Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

May 6, 2021

Wild Week May 2021

 It's been a really "wild" week here and let's just get right to it...

On Sunday afternoon Angie and I went for a walk.  As we looked for migratory birds in a wood lot, following a dirt trail, Angie ahead of me, she spotted a wee little raccoon kid.

He was so small, maybe a body length of 7 inches, if that.  He was curled against the base of a tree and he was crying.  Oh my god, talk about a serious tug on the heartstrings.  Of course our impulse was to immediately pick him up, take him home and some how save him.  It was a very cool cloudy afternoon and they were calling for heavy rain overnight.  We can't just leave him here!  But deep down we knew that was not the right option in this moment.

I tried to contact a wildlife friend for starts, just for some reassurance.  No luck.  I called Toronto Wildlife and left a voice mail.  It's spring.  It's the weekend.  I knew a call back will not come back in a timely fashion.  Angie and I hung around for a little bit, staying back from the little guy, waited and talked about the situation.

We agreed it was best to leave him right where he is, to go home, and figure things out.  We weren't going to just ignore him.  Where we found him was less than 5 minutes from our home so it wasn't going to be a big deal to check on him again, and again, if need be.

I have no words to describe how pained we were to walk right by this kid and leave him there.  It was a serious battle of emotions.

Back at home, waiting to speak with someone from Toronto Wildlife, I started researching on what to do.  I pulled out a large manual that I bought from TWC a number of years ago.  It is a great resource for many wildlife situations, although no two situations are alike, it helps when generalizing, like finding a baby animal.

I found the section on finding baby animals.  Skimmed through the paragraphs and indeed we did the right thing for the time being, leaving the baby where he was, and hoping mom will come back for him.

Finally someone called me back from Toronto Wildlife.  We had a discussion about our find.  I knew more than what I thought I did about what to do, but in the heat of the moment, and fighting that impulse, I did forget.  Monitoring was the best course of action for now.  What they suggested was putting him in a small cardboard box, with open flaps.  If we could give him a heat source, that would be beneficial.  Luckily we have a dozen or so of those hand warmer things you can put in your gloves during the winter walks.  They would be perfect for this situation.  Also attaching a sign to the box, informing people that the raccoon was waiting for him mother, that people were monitoring the situation and to please not touch him.  Also leaving TWC's phone number if someone had any questions.  I got all that together rather quickly as it was getting dark fast and the rain was coming.

We talked about the what if mom did not return.  I know placing a baby raccoon isn't easy to do as spring is rapidly moving along and centres are filling up with these guys.  Unfortunately TWC will not place a lone baby raccoon for a list of reasons aside from being near full.  There's a list of wildlife rehabilitation centres for Ontario which can be found online here...  some other place may be able to help.  I hoped it would not come to this because of the work involved in the phone calls and who knows how many will say "no" as well as the fact that many are out of the GTA and there is some driving involved which is difficult when you work a full time job.  I do have a lot of retired friends who might put their hand up.  I learned about a Facebook group called Critter Cabs where people volunteer to drive animals in need. The absolute last resort would be to call Toronto Animal Services and he would be euthanized.

Angie prepped dinner and I went down to check on the little raccoon, bringing the box with me.

When I got there, the raccoon was no where to be seen.  I searched the parameter around the tree, going 20 ft out or so.  Nothing.  I returned to the spot where we found him, standing there for many minutes, scratching my head and wondering WTF.  Then I looked up the tree again, way up.  There was a smallish cavity, an unassuming cavity because of it's size.  Lo and behold there was the tail of an adult raccoon sticking out.  This was directly above where the little guy lay.  Obviously he was monkeying around up there, too close to the hole, and fell out.  While we did not witness anything it is safe to assume that mom came down for him when she felt it was safe to do so.

A reminder for some, a lesson for others, to not just go on impulse when finding baby wildlife, thinking they need help and take them away.  Assess and monitor before taking action.

Next up, I was on my way to work when I spotted a turtle trying to cross a roadway.  I quickly (and safely) pulled over, got out of the car and went to the turtle.  A roadway is no place for such a creature.  To my astonishment it was a Blanding's turtle!  They are a species at risk here in Ontario, unfortunately much like so many other turtles.  I have only seen a couple Blanding's turtles in my life and all were out in rural areas, and not in a heavily urbanized area.  I moved him to a nearby pond and he quickly went back into the water.

The next day I contacted the Toronto zoo as they run a turtle tally program.  I was going to report the turtle but wanted to be certain where I reported it, it was not going to be public knowledge.  I recall a number of years ago where someone posted about seeing a Blanding's turtle at a small pond in the east end of the city.  Then a couple days later it was reported that 2 men were seen leaving the pond with a Blanding's turtle.  I remember us seeing a Blanding's turtle when out with some Bluebird friends west of the city.  We came across a small pond area roadside and there was a Blanding's sunning itself.  We viewed it, took some photos and when leaving, we were asked to please not post the location of the turtle due to poaching.  Of course we kept it all hush hush.

