Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

August 17, 2015

Sunday with the Skunks

Most evenings I am going out back a couple times, checking out what kind of nocturnal creatures are lurking about. In this heat wave I am often refreshing the bird baths and basins for the animals.

Last night was epic with my late night outing! And blog worthy in my mind...

Skunk is a word that brings fear and panic to many people. On my street, with some of the neighbours, a Skunk is like Bigfoot roaming the land... a mysterious creature to always fear, to run from, because it is going to spray you and ruin your day.

For us, a Skunk is exciting to see since we don't see them often. There is the odd sighting this summer. Spring of 2014 we had a big beauty who came out a few mid-mornings giving us some great views.

Two summers ago we had one show up in the evening while we had a few friends over for a BBQ. The women went inside while the boys stayed outside trying to get better views. Notice I said women and boys? Seems there was some debate over our maturity level that night. LoL!

I know we've lost 2 in the last year to car strikes. Years ago Angie and I had a mother Skunk and 5 babies in the garden late one night. It was back in the good old days, our younger days, where we stayed up late playing music, having drinks and we'd shine a flashlight down in the garden on occasion to see what may be wandering about and looking back up at us.

The other night I was out looking for meteors and had some company.

The next morning I am washing the back deck and took notice to a Skunk underneath. I think I gave him a bit of a soaking but not enough to flee. A bit later I looked and found him curled up asleep.

And then, last night. I am down at the back when I took notice to one in the garden, under the bird feeders. I watched him for a bit and suddenly a second Skunk surfaced in the vicinity. I'm thinking how cool this is. We have a lot of vegetation for the animals to hide in throughout the summer months. It's great cover for the birds, Squirrels and Chipmunks (which we are thrilled to see once again). The animals like to travel along the fence line, behind the wall of green as well. I bring this up because as I'm watching the 2 in the garden, a third one surfaces to the right of me along the fence line. "Holy s**t!" This one is maybe 5 feet from me, just doing his thing, wandering about.

The other 2 are maybe 10 feet from me.

With such close proximity, the fear of spraying sits in the back of my mind. I'm not going to do any sudden moves with them so close, not taking any chances on startling any of them. As I always tell people, keep your cool, don't lose your s**t around wild animals, and all will be fine. The problem is that as I stay in my spot here on the lawn, hunkered down, I begin to notice a number of Raccoon wandering about. I'm sure the older ones know not to mess with a Skunk, but the young ones ??? Last year one of our more sociable and curious born that season did get a good spraying. I felt bad for him because it was weeks before the smell wore down to just a faint scent. Poor guy couldn't get the stink off for anything. And last night there was a couple smaller Raccoon in the mix.

All I need is one of these new to the world little guys do something stupid in his lessons of life and we all feel the wrath from a Skunk on the defense.

I remained still, watching, trying to snap some photos. I had my macro lens on because part of my reason this night was to look for some moths. I've been seeing some neat ones after dark some work nights.

The macro is a very sensitive lens and any slight movement throws the shot off. I'm shooting free hand if I can call it that, not having the tri-pod out there with me for stability.

One of the first two wandering around on my left, some very close moments.

Money shot!  LoL!  Definitely not the end I want to be face to face with.

I don't know how long I was out there but I felt it was time for me to vacate the area. Too many critters wandering about, some of the Raccoons were getting close to the Skunks, all wanting a share of the food about the ground. It seems the House Sparrows threw a lot of the black oil sunflower seed on the ground that afternoon, or maybe a Raccoon climbed the pole and gave one of the feeders a good shake, as there was seed everywhere.

With me wanting to get back to the house, I had a problem just ahead of me. 2 Skunks on my left, one on my right. I have a small open spot to get through, less than 5 feet wide. Is that too close for comfort? Even as I do my best stealth like moves across the grass?

I took this shot just now, to give you an idea of the spot I had to get through using the old blue bin as reference to the width.

Getting to the other side of the garden, it's way more open, and I'd feel a lot safer there. A view from the other side.

I could easily see the 2 Skunks on the left. I lost the other one in the vegetation. I kept pondering making a break for it, walking light and quick, but didn't... yet. Minutes pass, many perhaps, when I hear the dogs a few yards over being let out and they were barking like crazy. Lucky for me as the third Skunk showed himself now. He raced up the lawn towards the house, and then up the walkway to the front. A couple Raccoons scattered up the trees thanks to the dogs. Now it was my turn. I kept one eye on the two foraging to my left. Raccoons in the trees were watching me now. I swear I could hear them placing bets on my outcome as I passed the Skunks. LoL!

