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.