Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

December 22, 2016

Days Before Christmas... Mother Nature Gave to Me

Hi everyone! What a week it has been. A few surprise bird moments right in our own backyard, sightings we never expected.

9 Days Before Christmas, Mother Nature Gave to Me... a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker!

Early December 16th I saw a funny bird fly into our Holly bush. It was my waking moments, I knew it was something different, but still half asleep and needing to make coffee, get our Budgies up, I quickly wrote it off as a Starling and my imagination.

About noon, as I am preparing myself for work, I saw a funny bird once again fly into the Holly bush. Now I'm wide awake and focus on what's going on. The daylight sure helped. Holy schnikes! A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker! The bird was picking at our Holly berries and then flying off with them. I was quite thrilled by this and hoped the bird would return for Angie to see, and the next day was the start of our 2 day counting for Project Feeder Watch. Thankfully the bird did return on Saturday. It spent the morning with us, then flew off in the early afternoon, not to be seen again. What's even more peculiar is there was at least 3 other people I knew of in Southern Ontario to suddenly have this species show up in their backyards. What gives?

Don't ask me, I'm just a bird!

6 Days Before Christmas, Mother Nature Gave to Me... an Eastern Screech Owl!

Here it is Monday morning. Yawn! The weekend went so fast. I dropped a bunch of Pepsi stuff off at Toronto Wildlife, had a peek about the park nearby (cold and quiet), and then I went home to finish up morning chores and prepare for work. Well, once again, around noon, I'm looking out the back window and I see something sticking out of our Owl box, which is about 40 ft away from the house. At first I'm thinking it's just a Squirrel but thought to grab the bins and have a better look. The shutters were closed so peeking through them didn't allow me to get a good focus at first. But when I did. My jaw hit the floor.

I know without any doubt that I said "holy *bleep*" over and over and over again; and by *bleep* I don't mean "shit" either. I quickly got myself dressed to step outside, going out the front door, slinking up the side of the house and creeping onto our deck at the back of the house. I was shaking with excitement. I joke to my closer buds that I was harder than a $3 jaw breaker. Yes, I was very excited.

I watched the bird, snapped half a dozen photos, and made my way back inside, going the same way to the front. I made sure I phoned Angie at work before I put this sighting out on social media.

The Squirrels were giving him some grief and I hope that has not effected him coming back. We've not seen him since.

Upon advice from others I've communicated with through some birding pages, I've put stove pipe around the tree. It's really worked in stopping the Squirrels from running up the tree. I may look into what can be done from above at a later date.

Both birds are new species (that we know of) to come to our property.

4 Days Before Christmas, Mother Nature Gave to me... a Great Horned Owl fly by!

We had a bit of a snowfall in the last couple hours before my work shift was done. It was big fluffy flakes but for some reason it still created some chaos on the roads. The drive home was slow. I made a detour not far from the house as traffic was really backed up on my regular route. I'm taking it slow 'n easy. Not as slow as what most were doing, but slow enough. Suddenly on my left, I see a large bird come flying across the road, full speed and getting lower and lower as it crossed the road. I almost came to a stop to let the bird pass even though it still had height over me. And it disappeared in someone's backyard on my right. Now what kind of bird would be on the hunt at almost 11 pm? A Great Horned Owl! No photos but the action is embedded in my brain. I can see it even as I key this. The darkened snow covered road, large flakes still falling and this bird... whoosh! That was the last thing I expected to see. There is a large woodlot very near here, multi million dollar homes on big lots with ginormous mature trees. Of course this is great Owl habitat.

We are mere days away from Christmas. I don't expect anything else but can't help but wonder if I will be blessed again. I'd really love for that Screech Owl to show himself again, more so for Angie to see him. The knowing there is one in our 'hood is pretty awesome.

I didn't think I was going to do another blog before the holidays but here is one. I didn't think I'd have such sightings this week but here they were. It's great having eyes open to the wild world around us!

All the best! Might not be back till 2017 now. Cheers!

December 16, 2016

She Heard My Call

I do believe in energy, an unseen vibe I guess is another way of putting it. Not everyone believes in this kind of stuff, but I do. Let's take yesterday as an example. I keyed out that catching up blog, touching upon my Pigeon friends in one part. Then 3 hours or so later, minutes before I am ready to go to work, I see a lone Pigeon sitting on the clothes line pole by the back door. Not many Pigeons do that so I knew it was one of "my birds". Lo and behold it was Pierre's missus! That's what I call her... "the Missus".

I see dozens upon dozens of Pigeons out back some days but I know "my birds". There's something unique about every one of them if a person takes the time to look for it. Then there's personality traits with each of them. However it may be, I knew who that bird was, and I was delighted to see her. 45 days away is a long time!

This is not the first time over the years where I've been missing "my birds" and I post something, usually a blog, and within a day they start showing up. Or is it just a coincidence? Unfortunately it's not worked with wishing for an Owl to visit our backyard or me picking a decent winning lottery ticket (don't need a lot, just make life a little more comfortable).

I gave her a good feed even if it meant it was delaying my leaving for work and getting that much needed medium D/D on the way. But it was so worth it.

I'm hoping my big boy Pierre will be next to show up in the coming days.

This crazy windy cold yucky last days of fall which sure feel like February weather are bringing in the birds. Hopefully blow a rarity into the yard, even if it is going to be Mr. Pierre. He sure is a rare one now being absent almost 7 weeks now.

So far this morning a heck of a lot more Pigeons flew in. A few others I recognize, who have also been missing for a while now. Time will tell.

If you missed yesterday's blog, here is the link.

I came across this online piece about Pigeons. Whether you like them or not, you should give it a read. 21 reasons why Pigeons are so great. Click here.

Shout out to Margie for commenting yesterday. Thank you! And may you and yours have a wonderful Christmas, New Years and beyond. Cheers!

December 15, 2016

Tis The Season... to be busy (catching up)

Hey hey all!

Who can believe that Christmas is less than 2 weeks away now?  I can't.  Now that I put that horrifying thought in your brain, let's move on to a bit of this and that from the last few weeks.

For starts, my pal Pierre the Pigeon has not been around since November 1st.  Actually his whole flock have not come in since the morning of that day.  I miss him, his missus, and Mickey.  I hope they are all okay and we mingle again soon.

