Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

October 28, 2015

Please Help Us Help...

Hi everyone,

A favour to ask of any stopping in who are on Facebook.

We have entered our cats in a Halloween photo contest with our vet clinic. The winner gets a gift basket full of goodies for cats. If one of them wins, looks like Merry has a very good chance, we will be donating the basket to the Toronto Cat Rescue.

Last October we entered Meadow and she was one of the finalists. There were a number of entries and they ended giving out baskets to the top 6... 3 cats and 3 dogs if memory serves me correct.

Meadow's photo entry...

Meadow with the loot bag!

So now we are trying this with our 2 little girls Merry and Molly.

This is the photo we entered of Merry...

This is Molly's entry, which has not been put in their album yet. But she can be found in the comments section of the album and any likes for her there will be counted.

Here is a direct link to Merry. Open up the photo and click "LIKE" just below the photo.

Here is a link to the album and if you go through the comments section you will find Molly's photo. You can go through the album and vote for other entries too! Yes, I am a good sport about this.

I feel like I am begging here but really I am not. We just know Toronto Cat Rescue and some lovely cats in need of a home would certainly appreciate the donation.

Thanks for your help and may the best photo win as there are some cute entries!

Merry and Molly wonder what you are waiting for. ;)

October 24, 2015

Take My Advice

On Friday I took advantage of a beautiful late October morning with the warm sun and blue skies. I knew Saturday was calling for rain. So I went out for a woodland walk not far from our home. I was in the mood to be alone, not for any real reason, just wanted a quiet peaceful outing with all nature had to offer. Sure I live in Toronto and that can be hard to accomplish but I know some spots.

I'm walking for an hour or so, looking and listening. I see probably 8000 American Robins in my journey and little else. Yes, slight exaggeration on the Robins but there was a lot of them regardless. If this was all I was to see in my outing, so be it. I'm at peace with the world in this moment and that's great.

I'm walking in the woods, the canopy of fall colored trees is breath taking. The trail is covered in the colorful fallen leaves. I know the trail well and don't have to worry about straying off. Suddenly up ahead I see another human. He was completely decked out in camouflage gear from head to toe and carrying a big ass lens like mine. Some days I wish I didn't see some individuals like this, wishing their camo clothes would REALLY work on all. I had hoped to pass the person by without any words being said other than maybe "good morning" but that wasn't the case. The guy pretty much blocked me on the path, no hello or nothing, just "have you seen any Owls today?"

Fuck! Why one of these types? It's like clock work, late October and out come the shit heads. I recognized the guy from a couple encounters a few years ago. I was hoping he would not recognize me but I guess that is hard to do since I have a tendency to stand out in a bird crowd with my not so stereotypical appearance... a stereotype that really isn't as common a sighting in this day and age with bird people (we come in all shapes and sizes, ages, etc).

So yes, he did recognize me, but didn't remember my name. He just said I remember you from the other winter. "Uh huh" was all I could say. I knew what the guy was going to talk about since he's done this every time I've seen him in the past. It's all about his photos. His memory card is full of them, photos from 2, 3, 4, 5 years ago. He prides about these glorious shots of his, which really aren't all that good. He's no pro, neither am I, but I don't go running around bragging even when I do get something pretty awesome. He's a self proclaimed expert on Owls, Coyotes, Hawks and Deer with a love for the Bucks in full antlers. I remember his talk about Owls the other winter and so many times I had to correct him on his sprees about them.  He didn't know many of the species migrate and that Toronto is a southern region for them.  He has this bizarre belief that Saw-whet Owls are tame birds and enjoy the presence of humans, so much that "in your face" is acceptable because the little Owl does not fly away.