The zoo people were prompt to reply to my inquiry and assured me it was not going to be made public.  We had a small discussion about the evil that men do if you know what I mean.  I submitted my data and hopefully this may be of some use in the future, be it protecting this wetland or ???

It's really sad that nothing is sacred when it comes to wildlife.  

And lastly, I had a big surprise yesterday before work.  I'm throwing my lunch together when I see a pigeon come into the yard, landing near the deck.  I went to the window for a look, in case it's one of my few buds I have these days.  I see a bird at the deck steps looking up at me.  My eyes widened, I''m sure my heart rate increased as I was 99.9% certain it was Charlie.  Why all the excitement for Charlie?  Well, Charlie disappeared around late November or early December.  She left with the flock after numerous hawk attacks.  This has happened past years, the pigeons finally decide it isn't safe here anymore and they leave.  I kept a look out for Charlie all through the winter and she never came back.  Our 3 year anniversary was in late February.  I was hoping we were going to acknowledge the occasion and celebrate but that didn't happen.  Over time I just figured that was it, she left, just as Missus Pierre and the Jerseys did a few years ago.  So here we are just over 5 months later and Charlie has come back.  If only she could talk and tell me things like where she has been, why she left, why she came back.  I recon it would be "I've been down the street at the high rises eating bread and crap the people throw out to me.  I was keeping safe from your Cooper's Hawk visitor.  I was curious...  and hungry... and decided to check out your yard again."  Maybe there would be a "because I missed you Rob" in there too?  Whatever the reasons, she is back, not just yesterday but again this morning.  

Welcome back Charlie!

What a week it has been so far! 

How's it been for you out there, wherever you are?

April 25, 2021

Hey friend!

Angie had to go to work today for a few hours so I took the time alone to go for a walk.  Well, actually a couple walks.  

First stop was to Marie Curtis Park.  I didn't stay long as the amount of people and off leash dogs annoyed me rather quickly.  There is an off leash area and it was void of people and dogs.  The are wasn't closed either as I saw some people leaving it when I arrived.  Why do people chose to pass it by and take their dogs out, off leash, in public areas?  

I left MCP and decided to visit one of my nest box trails.  I hadn't been to this one in a couple weeks and was curious if there were more birds around compared to my last visit.  Yes, a few more tree swallows as well as both barn and rough-winged swallows too.  One great blue heron was in the creek.  Then I crossed paths with this fellow...

An eastern coyote that Angie and I randomly cross paths with, and have been for months now, when we walk this area.  I'd like to think he recognizes me and that I am no threat.  I can pretend, right?  He doesn't flee in terror but definitely keeps his distance.  What a healthy looking coyote!

I refer to all resident mammals I recognize in green spaces I frequent as my "friends".  They think otherwise but that's okay.  It's nice to see the same creatures with each visit and knowing they are doing well, happily living out their lives.

Do you have any regulars where you walk?

April 24, 2021

Oh, There's Migration...

 We just had a yellow-bellied sapsucker in our backyard today.  What a beauty!

While we have been in the spring season for a month now, I really haven't seen much in the way of migration.  A couple weeks ago there were a lot of kinglets of both species and some brown creepers, killdeer flying over the house, a few tree swallows showing up along my nest box locations but not much else.

Seeing this sapsucker gave me a little jolt that I needed.  Angie and I went to a nearby park and saw another sapsucker, not as brilliant with the red, but still nice to see.  Seeing these birds has given me a little jolt that I need, to put my "bird radar" on again for the weeks ahead.

Are you seeing anything around your 'hood?

April 21, 2021

Stay At Home Birding

 It's a snowy morning in late April so I figured now is the time to key out a long overdue blog.  Honestly, I didn't think that spring 2021 would have me blogging about this still being a "thing to do" instead of what we did, yet here we are in another stay at home order.  Thanks to the pandemic!

So May 2020 had Angie and I on a week of vacation like we normally do.  Past years we'd go away for a couple days somewhere out of town where it's a mix of birding and just enjoying some time out of the city and relaxing.  The stay at home order kiboshed the going away plan last year and it's a repeat for 2021. 

Last year we did stay at home and we birded from home.  No it wasn't just backyard birding but a few green spaces around us within walking distance.  Some mornings we pondered driving down to the lake parks where we would probably see more species but always stuck to the plan of being home.  It wasn't out of fear of anything but more of a challenge to ourselves, seeing how many birds we could see right in our own neighbourhood.  When we were back to work, both of us were pleasantly surprised at how many species we tallied.

