Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

October 29, 2016

A Volunteer Tale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 6, 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 4, 2016

Two Years With TWC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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