Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

December 31, 2013

Toronto Ice Storm 2013

Some of you out there may not know that Southern Ontario got hit with a pretty nasty ice storm the weekend before Christmas.  In the eyes of some in other parts, it wasn't that bad, just because they had seen worse...  like Quebec had in 1998 I believe where many people were without power for 3 weeks or more!  But for myself, family, friends and most people around here, we had never experienced anything like this.  The devastation to the city as trees froze and fell apart from the weight of the ice.  So much property damage everywhere.  And of course, the power lines that fell too and left many of us in the dark.

Angie and I lucked out here, having lost power on the first and second night, for only 4 hours at a time, from about 3am to 7am.  Some people went much longer, worst being 9 days!

But despite all the landscape carnage, life carried on, especially outside with our wildlife friends.  I've noticed this year, as in this winter season, which started really early and has given us more snow and cold weather than I can recall in the last 5 years or so, the backyard activity sure picked up a lot.

I do "project feeder watch" for Bird Studies Canada and one Sunday just a couple weeks ago, I had 128 birds counted with 14 species.  That's a new record if I am not mistaken.  And even the morning after the ice storm, the feeders were the meal place of choice for a lot of birds.

Here are some pics from the days just after the storm, which will help tell the story of the Toronto Ice Storm of 2013 from our backyard.

Next door's clothes lines.

One tree out back of the house lost a  lot of branches.  The cracking noise was so loud and when the branches let go, it was so sudden, and they all seemed to fall in the same spot.  Quite the brush pile out there now!

The Squirrels were liking the pile and many birds hid out in there too with the Hawk threats about.

Our clothes line.

Branches from the Lilac Tree.

A few yards over from us.  That tree in the centre of the photo, drooping to the left...  it's not there anymore.

Our cable line.

Male House Sparrow atop our bird feeder pole.

American Goldfinch feeding from the non-icy side of the feeder.

The bird bath opened up in the middle, despite the ice hanging from the sides.  Starlings took full advantage of the open water and splashed around in the afternoon after the storm.

This Mourning Dove's tail was frozen.  We could see the icy glaze over it, watched him drag it along, but it did not effect his flight abilities.

The Jays could not get the peanuts from the ring feeder as it was just one big frozen lump.  But the Downy Woodpeckers had no difficulty hammering through the ice and peanut shells to get to the goodness within.

Thanks to the storm, we are seeing more American Goldfinch than what we have in quite some time.  A few years back, we'd have 2 dozen easy.  The numbers dropped considerably and this year it was random sightings until that banded female showed up around my birthday in September.  This past week I've counted 10 in one visit!

I had to bring the feeders in over night, to thaw them out, and be able to refill them for the birds without fear of cracking the plastic tubing.

Seemingly peaceful moment here.

Light enough they is to not break the branches covered in ice.

I did notice a number of birds, like the Goldfinch, and more so with the Mourning Doves, having difficulty landing/stopping on the ice. 

The Northern Mockingbird continued to visit us through the storm and afterwards. So happy to see someone enjoying the Holly berries!

And as Christmas arrived.  Still lots of ice around.  We weren't able to get a "Critter Christmas Tree" which we decorate with edible goodies for the wildlife.  So we used the brush pile shown earlier in the blog.  The Squirrels were loving the apple slices hung from some branches.

Four Downy Woodpeckers still came daily, trying to get on the suet feeders covered in ice until I was able to thaw them out too.   It was a task getting them feeders off frozen feeder hooks and branches without damaging the feeders or the trees.

We had one American Tree Sparrow the other week, but now there's four of them.  It's been a delight to see and hear them out our back door.  They aren't shy either, quick to come in for shelled sunflower hearts and cracked corn with me out there delivering the goods.

Such a nice addition to the backyard this winter.  We've never had Tree Sparrows visit us before.

The European Starlings went through the bird seed bagels pretty quick.  Whole grain bagels smothered in peanut butter and dipped in sunflower, cracked corn and shelled peanuts.  Yummy yummy!

