Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

October 31, 2017

Wild Week

We were on vacation a couple weeks ago, spent a few days up north and what a stellar week to be off weather wise. Not much story telling here but thought I would share some photographic moments with you.

It's not very often that I see Fox in my travels so I always embrace the moment.

Still lots of migrating birds in the area. We saw Brown Creepers in almost every place we went, including our backyard in the tail end of our holiday. They can be tough to spot if you don't catch the movement of one.

Always a treat to see and feed the Gray Jays of Algonquin Park. This one in particular has some excited because he does not have any leg bands like you see on the Gray Jays in Algonquin. I've heard of people actually photoshopping out the leg bands on these birds in their photos. Personally, I would never do that. Those bands individualize the birds and tell a story about the history of that bird. But that's just me. Here is a 20 second video of the moment.

I love our backyard but it sure is nice to get out of the city for a few days and be around this kind of scenery.

I call this "Encroaching Sprawl".

We found the remnants of an old cabin in the woods.

Address is #13

I haven't a clue what this is which was very near the cabin. My dark imagination begs to be released and share it's 2 cents.

You damn right I wanted to get a photo at this forgotten place.

To me, it was strange to still see Butterflies at this time of year, like this Painted Lady on the beach.

But seeing Dark-eyed Juncos popping up in our travels was a reminder this amazing weather will not last.

Another very regular sighting were the White-throated Sparrows. If we could not see them, we certainly could hear them in our waking moment. These birds are still appearing daily in our backyard.

With our vacation week almost over, now being back home, we continued with some outdoor walks and taking in the sights around us; some of which took in the sights of us too.

Eastern Phoebe

Always nice to spot a Sapsucker as it's not a commonly seen bird for either of us.

Never a day passed without a Skunk sighting at home.

Late October for me begins the season of night Owling once again. We managed to find a couple Screech Owls near our home.

Merry thinks she can pull off a good Owl look herself.

It was a great week off. There was never a mission to see anything. All we wanted to do was be outside and enjoy the natural world around us. It does wonders for the soul.

October 26, 2017


So yesterday morning I was blogging. A "shout out" came out from TWC regarding a Red-tailed Hawk that could use a ride to get her back to her home. A part of me was hesitant at first because the location was Coronation Park, which is a lake park just east of Ontario Place. It's really not that far from our house but the thought of heading towards downtown Toronto was a little intimidating for me even though I still had more than 3 hours to go before I started work. In the end, I said "yes" to helping. One, it's not very often I get to release a large bird like a Hawk. Second, as fall migration winds down, the opportunities to release birds drastically reduces.

It was an easy drive down to the park. The Hawk was very calm the whole way. I even had no problem finding parking and did not mind having to pay.

I scoped out the area. Definitely a nice spot for a Hawk to reside. It was weird to me seeing how close all those lake front condos were though... right across Lakeshore Blvd!

The condos are the reason the Hawk ended up going into Toronto Wildlife. The glass balconies are confusing to birds. If they get up on someone's balcony, like a Hawk in this case, who was possibly going after a smaller bird. The Hawk drops down to the floor of the balcony and suddenly it feels trapped. It can see out to the world but that glass holds them back. The bird panics, thrashes around about the balcony, hitting the glass wall, perhaps also hitting the wall of the condo, any furniture, etc. Of course if the bird does not panic and thinks things through, it can jump up to the rail of the balcony and then fly off. Smaller birds can easily fly under the glass barrier though. We've helped a few young Peregrine Falcons at our Etobicoke nest site who have gotten into similar situations.

Young Peregrine Falcon we rescued from a balcony, June 2017.

End result for this Hawk, no injuries, but it was nice of the finder to catch the bird and bring her in for assessment anyway (just in case). And in case you are wondering, the little Peregrine was a-okay too.

After picking out a spot to lug the large carrier to, I scoped out for off leash dogs. Yes, they were about, one was chasing Squirrels up the trees and I asked the woman to please leash her dog, explaining what I was about to do. She refused but did take her dog well away. This prompted me to move the carrier further back and wait a little longer until they were out of sight. Thankfully no other off leash dogs appeared.

