Interesting long weekend for me. Angie is away in Alberta and when she's away I just never really know how my time alone is going to turn out.
The last few years in the fall when she is off with her girlfriends at the Briars, usually around the same weekend in October, I always manage to find my first Owl of the season. Last year it was a Barred.
The year before 2 Saw-whet Owls in one park. Way cool but not saying that Angie needs to go away more often.
I will admit there was some dragging moments this weekend. My sleep has been off for almost a week now. Waking up after 4 hrs is brutal yet if I can get 5 solid hours, I can pretty much function the next 18 or so hours with ease. The weather at this time of year is up and down, the bird sightings are a few winter stragglers and early Spring migrants. I'm not going on any big bird chases so it's mostly the same in all the parks around us.
This blog will have 4 mini tales in it. I will do my best to keep them as short as possible.
Fowl Tale #1...
I stopped in a nearby park/pond area. I enjoyed the number of returning male Red-winged Blackbirds and singing Song Sparrows (one of my fave calls in the early Spring). The Ducks here are quite accustomed to human traffic and especially those who come to feed them. Unfortunately 97% of the people feeding them are bringing in old bread and lots of it some days. I've seen bread tossed that I really wouldn't want to touch because of the mold on it. How can anyone think that is good food for a Duck?
So, I had a small bag of cracked corn and while the Ducks don't need it as the ponds aren't frozen over, I felt like tossing them some anyway.
Not long after this woman comes up to me and asks me what I am doing. "Uh, open your eyes lady!" which is what ran through my head. She wanted to know what I was feeding the Ducks. I explained to her that it was cracked corn. I then got this big speech about how wrong that is for them because it is not a natural food source. She told me to look around the park and find one corn patch anywhere in this park or any other park in Toronto. Before I could get into some sort of defense about this, she pulls out a plastic bag with a dried up old kaiser. How do I know it's dried up? Nobody comes down here and feeds them fresh buns and bread, it's ALWAYS the old crap in the kitchen they won't eat. I'm shaking my head and am "Yes, because bread grows on fucking trees lady!" There was no point in arguing with her because she was quite set in her ways and wouldn't give me a word in. I walked away.
In other arguments with people on this subject, I simply ask them if they could live on white bread and nothing else. Most still won't listen and do what they want. How does one think a moldy piece of bread is good for a Duck? Did I ask that already in this blog? I think I ask myself that many times through the warmer months when I see people do this.
Toronto needs more signs in the parks about not feeding the wildlife. Even keeping it simple, sticking to the whole bread aspect might help.
And dealing with these kinds of people, I found this...
8 out of 10 Facebook friends agreed I should have pushed her in the pond. But I just left.
Later that afternoon I visited another nearby park. I wanted to try and get some photos of singing Song Sparrows atop anything, just belting out their song. They were everywhere but never in good range for a photo. It was sunny and warming up to +6 or more by now. So nice! I ran into a new bird friend in the park and as we chatted, we found ourselves in the company of 2 sunning Eastern Screech Owls pretty much on either side of us... but some distance away. Way cool!
I blogged about these Owls last week. I had no intention on going to see them today but when they suddenly popped up, it certainly added to my visit to the park. Amazing how one minute they aren't there and another both show themselves. NOTE: I do NOT see them every visit.
As I left the park, I check my phone and there is a text from my friend Emily. She is asking me if I am going to help the injured Goose at the Stockyards mall near our home. I replied "Huh? What are you talking about?"
Long story short, if I can make this happen with this story is that someone called in about a Canada Goose on the upper parking level. It's stomach area was blood soaked, there was a large pool of blood in the parking lot and the bird was still bleeding as it moved about the parking area while getting beat on by two other Geese.
