Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

January 31, 2018

Fallen Kingdom

Here we are at the end of January. While the backyard mammal life has given us a slight tease the last couple weeks with the little thaw, or as they are calling it "wintermission", the bird activity suffers.

For one, we can blame a skulking Cooper's Hawk. In she comes and away go the birds.

As well as a few appearances by a Sharp-shinned Hawk.

My Pigeon pals flew away on the morning of December 6th. I watched them flee after a warning call from the Blue Jays and they've not been back since. I miss them.

The Jerseys have really been a blessing especially after Pierre's disappearance. Where did they go?

Mrs. Pierre popped in once late in December for a very brief feeding. Another alarm call went out and she rocketed off. She's yet to return. This is her from last Summer. Such a pretty girl.

A few new Pigeons started coming in. One of which was not very well. It had a bad left leg and kept it up tight to it's body. A tough thing to watch. I had made some calls regarding the bird's state. Pretty much if I brought it in, it would be euthanized. So for the time being, while it was still getting around alright, feeding well, flying, etc. I would leave it be.

Less than a week from when I first noticed it, I happened to be looking out the back window and saw it fly off with it's friends, only not as quick as the others, and seconds later there was the Cooper's Hawk on top of it and driving it into the ground next door. Any suffering for this Pigeon was over. The Hawk's hunger satisfied for another day. Witnessing a take down is fascinating, shocking, and sad. Once the catch is dead, it's still sad but easier to stomach because you know there is no more pain, terror, suffering, whatever. I don't enjoy watching the Hawks eat like I used to, be it a Pigeon, Woodpecker, House Sparrow or anything else. I used to want to try for the meaty rip 'n tear photos; now, not so much. I'm sure the Hawks appreciate me letting them eat in peace as well.

We have another new Pigeon making random visits and he's quickly taken to hand feeding. Our friend Steve who named Pierre suggested the name Fitz. It took a bit but has stuck with me. Angie prefers to call him Handsome Pete.

He's a big boy and has a lot of weight to him. He's quite a character too.

Like I mentioned, his visits are quite random. I guess he's well aware of the dangers that lurk out back.

Have you noticed the change in the landscape with these photos? Snow. No snow. As I key this we are getting more snow.

The resident Red-tails have made a number of drop ins. Here they are on their nest tower which we can see from our front door. You can see the remnants of last year's nest on the left side of the platform.

I've not seen any take downs from them in a while. unlike the Spring last year when I'd see one fly in and pick Squirrels right out of the tree tops on numerous occasions. But they are here, sometimes one flying in with the other coming in right behind.

Our over wintering Mockingbird has also disappeared. Hopefully well and feeding elsewhere.

We had 8 Northern Cardinals visiting, now we may see one pair. We had 6 Downy Woodpeckers, also now we may get one pair. 4 Black-capped Chickadees down to 2. 5 Blue Jays down to 2. Junco numbers vary. No shortage of House Sparrows though. Lots of European Starlings and I've had to put a cage around our shelled peanut feeder to keep them away and allow the pair of Red-breasted Nuthatches to feed on the one thing they love in our yard.

I know I'm being over dramatic. I blame one part on the Hawk. Another on my winter blues which I can get in short spells. I love all seasons and what they have to offer but some days I'm just sick of the cold and snow even though it's not been that bad overall. Did I mention I miss my Pigeons? *wink* I hope they are happy wherever they went. Honestly I would rather them not be here while threats lurk about. I can't imagine opening the shutters in the kitchen and looking out back to the Cooper's on one of my pals. I don't know what I would do.

That's the one thing about living with and loving our wildlife friends. They do what they want, when they want, go where they want and most cases we don't know anything about their lives away from here. Plus the fact they don't live nearly as long as us. I'm grateful for all the "friends" I have made out back but can't help but miss them when they disappear. It's always a thrill when they do return. Pierre was famous for winter absences the last few years. I always counted the days. 53 was his longest MIA spell. Some of you who read my blogs and are my Facebook friends have rejoiced with his returns just like this photo here when he came back some weeks after the ice storm in 2014 if memory serves me correct on the year.

Fallen Kingdom is overkill for a blog title but that's how it feels right now.

January 17, 2018


Last week we experienced a bit of a January thaw. It was short lived but enough to warm things up, melt the snow, and stir some of our nocturnal mammals. All waking with an appetite.

The first night there was a pair of Raccoons just over the back fence, dumpster diving at the Chinese take out place. Unfortunately some of the kitchen workers also discovered the masked bandits and started screaming at them and banging items to scare them away. I watched the animals run along the fence and go up to a garage roof to get away from these crazy angry people.

