Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

December 31, 2018

House Guest

My last blog of 2018. I meant to get this out weeks ago but tis the season to be busy.

We had a house guest a few weeks back. A Brown Bat. I thought it may have been a Little Brown Bat but apparently it's a Big Brown Bat. I've seen so few bats in decades, shows you what I know.

This Bat did not come from our house. A co-worker got a call from his frantic wife about it roosting on the ceiling in their living room. His wife was so freaked out that it prompted him to leave work early and take care of the problem. I had heard about the situation from one of the other guys which made me go find him before he left. I wanted to give my 2 cents on how to catch it, but also what to do with it once it is caught. It's December and the Bat should not just be placed back outside. One of the other guys also stopped him to talk to him about these things too. Our biggest fear was someone hurting the Bat. Bats (of many species) are rapidly declining in numbers. If we can help one, that makes a difference, if not a big impact to his species, at least to his own life.

The catch went rather easily for my co-worker. The Bat did not fly off as he approached. It was a quick and careful placement of a cardboard box over it, and sliding a piece of paper along the ceiling to detach the Bat from the drywall. Done!

I offered to pick up the Bat from his place in the west end of Mississauga. A short drive from work but in the other direction of my home. I knew Toronto Wildlife Centre could help this animal but of course I was already in talks with someone about the whole thing and ensuring he could go there.

My drive home was "fun" as the flasher switch in my truck went along the highway 401 and I had no turn signals. Nothing more to tell here but it added to the adventure.

I gave Angie fair warning earlier that I was probably bringing home a Bat to spend the night in our house. She was cool with it and appreciated the heads up, more so just about me being later coming home, since she would be asleep.

I got home shortly after 11 pm. I brought the Bat inside, still in the box, which is where he was going to stay until getting up to TWC. We didn't want to leave him in the truck as it was going down to -5 Celsius that night. It was best to keep him in a steady temperature while moving him around. We figure because of a spike in the temperature a day earlier, going up to +11, that probably woke him from his slumber. Only he knows how he ended up in that living room.

I put the Bat/box upstairs, closing the door to keep our cats from disturbing him. I had a look at him because I wanted to be sure he was okay, that he traveled well, and also that he was inside. I've had animals die on me in travel. You might recall I once brought home an empty box that I picked up from someone after work. A tiny Golden-crowned Kinglet was supposed to be inside. I never checked the box until I got home because it was after dark. Imagine my surprise and concern when there was no bird.

It was suggested that I hang a towel down the side of the box to give the Bat something to hang onto. I attempted that. It was at the invasion into the box, that the Bat suddenly awoke, and hissed at me. I worried he was going to attempt to take flight, so I quickly covered the top of the box. I slid a towel in the side, hanging it off the edge. I ensured his home for the night was escape proof and then went back downstairs.

I borrowed this image from a Google search. That is pretty much what I saw when he hissed at me.

The next morning, right before taking him out to the truck for the drive up to the centre, I checked on him one more time. He was hanging off the side wall, but not on the towel I provided for him. Instead he was hanging on the other side, clinging to the small air holes that were made with a pencil.

Away we went and he is still with Toronto Wildlife as I key this blog. He will stay with them until it is time for his release sometime in the Spring of 2019. The jist of it is he got assessed soon after arriving and then he went to a hibernation area where they keep Bats that have been brought in after being disturbed from their sleep by people, most often accidentally when suddenly found in their homes one day in the winter. I brought in a couple small Brown Bats a few February(s) ago if memory serves me correct. I recently got an update about him, that he is doing well, his weight was excellent, no obvious signs of anything wrong with him, and his story simply was as we suspected.

Another borrowed image from Google.

There was some chit chat on Facebook about the Bat through my bud's wife's page. I had a laugh at the many negative comments about the Bat. Most common word used was "gross". There wasn't hatred towards it nor did anyone wish harm. Bats have a bad rap with a lot of people. They are misunderstood creatures. Sure many can carry the rabies virus but they don't fly around looking to transmit it to humans. They serve a great purpose to the environment, eating thousands upon thousands of mosquitoes every summer. Any creature that eats those annoying insects is A-OK in my books. I commented a couple times and my last comment was talking about how different anything my wife Angie said about the whole adventure was compared to these people. She said stuff like "oh, he's cute!" and "can we overwinter him?" She was totally okay with me bringing him home for the night and keeping him in our house. I know I, and the creatures I have helped, are lucky to have her here, and on our side.

