Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

March 14, 2017


I've had a few reunions recently. All were pretty cool but one was very touching to my heart and soul which you will see.

First off, we were quite a ways west of our home last weekend and I stopped into a very popular Screech Owl spot for a very brief moment. I first saw this Owl back in 2012 and most years in the month of March when we are in the area I try to see "him". I've been successful every March except for 2016 when the Owl was not showing. It was a peaceful moment with the bird and not another person seen; I wasn't there more than a couple minutes mind you. It was a quick view, kinda like a "hello" and away I went. I snapped a couple shots for the blog and they do look like pretty much any other photo I've taken of it years before.

It's nice to know this bird is doing well and surviving out there in the wild.

Then just days later I chanced upon another Screech Owl I know, who is no where near as popular because this bird's location has not been shared publicly. This Owl lives minutes from our home. Last winter I saw her quite often with my outings but this year, not so. The last time I saw this bird was back in November 2016. I don't actively seek it out and it's another one of these "nice to know it's still around and surviving in the wild" scenarios. A pass by, a short view, smile and continue on.

We were fortunate to see 2 Owls last winter but what I hear from another who frequents the area daily, it's only her this time around. I suspect this to be a female because her partner last year was considerably smaller.

She was trilling in the early morning of my encounter. Spring is just days away. Is she calling for a mate?

You can see the throat expanding in the second photo compared to the first. Attaching a very short video here as well.

Notice how enlarged it is?

Hopefully she does have a mate. Hopefully it's the same bird as last year; it was quite timid and often ducked back in the box upon noticing being observed. The 2nd Owl was rufous so easily distinguished from this one.

But now let's move to the last reunion. Meet Sabrina! Formerly known as Skittles.

11 years ago in February I almost ran over the tiniest of kittens in front of the house. I threw my car in park right there in the middle of the road late in the night, jumped out and gave chase to the cat, but quickly lost sight of it in the darkness. I went home bothered by seeing this wee little cat out on it's own, especially in the coldest month of the year. I kept a look out for it but did not see it again. Well, that is until some weeks later when I happened to go down to the old shed for something. I opened the door and there was the cat sitting on a shelf looking at me. We both startled each other. She quickly backed up, then darted out a small hole in the roof. It was obvious she was making a home of the shed judging by the numerous mouse parts I found scattered about.

I began to leave food out for her and it took over a week for her to ease up with seeing me. I set up a box in the shed, put some old t-shirts within, and draped a couple heavy towels over it. It took her no time to figure out that I had made her a bed, well more like a shelter, and she could hide inside, being as warm as she could for being outside in the late winter.

It's funny to think back to this time. It was before Angie lived here. We were obviously just getting into the birds because for years now I am in the shed morning and night. Why was it so long between my last visit to the shed? Maybe I did and don't remember now so many years later? But whatever the case, it was weeks before I saw that cat again. I remember how startled I was at seeing her but also amazed. I knew it was the same cat I almost ran over.

Gotta give her some credit for being a survivor at such a young age. She learned how to hunt on her own. She found that small hole in the shed roof and knew it was the best possible shelter she could have for herself at such an unkind time of year weather-wise.

I just found this cell phone photo of her on Facebook. She's laid out in her box.

Meadow, my last cat, made it clear that she was not keen on Skittles living here, not even down back. One afternoon Meadow slipped out the back door and went right for the shed. It always was a one cat house with Meadow AND it was also a one cat backyard with her too. You can easily see that with this photo of Meadow and another homeless cat named Smudge.

Meadow was always on a leash and harness and her getting out to where Skittles was, was accidental. So lucky for us Meadow wasn't into much free roaming. She left the house with a purpose and I can only imagine what she would have done to Skittles if she got to her. Skittles was not home and Meadow couldn't figure out how to get inside the shed but she knew damn well there was another cat living in there. She must have smelled Skittles on my hands.

More than a few cats have felt Meadow's wrath, even with her on leash, she had no problem letting them know this was her home and they were not welcome. Most cats never came back. Swear on that one I do!

I remember Angie and I sitting on the deck one weekend talking about Skittles. She was growing up fast. She was hanging around the back of the yard, showing herself a lot more often to us. She had become quite comfortable with her surroundings, and us, she wasn't "skittish" like her baby days. I think we were talking about somehow trying to make this work with her and Meadow or something. Then suddenly Skittles jumped up at the bird bath and pulled a Red-winged Blackbird right out of the water. We both jumped out of our chairs and started running to help the Blackbird. I remember wiping out on the wet grass that early summer's morning. Angie half debated stopping to check on me but she knew the bird needed help ASAP and she kept going. The bird was quickly freed from Skittles's clutches and we decided that we really needed to find her a home.