My new friends come in almost daily. They aren't Pierre but they are pretty cool. These 2 sure get a lot more attention due to their plumage. Slowly I'm picking up on their personalities and they are trusting me more as our time together continues.

They are wise to the Hawk activity but them and their flock still come in. It's a quick feed and away they go.

We've had a few Hawk adventures, my last blog was about one with a Cooper's Hawk who I have not seen since that morning.

We have more appearances by a Sharp-shinned Hawk though. The other morning, just as day light was coming, I was sitting at the kitchen window, enjoying my first coffee of the day and I saw the flash of a bird rocket into the tall cedars at the back of the yards. Then dozens of Sparrows flushed from those trees. I knew it was a Hawk making an early morning strike. The Sparrows were probably still in a sleepy slumber when it occurred. I got dressed and slowly ventured down back. Yes, confirmation on what I thought. The small Hawk was successful in her attack, and got herself a meal.

It's odd that the Blue Jays are not messing with this Sharpie who is similar in size. Other winters we've watched 3 or 4 Jays go at this species of Hawk, pretty much messing with it. A couple would attack it while another one or two would go and get peanuts from the feeder. What gives this time around?

I'm not seeing our nocturnal mammals other than one of the Opossums. Almost every night I leave an apple core out for him, sometimes even a whole apple come the weekend when I'm not eating them like I do weekdays. There's usually one or two soft "mealy" apples come the weekend I will leave out. The Opossum never sees me do it. When I do chance upon him, he runs for one of the hiding spots in the yard and will stay there until I am gone. They are not a bold animal like the Raccoon. I've not bothered trying to take pictures of him for a while now. What's up with that?

Angie went away for a girls' getaway weekend a couple weeks ago. Now 20 years ago I would have been calling my buds up and we'd be racing off to the bars for a good ol' rocking drunken adventure, probably starting at the booby bars before hitting some live metal gig in the GTA. Nowadays, while many people seem to think I still live such a lifestyle because of my appearance, I'm more content for a quieter adventure, and often on my own. I always cherished my time alone with Meadow. Now we've got Merry and Molly, plus the others who enjoy their human companions being home. But I still make time to get out and have some "wild" adventures looking for birds and wildlife.

The weekend Angie was gone I decided to go looking for Screech Owls after dark. In the 2 nights, I ended up with 6 individuals within a 3 km radius of our home. That's pretty freakin' awesome I'd say. Of course I won't say where. It's amazing that during the day I'm not spotting these little Owls but come dark... BOOM! One was in a most peculiar place and it was on whim to try it in this spot while I enjoyed my fancy Italian dinner (pizza slice) in the truck. It was a small ravine area and an industrial area backed on to it. A small older woodlot not far off. I guess it was enough livable space for a Screech Owl (hopefully having a mate in the vicinity as well).

Owling after dark is not ideal for photos. Some people try, using flash, not knowing they are blinding these poor birds. Gotta love when someone shares a photo and the Owl has bright red eyes. *face palm*

Owling after dark is great for observing the Owls being active, and sometimes vocal, a listening video here for you. It's a totally different experience than finding one roosting during the daylight hours. I still may try for a photo, just for record. I won't use flash. I tweek the hell out of my manual settings on the camera and if there is lighting nearby, I try to use that too. I also have a small headlamp I will wear. I won't direct it at the Owl but below it to help in the photographic moment. I also use manual focus. 9 out of 10 pics are total fuzzy crap but usually I can luck out with 1 salvageable shot.

A week or so after having that epic Screech Owl weekend, I chanced upon a 7th Owl in another area during one of my morning walks.

He was seemingly asleep but was well aware of my presence. His head followed my standing position. A couple minutes watching him, half a dozen photos, I walked away. I was thankful for the surprise sighting.

I've seen some other Owls recently, visiting northern species of Owl (Screech Owls are year round in Toronto). I've made the oath not to share about them until the Warblers return to our area, meaning these Owls would be long gone. As with every winter, some of these Owls and their roosting locations get reported online, or even just a lot of blabber mouthing from one person to another, sometimes telling far more than one other individual, and it happens every year... the Owls get harassed constantly during the daylight hours. These are nocturnal Owls who prefer to sleep the day away. Some people are mistaken about Owls, thinking they actually like people, or at the very least do not mind them lingering around.

A colony of Long-eared Owls were reported and masses of people visited the location daily. Some people went day after day. I don't get the reasoning. Selfish sure is one word that comes to mind. Well, there are other words but I try to keep this an all ages blog. Some people do stay quiet, stay on the path and limit their time. It's sad that not everyone is like that.

I saw the Owls before all this took place, even before it hit eBird. I kept my distance for a few weeks while I listened to many stories of people behaving poorly with these birds. It was a colony of 5 and quickly reduced to one Owl in less than 2 weeks. Now that last Owl is not being seen for close to a week now.

I did go visit the location one morning last week, and not for the Owls, but a curiosity of the area after weeks of human activity. I saw no Owls. I saw no people. But I saw the change in the area. I saw the footwork of people who ventured through the cluster of small trees, trying to obtain photos without branches going through the shots. I saw broken saplings. I saw broken branches. One person even went to great lengths to carve a trail in the path with a large broken branch. It went from the entry point of the woodlot, following the path hundreds of feet, and then at the roosting spot, they pretty much carved a trench right across the foot path. Then, to add to it, they piled some broken branches to the side, pointing to where the Owl(s) once were roosting. How sad is that?

Some even try to bullshit the world by saying the Owl(s) are from elsewhere when they share their pictures. Or that they suddenly decided to venture into this tiny woodlot on their own accord and found them all on their own. Amazing how so many people suddenly, all together yet on their own, decided to go "Owling" in the exact same forest. How bad do some need their ego stroked, needing to feel like they are a great finder of Owls. If only they tried just a little harder to find these birds on their own and not chase the reported ones; they would see how much more rewarding and plain freakin' awesome it is. It's almost insulting that they try and BS like this to others.

And as usual, there is a lot of arguing among people about what is right and wrong with such things going on. It's mind boggling that some people think it is totally fine to disturb the Owls like they have, and just as okay to damage the property. Would they do this in their own backyard? It's a complete opposite to everything they would tell others that they stand for.

