Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

September 29, 2015

One Year as a TWC Volunteer!

Sunday September 27, 2015 marked my one year anniversary of being an official volunteer emergency driver with Toronto Wildlife. I had actually signed on a week or so earlier but Sept 27, 2014 was my first drive for them.

I know I had blogged about it, but to recap, it was to pick up an injured Cooper's Hawk from Mississauga Animal Services that someone had found. On route to MAS, I was asked if I could pick up a small Virginia Opossum minutes from our home, it was laying on a sidewalk, under a box with a brick over top. I met an elderly woman named Marion, who made the call about the 'Possum, and I still bump into now and then since we live so close to each other. Marion thinks I have very cool hair! LoL! Unfortunately neither animal got a second chance at a wild life. The Opossum was hit by a car and his injuries were too severe. The Cooper's Hawk was a starving young bird, too far gone at this point. Both creatures met a peaceful ending after thorough examinations and decisions made on what was best for the animals.

It has been quite a year driving for wildlife. In these 12 months I have done 42 drives. 16 drives bringing a total of 27 animals into the centre for medical help. 26 drives out of the centre and helping 90 animals find their way back home, getting a second chance at a wild life. That's almost 1 drive a week. It was either feast or famine for my volunteering. Some weeks I did 2 or 3 drives. Some times I went 4 or 5 weeks without doing a drive. Those long lulls in between are why I tell people I don't think I am doing enough. But friends remind me that is not the case. I do a lot, not just for TWC, add the Owl Foundation, Peregrine Falcon fledge watches and just my own care/concern for all creatures that come to our backyard or I see in my outings. Dumpster diving for Raccoons. Chasing Coyotes off the road in the middle of the night. And so on.

I'm not bragging about this. I don't call myself a hero. I love animals and being able to help them any way I can is an honor.

I have met a lot of great people through this volunteering gig. I've made new friends too. It's amazing the friendships built because of the birds (and other wildlife). So many people Angie and I now call friends, we would never have met, if not for the love of birds.

I should link some of my blogs about the drives I have done. Some great stories in there, so I think anyway.

How helping wildlife really helped me not too long ago. See here.

I really love this one about a little American Goldfinch that I got to take back home (to his home). See here.

A Red-tailed Hawk who got a second chance at life. See here.

The first blog since volunteering last year. See here.

Some stories stick out more than others. I had to help find a flock of Robins in the fall of 2014, so a young Robin could be set free, and follow them through the winter. A friend of mine gave me his reports of Robins in the area which really helped. So when this one was set free, seeing him join the other Robins and fly off into the woods was amazing. The Goldfinch one I linked is another special tale. The Pigeon releases are always great because it's another one of finding their flock, waiting for them to leave the confines of the carrier which can take a very long time and seeing them reunite with their buddies. It makes me think of my Pigeon pals that visit me at home. I helped a male Northern Cardinal go home once, which was awesome because Cardinals are so special to me. I've admired this species of bird for as long as I can think back. So many to reflect back on. I silently wish every animal I release the best of luck on their journey.

All animals I bring in, I do my best to keep tabs on them. It's sad how many do not make it. But animals have a great ability to hide injuries and illness until they are too far gone.

I've logged all my drives for fun. Looking back, I can remember most of them with ease. I will continue this with all future work. I don't "tick" species, I just do what needs to be done for what ever needs help when I am available.

Here are a few photos of wildlife that stuck around after release. I don't chase anything for a shot; they've been through enough already. If they linger, I will try for photos at a distance (perk of having a 500mm lens).

One of the links is about this Red-tailed Hawk.

The link about the Goldfinch is of this bird.

I was thrilled to send this Wood Thrush back on his migratory path last fall. I see few Wood Thrushes in my travels, but hear them often and it's one of my favorite songs.

As much as I try to direct release birds to trees and bushes, sometimes they pick peculiar places to stop and get their bearings.

An Ovenbird waving thanks and good bye before he disappears.

Many of the release birds are migratory songbirds, survivors of window collisions that the volunteers of FLAP find and rescue.

It was great Angie could join me on the one year date to release another 4 migratory birds. I guess I should have made a bigger deal of it? Angie joins me occasionally, when it works with her schedule, she blogged about another release not too long ago, see here. All fall releases of migratory birds are done west of Toronto. That is the direction they will head, along the lake shore, before they hit southbound at points like Pelee National Park. So helping them get out of our city, away from the skyscrapers, is a big help.