Finding any animal a home isn't easy. Skittles had youth on her side but the fact she was living outdoors all her life, she was not spayed and had no vaccines were against her. But luck have it that Angie found someone through her work. The following weekend Skittles was off to meet her new family. They changed her name to "Sabrina" and Angie took that as a good sign since it's the name of a comic character she enjoyed reading the adventures of when she was a little girl.

An unfortunate incident happened recently. The death of a person who was related to Skittles, er, Sabrina's owner occurred. Angie knew the deceased woman as well. We went to the memorial service which happened to be in the condo party room of where Skittles now lives. So we got to have a little reunion with her after the service. It was wonderful to see her again after all these years. She's a lovey girl, living the life of a spoiled rotten princess as it should be. She was affectionate so that made it all the nicer to mingle with her. I like to think that she remembers me. Hey I can pretend! She couldn't tell me otherwise. LoL! I did feel sadness for the family and friends of the deceased but I took what positive I could from the situation. Most will get that I am sure.

I'm sure there are some people out there from my past, that if I had a reunion with, I'd be quite delighted about but y'all would never hear about it in my blog. This is "Rob and the Animals" after all.

As always, thanks for stopping in.


March 3, 2017

Goodbye Mickey

Sad day yesterday as one of my beloved Pigeon visitors fell victim to a Cooper's Hawk. I named her "Mickey"

Don't ask me where I get my names from, they just come to me sometimes. It has nothing to do with that celebrity mouse though. Maybe because of a wonderful Budge we had in our household when I was a young boy? Even I don't ask myself where/why the names come from. But I will admit I do get a little help at times from Angie and friends.

Just last week I posted on social media about Mickey. We were going into our 3rd year of being "friends". She's probably been around longer than that but it was February of 2014 that I really took notice to her, and she to me, picking up on where to hang out behind the house to really get my attention... the back door, on the clothes line post, just like Pierre.

It was funny to watch Mickey develop over time. She was such a sweet heart and a very docile bird in the beginning. But she changed. She got attitude. She got mean. She turned into a real bitch. She had no problem beating on any other Pigeon that came in. She was very vocal and those wings of hers packed a punch. It didn't matter the size of the bird, Mickey stood her ground. Heck she even copped attitude with me a few times. I always say "You will always know where you stand with a Pigeon". It's true! But Mickey was my friend, as friends go between a man and a Pigeon. She trusted me. Of course when it boils down to it, it was always about the food, the good food, but she would hop on me and hang out, go for walks down back to the shed if I didn't have seed by the back door.

She was a welcomed addition to our flock. Plain and simple. She was a unique bird, standing out from the dozens that come to visit day in, day out.

Anyone who follows my blogs knows it's been odd the last few months with my Pigeon visitors. They've all been disappearing for long periods of time. 50+ days! First Pierre's flock. Now the Jerseys have been MIA for a week and counting. I know they've found another feeding spot. I wonder where? I wonder what they are being fed? As long as they are happy, healthy and safe is all that matters to me. I do enjoy the surprise drop ins as I never know when they are going to come, or who it will be. Pierre started this all, and the Jerseys were a gift in his absence. Then all of them have been MIA and Mickey picked up as of last week.

If you look at that photo above, you can easily identify her from the masses with that prominent eye ring. Also, look for the small Pigeon beating the hell out of the others. LoL!

We've had some Hawk activity lately. Red-tail grabbed a Pigeon not too long ago (think it's posted in my last blog about Pierre) and then a Squirrel this week. A Sharp-shinned Hawk was here on Monday and nailed a Starling. Then a couple days with a Cooper's Hawk. I think I jinxed things when I shared a crap shot of the bird on Facebook's Ontario Birds page and wondered out loud what was on it's menu.

Sharpie on a Starling.

The Cooper's Hawk.

They do blend in.

Yesterday was a bizarre day as I think about it. That Cooper's Hawk was here all morning while I was home. It sat in the tree down back. Chickadees and Nuthatches squawked occasionally at the bird's presence, then went back to their own business. A small group of Pigeons, maybe 6 at the most, including Mickey came in and out numerous times. I had given Mickey a few handfuls of sunflower chip but it was never enough it seemed. Weird as our cat Molly also had a voracious appetite yesterday. Must be the return to winter weather?

Usually Mickey has a good feed and then is gone again for the day. Not this day.

The Pigeons were even feeding under the feeder pole with the Cooper's less than 30 ft from them. I chalked it up as the Hawk had probably gotten his feed for the day and was just chilling. It wasn't even observing the activity around it, including me out there observing it and taking a few photos.

Almost 6 hours of it hanging out, not moving. I thought how odd. It was time to go to work, I did wish Mickey to leave as I did, and obviously she did not.

Three and a half hours later, Angie comes home, and felt this need to go out back. She didn't know why but she went with it. She found a dead Pigeon near our back deck. She did not who it was but texted me a quick snap of the body, informing me of her find, and that she hoped it was not one of my friends. I could not really get a view of the face but the wing pattern sure looked familiar. I suspected it was Mickey. While her eye ring is what really stands out to me, they all have distinct marks elsewhere if one really pays close attention to them.