Enjoy the photos below with some little bits if my memory kicks in...

This unique looking male House Finch initially confused us when he first showed up in our backyard that week.  Who knew there was such thing as a yellow variant?  He was a great start to our week off.

A male rose-breasted grosbeak.  Most springs though not every year we get a few of this species.  May 2020 was a record though, having 3 males and 2 females spending a couple days with us.

 Then along came some warblers...

Black-throated green warbler.  One of my favourites.

May 2020 had the cape may warbler being our stand out warbler.  We had 2 or 3 daily all week both in our backyard and on our local walks.

Black-throated blue warbler.

Nashville warbler.  They've become a fairly regular, almost expected, May backyard sighting the last few years.

My other favourite, a Blackburnian Warbler.

Other warblers we saw included ovenbirds and black and white warblers.

Then, like usual, there was the baltimore orioles.  We had a dozen or so for a few days and as per norm a couple pairs remained to nest in the area.

Our 79th backyard bird species appeared, a swainson's thrush.

A couple wood ducks up in the trees was another treat on one of our morning walks.  The birds spend the summer down the road from us but we've never seen them so close to home, and in a tree.

A blue-headed vireo posed nicely just for a moment on another walk.  I recall we saw this species a few mornings that week.

A male eastern bluebird showed up in the park near home, and right around where I have some nest boxes.  He gave me hope that I would get a nesting pair.  Unfortunately that didn't happen despite the bird being seen on/off all summer.

Two scarlet tanagers spent a few days in our neighbourhood.  I assume it was the same birds because they were in the same cluster of trees every day.  We would joke after numerous sightings, "oh, it's just a tanager!" even though they really are a stunning bird to see anytime, or again and again.  A friend and I lovingly joked about them now being a junk bird for the week.

We had to pay close attention to the sparrows we came across.  Finding one savannah sparrow was a treat after seeing many house, song, white-throated and white-crowned sparrows.

But the biggest surprise for Angie and I was seeing bobolinks near the house.  The birds spent about 3 days here.  Normally we would have to drive quite a distance out of the city, like to the Carden Alvar, to see these birds. 

The birds were feeding on dandelion seeds as well small insects.  We know too many people who want a perfect lawn, free of dandelions, but not us...  the birds love the dandelions and we love seeing the birds.  It's a win win.

It was a surprisingly great week of vacation despite the stay at home order.  It is amazing what is around us if we really open our eyes and ears to nature.  Angie's words about the week...  "If we learned one thing from this stay at home vacation, it is how important every bit of green space is to migratory birds."

April 6, 2021

Awwwwwwww Moment

 Just a quick "awwwwwww" moment here...

A squirrel has made a nest in one of my owl boxes at the back of the yard.  I peeked inside and here are a couple of the kids.


We haven't had a squirrel nest here in 3 years now so this will be fun.  I hope Angie and I are home to witness them come out of the box as we were the last time.  It's an endearing moment.  One of those kids is still around, who is named Frodo.

Squirrels often make me think of my grandmother.  She always looked after her backyard squirrel friends especially during the winter months.  Nuts and peanut butter sandwich squares for all.  I remember sitting at the kitchen table eating my cream of wheat in the early morning hours, feeling that cold draft from the kitchen door as she opened it to give the little guys a handout.  A couple would even step into the kitchen to grab their share.

I know not everyone is a fan of squirrels.  They can drive me bonkers in the summer, often digging up my newly planted plants but we share the backyard with them.  We defeat them at times with the digging, other times they defeat us and we try again.  It can be a challenge.  But I cannot imagine our yard being without them.

We are in for some real trying times again due to this pandemic and the rise in the cases, now with the variants.  We stay home or very close to it with our occasional nature walks.  As I have said before, now more so than ever before, we are very grateful for our backyard and the creatures we share it with.

Stay safe friends.

March 14, 2021

Mammals - That is All

Not much to blab about so here are a few mammal sightings of late.  

We've encountered this coyote a few times.  He's an elusive one, keeping his distance, which really is for the better considering how many people are against these animals.

A little bit of peek-a-boo the other weekend.  We assume it's the same one, or it's mate, as it is in the same general area.

A recent dusk walk had us chance upon 5 deer across the river.  We don't see deer nearly as often anymore.  Weird.

This morning we saw 2 muskrats.  I cannot remember the last time I saw one.  Funny little creatures.

And here at home, my trail camera recently picked up an opossum coming through the backyard.  It's the first one that I am aware of in about 6 months.  Unfortunately I haven't had it on the cam since.