We've got the happiest Squirrels during the Christmas season and days after the ice storm.

Shirley the Sharp-shinned Hawk has been visiting more since the storm.  She caught herself a male House Sparrow.

Another day, another visit... I guess she was "getting rid" of the House Sparrow here.  Haha!

Cardinals, Jays, Juncos, House Finches are also visiting.  But my flock of Pigeons is not.  I'm seeing no more than 3 or 4 any given day.  Jesse is one of the regular visitors but my pal Pierre is not.  I've not seen Pierre since just before the ice storm.  I do hope he is okay and comes home soon.

I've ventured out to some of my favorite walking areas and the devastation is unreal.  One I found most upsetting is this Screech Owl cavity is no more.  The tree broke at the cavity point and I hope the little Owl was not home when this happened.  I had so many great views of the bird here.  In this shot, it was during the "golden hour" the other winter, and he was trilling as he rose to greet the evening.

Here we are 9 days after that storm, it seems everyone in Toronto has power restored in their homes, and have heat once again.  There is so much still to clean up though and I won't be tackling our mess until the Spring.  Mother Nature is beautiful but can be very dangerous too!  When she lets go like this, there is nothing we can do, but ride it out and hope we all make it through.

I hope you all who went through this with us have come out okay as well.

December 24, 2013

Snowy Owls #5 and #6

The Snowy Owl invasion continues and I follow reports along with my own gut feelings about these birds whereabouts and came across 2 more Owls recently.  Oh, and #4 surfaced yet again!

Snowy Owl #5 was way the heck out on a pier in a lakefront park in Mississauga.  I was scanning the area and something caught my eye far off in the distance.  I guess it was the shape if nothing else.  And in my bins I was second and third guessing what I was seeing.  I took a couple photos with the 500mm lens and still wasn't sure.  I decided to crank the ISO and exposure, basically blowing the s**t out of a shot or two and indeed I was seeing one.

I played a game of "Spot the Snowy" with friends on Facebook with this shot.  It's still a closer shot, being not zoomed with the camera, than what I was seeing with my own eyes at first.  Can you find a Snowy Owl in this photograph?

Well, what do you think?  Any ideas where he is?

Would you believe where I've half circled below is a Snowy Owl?

Surely you see him now in this photo below.

One more super cropped to heck shot.

I can't even guess how far out he was from where I stood.  1,000 ft?  Who knows for sure but he's one of the most off in the distance Owls I have spotted in my days of birding.  As I search out these Owls this season, no matter where I go, how far out they are from me, I'm still enjoying the views and am nearly as excited with each one as compared to the first almost one month ago.

So, that was #5 and later that night, after work, on my way home, I spotted #4 along the 401 once again.  And then the next day, I came across Owl #6.

It was a cold rainy Friday morning and I set out once again for a couple hours before work.  I always have my hopes up but I am never expecting in my outings.  One just can't predict wildlife.  But luck have it, I spotted the bird in another lakefront park quite some ways out on the ice.  It was funny because I swear he just appeared since I scoped the area minutes earlier with nothing and then suddenly I saw the lump.

I was quite excited to see this bird after a lengthy damp dismal walk of the park!  I followed my way around the shoreline in hopes of a better view of the bird and lucky me, he stayed put.

Obviously he was aware of my presence but not bothered enough to take flight and flee from me.  I wasn't aggressive in my walk of the shore and there was no way I intended on creeping out onto the ice for a closer shot.  Note, ice or no ice, I don't believe in invading their personal space.  It's just not my thing.

So, I passed the bird some and found the shore went further out into the water just west of the bird.  I decided to try that spot for a great view and a few more photos.

Here I tried shooting through the crook of a tree.  I was using the tree as a blind, hiding my body from the Owl.