He tried to show me his photos, and I showed him my lack of interest. Some pics I had seen how many years ago? I would even tell him that. It's not very often that I am rude to people but this guy does get that side of me. What's really sad is he is so into himself that he doesn't see the lack of interest on my part, the slight insulting jabs, nothing. He asked me about a few creatures we both knew of from the other winter. I told him they all died and gave him slight stories on each one and how they met their demise. I could see the wheels in his head turning, really wondering if I was fucking with him or not. Why am I wasting my time with this guy right now? He doesn't deserve any of my time. In the past I've had to endure this person follow me, never shutting up and if something came in our sights, he would chase after it. Of course he would spook the hell out of the creature and ruin it for all. A friend and I ditched him a couple times one morning, he'd go one way after blabbing our heads off, and we would simply go the other or turn around and head back the other way. He would notice us ditching him but somehow later would find us again; try and gain our friendship, or probably just an ear to listen to his bullshit and hopefully "oooooooooooo" and "ahhhhhhhhh" over his photos.

This morning as he yammered, I gave him little eye contact. I kept looking elsewhere. I even told him at one point to be quiet because there was a very pissed off Cooper's Hawk in the area. The bird was vocalizing every 30 to 60 seconds, sometimes taking flight from the tree and I could see through the leaves it was after something in the same tree. After saying that, I cursed myself because maybe he would tune in, figure it out, or decide to follow me. Once again, the guy was too into his own bullshit and photos to get it. Luck have it for me though, I believe the light went on in the guy's head that I had no interest to be in his company any longer (not that I ever did). He quieted for a second and then was saying "see you later" or something but I was already many steps up the path, leaving him standing there. Thank Jeebus he went the other way!

I advise people to keep their eyes and ears open, and to shut their mouth when out in the wild world. Listen to the birds and animals, they will tell you things. The Cooper's Hawk continued it's squawky aggression at something high up a tree in the area. A few Squirrels cried out their unhappiness to whatever was going on as well. I slowly made my way over to the area of interest, occasionally looking over my shoulder to ensure I was not being followed. No sight of that jack ass. I already had a plan to not hit the location if I saw him following me, and would do a route out of the area and back to the parking lot. So ya, with him gone, I'm really feeling lucky now!

The trees are still quite full of leaves, while I could hear the Hawk, I couldn't exactly pin point which tree the commotion was coming from. With all the yellow leaves above, it was like all the trees melted together. The Squirrels were all around me, clinging to the sides of the tree trunks, crying away. I waited and watched, hoping to spot the Hawk take another flight. Finally he did. I refused to turn my head or blink. I even pointed my finger up at the spot while I got my bins out with the other hand. I'm looking and still don't see anything but the Hawk on a branch. I know something is there. I suspect an Owl. I scan and scan and scan some more. I watch the Hawk, it's still pretty pissed, and takes another flight. I kinda see something now. One move to the right and I lost all sight. Two moves to the left and I see a grayish body with some streaking. I'm betting my left nut it's a Barred Owl. Though I was in disbelief at the height this Owl was at; I'd never seen one so high up... 60 ft maybe. He was in the leaf cover, occasionally getting some sun as everything blew around with the warm gusty winds.

Can you spot the Owl in the leaves?

Finally I see a face. Yes, there is a Barred Owl up there and it's looking right down at me now.

The Cooper's Hawk cared little about my presence down on the ground. He wanted this Owl out of his turf. The dueling pair making some eye contact up there.

I don't like to see animals fight but I was pretty pumped about discovering this Barred Owl; it being the first of the season for me. I really don't see them throughout the year but somehow have been fortunate to spot one or two the last few Autumn seasons. I always wish Angie or a couple good buds of mine were present with these finds, but nothing can be done about that, so I take in the moment. A few photos, watch a bit, a few more photos. I'm well away from them physically but I still think about my time there, how their focus can still be on me, I'm added stress. I leave the area and go wander elsewhere for a little while. Some Jays, Cardinals, Downy Woodpeckers but nothing comparing to what I left back there. Sure those birds are great, I love them all, we see them daily in the backyard... how often do I see a Barred Owl? It's getting near time for me to leave but I make sure I pass the area one last time on my way out. The Cooper's Hawk seemed to have given up as it was no where to be seen or heard. The Squirrels even stopped their cries. The Owl was still up on that high branch in the leaf clutter.

