

Last bit... Angie just shared Karen's latest blog and I get honorable mention! Check her blog out here.

September 12, 2014


This morning I got up to a very vocal and welcoming Pierre outside the kitchen window. He was sitting on the picnic table looking up to the house. The shot below is another morning with him and his new lady friend he's been courting much of the summer... but the same spot, just him today, looking and waiting.

At first sight of me, he will fly up to the house, either right outside the window on a branch or at the clothes line pole outside the back door. Today it was the pole.

I open the door to greet him and he was incredibly vocal with me. I usually don't get much vocalization from him until we've not crossed paths for many days which does happen on occasion. I figure it's a mix of giving me heck for not being around to feed him and some rejoicing to our reunion. But whatever it is, when he starts up, he really goes on for a bit, throat all puffed out, and even does some head bobbing as well.

I've seen him every day this week so what the heck did he have to tell me today?

I told him stuff today too, like I do many days. The usual "how are you buddy?" or "who's my good boy?" which is something I can't say in the house since I am surrounded by females of all sorts of species.

I always ask him to be careful out back, watch out for the Hawks and a couple free roaming cats. Who knows what else I ramble on about. Does anyone chatting to an animal really remember all the mumbo jumbo they spew out?

But today was different from any other day we've had with our encounters in the past two plus years. Pierre fed from my hand and sat with me for a good twenty minutes or more, nothing new. Lately I've been testing our boundaries here and there. He's quite comfortable with me as everyone knows. Today though, there was a new connection, not just his feet on my hand or the odd belly rub I've given him. Today he rubbed his head on my nose, or it was me rubbing my nose on his head. Probably the latter but whatever, it happened, just gentle light rubs. If that isn't a sign of complete trust between man and wild bird, you tell me what is. I don't believe in patting birds as it's not good for their feathers. It's not something I will make a habit of by any means, but for this moment, it was pretty awesome.

Some argue he is not a wild bird and that is nonsense. He may be used to me and whoever else he visits through his day, I'm sure there is someone else out there... but he still remains a wild bird. He comes and goes as he pleases. He lives somewhere down the road with his flock. I know without any doubt he would never be a happy bird if I brought him inside and kept him locked up. As much as I want to protect him and wouldn't object to him living here, out back that is, it is not the way things are meant to be. If something were to ever happen to him, like an injury, and I could help him, I most certainly would. But he would never be my pet. He is my friend, as odd as that may sound to some people, but probably not any of my readers to this blog who share a love for our animal friends. Pierre is one of the few friends I never have a problem with coming to the house unexpectedly. I think all of them have fur or feathers. Surprised?

Sorry, rambling on here. I just wanted to share this moment we had today with you courtesy of my Blackberry.

I tried this with Mickey just now. She wanted no part of us being that close.

Mickey did make an appearance in my ice bucket challenge video which you can see here on my YouTube channel.

September 10, 2014

Meet Hagrid... spider #6!

On August 14th I brought home our newest family member...

Should I apologize to those with a fear of Spiders? Nah!

I should say I am dumbfounded at how many people are completely creeped out by these creatures, big and small, and I am talking about the people... not the spiders. But I guess it's one huge phobia for many.

The reactions I've gotten range from people running away and not wanting to even hear about him, or see his photo, to others asking "why the hell would you want that thing?", "what is wrong with you?", "why don't you put it outside where it belongs?" Only a very few have thought how cool of a creature it is. But when some actually take a moment to hear his story, the cool level rises with the spider and for us taking him in.

I really can't get into the details on his past life. I don't know a whole lot about it anyway. All I know is he has come from a home of neglect. A home he shared with a great many other unique creatures that most people would not want in their homes. So when it was discovered the conditions all these creatures lived in and they were abandoned for a lengthy amount of time... proper authorities stepped in to rescue the animals.

I was contacted by a friend of ours about a week before this spider came to our house. I've had 5 Tarantulas over the years, some were rescues, some were truly terrifying 8 legged beasts that even scared me some but I still took care of them (actually it was only one), and I pride myself on having Maude in my life for over 22 years. That's a long time to care for one spider, don't you think?