I stepped to the left of the tree and tried a few more pics just as the rain was getting heavier.
This was freaking awesome!  I had never seen such a heavily barred Snowy Owl before.  And experts birding buds tell me this is a young female.  I knew it was a young'un as most of them venturing out from the tundra right now are young birds in search of food after a very good breeding year. 

I'm falling asleep as I key this.  It has been an exhausting few days after that awful ice storm here in Southern Ontario.  I wonder how the birds fared through the storm and who is still around?  Word is some of the recent visiting Owls have disappeared, and people guess they moved across Lake Ontario and into the USA now.

My goal, as some know, is to beat my record of 13 Snowys back in the 2011 invasion.  That's just 8 more Owls to go.  Think I can do it?  Care to cheer me on? 

If you missed my last Owl blog, here it is.  It seems to be a popular one with friends.  I hope you enjoy it too.

December 18, 2013

Wooly... Snowy!

I was on my way home from work last night and I saw my fourth Snowy Owl.  He was sitting on the guard rail along highway 401 just over highway 410.  It freaked the heck out of me, just wasn't what I thought I would see mere feet from the truck and eye level.  Just like others I have seen over the years along the 401, it's the bird that escapes a photo because it's just plain suicidal to try and do such things on a busy highway, never mind it being dark...  and I didn't have my camera.

And last week, exactly one week from last night, I had a re-visit with a Snowy Owl near where we live.  I assume its either the second or third bird I saw.  It could be another but since I don't know for certain (I count birds in each area).  So unless I see 3 in one day here, I won't be adding them to my list from this spot.

It was a cold blustery morning, -21c with the wind chills but the sun was shining and I wanted to get out for a bit.  We just had some snow recently and I was hankering for a winter photo or two. 

The outing was pretty quiet, saw a couple Hawks hunting off in the distance and that was it.  No Cardinals, Jays, Juncos, Woodpeckers, Chickadees, nothing.  I was nearing the end of my trek as work would be beckoning soon.  I decided to check one more path quick, a very short path I might add.  I came up empty once again.  And as I turned around and started to walk back to the truck, I noticed a Wooly Bear atop a pile of snow and ice cleared from the path.  How could I miss this creature the first time around, passing it only minutes earlier?  He just stands right out against the blanket of white!

I should have taken the Wooly Bear's photo on the snow mound but easily you can see these colors of black and reddish brown would scream at you from a snow pile.
I put the Wooly Bear in my pocket, thinking he was dead, and I could put my macro lens on him when I got home later.  And as I was standing myself upright from this, I happened to look to my left and see a funny mound of snow to my left.  And that's what I said to myself, "what an odd snow pile".  As I focused my sights on it, eyes watering from the wind, I realized it was a Snowy Owl!

Here he is, shot is cropped and was a full zoom with the 500mm.
We weren't very far from each other, maybe 60 ft?  I took a couple photos and then the bird took flight.
He landed on a fence nearby and I thought I would take one more try at some photos.  If he flew once more, I would walk away.

The best approach to wildlife is not direct in my opinion.  Actually Big Frank told me this the other year we were out viewing a Snowy Owl north of Toronto.  "Don't walk right at them.  You gotta try and walk away from them but move closer".  It's hard to explain here being first thing in the morning and working on my first coffee.  But for this bird, here is what I did...

I crossed the small field he was in, because I wanted to be on the other side with the sun behind me (better for a photo).  I did like a half circle, moving away from the bird as I made my way over to the other side.  He watched me, looked elsewhere, watched me, and so on.  Once I was on the other side, the bird lost interest in me probably because he lost most sight of me.  The fence he was on was atop this small hill.  I worked my way up the side of the hill now, slowly and quietly.  Even when I got to the top, we still had some distance between us, once again probably 60 or 70 ft, but we'd be eye level.  There were some small conifers here that I hoped to use as a shield in my sneaky attempt for another photo op.  And it worked!  He was aware of my presence, probably long before I got a view of him again.  But since I wasn't in his face or making aggressive moves towards him, he allowed me some time with him.  And I was thankful for that.  And I don't abuse such a moment.