I was having a pretty crappy day at work and this made it all the more crappier. I wanted to be home now even though I knew there wasn't a damn thing that could be done.

Angie did notice a Cooper's Hawk way at the back but it never came down again for the rest of the Pigeon. She later bagged it for me to check if it was a bird I knew.

This stayed in my head the rest of the night. I could not wait to finish my shift.

I get home, play with the cats for half an hour or so, who are very happy to see me. Then I put my head lamp on, go to the shed and investigate. Sadly, there was that prominent eye ring. Fuck!

Then to add to all of this, I can't help but notice Mickey's body was barely consumed. I will describe what I saw, it's not pretty, but I promise you I am not adding a gross photo. I can't. So, from neck right down to her bum was all exposed. Exposed as in all the skin and feathers were gone. But all her insides were still intact. The only damage was what I am guessing is her crop was opened up. I could see white millet seeds in this area. But everything else, still intact.

Obviously the Hawk was working on her body when something must have disturbed her. The house next door is a rental and the landlord was over late in the day with some contractor doing a fence repair. This is the only thing that I can come up with. The section they were working on is between our houses and where Mickey's body was found, was less than 20 ft from it. The Hawk got spooked and abandoned it's kill. I'd seen something like this once last fall. Cooper's grabbed a Pigeon, was working on it, and the Squirrels all rushed the Hawk while it was on the ground finishing off the bird. The Hawk flushed, leaving the dying Pigeon there, but it returned less than 10 minutes later after the Squirrels spread out. The Hawk quickly grabbed the Pigeon and flew off to a safer spot to "enjoy it".

I was overwhelmed with sadness. I'm going to miss that bird. She was a highlight to the backyard. And to think that her death was a waste in the end.

I'm not angry at the Hawk. A Hawk must eat too. It's all a part of nature.

Mickey got cocky. Or maybe too comfortable about it's presence? Perhaps even forgetting that such a threat was there since it sat for over 6 hours doing nothing.

I put her back in the bag, closed the shed door, went inside, hugged my cats and made myself a little night cap. It wasn't whisky Wednesday but I sure felt like one now. I kicked back, played some tunes, drank my drink and eventually fell asleep.

Today I wake up and ponder what to do with her body. I just can't throw her in the garbage. The ground is too frozen to bury her.

I look out the kitchen window and see the Cooper's Hawk is back in the same tree as yesterday.

I have an idea.

I go outside, slowly making my way to the back. Of course I have my camera in hand and snap a few photos of the big beast. It's just up there looking around, occasionally down at me, but it's not flying away.

I go to the shed, the frozen plastic of the doors makes a loud crackling sound as I open them and the Hawk leaves our yard. It flies to a tree a few yards over.

I brought Mickey's body out to the lawn and set it down. I'm hoping that the Hawk will find it's kill from yesterday afternoon and take it. Please let's not have Mickey's death be a waste. I also don't want the Hawk starving on this bitter cold morning (-18c windchill).

I come back inside, put the kettle on, make a coffee and start this blog.

It's been over an hour now since I started keying this. I almost forgot about Mickey's body still being out on the grass. I decide to have a look out the window and this is what I see.

The Cooper's Hawk has found it's kill and is eating it. The Squirrels are ignoring the Hawk now, busy looking for their own morning sustenance.

From the deck. Leaving the Hawk be. Mickey isn't there anymore, this is just her shell. She's not suffering. She died about 18 hours ago.

I am having a real mix of emotions right now. I am very sad. But I also feel a sense of relief. I feel closure. It's a little fucked up. One of my bird pals has died, it's being eaten as I key this, and I have two very different feelings about it all. It's clashing but also working out somehow. It's the stuff I've thought about over the years since I've made friends with some of these visitors and now it's happening. Others have just disappeared, never to return again, and I can only wonder what became of them. I will never have to wonder what happened to Mickey.

It's almost 2 hours now since the Hawk found it's kill and it's still feasting away. No need for any more photos. Nuthatches, Cardinals, Woodpeckers and a Red-winged Blackbird have flown in. I can see a small flock of Pigeons on a tv tower a few yards over, they aren't convinced the coast is clear.

I've taken a break from the blog and 30 minutes later I see the Hawk is gone, it's taken whatever remained of Mickey's body with it. There's a pile of feathers on the lawn now, slowly blowing away in the strong winds. How symbolic.

I love my Pigeon friends. I am happy to bond with them. I am happy I can help them along in life because Pigeons really are very dependent on us humans for survival. But they are wild birds. I can never cage them to keep them safe. Sure they would be free from all the dangers they face living in the city, but they would also lose their freedom, and their happiness. This is their life as cold and cruel as most ends for them will be.

Thanks for all the memories Mickey. We will always have that crazy ice bucket challenge moment.

Macro moment with Mickey.