The list of temporary house guests grows. This Bat is the latest. Off the top of my head I can run off Downy Woodpecker, European Starling, and Pigeon have also spent the night inside. A Canada Goose, 2 Skunks and a couple Squirrels have spent the night here too, just not in the house. Who knows what will be with us in 2019? I hope nothing but it's good to know our home is always open to them if they need it.

Thanks to everyone who has followed my animal adventures through the years. I wish you all the best in 2019! See you again soon I am sure.

December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas!

Ho ho ho! Busy times with the holiday season that rapidly came upon us. I did start a blog but never got to finishing it. Another day in the not too far off future.

All the best to you all, and thanks for following my adventures.

The cats have been a little festive as you can see...



Ripper got in on the action recently. The Pigeons are afraid of my hat, but not him.

While our Cecropia Caterpillar "Heimlich" sleeps through the winter, we look out to his home daily from the kitchen window, and made it a little festive too.

See you all again soon.


November 22, 2018

Close Encounter with the Cooper`s Kind

Earlier this week I had the most exciting memorable moment with a Cooper's Hawk in our backyard. In over 10 years of backyard birding and seeing this species of Hawk, this particular morning will stand out in my memory for a very long time.

It's funny because I had just finished a blog about local raptors that are in the area once again for the "winter season". I even lightly touched upon seeing this Hawk at the end of the blog. It had just caught a House Sparrow and while that is a small meal for a Cooper's Hawk, I thought that was going to be it. Boy, was I wrong.

Early morning catch as the snow fell.

It looks like a male House Sparrow.

Then about 90 minutes later I see the Hawk is back. And he's got something again.

I watch from the deck as he seems to pounce up and down on his prey. The bird is still alive. He flits it across the lawn a couple inches and jumps on it again. I've never witnessed what seems like playful behaviour from a Hawk on it's prey. Maybe this is a young Hawk? He picks up the bird and flies down back behind the shed. You'd think it wasn't even in the same day or morning from these two photos. The full sun quickly melted much of the snow away.

Clearly here the Hawk has a female House Sparrow.

He took his 2nd kill up to the trees to eat it in peace as a Squirrel came in and gave him some grief (which I watched from the comforts of the window enjoying a 2nd coffee).

So now he's devoured two House Sparrows this morning. That must be it. Right? HA!

About 2 hours later, I'm preparing to go to work when I see out the kitchen window that the Hawk is back again. He's on top of my brush pile, bouncing around, looking into it from above. I put on my jacket and boots, grab my camera and step out the front door, sneak up the side of the house to the back and make my way to the holly bush where I feel I can watch and not be invasive. Normally I stay well back, hiding at the corner of the house, peeking around the wall to the action, keeping my distance. But since this bird already ate 2 Sparrows this morning, I bent the rule and moved further into the yard. Boy am I glad I did.

I've watched this play out in past days with this bird hunting the brush pile. He will come to ground after a look from above. He will then pace the exterior of the pile. Then he will move in closer. Click on the photos to go full screen.

He goes in deeper.

Then he disappears. I know he cannot get right in the pile but there is some space between the pile and the raspberry bush as the Skunks and Opossums have cleared a way with their nightly roams.

On Sunday I witnessed the Hawk walk back out with a House Sparrow in his beak. This Tuesday morning, after 2 successful catches that were maybe or maybe not from the pile, he comes up empty.

I'm about 20 ft away, behind my holly bush, but he pays no attention to me. This bird is on a mission.

I had been second guessing myself on making the brush pile. Since he was plucking hiding birds right out of it, did I just make a death trap? Let's leave out the fact that what I've witnessed for kills has been the not so popular House Sparrow.

I felt better as I watched him now walk, not fly, but walk over to the honeysuckle shrub and do the exact same thing as he did at the brush pile.

In he goes.

He would disappear, surface slightly, disappear again.

No birds in here either. Damn!

He leaves the ground and flies up to a nearby fence post. He's not much more than 10 ft in front of me now.