I must stop before I start cursing in this blog.

Please think about the birds and wildlife you may be trying to get pictures of.

And lastly, a few weeks back I happened to spot our resident male Peregrine Falcon "Lucky" at a nearby lakefront park. It was so nice to see him face to face, and not through binoculars hundreds of feet above the street.

He did put on quite a show.  You can click on the photos to make them full size.

Lucky is spotted here periodically.  He likes having a bath in the lake from time to time.  The park was rather busy, lots of joggers and dog walkers about.  Some off leash dogs were going to the shore in various spots which kept him moving about.

Super crop and full zoom with my 500 mm.

Nice fly by.  I actually have one where he's looking right at me but it's not clear at all.  Oh well.  It was fun regardless.

He seems to like this particular rock over on the west side.  A very safe spot from everything other than any big waves that could come from behind him.

It's funny how some people still do not get my love for everything. How can I love my Pigeon friends and still have something for Peregrine Falcons who LOVE to eat Pigeons. Why can't I enjoy everything the natural world has to offer us?

I hope to key something else out again before Christmas, but if not, I will you all the best in the holiday season, no matter how you spend it.

Cheers from the animals and I!

November 27, 2016

Damn! Bitter Sweet.

This morning I'm watching and counting birds from the kitchen window for Project Feeder Watch.  All is going nicely, had 18 American Goldfinches right off the start which is a great number for them, that I have not seen here in years.  A couple White-breasted Nuthatches, Chickadees, Juncos and Downy Woodpeckers as well.

In flew 3 Pigeons, I recognize the birds even though they aren't part of my flock of hand feeders.  The Pigeons are poking around in the garden, picking up whatever has fallen from the feeders above.

Suddenly all the birds rocket out of the yard.  The Pigeons are flying right towards the house and I know they are going to turn at the last minute and cut through the trees along the fence line.  Just as they are making this turn, which is maybe 15 ft from the back of the house, I see a Cooper's Hawk rapidly approaching the birds.

Before my brain really clues into everything, I see the Hawk on top of one of the Pigeons in the air, and forcing it to the ground.  BAM!  Just like that.  The two ended up just over the fence and in the yard next door.  I have a clear view of everything from the window still due to a very old wire fence that separates the yards.

I'm stunned at what I saw.  In all the years of backyard bird watching, I've seen a Hawk take something right in front of me only a very few times.  It's shocking, it's incredible to witness and it's also heart breaking.  But that is nature.  There is no mercy.  One can only hope the suffering is minimal, that the Hawk kills it's prey quick.

I'm watching from the window.  One part of me wants to run outside and try to save the Pigeon.  Another part of me knows this is part of the Hawk's survival, it has to eat too.  I want to watch.  I want to close the shutters.

I have the camera on the table and take a few shots through the glass.  I dare not open the window and possibly spook the Hawk, perhaps abandoning it's catch which I see is still alive and fighting back.

The backyard Squirrels have taken notice to this ordeal and aren't happy about it at all.  Tails flickering, they are slinking along the landscape, moving in on this Hawk.  A couple run past it, another runs right at it, stopping at the last second.  The Hawk stands it's ground over the Pigeon.  Another Squirrel charges in and the Hawk flies off, leaving the Pigeon on the lawn.  I can see the bird is still alive...  barely.  FUCK!

What do I do?  Do I go out there and end the Pigeon's life, perform a mercy killing on this poor creature?  The Hawk is still deep down the yard, just watching.  The Squirrels spread out and go about their business, not having one concern for that Pigeon.  Of course all the Pigeon's friends are long gone.

I decide to wait this out a little.  I fear my going outside could send the Hawk flying off.  The Pigeon is going to die regardless; it's almost lifeless now.  I don't want it's death to be a waste.

Moments later the Cooper's Hawk flies in again, going right for it's meal.  It grabs it in it's talons and flies off to the back, high in a tree, and goes to work plucking the Pigeon and then eating it's flesh.  I can see this all quite well from the window with my binoculars.

We have our very own nature channel.  Who needs television?

To think about 6 years ago I would be like "Ya!  Kill those Pigeons!  Get them out of here!"  How times have changed.

Just this past week an old Facebook status of mine came up where I was putting out some monster bird feeder that would be Pigeon proof.  Nowadays, I AM a Pigeon feeder in every sense.

I really hope this does not become a norm, our backyard turning into a blood bath, no matter what the Hawk(s) are taking out.  I'm only really spotting the Cooper's about once a week but that don't mean it's not been there more (not seeing carnage and leftovers, feather piles).  I've said it before if it ever got that bad, I would take down our feeders, dispersing things for a while.  I love all birds including birds of prey but I don't want any part of luring birds daily to their death.  It's not fair, especially to my Pigeon friends who have a trust in me.  The birds won't starve, we aren't their only food supply.  Not everyone will get this and I don't care.

I really hope I never see one snagging one of my special Pigeon friends.  I honestly don't know what I would do if I witnessed that in a way like I did with this bird today.  It's no wonder Pierre and his flock are staying well away right now.  Some think Pigeons are stupid birds.

November 16, 2016

Pigeon Pages Vol 2

Hello. Welcome back. I've been wanting to do another Pigeon blog lately and finally have the time on this drizzly November morning. I recalled doing one at some point in the past and found that I did, just shy of a year ago (Nov. 20, 2015), see here. Kinda funny, huh?

Things have changed around here a lot in the last month or so. As fall migration occurred, once again Hawks have come hunting our neck of the woods.

As I key this blog, the backyard is absent of all birds except one Sharp-shinned Hawk hiding in the cedars down back. This bird has wreaked havoc on all the other visiting birds. I've watched it even attack the Pigeons who are much larger than this Hawk.

Sharp-shinned Hawk from earlier this month.

Then another Hawk has been coming in as well. A larger species who even drives out the Sharp-shin. This is a Cooper's Hawk. Notice the bloody foot?

I don't have any ill feelings towards these birds. They are doing what they do. I offer food to all birds it seems, even if it's birds for birds. Hawks do help keep populations in check, weeding out the sick and the weak.

