Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

February 22, 2017

Pierre and Rob's Biggest Adventure

Hi Everyone,

I assume most of you know who Pierre is. If not, quick re-cap, Pierre is a wild Rock Pigeon who literally jumped into our lives back on July 21, 2012 and has been a regular visitor here ever since. Surely you've seen the pics somewhere over the years, feeding from my hand, the Global News story. "Oh ya, that Pigeon!" Right?

"Hi there!"


The last year Pierre has had longer breaks between visits. I've missed him but in another way it's helping me get used to the idea of him one day not coming back. This July will mark 5 years since we first met. Bird guides say ROPIs live an average of 3 to 5 years in the wild; although some do live much longer than that with help from others, and if they can stay out of trouble or the talons of Hawks and Peregrine Falcons. Pierre has some great friends in way of myself and Angie. He seems to be pretty aware of the surroundings and smart enough to avoid here when Hawks are present.

I make mental notes of our last encounter especially when days pass with not seeing him. He's been exceptional with his absences the last number of months. November 1st, then not again until December 23rd, then December 29th and then finally coming in again on February 18th. Four visits in almost four months! But this is where our biggest adventure takes place. I actually started this blog a long time ago but with time passed, I'm not liking what I keyed out and have decided to start over. None of the facts have changed even with time passed and my memory of it all. I do hope to shorten it though. HA!

So, here we go...

Between November 1st until December 23rd, I had made comments on social media about missing Pierre. I did not suspect anything was really wrong because his whole flock was not visiting. Yes, there are stand out members in his flock that I easily recognize. A lot of people question this ability of mine and I can see their point. All I tell them is to spend time with a flock of Pigeons, years in my case, you will be able to identify them even in a mass of nearly 100 birds coming to visit like I had a few times last winter.

With his absence, I made new friends with "The Jerseys" last Autumn, who are a bigger hit with people and I assume it's because of their unique plumage.


They eased my need for bird bonding at home. But even with my sharing about them, I still threw in about my wonders of how Pierre is, where he is. He is THE ONE who started this all here.

As Christmas approached, I did a few "Days of Christmas" blogs with the nature gifts that were presented to me. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker for a couple days in December at our holly bush, and then the Screech Owl in our nest box. Then on December 23rd, Pierre finally came home. 53 long days he was away. I spread the news on social media but with it being so close to Christmas, I did not get the chance to blog about it. I had thought he was going to be here with us over the holidays but he once again disappeared. Then returning 6 days later on the 29th.

Pierre showed up sporting some "trashy bling". His left foot and toes were wrapped up in blue thread, lots and lots of blue thread. While this may not seem that serious, it is, as over time it can cut the circulation to the foot, the muscle tissue dies, toes can fall off, maybe even his whole foot and mobility will become difficult.

I had some discussion about how to deal with this, but being home alone, and not having any experience on how to handle this, it was a real challenge as you will read about.

Pierre was feeding from my hand and I put my free hand over top of him. Now any other Pigeon would suspect something was up and quickly react, like flying to the ground, but not Pierre. He's got a lot of trust in me from the years together and he ignored my hand. I lowered it over top of him and grabbed him in a bander's grip the best I could. A grip I've not used in a while and a grip I've never used on a larger bird. Bander's grip on a small Sparrow or Warbler vs bander's grip on a Pigeon... big difference actually. The grip is your index finger and middle finger around the bird's neck while the remaining fingers and thumb surround the body, keeping the wings pressed to the body. An example shown here that I borrowed from Google.


Pierre is a big Pigeon from years of good eating. A bit different than holding any small songbird.


But with Pierre, there was very little fuss, and he quickly submitted. I think he quickly realized what I was trying to do as I inspected his foot, toyed with the thread, looking for a loose end. I wasn't having much luck in finding one. I was having a lot of distraction by his friends all fluttering around us, more so wanting food, than any care/concern for their King in my hand.

I decided to bring Pierre inside where I could look at him in a closed off room, having some more light, and no distractions. First I needed to put him in something. I remembered I had a spare box in the shed, a box we often use for birds of his size for transport to and from Toronto Wildlife. Now I had to take him for a walk with me (the shed is about 100 ft from our back deck). I can only imagine what any neighbours must have thought seeing me holding this Pigeon like I was, and walking with him. I can only imagine what was going through Pierre's mind as well. He's belly up to the sky, looking at me, and around, but still not putting up a fight.

