Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

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.

December 22, 2017

Happy Holidays!

I was hoping to blog one more time before the holiday season came upon us, and I guess in a way I am. I just want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Have a happy and safe holiday season no matter how you spend it, doing whatever you love to do and who with... human and/or animal.

Busy days ahead for me but hopefully I will get some time in with the wild ones to share about soon.

I want to thank everyone who comes to read my scribes, and occasionally throw a comment back. Cheers to you all!

December 14, 2017

Winter Wonderland

Hey, we got our first snowfall of the season earlier this week. Not a lot but enough to make things pretty for a few days. I spent some time the morning of the snow, watching the birds and took a few photos.

For starts, the holly bush.

That is one plant to be added for anyone with a decent sized backyard. Just make sure you get both a male and female plant if you want berries on the female. This bush has fed a few Robins, Cedar Waxwings and once even a Hermit Thrush late in November of 2016. But the one bird that returns to it year after year (for a few years now) is a Northern Mockingbird. We seldom see this species of bird in our backyard outside of the winter months. We participate in Project Feeder Watch for Bird Studies Canada and love being able to add this bird to our count days.

The holly bushes have also provided a great hiding place for the smaller birds when the Hawks come in. I watched a Cooper's Hawk walk circles around the bush one morning, looking for it's next meal. The House Sparrows sat still and eventually the Hawk left to hunt elsewhere.

Last week I was out for a walk and noticed a fallen Sumac tree. I decided to clip some of the branches and bring home the berry buds to place in our backyard. This has been a hit with some of the birds. First it was Starlings, lots of them at times.

More recently the Juncos.

This fall I planted a couple sumacs. I've seen Bluebirds, Robins and Red-bellied Woodpeckers loving the sumac berries during the winter elsewhere so hopefully somewhere down the road, we may encounter some new birds stopping in here. Yes I am aware this plant spreads very fast and I will stay on top of that.

It's funny how many non-birder friends ask me why this Woodpecker is called a Red-bellied and not a Red-headed.

Robin from last winter on a sumac near our home.

We will always have a few bird feeders out back but our goal is make the yard more natural and wildlife friendly. The holly and the sumacs are a great start, especially for our own winter wonderland. Angie blogged about us picking up a free Service Berry tree a few weeks ago.

If you have any suggestions on what else we should add to our yard, what you have planted or grow at your home, feel free to tell me in the comments.

Til next time, keep warm and enjoy what this frosty season has to offer us!

December 6, 2017

Autumn Owls!

Tis the season to be "OWLY"! I've had a few species sightings the last month and a bit, but the one earlier this week is the best by far because it was a total surprise.

As December arrived, I began my scoping for Snowy Owls on my drive home from work at night. Every year through the winter I am treated to sporadic sights of Snowys along the stretch of the 401 that I drive. On the night of December 4th I noticed a large dark bird atop a hydro pole and at first I thought it was a heavily barred Snowy. I pull the truck over for a better view and to my surprise and delight it was a Great Horned Owl! I should note I was not even on the 401 yet. I don't advise anyone stopping their vehicle on a major highway to view any wildlife.

I had my camera with me this night and tried for a couple record shots. I used the street lamps as my light source. I tweaked my camera's manual settings and then with a little editing at home on the computer, I managed to get this to share with whoever may be reading this blog.

I left the bird after a few minutes and continued my drive home. I ended up spotting a Snowy Owl a few kilometres down the road but there was no way I could stop anywhere for a night shot.

I recently saw a Snowy Owl in a lake park. A nice day time view. This photo is heavily cropped as it was on a dock out in the marina.

I've also spotted a few Long-eared Owls this fall.

I had a Screech Owl one evening about a month ago. I should look back and see if I shared him or not in a previous blog.

After the other evening's Great Horned and Snowy Owl sightings, I was quite tempted to go for a little Screech Owl hunt locally. If it wasn't raining, I just might have. An Owl hat trick would have been epic!

Oh, there was a Northern Saw-whet Owl as well. I had a private invite to see this sweet little bird, far from public eye. I chose not to share on social media since these birds gather a lot of interest. It's always nice to see them and hopefully I spot one again through the rapidly approaching winter, especially with Angie since these Owls make her giggle and snort with joy.

I've also encountered a couple Short-eared Owls. Unfortunately it was much too dark to get a photo of the two birds flying about a field. I have not been able to relocate them since, so they probably have moved on.

This is a good start to the season and I really hope to spot a few more species in the coming months. I'd love to get a decent photograph of a Short-eared Owl one day too. That's one Owl I don't feel I have gotten a photo of that I really like. While it's never about the photos with me as I love the thrill of finding them on my own or with friends; getting a good photo once in a while sure doesn't hurt.

I encourage you to brave the chilly days ahead and just go for a walk, take paths less traveled, listen to the other birds and you might find an Owl on your own.

P.S. this was not one of my longer blogs, and if you happen to be one of the few who read them right to the end and would like a little more to read, please check out Angie's latest blog about our trip to The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada in Guelph, Ontario.

