I had a very busy and kinda exciting Wednesday. It sure started out rough with my dear wife waking me up shortly after 5am to go outside and see the eclipse. I think she sometimes forgets that I don't get to bed until 12am or later, so bouncing out of bed 5 hours later isn't high priority for me (unless it's a Great Gray Owl as Angie tells here).
But I went out and had a look. It was cool to see in it's near quarter stage but they called it a "Blood Moon" and being a bit of a comic geek/horror buff, using such a term paints a very crimson visual in my brain. Alas, no blood colors of any sort. I grumbled "meh" and crawled back to bed. Life is never dull with a silly life loving wife.
I had plans for the morning, and it was an early start as well. See last month Angie and I won a Screech Owl nest box in a raffle draw at the Owl Foundation's annual open house. We already have one in our backyard, been up for just over a year now without much more than a Starling poking it's head inside, but we have hopes that one day something awesome will spend a few days, or even take up residence within. So with this new box, we both agreed to donate it to a place we enjoy, and love the people who run it... the Humber Arboretum. They had a Screech Owl for a couple years and sadly his tree was destroyed with last December's ice storm. No one knows if the Owl was home the moment the tree came crashing down, we sure hope not, but maybe if he's still around, or another comes in, the box will be noticed and given an Owl's approval to move in.
It's so sad that tree is gone, it broke right at the cavity.
I made mention to the gang at the Arboretum a bit ago about this idea and they were ecstatic. I dropped the box off last Friday and the excitement rose at the sight of it. We then went about the grounds and picked what we believe is a very suitable spot, following the directions for best possible results. Then we scheduled in yesterday morning at the time to do it.
My goal was to come about an hour earlier than our scheduled time so I could do some early morning birding. But with the even earlier wake up, and then entertaining my feathered friends at home including a very hungry Pierre... I got to the Arb's visitor centre mere minutes before meet up time. Oh well.
But on my way up to the grounds, I got an email from the Toronto Wildlife Centre. They were seeking someone who would be able to come and pick up 5 migratory song birds who were ready for their second chance at life, and release them down by the lake. At first chance I was able to make the call, seeing the email while sitting at a red light, I pulled off the highway, I called them to say I was willing and able to do the release. I was the first responder and now my morning before work just got even busier!
I met Jimmy Vincent at the visitor centre and away we went. He gathered a few needed things for the box, tools, and some various bedding material he had collected going by the instructions. The placement wasn't as easy as we thought, being up on the side of a hill. But with care and caution, plus a little bit of determination that this is where the box is going... we got the house up and secured on the tree.
Here's a few shots from this...
Me getting low down and dirty, helping set up the bed within
Jimmy and I working away
This is fun!
What Screech Owl wouldn't love a comfy bed like this?
Jimmy and I proud of our work. This is good work, fun work, work I could enjoy every day.
And finally, the box is up and ready for a tenant.
Above photos courtesy of Taz, except the last one by Jimmy.
We had planned to do some minor work on some other bird houses in the area but I was now needed elsewhere. Jimmy understood and was thrilled at what I was off to do.
I learned that 5 short term patients with the Toronto Wildlife Centre were ready to be released and get back on track with their Fall migration south. The birds were a Gray Catbird, a Red-eyed Vireo, an Ovenbird, a Gray-cheeked Thrush, and a Blackburnian Warbler (my favorite and once most desired Warbler for me to see).
Upon arrival I learned the Thrush wasn't quite ready for release, hopefully in a few more days, so off I went with the other 4 birds.
I had been a part of a number of releases with Hobbitstee in the last near 2 years. I'd watch and take photos which I shared with Hobbitstee for their website and blog. All of which were mammals plus one Scaup; but for the general part of any wildlife release, it's pretty much the same, once you have them in a good spot to let them go, you do just that, open up whatever contains them and set them free. Anyone observing much keep some distance, do not block the animal's path, be quiet and still to give the animal time to adjust to it's new found freedom and the surroundings, etc
With these birds, it was best to get them down to a lake side park, as they will use the shores for travel through migration. I like the idea of getting them down there, and even out of the city limits, away from the building glass that most likely brought them down and into the care of Toronto Wildlife.
I was needing to get to work soon, so I drove out to the bottom of Mississauga Road, to Saddington Park. It was brutally windy and I feared the little brown paper bags which held all the birds except the Catbird who was in a small box would all blow away. Birds really are light as a feather and the bag isn't any heavier. So they'd be helpless if the bags blew away with them inside.
I brought them out one by one, keeping the others secure in the truck until it was their time.
First was the Catbird. I approached a small grove of cedar trees right by the parking area, and I barely had the lid open and the bird was out and gone. He flew into the cedars, sat for a couple seconds, looked around and then jetted off to another tree.
Second, the Ovenbird. I walked up to the cedar, opened the bag and out he came. He too followed the path of the Catbird, giving me just a momentary glance at him before he was gone.
Third, the Vireo... exact same scenario.
I had my camera with me, and if they would have just sat for a few more seconds, I would have tried to take a photo of them after they were released. Oh well, this wasn't about getting photos anyway.
Last, the Blackburnian. As I mentioned above, a Warbler that I adore, one I wanted to see the most of all, as the coloring of a breeding adult male just blows me away. Of course, this is fall, and the bird is ??? First winter male? Female? I am not good with the Fall Warblers who change colors at this time of year. I never saw any of the birds prior to their release. No sense peeking in the bags until they were ready to go... they don't need the added stress, and I don't need them escaping in the truck or someplace they weren't to be released. So in the few seconds looking up at him, I am just like "Okay, you are a Blackburnian Warbler. Awesome!"
So the little Warbler sat for a bit longer than the other birds, he gathered his bearings on a tree branch, and the wind was really blowing. I tried for a photo, not bothering to check my settings or anything, and was able to get a couple "for the record s**t shots".
As he disappeared, I silently wished him good luck as I did with the others. They have a long path ahead of them.
Somehow I managed to make it through the 8 hour shift that afternoon, and come home to fill the bird feeders so the birds had their breakfast while I hoped to sleep in. I was greeted by a couple of the Raccoon kids who sure don't look like the little kids they were a few months back. I hadn't seen them since September 24th, but the last couple nights we've been bumping into each other out there. They still have that goofy playful youthful demeanor about them and it was a nice ending to the long day. Well that, and then having Meadow snuggle up with me to watch some brainless tv. :)
The only thing that would have made this day even better was to have Angie by my side. She plays a big role in all of this, the bigger picture. Sure we both are animal lovers but something big and magical happened when we met, something beneficial for our wildlife friends and the organizations that help them. We aren't the only ones of course, but you know what I mean.
I make good use of my odd working hours and I know she's happy about what I do for the creatures, she's proud of me, and this is a representation of us, and our love for the wild world around us. It's been said by some that we are Rob and Angie, Angie and Rob, you can't have one without the other, even when they aren't together. I won't argue that.