So, of course I wanted to jump at the opportunity to bring this poor spider home and give him better life. But being married, and having no other way of putting it... "I gotta ask the wife". Ha ha! Now it wasn't about seeking permission, Angie and I don't live like that. But we have respect for each other, our feelings, and a relationship of open communication. I was going to email or text her right away about this matter since we work opposite hours and don't see each other much of the week, but I didn't. I thought about calling her at the office the next day, but chose not to. I decided to wait until the weekend since it was only a couple days away and bring up the idea of rescuing a tarantula at some point.

The weekend came and I wondered when would be the right time, or best time to do so. First morning coffee on the deck? Sometime in the lazy afternoon in the lawn chairs watching for the Hummingbirds? Over dinner? I wasn't sure how it would go. Angie had shared a few years with Maude here so she has some recollection of having a large spider in the house. She never had to take care of Maude and neither would she for this one. But it's an intimidating creature and I know she does have some uncomfortable thoughts about them escaping, harming Meadow or just disappearing in the house. I totally get that. I'd be freaking if a large spider got loose too.

It was mid-afternoon Saturday, I just looked at her and asked how she would feel about taking in a Tarantula that needed a home. There was a pause and she gave me that look which I can't describe. It was a half smile with a "you shithead" behind it. She wasn't mad, probably more shocked at the suddenness and after a brief discussion on him, where he is, why he needs a home, etc; she asked if she could think about it. Of course I was okay with that as it was better than a "no goddam way in hell is that thing coming in here!"

Long story short, some hours later, after we had friends over and there was some further discussion of this between Angie and her friend Patricia... I got the okay. And Angie thanked me for taking her feelings into consideration and talking about this before just bringing him. I couldn't do that event though I'm sure other people have with other animals elsewhere. Oh there were some conditions like her not having to feed him or clean his tank... no probs there. And lastly, she got to name him. WHAT WHAT WHAT?!?!?! That one scared me. I like dark names for such creatures, something cool, something fitting. Maude was originally spelled MOD as in "Mistress of Death". NO was the "nameless one" because of her sad story. Daisy, oh my god yes, I named a spider "Daisy" only because she was so tiny and so cute, and she moulted the first night with us, like a blooming flower. There was Sid and his name represented some wild and crazy days of my youth. And last was Abigail, much like the King Diamond album about an evil spirit, this Abigail the spider was seemingly pure evil... well, not really, just a really aggressive species someone gave to me for my birthday. I often wondered if that person did not want me to see my next birthday? LoL! So ya, with how Angie has named some frogs of ours over the years like Kermit, Robin, Pickle and Wan-wan... and she blurted out cutey words like Jellybean for this spider, I was scared. But if that was the condition, fine... I just might have to add a middle name to save some grace for him.

Moving forward a number of days, I'm picking up our newest family member and bringing him home on August 14th. It was a Thursday and I was excited, so excited that I almost called in sick, so I could spend the afternoon with him, setting him up in his new house and being there for when Angie got home as I knew she still had some nervous feelings about him being with us.

The foster people warned me this spider was a little on the aggressive side. The guy said he checked on it often and it showed aggression to him by raising it's front legs and displaying it's fangs. Yep, that's the sign to back off or you will get bit.

I found that a little odd because all I read on this species, a Golden Knee, is that they are described as a gentle giant. A docile species and they can get to be quite large at 8 to 10 inches. But with all that this one has been through, I can understand his off mood.

When I got him home, I did a quick clean and set up of his new 10 gallon tank. Our friend Chris donated the tank and stand to us, which I also picked up that day. Once the tank was ready, it was time to transfer him over. The spider was quite stand-offish about this idea of moving once again. I slowly and gently coerced him out of the tiny carrier he came in and he walked out onto the fresh new sandy bottom. He quickly found his water dish which I found interesting, and he had a long drink (suck?) from the soaking Bounty towel in it. He then explored just a little bit, found his new house being a coconut hut and disappeared inside.