I stand beside the carrier, unzip the door, and try to pull it open but there is some force holding it back. I have a peek inside and the Hawk is on it's back, with it's feet pointed at the door, talons on the one foot are holding onto the door. This is a defensive position with birds of prey. "Come at me bro! I will mess you up!" is basically what it means.

I back off, stand to the side again and wait a minute. I sense movement inside. The Hawk has let go of the door and is now standing up. Well, that's my guess at the moment since I cannot see within. I reach around, let a little light in by moving the door a bit and next thing I know is the bird is coming out. No hesitation now. The bird knows that freedom is beyond the confines of the carrier. Two steps out the door, touching the grass and the bird quickly takes flight, landing in a nearby tree. All the Squirrels surrounding us start their stress calls.

Can you find the Hawk in this un-cropped photo?

The Hawk looks around for a few minutes, then takes flight to another tree. This scenario is repeated 4 or 5 more times. I take the carrier back to the truck, get my big lens and watch her for the next 15 to 20 minutes.

It was great to see this bird come to the realization that not only was she free, but she was back to her home. She flew harder and faster, zipping through the trees like she knew every single one of them, and she began to scream that famous Red-tailed Hawk sound. You know the sound of buzzards in the desert in the movies and TV shows... that's actually the call of a Red-tail and not Buzzards.

She flew to her old nest and sat there momentarily screeching some more. Then flew back out to the treed area.

I like to think she was rejoicing to her freedom. I suspect she may have also been calling for her mate too.

As much as I wanted to stick around and watch her some more, I had to get back home and get ready for work.

Releasing any bird or animal is a wonderful experience. But when I take one back to it's home, it really kicks the heart warming, good for the soul feeling up a few notches. It doesn't have to be a big sexy beast like this Red-tailed Hawk. I get the same good vibe from taking any Pigeon back to it's flock.

Pigeon release in Port Credit last winter. One of the white birds on the right is the bird I released.

When a Pigeon goes home, I watch it coo up a storm to it's buddies, seemingly telling them all about it's adventures abroad. The bird is so excited, walks around in circles and doesn't stop talking. You can see that in the video here of our friend "Rehab", one of the Jerseys, after his release back here with his flock 4 months ago. Yes, I still see him every day.

Time to publish this and get back to the other blog I was working on. I hope you enjoyed this tale. It seems Molly is quite enthralled by it.

October 13, 2017

September Stuff

Good day!

First off, a shout out to Eva B, for the polite reminder that I haven't done a blog in about a month. Thanks!

Anyway, I had started a couple blogs the last few weeks but obviously they never came to light for others to see. I would get distracted and then that was it for them. I really am not a fan of starting one, dropping it for a few days and then re-visiting. In most cases, I pretty much end up redoing the whole thing.

So, I blogged about my birthday weekend. A couple weeks ago I turned 48. I stayed up the night coming into my birthday, toasted my turning another year older and here I am in my waking moments of my 48th year. Angie must think I'm a gem in the morning, eh?

I reflected on some of the past awesome animal birthday weekend adventures Angie and I got into. She sure surprised me a few times over the years. One of my most memorable was us having some alone time at the Muskoka Wildlife Centre. Yes, that is me next to an Eastern Grey Wolf.

I had no plans this time around. All I knew is that I wasn't going to work on my birthday, I never do. Someone asked me what I was going to do. I said "not much". They told me I should be glad I am seeing 48 because of that accident I had back in July could have played out much differently, meaning I could have ended up dead. I agree it could have been far worse, but it wasn't, so why even think about it in such a way months later? I don't dwell on the past even though I have scars to remind me of it daily.

My birthday this year was not anything out of the ordinary but it was a nice day with Angie and the animals. The weather was great. An Opossum came to visit which is a species I've not seen a lot of this year. He found the apple core I tossed into the yard.

A Raccoon also made an appearance.

Topper was here the morning of.

All my Pigeon pals came to visit. Well, all but Pierre. I was not expecting him that morning but certainly would have been more than pleasantly surprised if he did show up. Two months now since I last saw him. I still look out for him every day. But I have others in the flock to help along and look out for the best I can. Some mornings they can be a little demanding and a pain in the a$$, often having me not enjoy that first cup of coffee like I want to; but really I wouldn't trade it all in for anything.

Jersey has a lot of trust in me after almost 1 year of visiting.