In the next six or seven minutes, I took some photos, played with my settings, waited for some clouds to roll by and took some more photos.  The bird looked in my direction, he'd look away, and so on.  And then I left him where he was...  grinning from ear to ear.  It was an awesome moment with such a  majestic bird and I was ready to go to work and take on all the nonsense of the afternoon with a smile.

I missed the poop shot here...
Here is the Snowy Owl as I left him...

I guess you guys forgot about the Wooly Bear in my pocket, eh?  Haha!  I almost did too.  When I got back to the truck, I pulled him out of my jacket pocket and set him on the centre console.  A few blocks from home, the little creature work up on my toque.  I half suspected he would with the heat but still another part just thought he was dead. 

I was texting Angie about him, and she did some research.  They have quite the remarkable story which I will share another time.  But I put him out back in one of the bird houses full of wood shavings to go return to his winter slumber.  I plan to check up on him come mid-March or so.  Google the Wooly Bear or wait until the Spring when I blog about him.

The holidays are just about upon us.  I want to thank everyone who has read my blogs the past year; the good ones, the sad ones, the long ones, whatever.  I wish all the best, to you and yours, through the Christmas season, into 2014, and beyond!


December 15, 2013

Hello Mockingbird!

I started the 2013/2014 season of Project Feeder Watch about 1 month ago.  I'm not sure how many years I've been doing it but it is getting near a decade now.

One day, so long ago, our now friends Jim and Lynda from the Etobicoke Wild Birds Unlimited store suggested to me that I do the counting for Bird Studies Canada and become a 'citizen scientist' after I was telling them I was marking our kitchen calendar everyday with bird sightings.

I still have many of the old records kicking around and it's fun when I stumble upon them and go back to certain days, the notes I made, and say "oh ya!"

Anyways, just as this season was starting up, I was saying that I wanted something new this time around.  Funny how I say that during Spring migration, summer time, and Fall migration too.  Yep, never enough, always want to add something else.  It's getting more difficult as we've had 46 different species touch a part of the backyard and another 10 identified flying over the yard since it all began.

Well, this weekend I got my wish.  It's not a new species to visit us but definitely is at this time of year being a Northern Mockingbird.  We've had them over the years pop in through the summer months and visit the bird baths but that's about it.

It started on late Saturday morning.  I had been watching out for birds from the kitchen window much of the morning and it was pretty quiet out there.  A lot of my watch days are like that since 3 species of Hawks come around periodically looking for a meal.  And I find I really have to pay attention at times for those quick/random visits from the birds.  I need to go outside, look and listen to tune in to my visitors.  A lot of times my presence outside will send the Coopers and Red-tails fleeing, which then brings all the other birds back.  The Sharp-shinned sticks around though.

So out back I go, the first real winter storm of the season is starting up and I spot a few Dark-eyed Juncos down at the back.  Suddenly my eyes catch something gray, and bigger than a Junco, in the Lilac tree along the fence line.  My mind raced through bigger gray birds, quickly knocking out Shirley the Sharp-shin, definitely not a Gray Jay, not a Northern Shrike, and then Northern Mockingbird came up...  YES!

He was quite fluffed out, obviously cold, and he found his way to the backyard because of the Holly bush I planted a few years back was full of berries.  Mockingbirds are fruit eaters and while some do hang around the Toronto area through the winter months, they aren't in abundance at this time of year.

I find them to be a skittish species of bird, not hanging around when I am outside.  But this guy wasn't leaving with me out back.  He sat in this tree until I backed up some and then flew into the Holly bush to feed.
I was pretty excited about this!  I'd seen Pigeons pecking at the berries a while back.  Late October a small flock of Cedar Waxwings flew in and had at the bush for 20 minutes or so, and I was in awe, since they are one of my favorite birds and tease me as they eat insects in our trees high above us through the summer but never landed until this day.  Unfortunately I had recently injured my shoulder and didn't have my monster zoom lens on when they flew in for a quick feed.  But I did get a couple photos in.
Anyways, this Holly bush rocks!  And it's paying off with some cool bird sightings for us as the birds come in and feast on the berries.  I think the bush is in it's third year with us now and this is the first real year of an abundance of berries on it.