I'm in total awe at this close encounter. I don't move. I don't see how my photos are turning out, I just snap away. A big "F**K!" came out in my head when I finally looked at my screen.

I change my settings. I take a couple more pictures. Then I just watch him with my own eyes and not through the camera for a short bit. I really need to leave my spot, get back in the house and finish getting ready for work. A couple more shots before I go.

Something has his attention.

A lone Pigeon has flown into the yard, landing behind me. A second later and the Cooper's Hawk is rocketing from this post, right over my head and after the bird.

I turn around to see the Pigeon race away. The Hawk almost has him a couple yards over. As soon as the Pigeon has an opening beyond the houses, he makes a sharp left. The Hawk gives up in the open space, veers right and comes back to the yard. I take this as my time to leave the yard and get on with my day, allowing him to get on with his hunting despite there not being another bird around.

Early yesterday I managed to witness a Sharp-shinned Hawk fly in and nail a House Sparrow on the lawn. It stunned me how fast it happened. The Hawk quickly took his catch elsewhere to eat. The yard remained eerily quiet the rest of the morning.

Today, the feeders are still barely touched after the last 2 days.

I was once asked if I watch the nature channel. I replied with "no, I have my own live channel at home".

We are fortunate to have a house with a backyard here in Toronto. It's amazing what we can see right here at home. Being home and idle allows me to see things that I probably would not encounter exploring parks and woods in search of birds and wildlife.

Birds of prey play an important role in the wild world. Some people really need to accept this fact. I worry over my other birds coming in, especially some backyard favorites as my friends know. But I acknowledge that this is their way of life (and death).

November 20, 2018

Raptor Season is Here

Winter came early it seems and as expected here are the raptors.

I've been watching a Cooper's Hawk hit up our backyard for a meal a few times. I've not bothered with photos although I wish I did on Sunday. The Hawk was on top of our brush pile, seemingly jumping up and down on it. It knows the Sparrows are hiding within. It then hopped over to the nearby bird bath, stood on that, and assessed the situation. I then watched it hop to the ground and pace back and forth in front of the brush pile. Along came a Squirrel who was rather aggressive to the Hawk's presence. The Cooper's flared out his feathers, spread his wings and jumped at the Squirrel. This sent the Squirrel running away. Now it was back to work for the Hawk. I watched him pace the front of the pile again. Then he went around the side, squeezing in between the pile and the raspberry bush. I lost sight of him for a minute or so. Then he walked out with a House Sparrow in his mouth. How clever!

This is not the first time I have seen a Cooper's Hawk on top of the brush pile. I do wonder if it is the same bird?

Cooper's Hawk from a couple weeks ago who I watched land on the brush pile.

The pile has been weighed down by the recent wet snow and probably because of this Hawk's actions too. I may add some branches to the pile soon.

I was comfortable sitting at the window with my coffee in hand and the cats with me.

I felt little desire to go outside and try to get a photograph. I also did not want to bother the bird while he was hunting.

A Sharp-shinned Hawk has since made an appearance with quick attacks but I've not seen if they've been successful.

If you didn't catch my last blog, I shared a tale within about one of the Red-tailed Hawks coming in.

I went out yesterday and enjoyed a couple Owl sightings.

First up was a Long-eared Owl. This is my 3rd of this species this Autumn season.

Then a short bit later, I was fortunate to see a Northern Saw-whet Owl.

Just over a week ago I had a similar encounter at another park, finding both these species of Owl in close proximity of each other.

Long-eared Owl.

Peek-a-boo with a Saw-whet.

Last night on my way home from work, I spotted a large dark bird atop a lamp post. It's one of the places I look for Snowy Owls at this time of year. No Snowy Owl but a Great Horned Owl. Last winter I saw a Great Horned Owl atop this same lamp post one night. I wonder if it is the same Owl? No camera with me, so I just kept driving along with my jaw hanging down just a tad. I'm used to spotting Snowys at night but haven't gotten used to the Great Horned sightings which have been few and far between.

The Great Horned Owl from last winter.

To finish this off, one of our locals has returned for another season. A nearby resident to us is this Eastern Screech Owl.