Next thing, my phone is ringing and it's Toronto Wildlife. Julia is calling me and asking if there was any chance I could try and help in this situation as their rescue team was having a very busy afternoon in other parts of the city, even as far up in Nobleton at this moment. She explained the situation to me and my heart started racing. Holy crap! First real rescue "attempt" for me since being an official volunteer with Toronto Wildlife, and I'm really only a volunteer driver. Somehow over the adventures I've had to put on the rescue title when arriving on scene to something not entirely of what the initial story came out as. From little Hawks turning into Godzilla sized Hawks, some contained wildlife not exactly being in travel worthy containers like open top boxes, buckets, garbage cans and other items that people wanted back. I've brought in broken winged Pigeons and window struck songbirds over the years, birds much smaller than a Goose. I've trapped Squirrels and a Raccoon... key word is "trapped" with traps and not catching.
As I spoke with Julia, I'm being a naughty person, driving rather quickly home to gather some things. I'm freaked out in my mind at the moment. My mind is racing faster than my truck with thoughts about the whole situation and how it is going to turn out. She told me where to go exactly in this very confusing rather new mall by our house. I told her I would call her when I got to the mall to get the info again since I'm driving and my mind is full of thoughts and still trying to determine what I have at home to get this bird in and bring him to the centre. I always have a kennel cab in the truck, with a heavy towel and some very good gloves; but no way the Goose is going to get in that kennel cab with ease.
I found an old tote in the shed that I've been wanting to discard as it once was a storage for peanuts until the Squirrels got in the shed, sniffed out the tote and chewed the hell out of the lid to get at the nutty goodness within. It seemed the best option for me, since it's a good size and the lid actually still locks on despite two rather large holes in it that the Squirrels got in/out of. I figure they'd be good air holes for the Goose.
I get to the mall. My mind is clearing, suddenly I am remembering where the Goose is according to Julia. This mall is not easy to figure out to anyone new to it but I cleared my mind, opened my eyes and found my way to the top parking level on the east side. Don't even get me to try and describe the set up of this mall, just go there yourself one day and see for yourself.
As I came around the bend on the ramp to the top level, I immediately saw the Goose. You didn't need to be looking for it to have it stand out with it's crimson soaked underside. People walked or drove past it with sadness on their faces, some stopped for a few seconds and then continued on. The bird was just walking around and anytime it neared a pair of Geese, those Geese would attack it. They knew it was unwell and also it being mating season, the pairs are very bonded and protective of everything.
I met the guy who called in about the bird. His name is Daniel (pretty sure anyway) and bless this man for calling TWC along with spending part of his Saturday afternoon sitting on this situation until help arrived. I felt sorry for him though because he got me as his help (a volunteer) and not one of the staff. But it's not like I've not done work with wildlife over the years, I do have experience in various situations and am loaded with care/concern and a lot of common sense which is probably the most important thing in moments with wildlife. This goes beyond "don't pet the cute cuddly Raccoon that is approaching you".
We talked briefly as I brought out the tote to have handy. I put my gloves on, grabbed a sheet and away we went. The Goose was on to us and wanted no part of being caught. He walked quick as we got close, sometimes he ran. We tried to corner him a few times and quickly realized the sheet was much too light to throw over the bird, especially from a 3rd story top level parking lot. The wind wanted to carry this sheet away. We did use the sheet to try and corral the Goose in an area we wanted it to head towards, like a corner where the stairwell was. Hoping the brick wall would aid us. At one point the Goose took flight, flying 50 or so feet back the other way. I thought "shit!" as now this really changes things. With the bird being able to fly, he could go over the wall and glide to the west parking garage... and a distance we certainly could not jump over.
At this point I don't know how long we were working on this. It felt like forever. We had a bit of an audience and I hoped no one was video recording this, especially at one point when I pretty much did a face plant. I quickly got up, thought nothing of what just happened and what I may have looked like to onlookers. I did say it more than once that I'm a volunteer driver and am trying to help on a very busy day.