So, having the Mockingbird fly in this weekend was great!  He was around much of Saturday through the storm and then arrived again on Sunday mid-morning for another feed.  We enjoyed watching him, I'm loving adding this guy to the Project Feeder Watch list and hope he sticks around with us for a while.  We bought fresh cranberries and cut up some for him too

He liked sitting on our Reindeer today.
I was in and out quite a bit today (Sunday); meaning in the house, out in the yard, looking for another photo op with this guy and counting other visiting species and their numbers.  My eyes focused on a Sparrow that didn't look like the rest and before long I realized we had another new visitor to the backyard, and this was an American Tree Sparrow!  I didn't have my camera with me and could only watch him from a short distance.  But there's no mistaking this bird for a House Sparrow.  His visit was cut as something spooked all the birds away including him...  but he was here, right above one of the feeders and looking to the ground for fallen seeds.  I'll be keeping eyes and ears open for another return of him.  I'd like a photo just for the records even.

It was a really cool bird count weekend at our home.  So many people we know were out doing Christmas Bird Counts, something we've always wanted to partake in, but have not yet.  But in the end, even for just our backyard, I think we had an awesome count with these 2 species being added to the PFW for a total of 14 species and the actual number of birds was 128!  Not bad for 25 x 100 ft area, eh?

As Sunday comes to an end, I can't help but wonder what will be the next "new" bird for us?

I'd like to add a funny story here.  Seems some people mix up the Mockingbird with the Shrike.  They are both mostly gray birds similar in size, have long tails, etc.  I guess some people get pretty excited with the Shrike, like I do, or maybe want to see a Shrike and turn the Mocker into one.  Not exactly sure but recently I was out and came across a Mocker in a park.  Another birder was observing the bird and said to me "Nice Shrike, eh?"  I corrected him on his identification.  He disagreed with me, and even after a little discussion on the differences, where clearly I was right on the species ID.  In the end, he said in a huff, "Oh, what do you know?  You're just a headbanger!"  I took the high road, walking away and saying "well at least I know my birds".  Some people!

*note*  I added lots of links to this blog for those new to the birds, click on the links which will take you to a great site to learn about each species mentioned

December 12, 2013

Here Come the Snowys... again

Wow, I can't believe we are in the midst of another Snowy Owl invasion!  It was only 2 years ago since the last one.  Yet somehow this one sure seems bigger or I am just reading and hearing a lot more this time around.

The birds are just popping up everywhere!  Earlier this week there was a count of approximately 200 in Newfoundland.  The Snowys were making news as authorities wanted to cull the birds around JFK airport in New York.  I believe 3 were shot on December 7th.  Of course this caused some uproar from the public, both birders and people in general because everyone just loves the Snowy Owl.  One Snowy Owl even made it down to Bermuda in recent weeks.  This is causing some commotion down there as it is the third Snowy Owl to hit that island in 30 years according to my research.

I've read some sad stories of starving birds in the past couple weeks.  And most did not have a very good ending.  By the time the birds are discovered, they are just too far gone.  The Owl Foundation has had many Owls come into their centre already.

In 2011 we had the invasion, and by the end of winter I had 13 Snowy Owls seen with my own eyes.  The sightings went across the shores of Lake Ontario from Kingston to Burlington.  It was an exciting winter and one day I had 4 Snowys in view from one backroad intersection just north of Toronto.  I couldn't believe it!  And for whatever reason, I just didn't pick up on very many stories of starving birds, injured birds, dead birds.  I'm not complaining and chalk it up as most of the Owls did very well that winter.