Here I thought I was done with the blog, publishing it even, when I look out the back window and see some movement just over the fence in next door's backyard. I can see it is a Hawk and it has something. I go out the front door, sneak up the side of the house and watch from our yard, looking over the fence. It's a (THE?) Cooper's Hawk with a small bird. Nice he's got his breakfast but my curiosity is killing me on what he happened to catch. Well, part of me really wants to know while another part doesn't because we do have some special backyard birds. I finally see it is a male House Sparrow.

Indeed raptor season is here!

November 15, 2018

Project Feeder Watch; A New Season Begins...

This past weekend was the start of the PFW 2018/19 season. Click on the link if you are not familiar with this citizen scientist program. It's hard to believe we are going at it again already. It's a fun winter project but how many of us are ready to dive into winter? It's also hard to believe I'm going into my 13th season of participating according to my personal data page (I didn't think it was that long).

Before feeder watch, I was counting and documenting visiting bird species to our backyard on the kitchen calendar. Then one day while buying bird seed at our local Wild Birds Unlimited, the owners Jim and Lynda, brought up the idea of taking part in this program. I haven't stopped since.

Why do I document our birds? Well, before signing on with the Bird Studies Canada project, I did it just because... to see who comes in, how many of each species and keep track of when seasonal visitors come and go. Like when I still had Red-winged Blackbirds and Grackles in November, I often wondered how much longer were they going to linger? The first couple years I can remember them still being here at this time but it's not been like that in a long while. I can recall one Common Grackle staying with us until mid-January and then he disappeared.

I pay a lot of attention to our backyard, who comes to visit, birds, mammals, butterflies. I guess I should say "we" because Angie really gets into it too. I keep a list of all backyard species who have set foot on our property, and there's a sub-list of what has been seen from the backyard. As the list slowly grows, it's always exciting when another new one shows up. Participating in Project Feeder Watch gives me reason to pay even more attention to the backyard. And lately I tell people this... in a busy world, it gives me reason to sit down, stop for a while and just enjoy the birds at home. The cats do love it too, either watching from the window with me, or just taking advantage of my lap as I am idle for sometimes an hour or more.

Molly helping me look for birds this past weekend.

Merry just takes advantage of the snuggle time with her daddy.

This is just a bit of what came around the first weekend.

I am thrilled there's at least 2 White-throated Sparrows staying with us. They are one of my favourite Sparrows and usually it's a brief visit here in the Spring and the Fall migration, then they move on. It's now been over 3 weeks. Hearing their peeps in the early morning brings a little smile to my face.

We've also got 2 White-breasted Nuthatches coming in daily. This does not happen every PFW season for us, and it's more not than do. They are a fun bird to watch as they go up and down the trees, visiting every feeder available. They are rather vocal too, so even when I don't spot them right away, I do hear them and know to keep watch.

Both these bird species I refer to as my "happy birds". They shed some light on me during these darker days as the weather gets colder. It's great they're here for my first count weekend, and I hope they stay.

The first morning of the count weekend did start off on a sad note as the Pigeon flock was here grazing...

...when suddenly in rockets a Cooper's Hawk. It pinned one of the Pigeons against the fence, giving the bird no chance to fight back, and seconds later the Hawk was carrying it away in it's talons. I'd been in a bit of an emotional slump the last week and was getting out of it but this set me back. I know it's nature. I've adapted a numb feeling to such things, I have to. But this particular morning, I wasn't able to stay numb as a feeling of sadness took over for for the remainder of the morning anway. Most of you reading this know I have a fondness for those Pigeons. I was happy to see my pals Charlie and Dorothy return since that successful attack by the Hawk.

Here's Charlie.

We had 7 Northern Cardinals on Saturday, and then 8 on Sunday! So for my count this weekend, I entered 8 since that was the highest number seen at once. My personal record is 13, being 9 males and 4 females one early evening during a count weekend some years ago. How many can you spot in this photo?

One of the males overlooking the brush pile I made for the birds this fall.

A Cooper's Hawk on the brush pile a few weeks ago. Yes, there's little birds hiding safely inside. Too bad the Pigeons can't get in there, eh?

We had 4 Downy Woodpeckers and 2 Red-breasted Nuthatches.

Two Hairy Woodpeckers also showed up, one male and one female. Normally we say "goodbye" to the Hairys by mid-September for whatever reason, but not this year. The cage around this feeder does pretty good with keeping the Starlings away, but is no match for the Hairys... and we are okay with that.

