Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

June 27, 2020

Backyard Bird Species #80

We just had our 80th backyard bird species today. A Great Crested Flycatcher! The bird was sitting on one of our hummingbird feeders for a moment and then flew to the ground way down at the back of the yard.

Angie mentioned catching a glimpse of a different looking bird the other evening but it disappeared before she got the bins on it. What she described sure points to this bird. So maybe this is it's second visit? How to cool to have one stick around for the summer since we don't bird anywhere else other than home really.

June 26, 2020

Gray Hairs

While the actual peregrine falcon fledge watch at the nearby Etobicoke nest site is officially over, we still like to keep an eye on the family and monitor the young birds. With the kids out and about, you never know what you may see and there are times where you won't see anybody. That is what happened for Angie and I on Sunday afternoon. We were in the area and decided to have a look out for them and we saw no falcons at all. It was a very hot and humid afternoon so they all could have been hiding out from the heat for the time.

The next morning I drove Angie down to Islington subway around 6:15 am and decided to have a quick peek in the area, hoping to spot some of the birds. Quick peek? HA! Ya, right. Read on...

As I got to the intersection at Islington and Bloor, a juvenile peregrine falcon flew right over my car. I could tell it was a young bird by the colour and the frantic flapping of the wings as how the young birds often fly. It landed on a condo roof at the southwest corner. I parked in the first available spot on a side street that I could find. Then I got my camera and binoculars out, and went for a walk towards that condo. I was happy to see two of the young birds (there are four young this year) sitting close to each other on top of this building.

I could also see a young bird high atop the glass towers on the northeast corner.

It was great to see three juveniles so quickly. My friend Lucie who also helps watch this family told me she was only seeing three young the last few days. She told me she hadn't seen "blue" which is referring to the tape colour on the one bird's leg. "Blue" happens to be Nino, the bird I recently rescued from an alleyway. See that blog here.

Unfortunately I wasn't seeing any of the bird's legs from my angle, so I couldn't see any bands or tape colours. Knowing "blue" was missing made me sad. I rescued him. I held him. I had a soft spot for him because of that. I know it's a hard wild world out there for the young birds and things can happen; often we never know what. But I wasn't going to let my mind go to such a dark place.

I walked around the area for a bit. My ears tuned into the screams of a young falcon. It was across the street from the beer store which is next to the condo where the two birds above were hanging out.

I followed the screams. I soon also tuned into a lot of very angry House Sparrows. Okay, where is the falcon? Suddenly I see it. It is on a one story building, which is a selling office for soon to be built condos in the area. I have concerns for this bird because he is very low to the ground. I also have concerns for this bird because he is quite wet and we haven't had rain in over a week. We get wet pigeons at home on occasion and they are wet from foreign oily substances so my thoughts went to this possibility.

I wish I could see his legs!

I think the bird realized that I was observing him and decided to make a break for it. It took flight out over Bloor Street, low I might add, and headed towards the glass towers where the nest is. I've seen way too many young falcons hit that glass, flying in at such a low level. I lose sight of this bird as he goes in between a couple of the towers. At least he didn't hit. But where did he go? He didn't get a lot of height. I head over to where he went and keep my eyes and ears open for him.

There's some screaming sparrows again. Is the falcon nearby? Nope, it's a Red-tailed Hawk just hanging out.

Now this is where things get pretty crazy.

After walking about the ground level of the glass towers, I make my way to an upper level garden area on the northeast corner. I can see the two juveniles still on the roof of the condo across the street. Suddenly there's a lot of screaming and in comes an adult, mom I believe, and she has a pigeon in her talons. She lands on a hydro pole right outside the subway and starts to prep the pigeon to feed to the kids.

Now in comes two young falcons. Both birds go for the condo roof, where the other 2 siblings still are, and one misses it by a couple feet. It hangs onto the wall for a moment. In comes dad right under the bird, trying to bump it up. I saw dad (Lucky) do this a few times during the 2019 watch. It is something to see! Anyway, all of that was unsuccessful and this young bird jets off the wall and heads towards the glass towers. I lose sight of him. The good thing is that I have confirmation of all four kids still alive and well; though one may be struggling by what I have witnessed so far. I just wish I knew which one.

Then one of the kids comes down from the condo and lands on a power line near mom. He's screaming his head off as he wants the food.

I was very happy to see it was "blue" who I really should start calling Nino.

Watching Nino and how spazzy he was, and right over the morning rush hour traffic was a bit concerning. It was one thing to be screaming but he was hopping around a lot, from wire to pole, back to the wires, to another pole. Then he made a few jumps at or even on top of mom to try and get at the pigeon. All I could do was stand there, watch and wait to see if I had to intervene.

"Feed me! Feed me!" as the feathers fall.

Mom continues to work on the prepping.

Nino is getting very impatient.

Now he starts trying to get on the pole with mom and hopefully eat.

I'm not even looking at my settings or shots despite how overcast it became. I was too in the moment of watching things here.

I'm glad Darcy (mom) didn't drop the pigeon or Nino might have went down to the street after it.

Nino lands in another spot but only for a moment.

He's really trying to get the pigeon now!

