Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

November 30, 2014

Hagrid's time came much too soon...

It is with sadness that I type this blog... Hagrid, our newest addition to the family, passed away a couple days ago. Some of you may know of him from a blog not too long ago, "Meet Hagrid". A rescue animal that we happily took into our home back in August. So bizarre to some that a Tarantula would need to be saved, because in the minds of many, who in the hell would want one of those things as a pet?

Hagrid was spider #6. I will link some of my other spider blogs here if you have the curiosity to *meet* some of my other beloved family members over the years.

Spider #5, a lovely pink toe named "NO" as in the Nameless One, was also a rescue of sorts. A touching tale to even those not keen on arachnids. See here. I've read NO's story a number of times and re-tell it to those who will listen.

Spider #4, was a rose hair I named "SYD". A big gentle spider he was, never showing any aggression except to his prey. I don't think I've read this blog since the day I keyed it out. Re-reading it now and I am taken back to those days over a decade ago. He was a wonderful Tarantula as far as they go. Link is here. It's actually a rather short blog of mine!

Spider #3, a beast of a spider I named Abigail. You should gather that by having the title "bird eating spider" in her species name. She intimidated me but I tried to care for her the best I could. A scary short story if you care to check it out here.

Spider #2, a small little darling Mexican Pink Toe I named Daisy. Her time with me was rather short as well for some reason. I re-read her story her as I linked it. I remember the day I got her as I think back, how excited I was. A somewhat short read as well, click here.

And here is the one who started it all for me... Maude. She is my claim to fame on giving a Tarantula a good caring home ensuring longevity as Maude neared a ripe old age of 23 with me. In this blog are links to a couple other blogs about her, but this one is about her passing. We all loved Maude in our own ways and it may show in my tales here.

Now Hagrid joins the others to wherever they go. Actually he joins Maude and NO out back now. Yes, I buried my spiders.

Hagrid came to us in need of a new and caring home. Unfortunately we had no idea how old he was and can only imagine what kind of life he had before us. We gave him peace in his final months and may he have found that. Only a few of us ever laid eyes upon him in this house. He was a true nocturnal spider, coming out after dark and usually when the house was at it's quietest. We saw signs of his activities the morning after, from webbings to hundreds of foot prints in the sand. I used to smooth out the sand from time to time just to monitor this creature I seldom saw. I shared bits of him on social media and many others enjoyed his antics. Of course the best story of all is in the blog I shared about him... everyone remembers the spatula! Love it or hate it, they remember it. I still laugh about it the odd time I am using that spatula.

I cleaned out Hagrid's tank today and it was a difficult task. I am still in disbelief that he is gone already. Angie and I kept looking into his home throughout the weekend, seeking him out, even though he'd passed a few days earlier. Old habits, eh?

Empty house. :(

Here's a couple photos of our time together...

It was great the odd night he surfaced before we went to bed. This was few and far between and we did our best to not spook him if we were still up. All through his stay with us, Hagrid was a very skittish spider, often running back to his coconut hut with any floor vibration of us or our shadow passing his tank even. I'd never had such a fearful spider before which made me wonder about his past?

We even got him a cool Halloween decoration with this ceramic tree. Next up was going to be a Christmas one!

A few weeks back we also lost one of our Frogs. His name was Won-Won. He was Angie's frog. Old age we assume because he'd been with us for over 3 years. Not sure the life expectancy on those guys but ours all seem to run that length of 3 or slightly beyond.

I know not everyone will understand having such creatures around but that's alright, we do. A simple slogan of mine sums it up...

The furry, the feathered, the slimy, the scaly... all touch my heart daily.

November 27, 2014

This Calls For A Drink!

My final week of vacation for the 2014 year. Angie had 2 weeks off and spent the first week down in Florida at Disney and Universal Studios. Angie took ill half way through the first week of holiday. I got sick the first day of my week off. Thankfully my ailment, a slight head cold, passed quick. Unfortunately Angie is still down and out as the second week moves along.

I took advantage of her down time to go out and do some of her Christmas shopping at Yorkdale yesterday. I hoped to do a little birding in Downsview Park after the shopping if time allowed.

I was in and out of Yorkdale within about 40 mins. Love the early morning weekday shopping, get a parking spot with ease, get 'er down and get the hell outta there pronto. Now time to bird...

Making my way to Downsview, I took notice to this American Kestrel atop a display Canadian fighter jet along Sheppard Ave. What a cool spot for such a cool little bird of prey. I love Kestrels! The smallest and prettiest of the Falcons in Ontario.