We also visited The Owl Foundation for their annual open house. We missed last year's because of the ridiculously high humidity. So it was nice to go for a walk about the grounds again and see some old friends.

Saying "hello" to Big Bird, a Great Gray Owl, a very sleepy Owl I might add.

Here's a few of the Owls we saw during our tour of the grounds.

Barred Owl

Short-eared Owl

Young Snowy Owl

Then the next blog I had started working on but did not finish.

September 27th marked my third anniversary as an official volunteer with Toronto Wildlife. What a ride it has been. No year has been a repeat of the previous.

I've met a lot of wonderful people because of volunteering.

I keep a journal of all my goings on with the centre, be it bringing an animal in, taking some out for release, or the handful of grocery runs I have done. It's just for me, like a diary, and whenever I happen to look through the pages, some things are still quite vivid to this day while others have me wondering WTF? Rough numbers are I'm nearing 100 drives through the 3 years now. In my head, that really doesn't seem like a whole lot. I've brought in about 50 birds and animals. I have released 257 birds as of my anniversary date, most being migratory birds in the Autumn of each year. This is not bragging by any means. It's an interesting number. That's a lot of birds who were successfully rehabilitated after window collisions and other reasons for coming in. I'd like to add that there are far many more birds who make it out, released by staff and other volunteers. I'm not the only one who has had the pleasure of this task. So, Toronto Wildlife sure helps out a LOT of migratory birds every year! Big shout out to FLAP who finds many of them on our city streets.

I don't share much about my goings on these days. The releases are wonderful to do. Seeing all these birds go back to the wild world is great! But how often do people on social media need to see this? Once in a while, as a reminder that this is still happening in my life seems to be enough. I never want to come off as a braggart. Then the animals that come in, sometimes I know the background story and sometimes they aren't good stories. Well, any animal that needs help isn't a good story. Some injuries are light and treatable. Some, a humane ending to their suffering is the only thing for them. How many people want to tune into my social media pages and read about these things? On occasion, perhaps, but not steadily. There are varying opinions on wildlife rehab. I've had a few people say some pretty horrible things to me when it came to helping a Pigeon or a Goose, a Raccoon or a Skunk. "Waste of time and resources. Pests that should be exterminated." One guy said such things to me right outside the doors of TWC. His wife and kids were in the car with him, listening to the unkind things he said about helping an unwell Pigeon I had in a box. We live in a huge city, green spaces are condensed, and the animals are adapting to living among us... we need to do that as well, living among them. Many of the stories of the sick, injured or orphaned wildlife in our city is due to humans. Someone accidentally, or *gasp* purposely did something to an animal, and there is a place to help these poor beings after the fact.

Look at Rehab, our backyard visiting Pigeon pal. He got into some man made substance left out there somewhere in our area. Blog here. That should never have happened. Thank goodness for Toronto Wildlife helping him. He looks fantastic. And he is a very happy bird! Look at him in this photo. You can't tell me he's not loving life in the wild again.

Now I will post this photo of a Hawk release I did. That's a Cooper's Hawk going back home. As some question me looking out for the young Peregrine Falcons in June at Islington/Bloor, and loving my Pigeon friends at home. How can I help a Hawk species that loves to eat Pigeons? Simple. I don't discriminate. Most of my friends get it. That is why they are my friends.

For anyone interested, here is a list of the birds I have released.

White-throated Sparrow
House Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow

Dark-eyed Junco

Indigo Bunting

Cedar Waxwing

Brown Creeper

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Northern Flicker

Least Flycatcher

Blackburnian Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Black-throated Green
Black-throated Blue
Black & White
Northern Waterthrush

Gray Catbird

Red-eyed Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch

Red-tailed Hawk
Cooper's Hawk

Peregrine Falcon

Great Horned Owl
Eastern Screech Owl

Black-billed Cuckoo
Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Mallard Duck

Canada Goose

Hermit Thrush
Wood Thrush
Swainson's Thrush
Gray-cheeked Thrush



House Finch

Black-capped Chickadee

Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Baltimore Oriole

Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove

European Starling

If you know your birds, you can probably tell which species most likely came from FLAP. If you ever want to send them some $ LOVE $, click here. Or if Toronto Wildlife warms your heart, here is their link, it does not have to be money, check out their wish list.