Zoning now.

I went home just beaming about this outing. I didn't forget about the guy I ran into prior to the Owl. I laughed about his misfortune. "Serves him right!" is what I told myself. Of course if I ever run into him again I won't tell him what he missed. He doesn't deserve that kind of information and more so I just don't want to converse with him.

I had the opportunity to revisit the area about 6 hours later, and I did. It was late in the day now, the sun would be setting soon. The area was quiet. I decided to start my search where I last saw the bird. Of course he was not there. No birds were alerting me to his presence. The Squirrels were doing their thing, either oblivious or they knew he wasn't around now. I started to walk the trail south and a few short steps along I spotted him just to the east. He was maybe 20 or so feet up a tree, just watching the world go by. Amazing views of him from the path! The only downfall was the dim lighting due to the leaves above us. Occasionally the wind blew the leaves apart, letting in the last light of day. I worked with what I had to capture a few more photos of this bird. A few years ago I'd have been screwed to get anything since I had no clue how to work in manual settings.

Total zen moment with the bird.

He's well aware I am there and watching him.  An Owl can hear a rodent under 3 ft of snow so surely it can hear a 175 lb guy walking on crunchy leaves.

I'm not a fan of full frame shots of most birds especially in the fall when Mother Nature paints such a beautiful background.  I'm loving this shot below.

It was quite dark from this angle, so I cranked the shit out of my ISO and some other tweaks.  Gee I'm using some colorful words today!

The larger Owls seem to have less concern over a human presence compared to the smaller species.  Plus I am not close to him thanks to my 500mm lens.

I could have sat there for the next hour and watched him zone.  I probably would have leaned myself up against a tree and passed out too.  Notice the changes in the photos?  Messing with them settings.

So take my advice if this is something you don't really do already... eyes and ears open, mouth shut. But don't shun all the camouflage wearing, camera carrying people though as some of them are really nice, some are my friends.

October 22, 2015

Other Stuff

Okay, so my last couple blogs had some big moments for me of late. Now how about a little catch up of the other stuff around here?

We are moving quickly through the month of October. Holy crap! I'm already seeing stores clearing out Halloween stuff and the Christmas crap is bursting from boxes in the aisles. I noticed the OLG is releasing holiday scratch tickets already too. Gawd! But Santa says...

Okay, time for some animal stuff!

Pierre and his flock have been odd the last month. I figure the Hawk activity got them spooked. Much of the flock was MIA for about 2 weeks straight. The returning numbers have been smaller and different birds are coming in at different times. We have 3 that we named "The Helmets" as they look like they have white caps on. They have also returned. Last time I really recalled seeing them was in August.

A peaceful moment with my buddy Pierre and his missus the other day. Here is a 20 second video that you may enjoy from this moment. I acknowledged his 39th month in my head on the 17th.

Petey still makes his grand entrances, much to the delight and laughter from nearby neighbours. He sits up there for lengthy amounts while I fill bird baths and feeders. What a nut!

I have another hand feeder Pigeon I call Mickey. She's still coming as well. I still need to blog about my flock and pay some tribute to the fallen ones. Mickey will be going on 2 years visiting this winter, not entirely certain the date (gotta check good ol' Facebook). Here she is on high alert during the spell of lurking Hawks.

I was having coffee on the back deck the other weekend, Angie was away in Nova Scotia. It was a quiet morning, the birds weren't at the feeders yet, when suddenly this guy came to say "hi". He lives at the back of the yard and over the fence. He is one of the orphaned kids we've been seeing all Summer. I just sat there and it was cool. The kids come around and get pretty close when it is on their terms. If I see one somewhere and I try this approach, they are gone in seconds.