I've not had to touch my feeders sometimes for up to 4 days or more. I do see birds come in, but it's a quick grab and they are gone again. The Blue Jays are sometimes here screaming at one of the Hawks watching over the yard. The Jays will fight the Sharpie since they are similar in size. The Jays will not fight the beast that is the Cooper's.

I'm missing my birds visitors. It's not been a blood bath here that I can see. I've only spotted one pile of feathers in the last couple weeks between our backyard and the properties on either side of us.

I'm sure missing my pal Pierre. Most stopping in to read my blog know this bird. He's been coming to visit for over 4 years now. I see Pierre about once a week right now, along with his missus. I've only hand fed him once in the last month. Even Mickey is another MIA bird for the most part these days.

He must be missing me and the yummy treats he can only get when he comes to me. Shelled peanuts and sunflower chips. His visits now are whatever he can find on the ground, searching with 20 or more of his species that fly in with him in the few minutes they do before flying off in fear. I can't get my shoes on fast enough to go outside and greet him. It is obvious they have food sources elsewhere though some argue they are totally dependent on me.

What is interesting is that while he and his flock stay away, other Pigeons are coming in, taking advantage of the food source and taking chances with these Hawks lurking about. These new visitors aren't naive, first sign (sight or sound) of danger and they quickly vanish as well.

A couple of the new visitors stand out from the rest, and here you can easily see why.

The majority of Pigeon visitors are the typical blues and grays, with the odd red one. White feathered birds are far less common to come in, for us anyway. I think they are easy targets as they stand out from the rest.

It took no time for these two to figure out a better food source by coming to my hand.

I named them Jersey 1 and Jersey 2. I couldn't decide who was #1 and who was #2 but I finally figured it out. #1 has black feathers under one eye. #2 has black feathers under both eyes. I'm so clever! Ha ha!

I've not tried to take any better photos of them with my better cameras. So far it's only been shots with the phone. I'm just digging their company so much. Pigeons really are very personable birds if you take the time to get to know them. As I've mentioned in the past, having the opportunity to watch a flock day after day, I easily recognize individuals even when to others they mostly all look the same.

There is something about Jersey 2 that has me wondering. See, a couple years ago we had a Pigeon who looked identical to this one. We had named it Gene because of the Gene Simmons (KISS) similarities. I happened to be outside one morning when I noticed all the Pigeons take flight, and out from the garden ran a cat with Gene the Pigeon in it's teeth.

This is the cat. It hunted our yard often one Summer. I yelled at it, threw things at it, I sprayed it with the hose so many times. The little asshole continued to return. Feeders were moved, many times only putting a small amount in for the morning while home to watch and then that was it. We knew it had owners one street over from us, but they left it outside. In time, the cat turned quite sickly, had a terrible eye infection, later on a very bad limp and then was not seen again. How anyone thinks this is being a good pet owner is beyond. Good thing we are responsible pet owners, Meadow was always fully vaccinated and didn't catch these diseases such sick animals could leave traces of in our backyard where Meadow roamed on leash and harness.

So ya, the little *expletive* had Gene in his teeth and was trotting off with him. I ran to help. The cat got over the fence, still with Gene in it's mouth. I had a broom with me and in my rage and upset I launched it in the direction of the cat. My aim sucks, which is probably for the better, and the broom went beyond the cat but it was enough to make it let go of poor Gene. The cat darted off. Gene sat there on the ground for a moment. I quickly jumped the fence to come to his aid. Gene took flight, fast and hard, and disappeared. We never saw him again. This happened in 2014. We feared he may have had a heart attack in the panic especially when he took flight, working his heart even harder. Are you familiar with the term "scared to death"? It is real.

Also cats carry a lot of bacteria in their saliva, enough to kill other living beings as it travels through their blood stream. So while Gene may have gotten away, the cat could still have killed him slowly. It can even kill a human if left unattended over time. Believe it or not.

I came across this photo of Gene, not the best angle but...

Here is Jersey 2.

What do you think?

I know talking with some wildlife rehab friends about this when it happened to Gene, some remarked that if there was a bird who could survive a cat bite, it would be a Pigeon. Not to make them sound bad, but they don't exactly live in the cleanest conditions if you know what I mean. They adapt and can withstand things so many others could not.

We so bad ass.  Ha ha ha!

Here is Jersey 1 getting to know my friend Rob the other Saturday morning.

I'm having a blast getting to know these 2 birds. But it will be nice to see my old friends again, hopefully soon.

November 9, 2016

Love for a Dove

Yesterday, November 8th, 2016, I accepted a mission to help a youngish Mourning Dove find a flock to join after spending some time at Toronto Wildlife. There are certain species of birds who do better, especially at this time of year when the weather is turning colder, by flocking up with their own kind. Joining an established flock in an area gives them the best chance at survival, following the other birds who know where to find food, water and shelter.

Mourning Dove from backyard sometime ago.

It turned out to be quite the task.

I used to see Mourning Doves everywhere. But lately, and I mean for a while now, not so much.

We even checked eBird for sightings and Downsview Park, where TWC is located, had someone report seeing 20 just 2 days earlier. I had seen Doves there a week ago. Could I find a single bird? No.

Angie and I had seen a couple over the past weekend in Marie Curtis Park. It was only 2 birds but it was the only other spot I could think of.

I was making contact with friends who may have seen Doves in their birding travels lately, even people with bird feeders as a last resort. Nothing was working out. A couple friends had been seeing them but also a Cooper's Hawk who was doing quite a number on their Pigeon visitors. So ya, wasn't an option to send this guy there.

I hit a few parks where I am certain I've seen Doves in the past, nothing.

I ran into a birding bud of mine at one and he was at a loss about where one or more could be.

Funny thing is how many people talked about the fact that it is now legal to shoot these birds. I know this is true but facts on where and when are unknown to me. I should research it. Honestly it upsets me though. Who the heck would want to shoot a Mourning Dove? Sure they can be in abundance (or were), but they are such peaceful birds, some call them "not very bright" and they are much too easy of a target. Where is the challenge in that, if someone wanted to call this a sport? It seems more to me like jagoffs just getting their rocks off by obliterating these birds.

Mourning Doves can breed up to four times a year. They are a great food source to other animals, especially birds of prey. Yes, the grim side many don't want to think about, but it's true.