Again he comes up empty and then flies to the southwest condo to join his siblings and wait to be fed.

It's pandemonium now with screaming kids when the meal finally arrives. They all disappear on the roof. I hope everyone living in the top floors of that condo were awake by this time. If not, I'm sure they were now.

I think this still is mom but am not 100% certain. Whoever, this bird sat on this pole at the intersection and let out some serious stress calls.

I went on a search for the young bird.

I hear a lot of screaming and see a young falcon coming out from between two of the towers. It's trying to make it to the roof top. It doesn't quite make it. One of the adults is racing in, trying to bump the young bird up. Unfortunately the kid hits the glass before the parent could get to it. I let out a big "FUCK!" as I watch it go into a spiral towards the ground. About halfway down it regains it's composure and quickly jets off and away from the building, again disappearing around the back. I give chase which is futile but I try to keep up running up the sidewalk. No luck in spotting the bird when I got around to the other side of the building.

I do see two of the young now on a roof top of a building just to the north of the nest tower. I see another on a ledge of the nest tower. Come on, where is the fourth?!?!

After checking every nook and cranny, using some of the reflective glass to look to the upper mezzanines if the bird landed there, and even walking to the north subway parking lot where I could get a better view of the roof tops all had me not find the last bird. I decided to go back to the front, out along Bloor and maybe see it there... somewhere.

I tuned into a very angry Robin up by the A&W restaurant. Angry birds mean something is around that is upsetting them. Perhaps a missing juvenile falcon? In this case, YES!!!!! The bird is in a small tree right out front of A&W. I can see him clearly but it's too dark to get any views of the legs for a band or tape colour.

Photo of the spot taken days later, without a falcon in the tree, just for this blog.  Trying to give you a better visual...

The bird senses me watching it and takes flight, fleeing the scene, flying low and disappearing like the other times, going in between the towers and out the back.

You know I stopped taking photos at this point. I had a towel with me and was prepared to do a rescue if need be.

I was going on 3 hours of being on site. That was a lot longer than what I wanted or expected of my visit.

My phone was completely dead now. I should add that I was updating a couple of my watcher friends throughout. I was quite sweaty from the humidity. I was dying of thirst. I had to get some groceries for the week soon as well as get ready for work.

I walked the perimeter of the towers two more times, looking for the bird, either high up, low like the other two spots earlier this morning, or grounded and needing rescued. I got nothing. After telling myself it's okay, he's almost definitely okay, I left.

I use these reflective angled pieces of glass to help me see to upper floor levels that aren't always accessible to the general public.  They have unfortunately assisted me in finding missing young falcons who unfortunately turn out to be recoveries instead of rescues as the birds struck the glass with such force, instantly breaking their necks.

Thankfully CPF's Tracy who is a good friend of ours was already getting me some relief from a man named Bruce that some of you may know. Bruce is one dedicated guy to the falcons year after year. When I got home, I quickly made contact with Lucie who volunteers at the watches and lives down the street from us and this nest site. She was soon on her way to help Bruce locate all four young again. It took a while but they did get them all, and high up on the towers. YAY!

I wanted to call this blog "SHIT SHOW" or maybe "A Moment with Nino" but I think Gray Hairs is rather suiting because a morning like I had with these young birds surely put a few on my head.

I wonder what my next spot check on them will bring?

UPDATE - today, Friday June 26th I decided to have a quick look around.  Quick turned into one hour but that's okay.  I saw nothing for the longest time.  Finally when I searched the other side of the towers, I spotted both adults sitting and looking to the north.  A short bit later 2 of the young falcons flew in.  I have been on a cat sitting gig all week and couldn't stick around.  I searched all around the towers and all the nooks and crannies to be certain no one was in trouble or "not with us anymore".  Here's why I really posted this update.

I spent some time in the alleyway across from the towers which is where we can view the nest ledge.  I can walk up and down this alley and view all the towers and nearby condos at all angles except the very north side.

As I went through the alleyway, I passed a couple folded up, rather weathered lottery tickets on the road.  Other than noticing them, I kept on walking.  Now about 30 minutes later I am passing this spot again.  Those lottery tickets are still laying there, having been run over a couple more times.  I decided to pick pick them up and check them out.  Maybe just a couple loser tickets someone threw out their car window?  Most likely, right?  Both didn't have any claimed prize stamps on them which happens when someone cashes in a winner.  I thought "what the hell, I might as well scan them".  The 649 was a loser.  The Max ticket had the winning song go off from my phone and look what the winning amount is!

If anyone was with me, I would have said "breakfast is on me!" Oh well, the money can come in handy. It's like I actually got paid for my time down there this year. Or rewarded after the chaotic morning earlier this week. Whatever. How cool is that to end this blog?

If you are new to my blog and/or unfamiliar about Peregrine Falcon fledge watches, you may want to give this blog of mine a read... it's all you need to know.

June 20, 2020

Falcon Rescue 2020

Hello! I hope anyone reading this is doing well as we are still in this pandemic. Blogging for me is not coming so easily what with Angie working from home so much and tying up our computer station. Then there's been the falcons recently, the fledge watch as I participate in every year.