I think this is the same Raccoon who raided my peanut bucket the other morning. I open the shed, put the bucket on the floor and go get the peanut feeder. I am heading back to the shed like 30 seconds later and this was going on! Check this short video here.

There is no petting the wildlife as much as I would like to.

Misfit celebrated her 8th anniversary with us. Angie and I were reflecting on the adventures we have had with her. A couple years ago we almost lost her when she was laying an egg and it broke coming out of her. It was weeks of recovery. She was on one of them egg laying sprees and by the time this one came around, her calcium was depleted so much, this egg was micro thin and brittle. I blogged about this here; it's still one of my top blogs to this day (weird but cool).

Moonie celebrated his 4th anniversary with us. He's got to be the loudest thing in the 'hood. If he hears a bird, he must be louder. If he hears the vacuum, he must be louder. See the trend here? We love him, who is actually a her, but we will never tell him that. Shhhhhhh!

Our rescue Gecko Norbert is doing great, as are our ancient amphibians Ash the Fire-bellied Toad and Ralphie the Newt who is a dinosaur with his age of ??? 18 maybe?


It seems I got on a roll about our pets here. I haven't blogged about our newest family additions since probably around the time we got them... Merry and Molly, the rescue kittens. They just turned 5 months a couple weeks ago. It's been something this summer having 2 tiny furry hellions in the house. One kitten can be pretty nutty. Two kittens is often total insanity. But they have come a long way, still getting into trouble, new kinds of trouble since they are bigger and more agile, but not getting into other kinds of shit like when they were just wee little things.

Little sweeties.

Not so little sweeties now.

We love these 2 so much. Two lovey girls who are great company to us. We're still working on the "don't look at the budgies" bit but we're progressing.

Should we be scared of Molly's choice reading material?

Ya, this about sums it up for Merry.

I am not afraid to admit that I miss Meadow like crazy. I always will. I am also not afraid to admit that the other morning I woke up sobbing about her. This is the third time since she left us that this has happened. Each time, it's the same thing, I am in bed and she is next to me, purring away, head nudges and all those lovey things she did when she was still with us physically. Are these dreams? Is she visiting me in spirit?

Halloween approaches and we always took part in it.

I probably should have saved that for last as I now find it difficult to continue on here.

Back to the yard... Skunk sightings are random now, mostly after dark. It's nice to know they are still around. I almost got sprayed this morning by Lincoln! This is the closest "almost got it" incident to date. I was in a daze out back and didn't realize he was around me shortly after 7am. We've had the return of Dark-eyed Juncos to the yard. First one showed up on September 30th. Golden-crowned Kinglets are present some frosty mornings within our pine trees. A Northern Mockingbird is making sporadic appearances to our bird baths. We suddenly have a small flock of Red-winged Blackbirds among the dozens of Grackles still lingering. I am at a point right now where I will be happy to see the Grackles move on. The fall season they horde and clean the feeders in record time. We don't get much other bird action with them around. I know some say to stop feeding the birds but it's what we do, we like it. The Cardinals come in early mornings and late in the evening before and after the Grackles. The Chickadees find gaps throughout the day to feed. The Blue Jays who can easily knock a Grackle or two off the feeder now come to the back door demanding for a hand-out. And we have an Opossum with us once again. A young one. Angie and I had hoped to see some babies this summer since we had 2 adults but we never did catch sight of such things. Oh well, nice to see this one. We always seem to spot them more in the fall than any other season.

Crap record shot of the first sight of this one on October 21st around midnight.

Red-winged Blackbird who should be on his way south any time.

The Mockingbird who I've yet to see discover the Holly bush. Maybe he's saving them for the cold weather coming?

Lincoln looking great!

If you are still with me, here is another video from the backyard. It's a morning with lots and LOTS of Grackles in the trees. It's really loud! This one gets Moonie screeching as he gets excited and tries to be louder than all the birds.

How's that for a catch up?

Here's something different for yas... how about life away from the animals?