A closer and cropped shot.

If you are unfamiliar with Kestrels, here is a close up shot of how beautiful and colorful they are. I took this at a private raptor photo shoot earlier in the year.

I also spotted 5 Red-tailed Hawks about my cruise of the roads in Downsview.

But this blog is not about these lovely birds of prey sightings.

At some point in my morning, my phone went off with an email notification from Toronto Wildlife. They were seeking assistance in the release of a couple Toronto area birds. One was an American Goldfinch and the other a European Starling. I would have liked to have taken both birds but the locations were too far apart from each other and my home. The Starling needed a ride back to downtown Toronto. The Finch, just north of the city.

So, here I am in Downsview Park and so is Toronto Wildlife. I was planning on popping in as I wanted to check on the condition of a Red-tailed Hawk I brought in Saturday, plus had a few questions about items on their wish list. This worked out quite well I must say.

My questions were answered and the Finch was brought to me for release. I was shown the area on a map to set him free in and away I went.

It was a cool quiet drive to the area. Cool? It's late November, yes, but also the heat should be off or kept to a minimum when transporting wildlife. Quiet? Radios should be off, and if you have a passenger, talking should be minimal as well, and at a whisper. Angie and I normally just zip it for the rides, best for the birds, less stress.

I had to search out some green space in the area, find a safe place to park and take the little bird for a walk, releasing him away from main roads (traffic). I found a spot, opened the bag pointed to a nearby tree and let him go.

Most birds take to the closest tree first, just to get their bearings on where they are, what is going on. A few have jetted off as far as possible upon release, but most take to the first tree, even if it's only for 10 or 15 seconds. Some linger longer but none as long as this Finch did.

I bet upon release from the confinements of that paper bag, his world was confusing and distorted like this...

If I have my camera with me at a release, I do try for a few photos after the birds are released. It's not about a photo op, but for my own memories and to maybe share something to others about it. Obviously the above one, my settings were way off. I did some manipulation when attempting to brighten it, turning into a disaster, but it works for what I think the bird sees and thinks in those first moments of freedom.

This Gold Finch sat on the tree branch for many minutes, just looking around, looking up, and then started calling out steadily. Not all birds act the same as I've seen in releases. Golden-crowned Kinglets seem to jump right back into the game of life, going back to business as usual. Warblers flee for their lives from their captors for the most part.

I don't like to just let the birds go and then walk away. I like to observe them the best I can in the first minutes of being free. I am certain they are all okay but for me, I just want to be sure. And this guy was starting to freak me out.

He looked fine.

But he would not budge. He called out over and over again with the variety of Finch calls I am familiar with in our backyard.

After a few calls, he would look up.

Then call some more.

Occasionally looking back to me.

At some point through all of this, he did move up and over one branch, maybe a foot away.

The calling continued.

It was a good fifteen minutes now of watching him from the 12 or 15 ft that separated us. I still wasn't comfortable about leaving him for some reason despite feeling the chill now. It was past lunch, my hunger grew, and that third coffee was kicking the hell out of my bladder to get out. I am a patient individual especially when it comes to the creatures around us.

I thought perhaps best to back way off at this point and not be too much in his point of view and concentration. But he still didn't fly off. He continued to call out.

This went on for many more minutes.

Then out of the dark gray skies above, 4 American Goldfinches flew into the trees nearby, and very high up I might add. My little buddy called again, and the other Finches returned the call. Moments later he took flight, getting higher and higher in the trees until he met this very small flock. There was some discussion for a moment, and then, just like that, they all flew off together, further into the woodlot.

I was too into the moment of watching what was going on to even think about trying for any photos but really they would have been just small black specks in the trees. The images in my memory are so much brighter, heart warming and even come with sound this time.

I've released nearly 50 birds back into the wild thanks to the great work of Toronto Wildlife and FLAP. They (the birds) all warm my heart but a few of them really stand out with their story like this little one. I am honored and privileged to have been able to do this for them. It's good for my soul and helps get me through some not so great days.

Best of luck little Finch! I toasted you on this Whiskey Wednesday.

November 23, 2014

Snowy Saturday!


I have just started a one week vacation, and on my first day off, I woke up with a head cold! How uncool is that? I don't feel terrible but I certainly don't feel great either. Instead of laying around hoping to feel better, I decided to go out for a back roads drive and try to spot some Snowy Owls. It seems early to some but the sightings are starting to pop up in southern Ontario and the US. I figured a drive would be nice and not too exhausting compared to a hike.