I just don't get it (hunting them). How are they ensuring the population does not plummet and go way of the Passenger Pigeon? Any one with an answer, please comment.

I made my way down to the lake parks. I stopped at a couple as I made my west towards Marie Curtis Park which is on the border between Etobicoke and Mississauga.

I had the last of migratory birds to release with me as well and they needed to be out and free sooner than later. As soon as I found a good spot, with other migrants in the area, out they went.

The last migratory bird release for me, for 2016. A White-throated Sparrow.

As you can see here, a funny thing happened with this Hermit Thrush. He left the bag but stopped on my hand. He decided to sit here for about a minute, taking in his new surroundings before flying off to join a couple other Hermit Thrushes. I was very happy that I had my phone in my jacket pocket when this occurred. This never happens! Sure made this last release outing quite memorable.

I kept onward with the mission at task. I asked bird people in my travels about any Dove sightings. Most said "no" and a few even said "why would I bother looking at a Mourning Dove?" One even called them an idiot species. WELL!

Through my mission, I chanced upon an Eastern Screech Owl. You know shit is real when I kept moving, not even running back to the truck for the camera to get even one photo. True story!

I had been in semi-regular contact with my friends at TWC on what was going on. It was agreed to keep the faith and just get over to Marie Curtis Park, going with that last sighting I had.

I slowly made my way through Marie Curtis, stopping at various spots, looking and listening. I parked the truck in a few areas and went for a walk. Nothing. I had made my way down to the lake, did a u-turn at the last parking lot and sat there for many minutes. I was in thought about what to do. I did not want to just let this little Dove go without finding him a friend or two, even knowing the birds are most likely still in the park... somewhere.

A small birding group was walking through the park. I had thought about asking them if they had seen any Doves but with all the responses I had gotten already, I decided not to.

I left that last lot, and got back on the driveway, crawling along in the truck, and really starting to stress now. I pull over about 50 ft out of the lot. I just sit, think and worry.

I kid you not about what happened next.

Suddenly in flew 7 Mourning Doves from the west. They landed on the drive right behind my truck! The birds wanted to get a drink from the large puddle on the road.

I just about pooped myself. My heart raced.

A car was coming and it forced the Doves off the road. NOOOOOOOOOOOO! The birds took flight and all landed in a nearby tree. I wasted no time now, getting to work. I did not want this bird to miss the opportunity.

I let the Dove out of the card board box there on the grass. The bird took flight and flew to a tree near where this flock was sitting.

I returned to the truck, watched and waited for something to happen. But nothing did. The birds stayed where they were, perhaps waiting for me to leave? I put the truck in drive and slowly drove away, watching out the mirror. Doves began dropping down from the tree to the puddle. I could not tell if my "friend" joined them at that moment or not. I just have to hope he did meet up with them sometime that day. Knowing there was more than the 2 birds Angie and I saw days earlier was a bonus.

I'm not a religious type. I'm not a believer in one God. I don't really know what I believe in. Maybe someone is out there watching over me, like a guardian angel. They say things happen for a reason but sometimes it's incredibly odd how they can work out so well, and just like that, when things seem so dark. This is one of those stories, for me, and this bird. I know I silently said "thank you". The relief that came over me with this grand finale was beyond description. I was exhausted. And now I had to get home and get ready for work.

No photos were taken of the bird or the flock. I kinda wish I even snapped one of the road, and that puddle. But capturing an image was of least importance here.

Here is one of my favorite Mourning Dove captures from the backyard a couple Decembers ago.

They really are beautiful birds. And if you listen to their song, you can be overwhelmed with a feeling of calm. We sure do. That call can lull us to sleep in the deck chairs on a Summer afternoon.

October 29, 2016

A Volunteer Tale

A couple weeks ago a "shout out" was sent to volunteer drivers about a Golden-crowned Kinglet requiring help; needing a drive up to Toronto Wildlife. Turns out the bird was picked up a couple blocks from our home. It was late in the day, TWC would be closing for the day in less than 2 hours. And I was at work.

On occasion in the past, with similar situations like this, I offer myself as a "last resort" option if no one else calls in to help. I throw my suggestion that I could pick the animal up on my way home from work, keep it overnight, and bring it in first thing the next morning. That is providing the finder is willing to meet me after 10 pm. This has played out like that a few times in the last couple years. And in this occasion, it also went that way.

I turn down the overtime option at work and get myself on the road ASAP at quitting time. Somethings mean more to me than making a few extra dollars.

I call the finder when I am near their home and arrange for them to meet me outside with the bird.

I arrive and the person is standing there with a Xerox box. We chat for a moment about the bird, how they found it, and I could not help but bring up the size of the box for such a tiny little bird. Kinglets are about 3 to 4 inches in length, with a wing span about 6 inches in total and weigh no more than 8 grams max. A Xerox box's dimensions are 16 1/2 x 8 1/2 x 12 1/2 inches. I can't imagine how many Kinglets we could pack in such a box.

In our conversation, the finder told me she had not checked on the bird since she contained it some 6 hours earlier. I had considered checking it right then and there, ensuring it was still alive, but decided not to out there on a darkened side street.  It was about 11 pm now.  I was going to get it home, bring it inside, still contained of course, and only do this because it was going below the freezing temperature and that may not have been the best for an unwell bird to be stuck in. I knew a good dark quiet and comfortable place to keep the bird (and box) in overnight, and away from our cats Merry and Molly.

I was driving home and found it odd that there was not a sound of any sort coming from that box. No movement noises, no peeps. She had told me she put a heavy towel inside the box for the bird. I wondered if it was stuck inside it. I accelerate the truck and get us home quick.

Once inside, I open the box and have a peek. No bird to be seen. I remove the bath towel. No bird. WTF?

Angie woke up, knowing I was bringing this bird home, and asked how it was. I said "it's not there". We both agreed that I had better phone the finder and inform them of the situation. The bird had escaped the box, most likely through the open handles on the sides, and was somewhere within her condo.

I call the finder and did not expect the reaction I got from her. At first she was in denial and suggested it was loose in my truck or house, that I better double check. I assured her that was not the case. I never got the bird from her. Well she went overboard with her emotions and I spent the next 20+ minutes trying to calm her down.