All went well as I hoped and really did expect to play out.

I stopped for a moment, watching the action under the feeder pole. Thanks to the dogs, I was now down to one Skunk and one Raccoon.

Good ground cover down there as you can see.

I think this is a great candidate for "CAPTION THIS"

Just as I was about to leave the area and go inside, one last photo opportunity presented itself...

I do wonder with all these Skunks about if our very nearby Great Horned Owl will ever find her way to our backyard? This species of Owl loves to feast on Skunks because they have no sense of smell. I recon the Skunk's bright white stripes even on the darkest of nights are like a bull's eye. It certainly would be a bitter sweet moment if it ever does happen. I have heard a Great Horned Owl from our backyard but yet to see one.

Spot the our local Owl?

Thanks for stopping in! I hope all of you in Southern Ontario are keeping cool through this nasty heat wave we are experiencing.

August 10, 2015

No Place Like Home

A quiet few weeks have passed and I'm just enjoying life at home.  The backyard is THE place to be at this time of year.  No summer traffic traveling to and from places, cold beverages are a step away, BBQ always ready to go and it's just rest and relaxation with our crew of critters.

I have to admit I've kinda gotten turned off of the whole going out and birding, sharing what I see, because it's turning into no matter what I see, someone wants to know where I saw it.  And it doesn't matter what.  Red-winged Blackbird in some reeds.  Where was this?  Lovely Cardinal in the woods.  Please tell me.  It's going beyond the Owls.  Half the time I am uncertain if an individual wants to see the bird or attempt to recreate an image I got for themselves.  Digital photography soars to new levels.  It's competitive with so many people.  And some people lack the passion, the adventure and often don't know what they are shooting even in the realm of Toronto's most common bird species. 

My best answer to much of this is I bird locally in the west end of Toronto, 98% right around our own neighbourhood, very close to home...  if not for the sake of the birds, I just don't want strangers lurking around here.  I try not to be mean about it.  I know not everyone is a selfish asshole, although I bet some call me that.  LoL!  It's not like I am hoarding some rare species.  I do try to encourage these people to just go outside, pick a place in their own area, go for a walk.  Just open your eyes and ears, and shut your mouth.  Have fun.  Don't go out with expectations.  Even if you only see a Cardinal, embrace the moment with such a beautiful bird.

My absolute most favorite shot of a Northern Cardinal I have ever taken. Full frame bird photos aren't always necessary or the best. I hate people bragging how close they got to a bird to get the shot. This was with a little point and shoot Canon Powershot that some "pros" out there made a lot of fun about.

Which brings me to what this brief blog is about...

A highlight for me in our backyard the last couple weeks has been a family of Northern Cardinals coming in.  We have Cardinals all year long but it's a little more special right now with dad bringing the kids in.  The kids are funny looking, very vocal and fluttery (demanding).

It's so nice to watch the dad take such great care of his children, ensuring they both get well fed.

And over a few days, I can see the kids develop, one advancing quicker than the other, feeding more and more on his own.  It's probably an age factor as even a couple days old with bird siblings makes a difference.

Mom has been coming in too, but isn't nearly as hands on as dad.  It's something I should try and look up because over the years I do see mostly the dad feeding the kids.  Even after a decade of birding, I still wonder about things with our most common visitors.

We are very fortunate to have a backyard. It has taken years to create what we have here. We cherish moments like these. You know that saying "There's no place like home"? So very true for Angie and I.

True fact.  I've loved Cardinals all my life.  Even as a small child, I would cut them out of books.  I was always drawn to their beauty.  When Angie and I started dating, she made mention of how I should put up a bird feeder in the yard.  We did that soon after, just going to Walmart and buying a feeder pole, a cheap green gazebo feeder and some seed.  It took 2 weeks and the first birds to find the feeder was a pair of Cardinals.  I'm sure I have made mention of this in another blog over the years.  I left Angie one very excited voice mail at her apartment, full of colorful expletives with my excitement at seeing this lovely couple.  Alas, it was long before the days of owning a camera so there is no image to share.  The one in my head, I can still see it, I remember exactly where the set up was out there.