Three Robins appeared early in the morning and had a feed at the Holly bush. It was too dark out, and too early, for me to go try for a photo. I'm still hoping a Mockingbird or something else appears at some point. A couple Novembers ago we had a late moving Hermit Thrush stop in. Thanks to it being the feeder watch season and a count day, I was parked in my chair by the window to spot him!

House Finches and a pair of Mourning Doves were also nice to see on the first weekend. We don't get a lot of either but this fall, the House Finches are here daily.

House Sparrows and Pigeons make up easily 50% of our total birds.

Sunday we had a really nice surprise with 2 Fox Sparrows showing up. They spent the whole day with us, and again on Monday and Tuesday. Only once before in all the years of backyard bird watching have I spotted a Fox Sparrow come to our property. They are larger Sparrow and fun to watch as they kick the leaves around looking for food.

Fox Sparrows are rather skulky birds. These 2 would sneak in and out of the backyard at random. I'd grab my camera, get my boots on and they would be gone again by the time I was ready to go outside. The photo above was one of the few times I was able to sneak out the front door, then up the side of the house, to photograph one of them near our picnic table. Later in the day on Sunday I admitted my defeat and spent the last hour of daylight just sitting on the deck and watching them. I didn't know if they would come back again or not. I managed one photo just before it was dark out.

Having a dentist appointment and stuff to do made it difficult the next 2 days to try and get photos so I just made mental notes when seeing them.

It's almost the weekend and time for some more counting. What will we see? I may have had some sneak peeks the last couple mornings.

Yesterday there was a bold Red-tailed Hawk who came in. I was outside feeding my flock when out of the corner of my eye I spotted a large incoming bird. It went right after the Pigeons, flushing them all. One Pigeon panicked, hit the kitchen window lightly (having the screen on the outside helps with that) and then flew off. The Hawk chased the rest of the birds. Minutes later in came a Red-tailed Hawk again and was now after the Squirrels. I can't say for certain if it was the same Hawk or it was both of the resident pair making the brazen attacks.

Today a Sharp-shinned Hawk is here making life hell for the birds. No photos as the house next door is getting work done out back right now and all the noise has scattered the birds. I did spot the Hawk earlier on a branch and then dive at the House Sparrows.

Anyway, if you take part in PFW, please take a moment and tell me a bit about how it goes for you. If you don't, maybe I've inspired you to look into it?

For the record, our weekend finished with 18 species and 107 individuals overall. Not bad for a Toronto backyard, eh?

This image came up in my Facebook memories today. You all know so many creatures love our backyard, and on occasion we do get a really unexpected visitor. This is Nix. He used to break into our yard when he was a puppy, sneaking in from his yard that runs behind the shed. Oh what fun that was. We still see Nix but he's much too big and less adventurous being 9+ years old now.

Lastly, if you feed the birds, I hope you have cleaned your feeders for the season, doing this semi-regularly at the very least.

October 31, 2018

Happy Halloween 2018

On vacation and hoping for something to blog about after it's done. Until then though, wishing everyone a happy and safe Halloween. I thought I would share a little bit of the fun I have around here with the cats. Some of the photos I may have shared in the past, but there's a few from this week too. Pets are like our kids, forever being that. The bonds can be quite strong between a person and their animal, and the memories with them can last a lifetime.

Meadow was a blast to share any festive times with. She loved our quality time and put up with my silliness.

Purr and play. I really embraced these times as she got older.

Merry when she was a kitten. This photo won her first place in our vet's Halloween photo contest.

Another Halloween as she got a little older. Funny thing is this year she's quite intimidated by that mask. I've been "working" with her on getting to know that it's not real. Calico cats sure have, um, explosive personalities.

When Merry and Molly were kittens, we said that Merry was going to be the little devil.

How wrong we were. But that's another story, isn't it Molly? Don't let that "Iza pumpkin!" cuteness fool you.

The look of humiliation. Or "are we done yet?"

I can get away with a lot more of this with Merry than I can Molly. She seems to enjoy the time with her daddy.

Oh, it's Franken-Merry!

Merry says "enough with this foolishness!"

I hope you all have a great Halloween with your pets too!