This photo shows Snowy Owl reports from so far this year compared to last year.  The blue is  Nov/Dec of 2012 and the orange is Nov/Dec of 2013 and we still have a few weeks left in the month.  2012 had 119 reports and 293 so far for this time around.

In the past 2 weeks I've done a couple outings myself, seeking out them Snowy Owls.

I saw a few reports but decided to take my own route to areas we've seen them in previous years.  First outing...  nothing.  A few days later I give in as my sick time from work was coming to an end and I wanted to end it with a BANG so I try the for the areas where birds were reported just east of Toronto.  Once again, nothing.  I did however have the pleasure of watching a male American Kestrel hunt roadside which certainly sated my appetite for something really cool to see.
The weekend rolled around, being November 30th and as some of you know, Angie and I found ourselves escorting an injured female Snowy Owl to the Owl Foundation.  But really this didn't count for a sighting even though our eyes met as she was taken away upon arrival at the foundation.

Monday December 2nd I make another attempt as my return to work date is on the 4th.  I hit those northern roads I am familiar with and it was looking pretty barren once again.  But just as I was about to give up, I spotted one atop a hydro pole!  I was grinning from ear to ear now.  Over the next ten minutes or so I observed the bird and his behaviour towards my presence.  I am no where near him but just watching him as I rolled the truck closer, one hydro pole at a time.  He's pretty chill up there and I decide to get out and try to get a few photos.  He's still not bothered by my presence.  He'd look at me, then look elsewhere and so on.  I'd snap a couple, look at them quick, adjust the settings, take a couple steps closer and try again.  With him being up on that pole there is no need to walk in too close because you'd just be shooting up at the bird.  A few minutes later, I'm totally satisfied with the sighting and a couple decent photos to take home.  The Owl never left that pole, which was awesome to me.  I hate making them flush because I've accidentally spooked them.

On my way home I tried another area where a report of one came in.  And luck have it I found one way out in the field.  As I drove the truck around to try and get a better view of the bird, I stopped at one point to see where my sight line was, and as I am watching the bird in my binoculars, suddenly another bird comes into view and attacks the first bird!  Holy s**t!  Snowy Owls are big freakin' birds and to see the two of them take to the air and scrap it out is beyond words.  Unfortunately as they fought, they went further away from me and all I could do was watch.  I don't think I could have picked up my camera, taking my eyes off this action.  Finally one bird left and headed west while the other went back to the ground and commenced "chilling out".  Its okay I didn't get any photos because the ones in my head are a million times better than what I could have ever captured with the camera.
Can you spot the Snowy on the snow mound? I was surprised I did.
I didn't expect to see what I did and that's what makes the outings so great.  You never know, just hit the roads, take the trails, and go with the natural flow.  And you gotta take the zero sightings for what they are, try not to get expectations in your head because you'll just ruin a time outside with nature, your free time.

I was going to lecture about how to act around the birds but most of you who visit my blog know where I stand on this.  Simply put, please respect them and their space.

December 8, 2013

Rob to the rescue again, sort of

Wednesday December 4th was my first day back on the job after 7.5 weeks away due to a shoulder injury.  I knew it was going to be a very long, and probably rough day.  I've been so used to getting up before 7am, napping in the afternoon, and just going to bed whenever...  meaning, not having much of a routine.

I made it through the day, being up real early, no nap, an 8 hour shift and home by 10:30pm.  And I found myself still with some energy to burn.

It's Wednesday and in my fashion, I toast getting over the hump of the week with a shot or two of whiskey...  "Whiskey Wednesday".  My drink of choice is usually 40 Creek but I recently got a bottle of White Owl Whiskey from Angie and decided to have at that especially since I saw 3 Snowy Owls on Monday.  We are in the midst of another Snowy Owl invasion and I think I will toast these birds with my White Owl whenever I see one (or three).

Drink is made, I turn on the back light and peer out the window to see if any of my night time buds are around.  I spot one of the Raccoons under the bird feeder closest to the house.  I put my coat on, grab my drink, flashlight, camera and go out to hang out with him...  if he will let me.