She played out some of the worst case scenarios about what was going to happen to this bird loose in her apartment. Killing itself on her windows. The dog might eat it. Etc. She got very upset. She tries to be a good person in life and every time she does something good, it backfires on her. I started feeling like Dr. Phil with a patient. The more she went on, the more I got the vibe that she was terrified about this bird being loose in her place. Remember how small a Kinglet is? What could that bird do to her and her dog?

I don't think I ever really calmed her down but somehow ended the conversation. We were going in circles by this time, always starting the conversation over. And each time I found myself with less of a window to talk. I think I pretty much cut her off, saying to look for the bird and call either me or TWC in the morning. Then said "good night".

I did not hear from her the next morning. I informed TWC of what had happened and to not expect me and the bird. TWC heard nothing from the woman either.

5 pm rolls around. I'm at work. My cell phone goes off and it's a blocked number. I don't answer blocked numbers. I hit "reject" and the call goes right to my voice mail. Moments later I get notice of a voice mail so I check it. Lo and behold it's the woman and she found the bird. Now think about this. The bird has now been in her apartment for 24 hours or more without food or water. Who knows how long he had been outside on the ground before she found him. This is a very long time for a tiny unwell bird to be without any the necessities of life and care.

The woman said I could come get it any time, even if it was later that night after work.

This is now going into Friday evening. I couldn't help now, too many plans for the Saturday. I was also leery on having another encounter with the finder although her attitude was much more positive and she was rather proud of herself on finding him and properly containing him this time.

I quickly call TWC, let them know of the current situation and apologized that I would not be helping. They said they would call her and work something out to get the bird up there ASAP.

I did not hear anything else after this. I had been to the centre a few times since but with other things happening, the past and this bird were sort of forgotten. Well, that is until today, when I started keying this blog (Oct 28)...

I was in the centre picking up a Kinglet for release. The bird needed a driver to get him west and out of the city, somewhere along the shores of Lake Ontario, and back on his migratory path. I was waiting a couple minutes for the bird and the person I was working with at TWC on this other Kinglet situation was present. I asked her how things went the other week.

It turns out she was the one who drove down and picked up the Kinglet. Sadly the bird died in her car while on route to Toronto Wildlife. UGH! My heart sank. I always have the highest of hopes for the wildlife patients. I know many do not make it but didn't expect to hear this one died in her car. If only the bird made it in the first time around, would he still be alive today?

I had a moment, thinking about this little bird I tried to help, a bird I never met.

Now it was time to get to business helping another Golden-crowned Kinglet who was lucky enough to be getting his second chance at a wildlife.

I drove him down to a lake side park, through heavy traffic and some parking issues, but I got him back to where he needed to be. I felt something more with this Kinglet release for obvious reasons. As I walked along, looking for a release spot, I took notice to one particular tree. Such a beautiful tree with leaves of gold! Yes, this is the perfect spot.

Of course you can't tell a bird being released what to do or where to go. You just give them their freedom and they take that quite gladly. Some birds linger nearby, some fly as far away as possible, quickly finding a place to hide and gather their bearings.

This guy went right to that tree and pretty much allowed me into his world for a number of minutes. How happy he was to be free from the confines of that no-wax paper bag, never mind the rehab centre he spent some time in for X amount of days before. It was a beautiful Autumn morning, the sun was shining bright and the bird took it all in. He preened and chirped, then began to hop through the tree, snagging little insects, preening and chirping some more.

In this moment, I did not forget about the one who did not make it. I couldn't say "sorry" for what happened to him. But I could find comfort in knowing another of his kind did find freedom again.

Here are a few photos of the happy Kinglet. You can click on the images to enlarge them.

Toronto Wildlife does the absolute best they can to help every animal in need. People there go above and beyond expectations time and time again. The dedication from staff and volunteers is incredible. Bad things happen to animals 24/7 and what staff cannot get to, volunteers step in. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose, but we never give up trying to help any of them.

October 6, 2016


Well the jig is up, the news is out, the Raccoon neighbours have been found out about!

It was something I knew would eventually happen. It was something that concerned me from the beginning; just on how the property owners would handle this situation.

A quick re-cap. Back in the Spring of 2014, I noticed Squirrels had made a hole in the back section of a neighbour's garage roof. Their garage is detached. We live on a crescent, and this home is actually one street over, but the back part of this garage hangs over the fence next door. The property owners cannot see this section of the garage from the ground on their side.

I was a good neighbour and tried to tell them what was happening. The person I was trying to communicate with did not speak English so I was treated to a couple very strange looks, like I was a 10 headed alien, and then the man just walked away. It was an awkward WTF moment and then I was like "well I tried to tell you" in my head and left it at that. I seldom see these people so whatever.

Spring 2015 a mother Raccoon discovered this hole, made it bigger and used it to have her babies within. The mother and her children lived there through this past winter until she had young again and then the previous year's young moved on.

It's been a real treat this year since "momma" got to be quite used to my presence outside and she either accepted me or ignored me for the most part. As her young grew, their first looks into the wild world outside this roof included me. To them I was part of the territory and they too did the same as mom... accept or ignore.

I enjoyed the many mornings and nights where I was being watched by the Raccoons. For many days at least one was there looking down at me while I filled bird feeders, did yard work or was taking photos of birds (and them).

A few weeks ago some major tree trimming was done over the garages down there. I guess that is when the hole was discovered. But nothing had been done until 2 days ago when someone attached a one way door to the hole. The Raccoons would be able to leave the roof but not get back in.

The silver lining to this is the fact these people actually got a professional who is tackling the situation humanely. The time of year is right as the young are old enough to leave on their own and winter is still a few months away. I do hope they find good shelter elsewhere in the area.

I've heard enough horror stories over the years of how some people deal with situations like this, not having the least bit of concern for the animals and do whatever it takes to get rid of them as fast as possible.

Back in the Spring I saw a Dodge Caravan on the Hwy 401. It was dark blue with the darkest tinted windows a person could possibly get. On the side windows and the back, in duct tape, it said "Wildlife B Gone". The van wasn't in very good condition, rusted bottom, a few dents and big scratches. To me, this paints a crazy visual of a guy with a hammer crawling into an attic going after the Raccoons.