Over the next 5 days Angie never saw him. Another oddity really as every other spider I've had did not have this kind of habit of hiding out all day and only coming out at night. But internet research says that all tarantulas are nocturnal and a hidden spider is a happy spider. I must have had a bunch of 8 legged freaks back in the day, not following the rules of the norm of being a tarantula because they were active day or night and seldom hid. I guess all our pets are like that because the vets have said that Misfit (our Budgie) does not follow the rules of being a typical Budgie with some of her quirks.

We started counting the days, wondering how long until Angie would see him. Imagine if it was weeks or even months?!?! Some nights he did not come out until well after midnight.

I guess I should tell you his name, eh. Well, deep breath... Hagrid. Phew! I am good with that one. Much like the character in Harry Potter, he's big and hairy. Works for me. I still struggle with thinking of a middle name, one to follow the dreaded possible "Jellybean" she kept hinting about. Whiskey? I dunno.

What was really funny is that Meadow even met Hagrid before Angie. We have fond memories of the days when Meadow and Maude were together, how Meadow had a love for Maude and a spiritual connection. Another story where I might look up the blog link to that one. So I was wondering how Meadow would take to this one. It went well. Meadow's curiosity got the best of her to start looking in the tank. And when she saw Hagrid walking around, her eyes bugged out, and she started to purr and rub her chin on the corner of the stand. She loves chin rubs but I like to think it's her acknowledging our newest family member and welcoming him.

With my quick set-up on the Thursday, I knew come the weekend I would want to add a few things when I had the time. So we picked up some peat moss to pack in a corner for increased humidity levels for our friend (tarantulas need a higher level of humidity, especially come molt time where they shed their skin). I also got him another water dish and another hiding spot in way of a half log that is hollowed out.

Go figure, the day I want to do the renovations, Hagrid is sitting out, smack dab in the middle of his tank. Now I'm not afraid to put my hand in there and work but with such creatures, you just never know what they are going to do. And how the foster care guy said he's a little aggressive, I figured best to use extra caution and perhaps try to get Hagrid to move to the other side of the tank, as far away from where I want to work as possible. I have the tank lid over the end where I want him to go, so he cannot run up the side and go over the top.

Lucky for me, he is facing the way I want him to go. So I figure getting something to give him a pat on the bum or back legs would work. What do I get? A spatula! Nice long handle, large plastic spatula thingy which isn't sharp or jagged to cut him. Note, this technique has worked with other spiders of mine. They don't like the interaction and just move along, away from the object and some species I even used my fingers.

So I got up behind Hagrid and just as I am about right behind him, like a millimeter away, he does the craziest thing in the blink of an eye! Crazy like what? Well, he does this insane ninja-spider move of jumping up and doing a 180, so he goes from facing away from the spatula to being face to face with it, and from there he strikes and clings to it! A full force attack on the spatula in a heart beat! I could feel the force of him striking it and it surprised me that he wrapped his legs around like he did. HOLY SHIT! Imagine if that was my hand?!?! A bite would hurt like hell and really suck; but jeezus... to hang on?!?!

I'm frozen now, still holding the handle and he's still holding on to the other end. Time went real slow now as I'm wondering what the hell to do? Do I hang on to this handle still and hope he backs off? Do I drop it in the tank and wait for him to let go? What if he starts climbing up towards my hand? What if I have to go to work and Angie comes home to see a spatula in the tank? How do I explain that one?

I recon it was only a minute or so before I made a decision on how to deal with this, but it sure felt a lot longer. I lift the spatula with Hagrid still wrapped around it, and I move towards his coconut hut. I hope when he feels the house on a toe or two, that he will move over to that. Am I thinking like a spider now? Well whatever, it worked. As soon as he connected with the hut, he started to move over to it. Once he was completely off the spatula, I start to pull away and quite happy this was over.

But it wasn't...

As I am pulling away, Hagrid gives chase to the spatula. He's in attack mode, with two legs raised and fangs beared. I lift the spatula out and he lifts to 4 legs up in the air, trying to reach the untensil.

This is him another day, totally unrelated. No way I was even thinking of trying to photograph him through this.

If I didn't need to change my boxers before, I think I did now.

That was just totally insane!