Flashlight on him and I took this with my cellphone.

My furry friend acknowledges me and continues foraging under the bird feeder and vicinity.  But as he starts to move around looking for more grub, I notice he's not moving like a normal healthy Raccoon.  Closer inspection I can see his back right leg is dragging behind him.  I went inside, got some kibble and dropped a handful near him.  I was less than 3 ft from him and he just watched me, then started devouring the kibble.

The snack was done, he started making his way to the back of the yard.  He had a real difficult time doing so with that leg and a few times he kinda rolled over, but kept heading in that direction.  He stopped himself in the garden near our feeder pole and had a drink from one of the bath basins.  It was a mild night and the water hadn't froze.  Drink done he continued on his way, struggling along, and pulling himself with his front paws.

I knew he was hurt and despite it being pitch black outside, starting to rain and me lacking much in way of skills or equipment to do anything, I was bound and determined to help him.

Sure doesn't look pitch black out nor raining here but trust me on all I tell you.
The weekend before, Angie and I picked up a couple large cages from someone who donated them to Hobbitstee Refuge.  A new friend of ours is an animal rehabber and we assisted in a fund raiser for her a few weeks ago.  I was holding the cages until the next time we got down her way.  As I said, cages are large, like 4' x 2' x 4' or so.  The one was not folded up and the bottom tray was not attached.  The cages were in the shed and I went and grabbed the one I just described.  It was a struggle in the dark and trying to keep a light on the Raccoon.  Funny how me by myself, holding a flashlight and camera, the Raccoon never cared; but coming at him, walking like Frankenstein as I held this cage up at waist height...  nuh uh, Raccoon was like "get away from me man!" but only with some colorful language I can imagine by his growls.

I backed him up against the fence, he snarled, hissed, spit, growled and charged at me a few times.  But I held my ground, stayed calm and wasn't giving up.  I had to be quick when I put the cage over him, not wanting to drop it on his already wounded body.  What an adventure this was!  Did I mention how dark it was?  And the rain was coming down good now?

It really didn't take too long before I had him in the cage.  I could see a few neighbours peering out their back windows, looking down in my direction and probably wondering what I was doing.  The Raccoon was really loud, might as well have been a Bear I was messing around with, and I am sure my bright LED flashlight waving around was like the Bat Signal out there.

My next move was to get something on the ground under him, so he couldn't try and dig his way out.  I have a big sheet of plywood behind the shed, so I pulled that out, lifted the edge of the cage a little and slowly slid this sheet underneath.  It really pissed the Raccoon off as I touched his toes.  And he tried for the opening, even as small as it was.  But I managed to get the sheet all the way through and out the other side.  Next up was barricading the sides of the cage so he could not top it over, using 4 big cinder blocks, one on each side.  I didn't want to leave him trapped out there with the rain coming down, so next was a big blue tarp that I put over his temporary home.  And lastly a few bricks over top to keep the tarp from lifting or blowing away.

I double checked everything and figured he was safe for the night in there, no way he could get out, or hurt himself trying, and no way anything could try and get in at him.  It was nearly midnight now and I was pretty darn wired.  I posted something on Facebook to vent some of the story.  I wrote a note to Angie for when she woke up so she didn't see the Facebook stuff or the contraption out back and wake me with a bunch of ???'s.  Eventually I went to bed but still had a heck of a time falling asleep.  Angie woke up and I told her everything.  Now neither of us could sleep.

My next step was to call Toronto Wildlife Centre in the morning and ask for assistance from an expert with proper equipment to get him to their centre and hopefully some medical aid.

I wanted to wait till morning, close to when the centre opened at 9am, so I knew nothing happened over night, like Raccoon escaping.  And hope from the time of my morning check on him, my call to TWC and their arrival would be a small time frame.

I checked on him shortly after 7am and he was curled up in a ball, sound asleep much like Meadow was on the bed.  He looked up at me momentarily, like I disturbed him, and as I left, he put his head back down.  I liked that he was calm with me and not freaking out.