Last night was the first encounter I had with the Raccoons since the door was installed. Momma and the smallest of her litter were on the roof trying to figure out how to get back in. It was sad to watch but I can't blame these people for doing this. If it was us, we most certainly would do the same thing. As much as some think I can talk to the animals, there was no way I could explain to them what was going on. In their mind, this was their home and now it's gone.

I was sitting down by the shed, enjoying my usual Whisky Wednesday. Momma got herself a drink too. They love that water bowl, especially the little one.

I hear Raccoons have more than one sleep spot; hard to believe with these ones since they were here all summer. Obviously they have found another place to sleep the day away. As I said above, I hope it's a good spot... and they stay safe.

Try and not be sad for the Raccoons. This story could have been a lot worse in another neighbourhood, hell, even another house on the street.

A short blog this one was compared to some of my others. I did one a couple days ago but didn't publicize it much. Click here if you would like another read.

October 4, 2016

Two Years With TWC

Last week marked my 2nd anniversary since my first official volunteer drive with the Toronto Wildlife Centre.  My how time flies!

It was a slower year compared to the first.  There were some long lulls and I was having withdrawls from driving wildlife to and from the centre.  Not that I wish for more injured wildlife but some of you get what I'm saying.

By no means did TWC have a slower year than others, it's just that not always was there the need for a person to jump into their vehicle and do the drive(s).  Often the finders gladly bring the animals in themselves.  We, the volunteers, are there when they cannot.

I signed on as a volunteer grocery getter early in 2016 to keep myself active with the centre.  Every Monday and Friday a person does a grocery shop, to keep things in stock, and ensuring they never run out.

I don't like grocery shopping to begin with and this has caused me great stress at times when I am not sure about items like produce as an example.  What's good?  What's not?  Where the hell do I find dandelion leaves?  Or how about whole smelts?  It's been a learning experience and I've had some help from others in finding some of these things I've never had to purchase before.

To help TWC, we must try to find the best deals on items.  This also means it's better to be hitting stores like No Frills and Walmart for saving any money we can for them.  They are a charity run organization.

August was a nightmare in my head for me.  There were over 500 animals in care so the grocery list was massive.  I remember receiving the email with the list the day before and I was going out of my mind looking at the long list.  I cursed and grumbled, not because I did not want to do it, I just didn't know how I was going to do it on my own.  Well some $300 later, my SUV jammed full of everything that was on the list, which had me hit 4 stores and filling 3 shopping carts...  I did it.

I sweated and stressed as I tried to make this grocery shop a total success.  My first stop was Walmart shortly after 7am to get a jump on things.  Note, I work the PM shift and usually am not in bed until 1am.  I'm not giving myself a hero badge or anything, it's just what I did to try and fill the order sooner than later.  I wanted to be sure I had plenty of time to get everything and hit other places if I had to.  I knew if I couldn't fill the order, it would not be the end of the world, but that's not how I like to do things.

The best was when I walked in with the last box or bag of goods.  Total release of tension.  Ahhhhh!

It's great the odd time Angie can give me a hand doing this.  The other months she is used to getting a phone call or two from me while I'm in the process.  I forget things in the moment of stress, stupid stuff like "are sweet potatoes and yams the same thing?"

It is wonderful there are a handful of people willing to help do the grocery runs every month.  A list of the days comes out a week before the start of the month and volunteers get back to them with the day(s) they can help.  Some months the dates fill up fast, other months it's a struggle to get them filled.

Maybe someone reading this might consider looking into joining the volunteer grocery drive?  You do get reimbursed for all purchases; just be sure to keep all your receipts.

It's been an adventure the last couple years.  I've met so many wonderful people.  I've made a few friends but unfortunately I believe I have made a foe or two.  I won't get into that any further, this is a happy blog.

In the 2 years, I have done approximately 80 drives.  I've released about 150 birds of a wide variety of species.  I have brought in about 40 wild creatures in total, and not just birds.  For the most part my drives are just around the west end of Toronto but sometimes go a little further like young Cedar Waxwings to the Hamilton area, Bats from the Milton area, a little Nuthatch from Whitby, a Red-tailed Hawk in Richmond Hill.  If I'm available, time allows and no one else is on it, I most likely will be "putting up my hand".  I don't care if it's a House Sparrow or a Pigeon, Hawk or Owl, Squirrel or Fox.  I signed up to help wildlife...  all wildlife.

Dealing with the GP and representing TWC can be a challenge.  I once had a very difficult time speaking with a woman who had an injured Pigeon.  She feeds the birds.  She feeds feral cats.  A feral cat got a hold of this Pigeon.  Can you see where my thoughts were on this?  I once held back my laughter when I called a gentleman about yet another Pigeon I was going to pick up from his place.  I had called him when I was near his home and his reply to me was that I would have to wait a bit while he emptied his bowels.  Alrighty then!

Usually it is what it is, just picking up and going, but sometimes things aren't what they are supposed to be.  It's always a mystery thanks to the odd moments I've encountered.

One day I hope I can do more for Toronto Wildlife but for the time being, due to shift work, this is what I am able to do and I am good with that.

It will be interesting to see what year 3 is like.  Stay tuned...

Here I am after releasing a couple American Gold Finches in my friend John's backyard.  We were looking for a flock to send them out with, giving them their best chance at a second chance.  John was hosting a dozen or so birds for many weeks and he was happy to have a couple more added to his visiting flock.  What's two more mouths to feed when it comes to little birds?  Normally I am alone with releases, so this was a rare opp to have others present, and it was cool that a photo was taken.


September 16, 2016

Be Careful What I Wish For...

This summer has been so lackluster for story telling. There have been moments where I've wished for some excitement so I have something to blog about. I really must choose my words wisely because this blog about the last week is proof that I must be careful what I wish for.

Late last week our cat Molly turned very ill.

The girls just had their annual a couple weeks ago and everything was perfect, as it should be, since they are not even 18 months old yet.

Last Thursday was going fine, the cats ate, and played much of the morning. Shortly after my lunch, as I was getting ready to go to work, I gave them their lunch. The cats ate but about 10 minutes later Molly threw up her food. I didn't think too hard into this as she's done this on occasion in the past. She's the piggy of the pair, or as the vet calls it, the dominant one. She will clean up her dish as quickly as she can and then try to squeeze into her sister's dish and finish up. We have to watch them eat, especially the wet food, to ensure this doesn't happen. So ya, I wasn't overly concerned, even when she did a second projectile vomit across the kitchen floor.