Angie and I went to see Motley Crue's final show ever in Toronto. It was great, and we met up with a bunch of the old crowd I ran with back in the day.

Pre-show festivities at the Brazenhead

Myself with Sean and Jeff. Oh the hell we raised back in the day!

Me trying on my first Motley Crue shirt I bought back in late '83. It almost fits! LoL! As you can see in the above photos, I did not wear it to the show.

Angie and I rediscovered our love for wrestling. It's the best soap opera on tv as she puts it. I agree. We went and saw a live WWE show at Ricoh Stadium a few weeks ago.

I'm a fan of the New Day, they are such entertaining characters. I made this sign and tweeted it. We had a laugh when this photo showed up on the big screen in the stadium. Some people in front of us turned around and said "hey, that is you!"

I have to post this shot. Angie's famous wrestling pose that gets everyone giggling!

The animals will always be a huge part of my life but I do like some other stuff too.

See you all again soon. Thanks for stopping in.

October 17, 2015

Meet One Hundred

A couple weeks back I acknowledged my one year anniversary of being an official driver with Toronto Wildlife. I've logged all my drives from the very first one, no matter where I went, what I did. It never matters what I'm doing, what I am driving, as long as I am helping the animals. I blogged about the one year mark here.

Not that I am counting really but when the milestones come along, it's neat to see how they unfold. I remember as #50 was nearing, I wondered what it would be. I could make it special no matter what it was, finding a reason to celebrate the animal. Without my help of imagination, #50 was pretty spectacular and you can see it here if you'd like instead of me getting into another lengthy recap.

So entering year #2 of volunteering with 90 release birds under my belt, I couldn't help but wonder when the 100th would be and what.

October 2nd I released some FLAP rescues which were a Junco, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Black-throated Blue Warbler and a Tennessee Warbler at Humber Bay Park.

October 5th was the release of the 2 young Great Horned Owls you may have read about the other week on here. One I took down to the Owl Foundation from Toronto Wildlife.

October 7th I picked up a rehabbed Pigeon who lives in our neck of the woods. He was picked up at Scarlett and Dundas, so that is where I took him back to. For all I know, he's been a visitor to our yard. I swear this bird recognized me at the release because he did not act like any other Pigeon I've released in the past.

October 10th I did a drive for a Black & White Warbler. Over an hour of driving in busy afternoon traffic to get this little bird back on his migratory journey, letting him out at a lakeside park west of Toronto.

That last Warbler was #98. So close!

I missed the release opportunity earlier this week. For what I did not know other than it was more FLAP survivors.

It was a busy week at work, having me put in some extra hours.

October 16th, the shout out comes to anyone available to drive some more FLAP survivors down to the shores of Lake Ontario west of Toronto. It was early enough in the day (before I had to work) and I took the call. What birds? Don't know. How many? Didn't know that either. Didn't matter really, if I can help, I do, no matter if it's for one bird or 12.

To my delight and surprise, Andrew was in the centre this morning. It's always a pleasure to have a moment of conversation with him. He helped gather the birds up for me, to get me on my way sooner than later, since I still had to get to work.

End result was 8 birds in 8 little brown unwaxed paper bags. They were calling out the species to collect in the aviary, I was listing them in my brain for later use. See, sometimes the bags have the species marked on them but usually they are not. If you don't know your birds, some of them jet off so fast at release that you can only guess what it was. Some on the other hand do stick around in nearby trees and shrubs for a moment as they collect themselves, and take in their surroundings.

Example of a soon to be released bird here; bag is clipped at the folded top to secure the bird.

I arrive to a west end park, Saddington Park to be exact. It's in Port Credit at the bottom of Mississauga Road. I have an open box and all the bags within. The birds were restless and couldn't wait to break out. Now remember, none of the bags are marked. I still have in my head what most of them were but that's it. So first up, whatever it is, would be #99. And then the next one... the milestone #100. I had thought about this on the drive down to the park. It was exciting to me. But really, it didn't matter what species popped out of the bag and was #100. It was going to be special regardless. I was antsy to end this mystery of sorts.

