Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

November 16, 2021

I Tried

The other Saturday a few pigeons came to visit.  Nothing unusual there, right?  It's that time of year where the birds aren't all that regular with visits.  I know it's due to the return of the cooper's hawks for the winter.  I miss my buddies, especially those who come to my hand for a feed.  But I am still very nice to any others who may show up.

So this particular Saturday afternoon I take notice to one bird who is not acting like the others.  He spent all his time on the ground, didn't flutter off when I walked past him and he even spent a lot of alone time out there, zoning in the sun.  Then he would feed, drink and mingle with the others, acting all normal again.  Hmmmm?

Angie and I had to go out for a couple hours and I figured to just leave him be until we got back, then assess the situation.

We returned home late in the afternoon.  It was almost dusk.  All the pigeons had gone off to roost for the night except for this one bird.  As I walked out to the yard, I could see him down at the back trying to take flight over the fence.  Unfortunately he could not and just hit the fence again and again.  Awww, poor fellow.  I knew he needed help, and by that I don't mean getting over the fence, but some actual medical attention.  I left a message with the Toronto Wildlife Centre and then got to work on trying to catch him.

The pigeon was sitting still when I walked by him and I went for a grab.  He perked right up as he caught on to what I was doing and made a run for it under our raised shed.  BUGGER!  Okay, I took his alertness and speed as a positive.

I waited it out alongside of the shed, hoping for another attempt to grab him since it was getting dark.  Was he just going to hide under there for the night?  It was a long 10 minutes or so before he finally came back out and headed straight for the fence.  I was faster than him this time, catching him and putting him in my rescue carrier with a towel.

Toronto Wildlife returned my call.  A little discussion about the bird's behaviour and they gave me the approval to bring him in...  tomorrow.  The centre was closing in 15 minutes and there was no way I could get up there in that time; it usually takes me close to 30 minutes nowadays with traffic.  Sad, eh, being only 11 km away from home.  That's Toronto for ya!

I brought the bird inside, keeping him in the carrier of course, and put him upstairs.  I left a towel over the carrier so it would be dark.  I shut the door to the upstairs so he would have an undisturbed night.  Quiet and dark are two very important things that any wild animal needs if you are housing one over night.  It lessens the stress for them.  

I got up early Sunday morning, had my coffee and didn't check on the bird until it was time to leave.  Sadly I found that he had passed away sometime overnight.  I half expected this only as my own mental preparation for the worst case outcome.  I was sad at the outcome but keep it in mind that he died in warm, quiet, dark place and not out on our back lawn, perhaps becoming a chew toy for one of the free roaming cats in the neighbourhood.

Rest in peace little dude.  I tried.

Pigeons aren't high on the list for a lot of people.  Hell, some go to such extremes as to poison or shoot the birds.  I'm on a few social media pages strictly for pigeons and it's pretty horrific what some people even in my own city of Toronto are capable of doing to these birds.  It goes unnoticed by most.  People have reported to the police and the city, as it should go under the animal cruelty act, but without concrete evidence and positively ID'ing these awful humans, nothing will be done.  I saw images of dead birds, shot, in a Scarborough shopping mall parking lot.  UGH!  Bird bodies just laying there and people walk by or just drive over them, not thinking anything about it.  WTF?!?!

Last Thursday was Remembrance Day.  I made a personal post about pigeons on our community social media page.  If I changed one person's mindset about these birds, then it was worth it.  Here is what I shared.  I copied and pasted my post from Facebook to here, sorry for the black background.  I guess my job now is to be nice to these birds, to help them when I can, and forever be a voice for them.