I texted Angie about this happening just so she was aware for when she got home. This was just more of a warning for my wife to not step in anything as I didn't think it would continue. Well, Molly threw up a few more times throughout the next couple hours... on the new bedding, on the new carpet in the basement. As frustrating it was that she chose these places to throw up, it wasn't nearly as upsetting as knowing there was something really wrong with our crazy girl.  This continued over the next 24 hours, couldn't keep anything down.

When an animal gets sick, there's a lot of wondering about what is going on because they simply cannot tell us. We look at everything, over-analyze till it hurts and come up with a huge list of possibilities, and none of them may be right.

The next day she went to the vet. Extensive testing was done especially since Molly is the type of cat who will put things in her mouth, she plays with the oddest stuff, finds things in the house we never knew were lying around anywhere. I swear no matter how many times we've gone through this house since these 2 came to our home as tiny kittens, Molly still seems to find something she shouldn't. She knows it too, when she has one of those things, because she will trot right past us, proud as a Peacock with her discovered treasure, her new toy for the day.

We've gone overkill with kitty proofing the place. Cheap curtain rods across our kitchen cupboard doors, items in tupperware and not bags, all dishes are rinsed after a meal and not left sitting, no food left out, lids on our garbage cans, bird seed of any kind is not to be found as she's taken a few mouthfuls of that in the past (which once made her quite unwell too), and the list goes on.

All tests came back normal. Good blood work, nothing in the x-rays, vitals fine.

Despite everything saying she was fine, she was not. She didn't want to eat, didn't want to drink, and was just a lethargic pile of multi-colored fur.  One thing we learned about x-rays is that they don't show everything, stuff like paper won't come up in an x-ray.  Paper can sit in an animal's stomach for a long time, just swelling due to fluids.  Yikes!

Since we had no answers and she was just a shell of a cat, we spent the weekend in a tizzy of concern, over-thinking, under sleeping and that wasn't good for any of us. She wanted to sleep and we'd keep checking in on her every hour or so. It was the not knowing that was killing us.

Through all of this, her sister Merry felt it too. Her best pal and play mate didn't want anything to do with her. We were so focused on Molly, that Merry was not given the attention she craved.

She really let us know after a couple days that she was in the house too. Her voice was heard, her pleas did not go unanswered.  Merry and I having a little time outside on Sunday.

But like during Molly's illness, we're going to push her off to the side in this blog.

What was wrong with Molly?  It's stunning how fast an animal can go from perfect health to seemingly deathly ill.  This was her on my lap a day earlier, killing my motivation to go to work.

Food sensitivity was brought up but after 5 days, we've ruled that out. Did she eat something foreign? That was our biggest fear. Our vet was almost certain that was the case. Molly slowly started eating again, and having bowel movements. So thankfully there was no blockage. If she did eat something, it had hopefully passed one way or another.

The only thing left if we weren't seeing any improvement was to get an ultra sound. Our vet, Dr. Allen, told us to wait this out a few more days. His motto is "let's look for elephants before we go looking for zebras". We love our vet and trust his advice, he's not steered us wrong in the past, or had us do anything unnecessary. I do believe if Molly saw our vet initially, that a number of the tests that were done, would not have been prescribed. But it was that moment of worry and we took the recommendations of the first vet we saw. We don't regret it even as everything came up negative to a list of ailments and a slight drain to our bank account.

It was a long weekend at home just being with her, watching over her and trying to keep a level head, get some rest, etc. We would see an improvement, then a set back. Whatever was happening to her was going through the motions. I don't know where or who told us this would be over in 48 hours, if it was some kind of flu bug. As I think about it, we get sick, it can take 7 to 10 days to get over it, and sometimes even longer. There is no bug out there that lives on a clock and when the hours are up, the bug just leaves our body.

Here's some of our weekend at home through images.

Merry missing her crazy sister. They play hard some days, and for lengthy amounts of time.  But this was suddenly gone.

Yes, the morning coffees were very quiet over the weekend. I am overwhelmed with peace when I watch Molly sleep. Of course as peaceful as it was to watch her, worry for her hung over my head.

I'd never seen a cat be so ill like this with no reason.

We had some highs through the weekend.

Some time outside, enjoying the warm afternoons, and chasing the Squirrels that passed their kitty walk.

Look how bright eyed she was Saturday night.

Then there would be hours of this. Sure she has long sleeps, she's a cat; but there are certain sleeping positions they have that point to an unwell animal. Plus we know our Molly.  She was not herself.

After the weekend, there was more signs of our old Molly coming back. But then other weird things started happening like her visiting the water fountain almost hourly and then the litter almost as much. What the hell?!?! Diabetic? This lasted about 36 hours. Then it stopped and went back to normal with only a couple drinks throughout the day, and a couple pees. Our vet could not explain that since she was tested for diabetes on top of many other things. He said it may have been part of the process in her healing, the body flushing whatever out.

Tuesday we could not get a purr out of her for anything even when it was her coming to us.

But day by day, she is getting better. I am confident it won't be long till our mischievous, make us pull our hair out and sternly say "MOLLY!" kitty will be back.

We will drink to that day, in rejoice and her making us need one.  LoL!

It's funny, I know I love these cats, they are our "fur kids". I just didn't realize how much until this happened. Molly may drive me bonkers some days with her crazy antics, all the "Molly proofing" we've done in the house, but she's a part of the family. Everything in Molly's world is big. Her playfulness, her happiness and unfortunately her sickness too.  Hmmm, sounds a lot like her mommy, her biggest fan.

Yesterday, the 15th of September, was my birthday. I took Molly in for a follow up. The last 24 hrs had us seeing her springing back to her old self so if nothing else, this would be a consultation with our vet, and hopefully the last. He too noticed a huge difference in her overall and felt we were in the clear now. PHEW!

Last night we were *ahem* blessed with a 3am wake up from Ms. Molly.  Yes, there she is.  Wheeeeeeeee!

As so many said through their social media support... GO MOLLY!