First up, out pops a Red-eyed Vireo. He quickly disappears into the leaves of the tree he flew to.

Okay, next up... oh man, I'm so full of wonder. What's in the bag? WHAT'S IN THE BAG?!?!?! I take a deep breath, get my focus on this one for when he leaves the bag to ensure I get a good view of him and where he goes. I open it, the bird flutters and fights as it sees the light of day and scampers to take flight. WHOOOOOSH! Out he goes. He lands right smack dab in front of me some 15 feet or so, perfect eye level and TA DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA... it's a White-throated Sparrow!

So? What's your take on my 100th release bird? Cool? Boring?

For me, I'm quite thrilled. I love these birds. I love their Spring call. I love their similar Autumn song as broken up as it sounds compared to the Spring one. We are blessed to have brief visits from these birds through both their journeys north to breed and south for the winter. The stays are never that long, a couple days here and there, but we embrace them.

The White-throated Sparrow is the first bird I ever got to band. Not that I have banded a lot of birds but have a few under my belt. Angie and I just don't have the time to commit to such practice, to be good and useful at any banding lab if one would take us.

This species is also one of the first birds I got to release with Toronto Wildlife.

I think all the above gives me enough reason to be excited about this species being #100.

He spent a fair amount of time in the tree, giving me great views to admire him from where I stood. I only took a couple photos because the remaining birds were waiting to go.

Here is the list of the remaining 6 birds in their order, and any one of them could have been that 100th bird if I picked their bag over the one which held the White-throated Sparrow.

#101 Dark-eyed Junco
#102 Dark-eyed Junco
#103 Brown Creeper
#104 Nashville Warbler
#105 Black-throated Green Warbler
#106 Bay-breasted Warbler

After all the birds were out, I tried to spot them. The Juncos disappeared almost immediately. The Creeper put on a good show a few trees over. The Warblers went back to "business as usual" in no time but I could spot them in the trees around me. I tried to get a couple photos before I had to head to work. No chasing any of the birds, just took what I could get from where I was. The birds have been through enough already and don't need any further stress of some big human coming after them.

Brown Creeper

Nashville Warbler

Black-throated Green Warbler gave some lovely views before flying off.

As always, I silently wished them all safe journeys to wherever they had to go, and I went to work. It certainly gave me a lift in my mood on this Friday because I hate working Friday afternoon/evenings.

The story does not end here though. Today Angie and I woke up to a few White-throated Sparrows in the backyard! I heard them while filling the feeders this morning and eventually the birds showed themselves. Soft calls in the trees and then they came down to forage for food.

It was early in the morning, dim light, and quite cool at the first negative temperature of the fall being -1c. The birds spent an hour or so out back before disappearing. Will we see another before next Spring? That is another mystery if I choose to make it one?

October 8, 2015

Epic Is An Understatement

Hi everyone who steps into the world of Rob and the Animals!

I'm jumping right in on this blog... short version of what may or may not be a long story here is recently we were contacted by The Owl Foundation about the possibility of releasing a couple juvenile Great Horned Owls. One of which I had met back on March 1st when I brought him down there after a short stay at Toronto Wildlife Centre. Someone had found him on the ground far below his home some 60+ feet up a tree. Attempts were made to get him home safely, but that wasn't possible due to the height of the nest. So arrangements were made to get him down to The Owl Foundation and introduce him to "Big Red" who is an amazing foster mom Great Horned.

The baby

Big Red

As you can imagine, all went according to plan, from getting him down there, the introduction and some months of him being raised by Big Red, learning how to be an Owl, or better put to be an independent wild Owl. It still blows my mind that these permanent residents at The Owl Foundation, who all are still wild Owls now in captivity due to their injuries, are fostering Owls of the same species and giving them a second chance at a wild life of their own somewhere in the future. Note, residents at The Owl Foundation have very little human interaction. Most monitoring is done with cameras.