And just before 9am, I called Toronto Wildlife, leaving them the most detailed message possible about the animal, how I caught him and ensured he was confined.  I knew their return call would be within the hour, so I waited a bit before I checked on him again.  I took a couple pics and a very short video, also observing him some more.  He still remained calm with me.

Toronto Wildlife called me back, we talked for a bit and they didn't need much more info from me.  They knew there was no way I could bring the Raccoon in to them, not without me getting hurt in the process and probably further injury to him.

It was a relief when they told me someone was coming down to the house to help out.  I was hoping it was Andrew because I tell everyone that he's my hero.  I worked with him once back in May 2012 with a very sick Great Horned Owl in the woods near us.  That story revisited me back in October 2013, see here.  But it wasn't Andrew coming down but someone named "Sarah".  For a split second I was disappointed to not hear Andrew but the relief of help coming quickly returned and thought this would be great to see another one of their rescuers in action.

Sarah arrived on scene pretty fast.  I took her around back, and worked with her to catch my trapped pal.  She was loaded with leather gloves, netting, a snare and a large carrier.  I followed her instructions and together we caught him.  She had me lift one side of the cage up while she slid a snare underneath.  It took 4 or 5 tries before she was certain she had him and out he came, not anywhere near the calm guy he was a bit ago.  He was full teeth, claws and attitude at Sarah.  But she kept her cool and and focus on the mission and in no time he was in the carrier.

We talked briefly before she left with him.  I said how I hoped so much he could come back home one day; but she politely informed me that a lot of times it just doesn't end well in these situations.  Raccoons aren't the best patients to begin with.  Healing them, keeping them confined and calm, and not further injuring themselves is a very difficult task.  It was nice she kept that in the back of my head but I wasn't going to give up on my hope for him.

They left, I tidied up out back and soon went to work totally exhausted and my day really only just begun.

The next day, Friday the 6h, I couldn't even think about Mr Raccoon as I had a full day with getting that little Northern Saw-whet Owl to the Owl Foundation and doing one more shift at work.  Blog here.

Saturday morning I called and left a message.  I missed their return call about an hour later and when I checked my voice mail, I was all twitchy, stomach turning, wondering what they were going to tell me.  The voice mail said nothing about the condition of the Raccoon.  And a lot of the message was very much similar to the one they left me when I inquired about my recently departed Squirrel pal "Sideways Sam".  See that blog here.  But the woman explained about why they wouldn't say in a voice mail, as they use discretion, unsure if the voice mail box is private or not, etc.  So I get that but still I was thinking the news was going to be bad and they didn't want to leave it in a message.

I quickly called them back and kept my phone right with me until I heard from them again about 30 minutes later.  I'm still holding out hope for a good answer as the phone rings.  But once I answer it, and even though she didn't say it right away, I knew he wasn't coming home.

Both his back legs were broken and it happened some time ago.  The bones were healing and setting in improperly.  He had infection through his lower area too.  So the most humane thing to do was put him to sleep.

Even as much as I knew this was the best thing for him, and a part of me was expecting this, my heart still sunk.  I was overcome with sadness.  Angie and I were going out shortly and I found myself just staring blankly out into the backyard.  Was it because of my admiration for Raccoons?  Was it because this was too soon after my little pal Sideways Sam went the same route?  I dunno but it sucked, and it hurt.

I posted the outcome to social media and got a slew of heart warming comments and support. 

Anyways, the support from others helped me.  I knew my sadness was only temporary and that my Raccoon friend wasn't suffering anymore.  I thought if I left him be out there, how long would he suffer, and how slow and painful would his death be?  I try to not think of myself as a Reaper for the severely sick wildlife but more as a caregiver, stepping in when they really need help.

And despite his death, like the others I've turned in, I will still hold out hope for the next one, and so on.  Where there is life, there is hope.

Rest in peace little one.