As I roared north up the Hwy 400, I envisioned seeing 1 Snowy Owl, maybe 3, maybe an astounding 10 (yes, I'm a dreamer), and the very good chance I would see not a single one. I was excited and hopeful. While I had Snowy Owl on the brain, I reminded myself to not make this outing specifically about seeing one or else I could end up very disappointed.

I got off the highway near Bradford and started the drive along the back roads. The farm fields were only partially snow covered this morning and all the little patches of snow here and there had me doing double takes to see if one was an Owl or not. Great, just what I needed on top of all the white buckets in the fields!

A good half hour or more of driving had me finally spot one way out in a field. Awesome! I also took notice to the gas light now being on in the GMC. Shit!

A quick shot of the bird through the front window. I didn't see a reason to even try for something better, like get out of the truck and stand on the side of the road with how far away he was.

I soon left the bird, scribing in my memory the spot it was sitting in the field and headed out for a fill up. Some 20 minutes later I am back in the area, find the spot, and now the Owl is gone. Argh!

I scanned the fields and came up empty. Back to the start and search the roads once again.

It wasn't long after that I suddenly took notice to a large white bird flying across the field and land in a ditch. Woo hoo! There's my Snowy! I am assuming it was anyway. What really surprised me was after the bird landed and watching with my bins that I see a second Owl in the same ditch, just a little further up. Wicked! Both are way off the road though. Oh well, not a bad start to the season with 2 Snowys lined up like that.

NOTE I did have one a week earlier along the 401 after work one night. A tease of a view in the dark, bird on the light post and I passed it doing 120k! I almost crashed the truck that night as I looked on in awe and probably blurted a few holy expletives.

Here's a couple crap shots I took through the driver's window from different angles.

Are you seeing the 2 Snowys?

Now I got out of the truck, set up the tripod, took a couple shots with full zoom, and then cropped the hell out of them!

I couldn't do much better than that. Did you take notice to the second Owl in the photo? Top right corner.

As I was about to drive away, I scanned the fields a little more and spotted a third Snowy just south of the pair. Once again, way out there and only took this shot for record/proof with my blog.

I'm grinning now. I should buy a 649 for the evening draw as I was feeling quite lucky!

I'm leaving the area, satisfied at the bird sightings but not at my photos, but I was okay with that (the season is early). I'm scanning the fields I had already passed 3 times, still hoping for another Owl. And just like that, my eyes fix on yet a fourth bird. Of course it's way the heck out there too, only this one is in a carrot field. But who could complain about seeing yet another Snowy Owl in such a short span of time in one area?

Snowy Owl #4 with a flock of Snow Buntings in the background flying by.

I tried something a little more creative with this one, not that it's done much, but what the hell...

It was a great morning finding all these birds. Much better than playing up the man cold part really well, suffering and whining, calling out for my mommy. LoL!

November 16, 2014

Miss Me Yet?

Hi. I've hit some sort of wall with my writing ability lately. I have 2 blogs recently started, I keyed out a couple paragraphs and then I just lost it in my head on what I was wanting to do with them. Distractions have occurred with outdoor chores in preparation for the oncoming cold crappy weather ahead, tending the zoo at home, and helping out Toronto Wildlife weekly as a volunteer driver. I will get back into it, soon I hope, as the holiday season will be upon us before we know it.

In the meantime, how about some catch up on our backyard?

Shirley the Sharp-shin seems to have left us and I am betting it is because of the Coopers Hawk I've named Waldo. Actually it was a bird bud on Facebook, Carol, who made a joke about it with that name when I shared a crappy photo I took of him with my Blackberry. I was feeding my Pigeons when the Coopers came in, doing a brazen attack right in front of me. If I had my good camera, I would have gotten some great shots of him in the various perching spots he chose near me. But I was left standing there in awe, holding some leftover seed after the Pigeons jetted off. After posting the crap photo, Carol said something along the lines of "Where's Waldo? Aha, found him!" He blended in very well within the tree with a very grainy picture.