So to be in the first part of this bird's life, helping him get to the help he needed was an honour. Now to be a part of the next chapter, getting him back to the wild, well, "epic" is an understatement. I'm sure my statement there can be mirrored by his finder.

We had planned for sometime over the weekend of October 3 and 4th, weather pending. As of Friday the weather was looking decent. By Saturday morning we had another story which was cool, cloudy, damp and windy. Not ideal conditions for release, especially those winds. Angie had been in contact with the finder and we kept our hopes up the release was going to be sooner than later. All of us were quite anxious to be a part of this. The weekend passed without a release as the weather never improved.

Monday arrived and finally the weather turned for the better. It still wasn't quite what they had predicted 12 hours earlier but it wasn't nearly as windy or wet.

Thanks to my new temporary shift at work, I ended up having Monday off and was able to play a part in this as planned. It sucked that Angie couldn't do the drive with me down. I left early in the afternoon, tunes cranked and my mind was wandering with how this day was going to play out.

I was at TOF in record time. Stacy met me in front of the house with a volunteer and away we went. First off was to catch the 2 Owls for release. Stacy went to it in the large enclosure and sure made it look very easy. First up was the High Park "kid".

What a face!

She asked if I would like to help with the banding of the bird. I said "yes". Really I don't do a whole lot except hold the Owl while she does all the work. But what a thrill to hold such a bird! Obviously the Owl did not like us nor what we were doing to him. Thank goodness for gloves as he got my fingers in his talons more than a couple times. If you look at the above photo, you can see he is wrapped up in a blanket of sorts (more like a straight jacket) both for his protection and ours. Everything goes much smoother with a patient who co-operates or is unable to put up a fight. I was thrilled at this opportunity but also a little intimidated because these are powerful birds. I wasn't afraid of getting hurt but afraid of hurting him even as contained as he was. It was a very new experience to me. I kept thinking about the Screech Owl I helped back in the Spring, so much easier to work with even if his hatred to me matched this Great Horned.

No photos were taken of me with the Great Horned since Angie was not there and I forgot to ask someone to snap one. Ah well, the memory will be with me for a very long time.

After a weigh in, wing measurements, banding, etc. he was put in a carrier.

Next up was "Blondie". A feisty young female from the Vaughan area. This was one beautiful but nasty snarly bird chocked full of ferocity and attitude! She hissed and clicked at us, voicing her disapproval to everything. I opted out of helping with her because I knew the whole process would probably take much longer to do with me, and I feared one of us getting hurt due to my inexperience. I know well enough that no one at TOF would let that happen. But in my head, if I am not completely comfortable with it, best not do it. I got a taste of how it's done so I was happy.

You can see why she was nicknamed "Blondie". Look how light in color she is!

You can see she wasn't keen on us and all that was happening.

Just sit back and relax.

Look at those feet!

Weigh in time.

Some measurements being done.

I bet after this she never wants to see another human being again in her life.

After she was done, she too was loaded up in a carrier and soon after I was on my way back to Toronto.

I had been keeping in touch with Angie as well as Gray who is the finder of the High Park "kid". Basically keeping them up to date on where I was, time schedules and so on. Everything was going according to plan, well almost everything, except that Angie could not join us. Disappointing to Gray and I, but it is what it is, life gets in the way at times. Our good friends Jim and Lynda were meeting us at the release location and they too were disappointed with Angie missing this.

The four of us meet on time, I grabbed the carrier and we went for a walk. Dusk was approaching, the evening was mild and we found a spot which seemed suitable for the release, and it was quiet (meaning lack of people). I talk about how I am going to release the Owl from his carrier, something I had explained to me earlier at The Owl Foundation. The door to the carrier isn't exactly wide enough for the bird to come out of. I have to take the whole top of the carrier off, and while I do, I must ensure I am still holding the metal cage door as well otherwise it may fall back and hit the bird. It probably wouldn't harm the Owl but certainly would add a lot of stress.