I love all our backyard creatures but the opossum tugs on my heartstrings a little more than others.  I think back to the many nights and months of seeing one or more, sharing my apple core with one especially.  So many photo opportunities too!  Some say they're ugly as sin.  I think they're cute as F***!

I look forward to warmer nights ahead and sitting out back after dark, seeing who may come through.  It won't be long until it's baby season too!

These two were a riot.

The cam has been picking up at least 3 raccoons this winter.  We lost so many in the fall due to canine distemper, I am glad a few remain.

This guy lost his tail a few weeks back.  I saw him with a wounded tail earlier in the winter.  Now it's gone.

This pair come around some nights as well.

Three skunks are also showing up on the cam.  All very different looking individuals.  

Here is one of them.  All nice and clean, looking like a common skunk.

The same night, less than 30 minutes later this rough looking one showed up. 

This guy, who is lacking the white stripes, shows up on the cam most often.

Sadly we lost a lot of skunks to distemper as well in the fall; so seeing these three makes me happy to know not all were lost.  I know too many people still leery of skunks but mindsets are changing of some around me thanks to Angie and I's posts about living with them each summer.

And probably the most special mammal of them all out there is Ripper.  He is still around after 4 years.  I don't see him daily, heck sometimes not even weekly, but suddenly he is there again.  I know a neighbour a couple doors over spoils them all rotten with peanut offerings.  A steady supply seemingly daily.  I suspect that explains his absenteeism but he always knows where to come for a good feed no matter what.  Here he is from this past weekend.

Ripper is an awesome little dude and I cherish our visits.  Much like my time with Pierre the pigeon, I have no regrets to all the photos and selfies.

Ripper and I hope to have a surprise soon for those of you who live in our area.  Say what now?  You'll see, well maybe, if it does pan out.

What kind of mammals are you all seeing out there in your travels?


February 21, 2021

Winter Oddities

Last week I went out for a walk one morning before we were about to get our second snow storm in less than a week here in Toronto.  That's a whole lot of nothing to people in other regions but here in T.O. that can mean chaos.  Anyway, I took advantage of the cold dry morning before the weather turned bad.

I hit a lake park just to look around.  I was hoping for a random snowy owl sighting but that didn't happen.  Also the water was frozen over in the marina and pond areas so duck sightings were further out than I liked (I enjoy seeing and hearing the long-tailed ducks at this time of year).

It was a lot of cardinals and chickadees through my walk and not much else.  I like both those species but being down by the lake, I was really hoping for something different.

The birding Gods must have heard my silent wishing because suddenly this appeared in a tree right in front of me, maybe 12 ft from the ground.

A juvenile black-crowned night heron!

Then about 100 ft over I found a second night heron.

Black-crowned night herons just weren't on my birding radar for a walk in mid-February.  I left the park pleasantly surprised, heading for home as that thing called work was going to start for me in a couple hours.

I think about the last couple months and my winter outings.  This hasn't been my first outing with some "winter oddities".

On New Year's Day, Angie and I were out for a morning and chanced upon a grey catbird.  We were floored to see this bird.  Another just not on the radar.

A couple weeks later I was out for a walk near home and saw 3 common grackles.  I knew one was in this woodlot as I had seen it in December but now there were more.

As I waited for a moment to take a decent photo through the bush, 2 red-winged blackbirds flew overhead.  

Grackles and red-winged blackbirds aren't as surprising to see here as the other species above but I am still not used to seeing them in mid-winter.

There's a male eastern towhee overwintering near us and I have tried for it a couple times but haven't been successful.  Two winters prior I saw a female in the same park.  I remember hearing it long before I found it and was pretty stoked at my find.

Another park not too far from us there's an eastern meadowlark overwintering.  I tried for this bird twice and was not successful.  I abandoned going again because of what I have heard about how some photographers are conducting themselves.  Big long lenses yet still encroaching on the bird's space.  The numbers of people gathering to see this bird deters me.  Pandemic or not, I will pass.  I know not everyone going to see the bird and/or get photos is "trouble" but I'm more recluse than usual.  I'm fatigued through this second wave of covid and do everything I can to take my mind away for a while, that means having a stress free outing in the wild world.

Here's one more winter oddity right here at home.  A white-throated sparrow.  We see WTSP throughout the winter in most of the parks we visit but to have one with us all winter in our backyard is not a normal thing.  I see him almost daily and if I cannot spot him, I can usually hear him singing every morning.  He's my happy bird.  If you have followed my blogs over the years, you might have realized that I have a fondness for the white-throated sparrow.

So what about you, my "reader friend", are you going out?  Are you finding little winter surprises?

Update before I start posting this blog link throughout social media, I finally spotted that eastern towhee overwintering in a park just down the road from us.  Hooray!