I look forward to year 2, and 3, and 4, and so on, and so on. I hope I am able to help for many years to come.

Me releasing a Northern Parula near Lake Ontario a few weeks ago.

September 26, 2015

Holy Hawks in September!

Crazy couple days here in the backyard! Thursday a Sharp-shinned Hawk showed up and hung out much of the day. She and the Blue Jays had a few good squabbles, lots of screaming, hitting and chasing. A Sharp-shinned Hawk is pretty much the same size as a Blue Jay hence the Jays not being afraid of such a predator. I'm sure if the Hawk gets lucky, she still could kill one of these mobbers, but so far that has not happened yet.

The predator

The protector. One of six.

All the other birds disappeared or hid deep in the cedars at the back. Even my Pigeon buds did not stick around for such a threat. They are too big for a Sharpie to take but they aren't chancing it. Did I ever blog about our Shirley Sharp-shin who did her best to take out a Pigeon the other year? It was intense and she almost succeeded. I think it's on that list of blogs to do.

Anyways, I'm looking at this Sharpie and am wondering if it is our Shirley returning for another season? This one is about as bold as her; or just really hungry?

I've been keeping my distance, letting the birds duke it out, letting her have a chance to eat, and just hoping she doesn't catch one of our Woodpeckers, Cardinals, etc. The unique visitors, the ones we have only a pair or two of. I always bet the Hawks will grab one of the species we have plenty of like House Sparrows or Starlings. She disappeared sometime in the afternoon and not seen the rest of the day.

Friday, shortly after sun up, we are out of bed, looking out the window to the back. I catch sight of one of the Skunks finding some last bits to munch on before turning in for the day. And who do I see on top of our bird feeder pole but this Sharp-shin!

Giving the term "bird feeder" a whole new meaning.

"What you looking at man?"

There was a good battle once again between the Hawk and Jays for well over an hour. The commotion spooked all the other birds away but seemed to bring the attention of another predator, a Cooper's Hawk. This bird came in and silenced the place. The Jays freaked right out but knew their place, as did the smaller Sharpie, and everyone fled. The Cooper's flew about the yard, from tree to tree, down to the shrubs, looking to flush something out for lunch. Wow!

First sight of this Cooper's in a tree just over the Holly bush. I stayed on the back deck, giving this bird it's space, and not wanting to spook it off.

Hanging under the bird feeder pole, scoping the Viburnums for hiding Sparrows. Love the tail on this heavily cropped shot.

The Cooper's made the rounds on potential hiding spots, had a sit at the back for a short bit and eventually went off elsewhere. I've yet to see this bird again since this moment. The Sharp-shinned did not come back for the rest of the day. Today, she is here once again wreaking havoc.

All my hand feeding Pigeons have come in today, which I am happy to report. Everyone has had a good feed from me and left right after. No one can ever tell me these are dumb birds.

Petey has found the safest spot out back!

All I can say is enjoy the birds, all of them, even those Hawks that too many I know despise and will chase and throw things at from their backyards. Hawks serve a great purpose, weeding out the birds. You know the term "only the strong survive". A Hawk has to eat too.


September 24, 2015

September With The Skunks

A highlight this September for us is seeing a pair of Skunks in odd hours, under better light conditions than the middle of the night in the darkness. Many morns and eves one or both have been spotted in the garden beneath the feeder pole. 7am and 7pm, give or take 15 minutes. How cool is that? Well, if you love nature and wildlife, you will agree.

No real story to tell here. They show up. We watch and enjoy the show. I sneak outside as quiet as I can be, find myself a position to hunker down in and try for photos and videos. The encounters get pretty close at times as they forage about, sometimes coming within 4 or 5 feet of me. I remain still and eventually they figure out I am there and back away.

Today one of them was out there up until about 7:45am. He was even chasing the Squirrels out of the feeding zone. Comical to see.

Here are a few photos from the last couple weeks of creatures many of us see only after dark.

Just before dark.

Seems someone else likes to watch them too!  Normally I chase all cats out of the backyard, but for this moment, I sat back and watched, curious what would happen.  The cat wandered off after about 10 minutes or so.