Waldo appears to be a young Coopers Hawk in my opinion. I'm no expert on plumage as one way of discovering, and of course it would certainly help to have him in the hand of an expert to tell. But for me, he looks young in the face, and his actions as well tell me he is young. I see inexperience and curiosity in his eyes, and he's not nearly as shy as some other Coopers Hawks that have come around over the years. He zips around the yard incredibly fast, which really is something to witness. Of course it sucks large for all the other birds. The Pigeons flee and even when in the house, if Waldo flies in and the Pigeons go, you can feel the rush from the living room. Their uplift and take off make our Budgies stress and let out these bizarre little sounds. The Blue Jays really start screaming, far more than what they do with Shirley, and unlike the games they play with Shirley, the Jays don't mess with Waldo. Yesterday morning, Waldo flew in after the Pigeons, and I thought he was going to hit our small kitchen window over the back deck. I saw him coming and he went over last second, this was probably more due to the pine tree right behind the house. I had a brief moment where I visualized picking him up off the back deck and looking at a cracked window. Yikes!

Here's Waldo in better view than my mobile photo...

But even with the latest predator, the other birds still come in, feeding with caution. Project Feeder Watch that we participate in with Bird Studies Canada started up this weekend for us. We've got a decent but usual list of species right now including Cardinals, Chickadees, Blue Jays, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Gold Finches, House Finches, House Sparrows, Downy Woodpeckers, Juncos, Doves and Pigeons. It is bizarre the lack of Starlings since mid-summer. I hope I don't have some zero count days thanks to the likes of Shirley and Waldo. In almost a decade of participation, I've only ever had one zero count day.

Pierre pulled that disappearing act and his visits these days are random and short. I baby him every opportunity, holding him in close with a good feed of sunflower chips and peanut bits. He feeds alone usually while the others have to fight for ground food or what's in my other hand. If I spot Pierre's lady in the mix, she has a 50/50 shot of getting to feed with him. Perhaps this is why Pierre is on his second marriage now? LoL!

Halloween was the other week and I really wanted to try for a photo of myself in my mask with one of my hand feeders. I didn't think it would be such an issue but it was. I hand fed them, put the mask on while they watched, and that was it, they wanted no part of me. I took the mask off and in they came again. I talked to them through it, hoping the voice recognition would work. Nope. It would have been a cool "Happy Halloween" thing to share with some bird buds. Ah well.

I guess I'm not as scary as that mask first thing some mornings. :)

Pierre happy I'm back.

I should have tried it on the couple Raccoon kids still coming around at night, or our Orphan Annie. Either there'd be great success or they'd have torn the mask right off my face. As you can see, this one is quite comfortable with me. This guy here loves it when I open the shed up, he climbs in and explores, playing with the bicycle spokes or other shiny objects he sees. I park myself as I fill the feeders at night and don't mind the company I see every now and then. It's funny how I see them, for a 2 or 3 nights in a row, and then nothing for the next week or two. They are entertaining to watch but no petting the wildlife, no matter how close they come to me. Sure I may seem to be pushing the limits here but I tell people, don't f**k with them and they won't f**k with you. It's amazing what can come of being quiet and still around the wild creatures. Did I ever blog about the Deer circling me one afternoon?

Of course Meadow and I played around on the week of Halloween. She won a little costume contest at our vet even, well, one of 4 animals to win a basket full of goodies. See Angie's blog here.

Angie and I have had a few wake ups in the middle of the night as the kids get in our bins out front of the house, right outside our bedroom window. They work to get the lids open, sometimes 10 or 12 slams as it slips from their grip before they manage to wiggle in. We are very good at garbage and recycling properly, rinsing things out, composting properly, etc but the little shits still get in there at times. We have the largest bins and often don't fill them so the kids get stuck within. We've probably had to rescue them 4x in the last couple weeks. Nothing like opening your bin lid and seeing this staring up at you.

It makes me wonder how many don't get seen or even ignored when in a similar situation somewhere else and go out with the trash? We are always checking our bins nowadays to ensure nobody is stuck. Releasing them from their confinement is greatly appreciated by them. You just tilt the bin over slowly, I hold the lid shut until the bin is right down flat, flip the lid up at that point, and let them exit when they are ready to (usually it's immediately). I felt bad for one the other week that I didn't discover until mid-morning and our bin was empty. I hope he wasn't in there all night without anything to eat. Lesson learned perhaps?

We have been seeing an Opossum the odd night in recent weeks. Cute little bugger as far as Opossums go. Another misunderstood creature in our city. I get it that they can be intimidating with their long rat like tail and little razor teeth, but they don't want anything to do with us, and would sooner flee from humans than encounter them. So with ours, a very skittish soul he be. I was lucky enough the other evening, working on my stealth like ninja skills to be able to sneak outside and finally get a decent photo of him from the back deck.

I guess my writing ability really isn't lacking, I've just been too busy. Next up will be some of my Toronto Wildlife Centre adventures...