November 15, 2017

Farewell to the King

On Friday August 4th, shortly after 3 pm, I was outside feeding my bestest Pigeon pal Pierre. He had been a blessing to me the last couple weeks while I had been off after my accident (I broke a couple ribs after falling 8 ft from the back part of the roof). It was a physically painful and mind numbing boring time, I welcomed all the beautiful backyard beasts that distracted me, especially Pierre. Funny, the day of my fall was the official 5 year anniversary for Pierre coming to visit.

As I fed him, I watched the sky get dark, the winds pick up and we both knew some bad weather was rolling in. Just a typical Summer thunderstorm, nothing different than what we've encountered many times through the past.

I could tell Pierre was getting ready to leave me, taking shelter before the storm hit us. I wished for him to be safe and I would see him later. Off he flew. Little did I know that would be the last time I would see him.

Here we are about three and a half months later, and still no sighting. He's had some long disappearances in the past but even from the first weekend away this time, it felt different. None of the others in his flock were missing, even the missus was here daily. Of course I still looked out for him day after day, week after week, despite my gut telling me he wasn't coming back. To this day, I still scan the Pigeons and a couple times my heart skipped a beat when I thought I saw him out there.

Pretty much all my hope has faded.

I really don't want to do this blog. In a way I'm not ready for it. I always knew the day would come but who ever expects such things? Pierre does deserve a tribute.

I'm sure through his life elsewhere he wasn't thought about a whole lot by people who passed him by. Maybe someone stopped and looked, thinking "man, that is one fat Pigeon!"

It would be nice to think a few thought he was rather handsome.

I like to think he had a friend or two elsewhere in his travels. Someone must have befriended him since he was "people friendly" from the get go. The first day he showed up, he walked the length of the backyard, hopped up the deck steps, walked across the deck to where Angie and I sat. He looked up at us. Then he flew up into Angie's lap like he was introducing himself. Then he flew into mine. Little did either of us know that he would make such an impact on our backyard and my life.

Pierre was not just a Pigeon. Pierre was my friend. We had some great bonding moments over the years. He trusted me. The time I helped him with the thread around his foot, how I took him into the house and then up to Toronto Wildlife Centre certainly is testimony to that. It wasn't always about getting a feed from me.

I will miss the dog days of Summer and us just hanging out.

I will miss the winter mornings where my coffee gets cold as I rush out there to help him get through another frosty day.

I will just miss him.

He may have been a part of a flock, but to me he was a stand out bird.

Sometimes I thought to myself that I should keep one of the sticks he brought to me over the years.

It has been quite a ride with him. My sharing our life together on social media had positive and negative effects. I know he changed the feelings in some about Pigeons, slowly realizing that they are personable creatures. I listened to the idiots who asked me again and again if he shit on me. Calling him a flying rat and calling his kind disease-filled pests. I figured out the best line to say to those who still opposed this friendship... "I always know where I stand with a Pigeon". Honestly, that line works because it is very true. I was once asked if I would catch him and sell him to this person for $20. They were serious, putting a bill in my hand, wanting to take him home as a pet. That person got a big "fuck you!" What I really liked was people, out of the blue, people I never expected to hear say such nice things about my bond with him. They were genuine, thinking it was pretty cool to have this bird come day after day to visit.

Pierre was King around here. He knew it too. I find a lot of Pigeons walk around like they are king shit but Pierre definitely was all that, and a bag of chips.

There's no point in talking about the what may have happened to him. There's a number of possibilities but why even think about any of them? It's better for me and those who admired him to think about the good times, hold on to those special memories.

All I can say is I am grateful he flew into my life. He changed me for the better. I never hated Pigeons but I wasn't big on them over the years when I first started my backyard bird feeding. It's funny to read some of my rants on this bird species in Facebook memories. I was rejoicing mornings where none of those pains in the ass were around. It's laughable now. In the memories though, I still find moments where I had compassion towards them and helped a Pigeon or two despite my frustrations at their antics.

Pierre opened my mind and heart to his kind. As many of you know, I have made a number of friends because of him. Thanks for that my beautiful boy!

I wish for another time to look him in the eye.

One more photo.

Anyway, he will forever be in my heart and my memories. I'm sure some of you will take a moment to think about him, all the pictures and posts over the last 5 years; or if you are one of the few who actually got to meet him.

If for some chance he does show up at the back door again, you all will read about it here. If I can pick my jaw up from the floor.

Adding this as it's wonderfully overwhelming, the comforting words by friends and fans of Pierre after I posted this blog on my Facebook page. He touched a lot of hearts in people who never met him.

What a great tribute to a great bird! Well done Rob, I'm sure Pierre would love it and be strutting around telling everyone that 'he's' your favorite :)

You are one special man and Pierre is one special bird.

You really did a great job with your buddy. He was a beautiful bird.

Your best blog yet Rob - I loved it but feel so sad for your families loss . You certainly changed my outlook on pigeons- always think of yours when I see one !!

Thanks everyone. I will raise my glass to him tonight. :)

You made me cry. What a wonderful tribute. Pierre was so lucky to have you in his life. Hugs to you....

He's lucky to have known you. And there's always hope...