Pausing to look at his friend the Frog, whom he sees every visit to our garden.

I think this is the best of the photos I've gotten of them this year, perhaps ever.  The Salvia flowers sure add a blast of color to the photo.

A rainy morning.

This one, lacking much of the white stripe, showed up on my birthday...  September 15th!

The one from this morning, being September 24th.

It's been a great season for seeing these guys! And to see them more than the Raccoons is a nice change.

Here is a short video from this morning if you want to see some live foraging action.

All this diversity at home, when it happens, sure makes it less desirable to go out to other places and look for things.

Thanks for stopping in!

September 13, 2015


So our hard drive crashed just over a week ago. I learned from a friend that our Desk Star hard drive is notorious for frying prematurely, and has been nick named "Death Star". IBM even lost a law suit because of this. But I'm back and here is a little update.

A couple Fridays ago one of my co-workers came up to me about 5pm and asked me if I wanted a Pigeon. I was like "WTF?" Everyone knows about my visiting flock and how I've got some hand feeders. He brought me outside and showed me a baby Pigeon in our propane tank storage shed at the back of the warehouse.

How did he get here? The shed has a roof, walls but no doors on either end. It is along the wall of our warehouse. Our parking lot is a very busy area with tractor trailers constantly rolling through. There are no Pigeon nests around here, heck there are no Pigeons. I bird daily, usually not even intentionally. It's just when I am having my coffee before work, or on break, I'm always looking at birds around us. I never see Pigeons. Lots of Doves, a couple Hawks, Crows and many Ring-billed Gulls. So where did he come from? I could approach the bird and he would not (could not?) fly. Once I got within his comfort zone, he would run like hell, wings pointed straight up in the air, and head for cover behind the propane tanks.

I contacted a couple friends who work with wildlife rehab. I explained the situation, and sent off the above photo. I monitored the bird over the next few hours and come dark, it had left the cover of the shed and was hunkered along the wall near our stairs/entrance to the warehouse. I made the decision, taking in advice from those I discussed this with, that it would be in best interest of the bird to contain him and call Toronto Wildlife the next morning. Our plant would be shutting down for the long weekend and if the bird was in trouble, not many would be around over the next few days. He'd most likely die.

I got a Xerox box, and picked him up with ease towards the end of my shift. I figure the darkness made it easy for me. The next morning, he went up to TWC.

I've since gotten an update on the bird. He came in at 153 grams, and is up to 191 now. He's starting to feed on his own. He was thin on arrival, empty crop but is improving. Other than that, he's a healthy bird. So the question still runs through my mind... how did he end up where he did? It's like he just crashed in. Only he knows for sure, and lucky for him, it was me who was around. I'm sure others would have helped but you know what I mean. I will update on him again one day.

I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to release some Warblers the other day before work. 10 of them to be exact. A huge shout out to the people of FLAP for saving these birds, and a huge shout out to Toronto Wildlife for caring for them. All these birds are survivors of window crashes during their fall migration. Sadly many many more do not survive such collisions.

Blackburnian Warbler

Chestnut-sided Warbler

Blackburnian back to doing his thing, feeding.  These birds just go go go.

With releases, some birds jet off, some stick around in the nearest tree while they get their bearings. I don't always have my camera with me, but if I do, I try for photos after release. I don't chase the birds. I give them their space. They have been through enough stress already. It's awesome to see them shake everything off rather quickly and go back to business as usual, being a bird, eating insects and moving along their way with migration.

It had been a quiet summer for me with wildlife interaction through the places I volunteer with. I went from weekly adventures to monthly. I missed it but always figured things were going well out there and I was not needed. It would be selfish of me to wish for a call in need of a volunteer driver because an animal was in trouble.

Angie blogged about the other weekend where she got to join me in another release. Since we work different shifts, too often she is not with me physically, but always in spirit. Please check her blog here.

I want to update you all on some other wildlife stuff around the house, but will save that for later this week. I always struggle with blog titles, but I think this one worked, tying in all these bits. If you care for a little bit more, Angie and I are monthly contributors to a blog with Bird Canada. On the 10th of every month, we have a blog with them. But there are many great blogs throughout the month from people across Canada. Here is our latest.

See you soon!