We were getting the Goose to another end of the wall, towards the barrier and another stair well. There was a line of parked cars that I didn't think anything of in this moment but those cars were part of the end game (at this point, had no idea they would be). The Goose gets to the wall, starts to walk behind the line of cars and then chooses to go up between 2 of them. I'm behind the Goose and Daniel is at the front of the cars. I was thinking about tossing the sheet but suddenly just lunged down at the bird and grabbed him. I think my brain screamed "FUCK IT!" and my body went for it. No premeditation, I just did it, and it worked out perfectly. My grab was around the right area of the Goose, and holding his wings in to his body with this grab. I even managed to stay on my 2 feet. I certainly made up for the near face plant moments earlier!
It's a blur now but somehow the sheet got over the Goose, I think I found a third hand to do this; but maybe Daniel jumped in? It was a long walk back to the vehicles on the other end of the lot. I was a little jittery from my nerves and the adrenaline rush of this whole adventure. Daniel and I got chatting, both more than relieved that this ended in success. Some people stopped to congratulate us on the great catch. People were shocked to learn that Toronto Wildlife is full of dedicated caring volunteers and that there is little paid staff.
I thanked Daniel more than once for caring. He thanked me more than once for coming out to help. I said maybe I will see you again since we both live in the area, but hopefully not for something like this. He said hopefully over a cold one as the weather gets nicer. I bet we could easily enjoy a brew or two and talk about this Goose!
I finally called Julia at TWC now and was more than happy to inform her that I had the Goose contained and was on my way. I could tell she was more than happy with this news. I asked her if they had a stash of Jack Daniel's under the desk as I sure could use a shot to calm my nerves. Laughs were had and it was suggested that I wait until I got home later for such indulgence. Ya, good advice.
It's funny because when I first spoke with Julia about this situation, she told me many things besides where the bird was, she also gave me some pointers on catching the bird, how it would quickly submit when covered with a sheet or towel. I knew this already but in the moment I forgot and her repeating this to me did help. I kept saying to myself "cover his head and it's over, just do it". He stopped fighting once I covered him.
We are all wishing the Goose a speedy recovery. Initially I thought someone hit him with a car in the parking area just because there was so much blood. But the fact he could stand, run and even fly. Hmmmmmm?
I went home, I had a nap with the cats and as evening came upon us I decided to go out and look for other Screech Owls near our home. I was out the previous evening and chanced upon 2 birds in an old woodlot.
I returned to this spot with a bit of last light but saw nor heard anything. The Robins were drowning out everything else around me as they sang their evening song which they do through the season.
I spent about 45 minutes in this woodlot and was about to head for home. I start the truck up, put it in gear and as I am pulling out on to the main road, suddenly something in my head pretty much screamed at me to turn around and go up around the corner behind the lot. I thought about a promising cavity on a side road. Good thing I did because I saw this...
Holy moly! What a sight! I love the eerie light above the Owl's head.
This bird was whinnying away quite loudly. I watched 3 people pass the tree which is right along the road and not one person stopped to look where that odd sound was coming from. I'm in my truck, stopped up ahead from the tree. I point my camera out the window and snap a few shots. It's dark now. The only light is the street lamps.
As the Owl calls, I tune into a second Owl a few houses down. I can hear it but cannot see it in the cedars. Suddenly the first Owl takes flight, leaving this cavity and goes right for the cedars. I can hear the interaction between the 2 Owls, which were noises I had never heard before, and then there was movement followed by even stranger noises. The Owls were "mating".
A totally new experience for me!
So glad I can entertain myself with my wild friends while Angie is away. Who needs television?
The cats were some fun too.
And I finally got a Song Sparrow shot. It's the best I could get with a distant bird because even in my most still moments, they just weren't coming in all that close.
I really do hope someone sat through this whole blog. Sorry there are no photos of the Goose rescue. I half wish someone did snap my pic either in the moments of trying to catch it or when I was walking back to the truck with the Goose in my hands. I can only imagine what my face looked like, never mind my hair. LoL!
Thank you to anyone who endured my lengthy scribe this morning.