Lovely tribute, so sorry to hear.

It won't be the same coming online and not seeing you & Pierre. Am clinging onto hope that he may return. Thanks for sharing this remarkable bond with us.

Cheers to Pierre on this Whiskey Wednesday . I don't see many Pigeons out my way but when we go to a Blue Jays Ballgame we sit and eat our hotdogs outside the dome and the local pigeons always get tossed a few pieces of bun.
I certainly appreciate them more after reading your blogs.

Coincidentally, before reading your post, Barbara, I finished off my post the way you started yours.
I cant imagine your sorrow at his loss. I'm holding out hope though with fingers crossed he returns. ❤ Pierre
Your story touches my heart, Rob <3 What a beautiful tribute to a very special (and handsome) fellow!

Oh how I wish I could see your jaw hit the floor.... this was loving tribute to the King of pigeons. Although we love the Jerseys, there is only one Pierre.

You made Pierre a real creature( bird) with a personality! I'm sad he is not in your life right now but I'm being optimistic!! You were blessed to have him in your life ❤️

Beautiful tribute to your pal Pierre. I really hope he does return.

OMGosh ... what a truly loving, heartfelt blog/tribute to your wonderful pal, Pierre. I still have tears. Through all of your posts and photos, I too, like many others, have learned to appreciate a bird that many people look down on as ordinary or even as a pest. They are full of character and personality, as individual too in their looks from each other as people are. I was also dreading the day that you came to the realization that he probably wasn't coming back. He certainly had a good long life for a pigeon, probably made even longer and more fulfilled from his long-standing friendship with you and Angie. Of course, one can always hope for that one miracle but rest assured that through you, he has struck a real chord of appreciation and respect with bird lovers everywhere. Cheers to Pierre on this poignant Whiskey Wednesday. RIP

So sorry Rob 😞

oh no Pierre has left Bloor street,sorry for your loss of a fine-feathered friend hugs

Once again, thank you, to everyone for taking a moment out and sending some kind and comforting words. I might actually copy/paste these to the blog for any future readers to see how he touched others over the years.

Got the whisky in hand. Cheers to all of you!

So sorry this chapter in your life has seemingly come to a close. Pierre's life lessons will live on.

Cheers Pierre and Rob with a toast of white owl!!

What a beautiful tribute. I’m sorry for you and Angie. I really do hope he’s well and just off on another adventure!

Lovely tribute. Sorry to hear about Pierre.

What a wonderful tribute to him!

An amazing bird indeed.

He was/is a very handsome bird and I have enjoyed reading all your posts about him.

Wonderful tribute to Pierre, thank you so much for sharing your journey with him with all of us!

Thanks for sharing this incredible relationship.

So sorry for your loss Rob. Pierre was so handsome and we loved reading about him. I too have a love for pigeons. I sometimes just sit in parking lots and take pictures while they interact. They really do have personalities and you did your best to show Pierre's.

Pierre was legendary! A Thirsty Thursday Cheers to Pierre!

So sad... But what a beautiful tribute.

Thanks for sharing Rob, and condolences to you and Angie on the loss of this special relationship.

Cheers Pierre

Beautiful tribute. Such a handsome little guy.

All of pigeonkind owe a lot to Pierre, who I'm sure has helped change the minds of many people about pigeons after reading about your adventures together.


We will be raising a glass/tumbler of 40 Creek in his honour.

November 7, 2017

Nest Box Results

Some of you know about my other blog, The Toronto Nest Blog; but I think many of you do not, or perhaps just don't follow it. I look at the views of my blogs here compared to the nest blog and the difference is huge. Not that I need more views; I'm not that much of an attention whore. But the nest box monitoring is important to me.

The whole Bluebird saga was one helluva story and the fact I had 2 fledged in the end is nothing short of a miracle. It shows the determination of a male Eastern Bluebird, a father to these young birds, who never gave up despite 3 eggs not hatching and losing his mate in the final days before the young left the nest.

It was not for the faint of heart. Hell, even I was full of jittery nerves throughout. If you missed it, I suggest you put the kettle on and scroll through my nest blog. I tried to make them as brief as possible, mainly because I'm having issues with the blog's set-up and the paragraphs are not separating.

Anyway, I wanted to post my results here because this is important to me. I have shown what a difference we can make if we take the time out to do a little more for our feathered friends. Yes it is work, but it is good work. I put the miles on my feet as I travel through the fields looking after these boxes. Walking is good for every human being and it's something not to be taken for granted. Every day you can get yourself out of bed on your own, breathe the air on your own, feed, dress and wash yourself is a good day. Try to never take that for granted, even though we all do as we go through life, working, paying bills and bitching about all the insignificant things.

Sorry, getting off topic...

Okay, here are the results from the 2017 season.

Through 16 Tree Swallow nests, 81 young birds successfully fledged.

The previous year, being my first year out, there were 7 nests and just over 30 young birds fledged.

How's that for helping some birds?

I'm hoping for the return of the Bluebirds next year, and a better season. I will be more prepared for it.

The nest season is long over but things are happening throughout, preparing for 2018. I will share all in the coming months. Stay tuned!