And as quick as this all happened, he just as quick left the scene and went back to his house. This enabled me to do what I had to do in peace. I always kept an eye on the house but with ample space between us and me moving slowly and quietly, he stayed inside.

Now for some, that would be it. Get that monster out of here! But it taught me a lesson, or rather gave me a reminder of how unpredictable these creatures can be. One must give them total respect... and space. It makes me wonder about his former home. Was he driven to such aggression? Or is this all a part of his stress with the transition, and me disturbing him even further, so soon after, was just too much for him?

We've not had another incident, even when I've had to do some minor cleaning here and there.

Hagrid has been with us almost one month now. I've only seen him eat once through this time. It concerns me slightly but I know they can go a very long time without eating. Maude once went 14 months when I cleaned her home. I was freaking and offered her food weekly but she never took to it, well, not until 14 months later.

I've been putting crickets in there and a day or two later, they are still motoring around. I remove them, wait a couple days, and then try again. I moved on to super worms recently and he got one of those the first day. The worm crawled into his hut and was a goner in no time. Problem with super worms is they like to burrow and do just that in his sandy bottom. I can follow their burrow tracks across the top of the sand. This makes things difficult for him to find them, especially once they stop moving. I've found crickets hiding deep in the peat moss. Argh! I do hope all this straightens itself out in due time. A new challenge for me as all my previous spiders sat out in the open and I could easily monitor their eating as they only ate crickets and almost instantly upon me tossing them in. It was so cool to see the cricket wander, the spider sitting still, the cricket passes the spider and in a flash, the spider is on top of the cricket and has it in it's fangs. So fun to watch.

Hagrid likes to put a veil of webbing across the front of his hut as well, making it difficult to see in and what he's up to... if he's eating.

He's done some landscaping behind his hut, making a web tunnel of sorts that he also likes to hide within some days, still tough to see him.

I spend some evenings after the house is dark and still, waiting for him to awaken and rise from his home...

But like I said, it's a challenge, and I'm up for it. I will continue to work with him, care for him and give him a life of peace. I have no desire to handle this spider whatsoever and I am sure he appreciates that very much.

I'm curious who is still with me here after reading this? LoL! Pleasant dreams friends!

Here is a link to one heart warming story about a spider I rescued some years ago. I will post about the others another day, and Meadow's connection with Maude. But this one is a good one. Cheers! Spider #5 blog.

September 3, 2014

Sept. 02, 2014... My Raptor Encounter(s)

Ah, Tuesday September 2nd... the day after Labour Day. I always hated Labour Day as kid.

Phot courtesy of our friends at the Mountsberg Raptor Centre in Campbelville.

The adults loved it because of it being a long weekend, and more so, because the kids went back to school. So, here I am, all adult like now (usually) and was really enjoying a morning walk in a park very near our house without a child to seen, and even better... heard.

I had an errand to run that morning and thought about going for a walk after. With the kids back in school, the parks are more or less mine again in the AM. Plus our yard was eerily quiet and I wanted to see some birds.

I parked the truck in the lot of a park that I will not make mention of publicly as you will soon understand why. And as I got out, my first views showed little activity of any bird life but the lack of people about made me up for the adventure of a hunt.

I scanned the trees and shrubs with my bins. I scanned just above the tall grass. Nothing. Suddenly there was a large dark shadow that passed over me. I look up and at first I thought it was a just a Gull, seeing lots of white at first glance. A big Gull I might add, but just a Gull. Then my birding brain kicked in, it hasn't been used a whole lot this summer, and something told me to look again, and really look this time. It was a little cloudy this morning and nothing really showed on the bird at first, I took notice to it's size, it's shape, saw some darker coloring on it... and then in my head I shouted "Holy s**t! It's an Osprey!"

This was quite exciting for me. I rarely see Osprey. Sure I know where I can see some but I don't travel much like I once did when I had a 4 day work week. The weekends are so short, so precious, and Angie and I really like to enjoy our backyard in the summer months.