Covid 19 certainly added to our struggle in 2020 with so many closures including easily accessible restrooms; something needed when spending hours at a watch and drinking coffee. A lack of people interested in volunteering to watch over the nest sites throughout the Toronto area was nothing new but I am sure less people wanted to come out during these trying times. The young birds weren't able to be banded early on made keeping track of the young at the watches a challenge too. With so many people working from home, there was a plus side being far less traffic in the area.

I helped out a little bit early on at the Mississauga Executive Centre with the 2 chicks there. One went missing for a few days which prompted me to get out there and help look for him. The night I found out about his disappearance, I couldn't sleep. I think I slept maybe 4 hours total. I was at MEC for about 5:30 am the next day and began my search. Almost 4 hours later I gave up. The other bird had not fledged yet and wasn't going to that day either.

I returned the next morning and still had no luck. I believe it was the following day the missing chick appeared, all high and safe, not needing to be rescued. Yay! Unfortunately the bird's sibling lost her life in one of her first flights, colliding with that damn reflective glass. Ugh!

Then it was on to my regular site to monitor at Islington and Bloor, the site we call Etobicoke Sunlife. Four young birds here. None banded either. One chick fledged on the Tuesday if I am not mistaken and was flying around like a pro, as if he had been flying for years. I missed that as I was at work. The next day I arrive first thing in the morning and I could not locate him. His 3 siblings were still on the nest ledge.

A short bit later in he comes from the west. He does a great landing on the nest tower. Seconds later he takes another flight only this time it didn't go so well. He missed the roof, and thankfully the reflective glass as well. He clung to the side of the building near the top for a short bit. I stood on the sidewalk below and waited to see what would happen. In came one of the adults who tried to push him up but was not successful. The young bird now took another flight, trying to gain altitude but he lacked the strength to do so and flew south across Bloor Street. I quickly followed on foot. I watched him head west across Islington Avenue. Ring-billed Gulls were not pleased with the sight of this falcon and caused him further grief. I lost sight of the bird and could not locate him with my search. I decided to head back over to stand where I could watch the other 3 on the nest ledge and maybe this one would show up.

The remaining 3 young birds all fledged in a very short time frame. It got pretty silly with them all out of the nest. One did the most amazing thing I hadn't seen before at such an early stage of flying; he left the nest ledge, flew to the condo roof east and then about 10 minutes later he flew back to the nest ledge. It was a perfect landing. In the past I have seen young falcons attempt this and miss the ledge, either hitting the glass (even lightly) or the wall. It would be weeks into the summer before we would see any of them back on the nest ledge.

I left to start my day and get ready for work.

I learned later on that the missing kid ended up on someone's porch and had to be rescued. Another kid ended up stuck on someone's balcony and also needed rescuing. So grateful for the couple watchers present to help these 2 young falcons.

The next morning I arrive on scene. I don't see 4 chicks during my head count. I decide to go for a walk and search the perimeter like I do, hoping I do not find a dead falcon on the ground anywhere after a window strike. Minutes later there's a guy flagging me down on Bloor Street. Long story short, he had come into work to find one of the falcon chicks sitting in his parking spot at the Bell building which is across Bloor from the nest tower. The bird had moved since and was in the alleyway behind the building. Luckily for me, he was in a narrow fenced off section and while he had some distance to run away from me, he eventually would corner himself.

The finder stayed on the other side of the fence in the alley. He took some photos and videos but was ready to help if need be. One of his coworkers followed me, holding the carrier for me, and also being ready to be a blockade if the falcon got past me when I tried to catch him.

This was going to be my 4th rescue ever of a peregrine falcon chick. It was very early in the morning. So I was a little shaky initially. Having an audience was making me nervous. Deep down I knew I would get this bird though. It would only be a matter of time and opportunity.

My first attempt to towel him failed. I was slow and the bird got away on me. He ran from me. I kept my slow walk towards him only because I knew he wasn't going to get far. He motored along and this was kinda funny... he hopped up on a small rock and then just glared at me. Why? Did he realize he wasn't getting much further? Did he think "okay, I gotta fight this monster" and those couple inches in elevation gave him the confidence? Only he knows for sure. But this is where I finally caught him. The whole ordeal took less than 2 minutes but it sure felt a lot longer while it was happening.

The finder took a video of the rescue which you can see here.

After many thank yous to the finder and his coworker for helping me, I brought the bird in my carrier to the car and let him have a time out. I went and got a coffee, and watched the other birds including the adults. I never really looked at the bird I rescued, to make sure he was okay, not bleeding or anything. He ran like a champ so I was sure he was alright but I decided to have a peek. You know, see him in a moment of clarity. I took this photo and then covered him back up.

He wasn't happy with me and gave me a hiss.

He was later banded and finally released back home with his family. He was named Nino and his band is C 13. He has blue tape which is a temporary thing but really helps us during watches, seeing tape colours instead of looking for band numbers.

Here's hoping Nino does well and maybe we'll find out about him being somewhere on territory in a couple years. That would be amazing to me.

Hopefully this blog reads well. I've been up for about 18 hours now. I really need to get some sleep.

Thanks for stopping in to give this a read, and not forgetting about Rob and the Animals.