I was topping up bird feeders at the time and as always keeping watch of what may be lurking around in the darkness. It was then I saw the next mammal species pop up... an Opossum.

He had found the half eaten apple I left out and was looking for anything else. I noticed the frostbite on his right ear. I snapped some pictures and noticed his tail tip and some toes are also frostbitten.

Opossums originate from further south. Word has it they wound up here, stowing away on produce shipments. Our winters can be tough on them with their hairless ears, tail and toes. Plus they don't know a thing about hibernating, or as I call it "semi-hibernating" like the Raccoon and Skunk. I wonder if somehow they will adapt? During the coldest nights I don't see them though. I see no signs of them either. We were blessed some years ago by one who came out every day around 3 pm to feed under the bird feeders in February. It was like clockwork for that one.

I *accidentally* spilled some nuts and seeds which he found after I went back inside.

I was hoping for a hat-trick by getting to see a Skunk as well. I did not while I was out but ended smelling one just before bed. Close enough I suppose.

The next night I am outside and keeping watch for that Opossum. One shows up but it's not him. As you can see, no frostbite on the right ear. Plus, from what I could see, the rest of his exposed body parts were free of it too. Miraculous!

Then a Raccoon ran past me with a large bone in it's mouth. What kind of bone and where he got it, I have no idea.

The smell of Skunk later filled the night air once again.

As the work week was coming to an end, we got some long steady rain. Friday morning it was +13 celcius. I look outside just before 9 am and to my surprise there is a Skunk digging through the last snow piles looking for something to eat.

I am not certain if it was one of the Toppers because there was striping on the hips and thin lines that ran to it's shoulders. The Skunk ran off to the back, hiding under our shed after this photo was taken. He came back out again about 20 minutes later but I did not chase him around for any more photos. He was hungry and didn't need me stressing him out. He too had the great fortune of finding a spill of peanuts and sunflower seed. Man, I am so clumsy these days!

It was great to see all these animals in the middle of January. The weather has turned quite cold again after last Friday morning and the sightings are no more. I've spotted Opossum tracks one other night and my apple cores disappear almost nightly.

A few more months and these encounters should become almost nightly once again. I can't wait.

January 5, 2018

Christmas in Alberta

Angie and I trekked to Okotoks, Alberta for Christmas. Her father also had flown in from Nova Scotia and we all stayed at Angie's brother's place with his family. It was their first Christmas all together in over 2 decades. But since this the "Rob and the Animals" blog, I'm here to share some animal encounters I had while exploring a wood lot not far from their home.

First off, it was cold, and I mean really REALLY cold! Don't accuse me of bringing that weather back to Toronto now.

Our trip was a very short one, I don't get that much time off work. While I really hoped we could explore some areas and hopefully see some western bird species, especially a Pygmy Owl, there just wasn't the time, it was just too cold and this was a family visit obviously.

My brother-in-law mapped me out a wood lot not too far off from their place, less than 15 mins walking distance, if I wanted to go out for a walk. I explored the area both on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Angie and our sister-in-law joined me for part of them.

Here are the highlights from the outings.

Epic views of a Pileated Woodpecker. The bird was so focused on the tree that it did not care one bit about my presence. We have Pileateds in our area but I seldom see them and most times they are skittish and don't linger in decent range. So watching this guy beat the daylights out of the tree was awesome!

There was easily 100+ Common Redpolls about. We get these birds in our area some winters but not every winter. I think it's been 4 winters since I've last seen them and probably 6 years since we last had some visiting our backyard feeders.

Another treat was to see half a dozen or so red shafted Northern Flickers. We get yellow shafted here in Ontario.

I encountered a few Magpies but none were in decent range or open views for a photo. A common species out there that we don't get here. I was told some nickname them the "Prairie Pigeon".

Encountering Mule Deer in this wood lot was another highlight. We chanced upon 7 of them!

No I did not just throw a snowball at her face.

Apparently the Deer are very used to people here.

Is he sick of winter already?

The "Mule (Deer) Train".  Ha ha!

It was great they adopted Tianna a couple years ago. She was quite entertaining to us all. Every home needs a furry family member, or two, or three.

Of course I had a great time with the whole human aspect to the trip. But this is my animal blog.

I look forward to another trip out there sometime and hopefully see some more of what Alberta has to offer in way of wildlife.

I hope you all had a great Christmas and New Year's, are keeping warm and stick with me here through 2018 and what goes on.