Now before I end this blog, I'd like to touch upon these releases just a little bit more. It's not simply picking up the birds and taking them to your backyard or favorite park. Autumn migratory birds need to get down to the shores of Lake Ontario, west of Toronto. Year round resident birds like Cardinals and Pigeons must go back to where they came from, that is their home (territory). Waxwings and Goldfinches normally have to go with a flock, since they are nomadic birds. Often it is young Waxwings and Goldfinches we work hard at to find them a flock to join. We also put the word out to friends to keep their eyes and ears open for these species when out. Ebird can be of help in finding these birds.

I recently had a moment of panic when I found a flock of approximately 10 Goldfinches, and they were in this area for over a week already. The next morning I arrive with a young one to join them and found myself struggling to find them again. I jumped right into worry mode, playing out worst case scenarios, which isn't always good, but in another is helpful that I am two steps ahead and already working on plan B. I did find the flock after some hard searching and all the worry quickly disappeared. These are wild birds, they don't follow any rules. You just never know what can happen in a short span of time. It's better to have as recent of a species sighting and go with it than driving around with the bird, hitting various spots looking/hoping for a flock.

When the shout out comes for a bird release, and I can do it, I will. I don't ask how many. I don't ask what the species are. When I hit my personal mini-milestones, I do have an interest in the species I am driving, but that's it. With the migrants, sometimes I know the species before leaving the centre, other times I try to ID them as they go free.

Like, here is my 250th bird release. A Black-throated Blue Warbler. He rocketed out of the paper bag and disappeared into the foliage of a nearby tree. I relocated him for a photo after the others were free that I brought down to the park.

I list the species I have released but I don't hope and wish for a new species to add. I've driven the miles for one bird, I've driven the miles for ten birds. It's all the same. Sure the more the merrier, but whatever. An average release road trip is close to 50 kms. That's going to the centre, then driving the birds to the lake. This is usually an hour out of my day. Suddenly the idea isn't as appealing to some. Someone once squawked at me for taking so many of these drives on in the fall until they learned what really goes on. Their exact words "I can't do that!" reason being because of travel and time to go to these west of the city lake parks.

This may deter some too... I was releasing some birds in September at a certain park that has had a reputation for being a cruise area for gay men. There was a big bust at the park in the fall of 2016 and over 80 men faced charges or got a warning along with some embarrassment because of their escapades. The park seemed to be quiet and void of the antics of these men since. I drove some birds to the park for release and as I let a Thrush free, I saw a man walking towards me from a side path. He was about 20 ft away when he stopped. He looked at me and then flashed me his "package" by pulling his shorts up on the one leg and to the side. I recon the look on my face was enough for him to realize I was not interested and he quickly disappeared. I said it before and I will say it again, "I like seeing Woodcocks, not man-cocks!" This is not a homophobic statement. What two consenting adults do behind closed doors is their business. Please keep it out of the public parks. No matter what your sexual preference is. The litter of condom wrappers and used condoms left on the ground is disgusting.

Another deterrent is the never knowing what you may run into when driving. Shit happens on the roads all the time! Construction which is never ending, then there's the accidents. This is from a recent drive I did for an injured Gull. It took me over 20 minutes to get past this one vehicle accident where the person drove into the centre light post at the intersection of Islington and Dixon.

I don't have the luxury of ample free time, having a work schedule to stick to, and when a negative surprise like this occurs. Argh!

I always breathe a sigh of relief when I finally get to the centre. Seeing the rescue van is like the light at the end of the tunnel.

Or on the other end, getting a little bird back on track, helping it get a 2nd chance at a wild life is worth whatever hiccups I faced during the drive.

Black-throated Green Warbler making some eye contact with me after being released. Moments later he flew to a nearby tree and went back to business as usual, being a bouncy little bird, catching all the insects he could.

Helping any animal is great for them, and I've probably mentioned this before... it's great for me too. It does wonders for my soul. For a moment I forget about life struggles, work does not exist, nor anything terrible making the current headlines in the news.

Well, time to end this. Be back soon with who knows what about. As long as it's about something furry or feathered, slimy or scaly. Right?

Here's my wife Angie's latest blog about her September if anyone is interested.