Having set the carrier down, I am unlocking all the latches.

Now I am slowly lifting the top of the carrier off, ensuring I have a good hold on the door.

Carrier top and door are almost off, and everyone gasped at this moment, first sight of the Owl.

Nobody stood in front of the Owl. We corralled some 6 ft back from him and watched.

He sat and watched us too in between scoping the surroundings.

The Owl did not fly off immediately. He must have sat there for 10 minutes but it sure felt longer. The wait and wonder on when he was going to fly consumed us. We enjoyed seeing him at such a close range but the anticipation on when he would fly was overwhelming. And then, out of the blue, people started coming through the park area from all different directions... some with dogs, a few with off leash dogs! My main focus was on the bird and his well being. I commend my friends on taking care of the people and especially the off leash dogs. I really only remember Lynda at this moment, halting a guy with a rather large Rottweiller type dog not on leash who was watching us some 50 ft off. Lynda may be small but don't let that fool you, when it's something she's passionate about... look out! Thankfully we did not have to see her fiery side come out. Everyone who chanced upon us was great, co-operating, standing well back and watched or hustled along quickly. I was bewildered by those who hustled off. This was something most of us have never seen, nor would ever again (slim chance). Oh well.

Then, suddenly the Owl took flight. He flew across the stretch of field to the edge of the wood lot, gaining height, and finding a branch to sit on and take in his surroundings. His actions did not go unnoticed by other inhabitants of the forest, some 5 or 6 Blue Jays voiced their disapproval and even took a few swats at him.

The Owl stood his ground with the attacks and eventually the Blue Jays gave up and left.

Moments later the Owl left this branch and went deeper into the woods.

He landed in another tree deeper in.

I'm sure we all wished him the best of luck in his new life and we left the area, headed for our rides, said our "goodbyes" and away we went. Everyone headed home while I had "Blondie" still waiting for me in the truck. She hissed upon my entry into the GMC (the carriers are in the back of the SUV).

It was almost dark now, and I knew where I was going, so I wasted no time in getting there. I brought a flashlight with me just in case. What I wished I had with me upon getting to the next release site was bug repellent as the mosquitoes were brutal! Who would have thought on October 5th that those buggers would be an issue?

I grabbed the carrier as gently as I could, walking her to the release site like I was carrying a time bomb. Blondie still hissed and even thrashed about a few times within. As I worked to remove the lid of this carrier, she fought, pushing hard to open it. Smart bird! I barely had it off when she jumped out onto the ground, stretched her wings, turned to look at me for a split second and then took flight. She landed in a nearby tree for not much more than a couple minutes, surveying the area, and then took off again. It was like this bird knew exactly where she was going. Crazy!

Serious tweaking of the manual settings to capture this crap record shot of Blondie just before she took off into the darkness.

Wow! Epic! I will refrain from some blue collar terms I have playing in my head right now. LoL!

Here I am earlier in the adventure, this is my happy face. I'm told it can be seen in my eyes.

I am very thankful we have such wildlife places like Toronto Wildlife and The Owl Foundation. I can't imagine our area, heck even the province, without them. I'm sure thousands of animals are too in their own way. I am proud to volunteer with them where I can, no matter what it is I can do to help them, to help wildlife. I always tell people there are so many ways to help from donations of money to items they use regularly (check their wish lists) or sign on as a volunteer be it for driving, in house cleaning and care, fund raising and so on.

The glow from the Owl releases had me go to bed grinning, dreaming of Owls, and the next afternoon I went for a walk near our home in hopes of spotting one I see semi-regularly who I have named Grace. I hadn't seen her since September 16th. I found her on this afternoon just chilling out. I hope the two I released the night before are somewhere enjoying their wild and free lives high atop the trees.