Wildlife Wednesday!
With tomorrow being Remembrance Day, I thought I would post something about a creature that some people love, some people despise and many probably just don't think too much about... pigeons. I too was once someone who was neither here nor there about these birds because they are all over the place and I see them every day. I didn't hate them. I would never hurt one. I even tried to help a few that I found with broken wings and other injuries over the years.
My thoughts on these birds changed (and my heart opened up) back in July 2012 when a pigeon flew into our backyard and literally jumped into our laps while Angie and I sat on the back deck having morning coffee. He visited almost daily for over 5 years, often just hanging out in the yard with us. I think it was during his second year that he started bringing in a lady friend and they were pretty much inseparable. I assume someone habituated this bird early on in his life to make him so friendly with people but for whatever reason he found, or rather chose us, and spent much of his life here, during the day anyway.
From there, as I said, things changed for me with these birds. While I am not a pigeon keeper, I have become more of an understanding voice for these birds. They are creatures just trying to live out their lives like the rest of us. They are actually very personable birds if you happen to get to know one or two on the level that I had with this guy here on my lap. They are a vital food source to the birds of prey such as cooper's hawks and peregrine falcons which we have in and around our neighbourhood.
Going back to the days of war, and the use of animals, pigeons played a huge role. Carrier pigeons were used as messenger birds. A carrier pigeon is a domesticated rock pigeon. Rock pigeons are what you see all around us. Researching pigeon war heroes, it is something to read the stories of how these birds saved so many lives by successfully getting messages across battlefields, through hails of gunfire, avoiding trained birds of prey used by the other side. Thirty two pigeons were awarded the Dickin Medal. It is known as the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross, which is awarded to men and women for great valour.
Here is a couple brief bits I got from Google about some of these war hero birds.
Cher Ami
In 1918, during the First World War, a French military pigeon called Cher Ami was the first to be publicly honoured for its war effort.
In October of that year the 77th Infantry Division was cut off and surrounded by German troops.
Unable to breakout, the commander made repeated attempts to appraise his headquarters of the situation, but every messenger bird he sent was either wounded or killed.
Cher Ami was the last messenger remaining bird he had. Although also wounded twice, once in the chest and once in the leg, which was almost shot off and carried the message tube, the valiant bird delivered the message.
A rescue mission was mounted and the soldiers of the 77th were saved from being either captured or killed.
The authorities recognised Cher Ami’s bravery by awarding her the French Croix de Guerre with Palm, which honours heroic service.
Sadly, Cher Ami couldn’t recover from her wounds and died the next year.
Here is a more in depth article on Cher Ami
G.I. Joe
In Italy, 1943, during the Second World War, British troops were ordered to take the town of Colvi Veccia.
The German forces were well dug in and showing strong resistance.
Believing that the British forces couldn’t oust the German troops the U.S. Command decided to flatten the town with an aerial bombardment, but they were wrong.
The British troops had already occupied the town. Due to bad communication, a messenger bird, GI Joe, was sent off.
This bird flew 20 miles in 20 twenty minutes to deliver its message.
It got there just in time, as aircraft were taxing on the runway, ready to start the air raid. The raid was called off and a fatal mistake was adverted.
GI. Joe’s flight saved the lives of not only the British troops, but an untold number of civilians that were still in the town.
Cher Ami and GI. Joe are probably the most famous of the wartime pigeons, with something about their stories striking a cord with the public, but they weren’t the only ones who were awarded honours for their bravery and service.
There are many other birds listed with incredible stories, all you have to do is Google. If this still doesn't grab you, perhaps look up service dogs or horses.
Researching the world wars, it certainly was a time that is unimaginable to most of us now. May we never forget what so many sacrificed back then.
You don't need to start throwing food to the pigeons after reading this; but maybe you won't think of them as flying rats and want to shoot them all.

November 6, 2021

Red-bellied Woodpecker

The other afternoon we had a short visit from a red-bellied woodpecker.  This is the third time that we know of one coming to visit our backyard over the years.  The first one, a few springs ago, Angie saw for a brief moment and I missed it.  Then a year later, again in the spring, another bird showed up and was at our peanut feeder for maybe 30 seconds before being flushed by the blue jays.  It did not return.  Then this one came around...

As I sat at the kitchen window having coffee with Merry on my lap, I managed to snap this photo from the window.  I was preparing to go out the front door and sneak up the side of the house to get a better picture because in my experience with this bird species, I find they aren't very tolerant of human presence.  Proof came again moments later as the lady next door stepped out into her backyard to snip some flowers, not even seeing the bird, not even being anywhere near it, but that was enough for the woodpecker to fly away.  Darn.

Fortunately about 20 minutes later he returned for another feed.  I was able to follow through with my stealth ninja plan to get a better picture and not flush him either.  I even was able to return back into the house and watch him for many more minutes at the window again.

It was almost 5:30 pm, which is getting late in the day for the birds, and he soon flew off for the night.

I had to share this cool bird visitor on social media.  I wished he would return again...  and he did!  He came for a feed again around 3:30 pm, spending about 15 minutes at the feeder again.  I just watched from the window.

Unfortunately he hasn't been back the last 2 days, not that we have seen anyway.  Project Feeder Watch starts next weekend and we're really hoping he can be added to our feeder watch species list.  Not only that, having such a unique and rather new bird species coming to the yard makes for a little bit of excitement.  Maybe it's because the weather has warmed up some?  Maybe he will come back when it gets colder again and food is not so plentiful?  Time will tell.

Are you seeing anything different in your backyard, at your feeders?