What was even more exciting is the fact this bird was circling so close to our home. The park is less than 3 minutes drive. See, I keep a list of birds that visit our backyard but there is also a sub-list of birds seen from the yard. So while watching this Osprey, I was debating racing home to the backyard and spotting him from our property. I knew I would be able to see him from there if he stayed in this area, and with my feet on our property, I could count him. Even from my standing point here in the park, I could tell he was over our house a few times with those circles. But I'm a very honest counter, so I didn't count him. And I decided to push on with a walkabout here as that was my initial intention.

The Osprey's shadow teased me a few more times with the little bit of sun we had. I still argued on racing home and then coming back.

I headed west and slowly the Osprey disappeared south/east, obviously heading to the lake. His appearance was indeed a sign of summer's end and fall migration was happening.

As I tuned out some nearby traffic, I tuned in to an Eastern Wood Peewee calling out. I could not find the bird in the trees, and I paused for a moment to see if I could spot him flying out from a branch, catching an insect and returning to the same branch. It's what they do and I enjoy watching this when I do spot them. But hearing his call was music to my ears. I like their little call. If you don't know what they sound like, please check this link from someone who posted one on YouTube and you will get a nice view of the bird as well.

Some Blue Jays were screaming off in the distance. And every time I hear them go on a rant, I immediately start looking for a predator like a Hawk or an Owl. Of course this isn't always the case, sometimes Jays just like to scream because they have the voice to do so.

It was cool that the birds were starting to present themselves to me.

I walked a little further west and then from the corner of my eye I spotted something quite large roosting high up in a pine tree.

Even such a dark image like this, most people will immediately recognize this as an Owl.

I cranked the ISO and played with some other settings... and here she is...

This is the first wild Great Horned Owl I have seen in 2 years, give or take a week or two. And funny enough, I suspect this is the same bird as the last one I saw 24 months earlier. Hell, she's even in the same tree as memory comes back.

I do know of a couple other Great Horned Owls about the GTA but either I've not been able to find them in my travels or haven't bothered making the trek out to see them.

I saw this Owl 3 or 4 times back in late August/early September of 2012. After all this time had passed, I figured she had moved on. Even when a few weeks back I found some Great Horned Owl feathers in this park, they were a little ways off from here, I kinda passed it all off. So seeing her on this morning was a real treat. The rain was moving in, it was the beginning of a work week and here I am beaming away. Excellent bird sightings and surprise moments ROCK!

I didn't spend much time with her, I make it a rule not to. Just like I prefer not to publicly share Owl locations over the internet as you never know who may find this and come out to harass the Owl. Even celebrity Owl locations as we call them, I still would rather not say. As much as some people like to believe that an Owl sitting there staring at you and not flying away means they like you, that is not the case.

This Owl was really high up in the pine but with the tree on a slope, there is a vantage point at the top of the hill to get a better view of her. And having the 500mm lens sure helps get some decent photos.

While she was very aware of my presence, the distance between us, and the fact I was very quiet and still, had her relax again and start to doze off to sleep. I left her and wandered off in search of other birds. Proof here that there is no need to sit on a roosting Owl for such long periods of time as they aren't going to do anything or would rather not do something for a person's entertainment and photographs.

Over the next half hour or so, I found no other birds in my journey. It was nearing time to start work. So those two factors had me head back to the truck. Of course I have to pass the Owl one more time because it is the way to the parking area. She was awake again and watching some woman nearby with her off leash dog. If the dog was a smaller breed, I wondered if the Owl would make an attempt at it? We were told of such a story a while back where someone lost their prized $2,000 show dog to such an Owl because they let it off leash in the woods. I often use that story on people out and about with their little dogs running rampant in parks. It freaks most out, and some will leash their dogs, others scoff at such a ridiculous story and move along. One would think with the possibility of a Coyote attack on their pup would be enough, but now an Owl too, that they'd leash their dogs.

I tried to take a quick video before I left her and the park. It wasn't easy using the 500mm lens on full zoom and no tripod. It's not a great video but what the heck, here it is. I have a number of nature videos on my YouTube channel now, nothing real exciting, just stuff I've seen. Look me up at lilevl13 (that's lilevl and the number 13).

It was a real zen moment of peace and silence that morning, just me and the Owl. But I would have also really enjoyed sharing this with my wife and a few good friends. Maybe another day?