I get him to the shed, close the door over and put him in the box. Then it was a quick pace back to the house, a call to TWC, leaving a message about the situation in case I needed to bring him in and then downstairs to the bathroom. I close the door, get him out and see what I can do. He puts up a little struggle at first because I'm sure being inside a house, bright light over him that is not the sun, was rather confusing. But I talked to him in a calm voice, kept telling him it was okay and he relaxed. While he may not have understood my words exactly, I like to think my voice did help. He was even pretty chill when suddenly there were some cat paws coming through the underside of the door as Merry and Molly were on the other side, wanting to join us. That wasn't happening. I dropped my bath towel across the bottom of the door to put an end to that.

I inspected his foot, and manged to cut about 3 inches of thread off with some small scissors. Pierre kept pulling his leg to his body, like I was ticking him, although I know it was just a reflex (I was not hurting him nor pulling on his leg, impossible to do without a third hand). My hand was shaking as I tried to perform this sort of surgery on him (of course I was nervous). Trying this alone proved to be extremely difficult.

I had the phone with me and suddenly it rang. It was someone from hotline at Toronto Wildlife. I'm still holding Pierre with my one hand while I take the call. I swear he gave me this look like "Dude! WTF? Taking a phone call now?" I had left them a detailed message already so there wasn't much to say other than "yes I still have him contained" and they said "bring him in".

Back in the box he went, and away we went for a drive.

We were at the tail end of a small snow storm, which in Toronto with driving could still be like 20+ cm with some drivers. Thankfully a lot of people were still off work with the holiday season so traffic was light.

I spoke to Pierre through the drive, just a calm light voice, saying "it's alright Pierre" or "I got your back Pierre", etc. No matter what I said, I said his name with it. I'd like to think he knows the name we've given him after all these years. Normally you are supposed to be quiet when traveling with wildlife but Pierre is not your normal wildlife, is he?

We get to TWC and he is quickly taken to the back room. I offered to wait if someone was able to observe him sooner than later. Depending on what was going on beneath all that thread, he could come home right away. But they had to get the thread off first and see.

Lucky for us, it's a time of year where things are normally much slower with wildlife emergencies and there was enough staff in that morning, that he was observed almost immediately. And even luckier was that there was nothing going on beneath the thread, no skin breaks, no bleeding, no infection. He was deemed fit to go home right away.

Pierre just won a little lottery I think.

I don't know how many "thank yous" I said and that they probably helped me end 2016 on a really high note. I'm sure they could tell I was a little emotional about it all but there were no tears... just saying.

I kept Angie in the loop via text about what was going on. When I said we were on our way home again, she replied with "make a donation!" Doh! I ran back inside the centre and got that on the go.

Now we were going home. Once again, the drive back, I talked to him throughout. "You're going home Pierre".


We get home, and I get him out back, releasing him down at the shed. I was happy to see his flock was still around almost an hour and a half later. Weird that they were all still here. Remember, it's been 53 days since they were all here like this.

I release him, which took a little time, and I put my hand in the box to help him out. He took to my hand like nothing, and came out to the open wild world once again from my palm. Mere seconds passed and he took flight, going to a nearby roof top to join his mates. I threw more food down for everyone and they all came back in to feed. Pierre was a little delayed about this all and I worried that maybe our trust was broken. Silly me! He finally flew in, picked at the corn for a moment until he saw me put my hand out to him, saying his name and I had the good stuff to offer him... shelled peanut bits (no salt of course) and sunflower chips. He was in my hand in the blink of an eye. All was well in his world and back to normal.


They all flew off and I did not see them again before I went to work.

I anticipated a return the next day. Nope. The day after. Nope. Now with the New Years weekend upon us, hoping to bring in 2017 with him. Nope.

How long would it be until I saw him again?

51 days later (Feb 18) he flies in like he does any other time, landing in his usual spot by the back door, and greets me like no time has passed. It certainly was a great start to the Family Day long weekend because Pierre sure is like family to us. He ended up coming in all 3 days, showing up just before 8 am each day.

Here we are.  The gang is all here and 2 flocks are mingling with a little bit of squabbling.  We all look like shit first thing in the morning, but we don't care.  LoL!


I tell people he's cheating on us these days, having a new friend to mooch off of. I say it in joking manner but of course it is true. Pigeons are very dependent on humans for survival.

I guess his other friend went away for the long weekend or something, which brought him in. Now we are back to the work week and I've not seen him at all, nor any of his flock.

He did have a few threats lingering about here this past weekend and I'm certain that kept him wary.

Cooper's Hawk late in the day on Feb 18.


Resident Red-tailed Hawk caught one of his friends on Feb 20. I had seen the Hawk come in a couple times, flushing birds, Pierre and his buds were long gone, but the Hawk managed to grab one somewhere nearby. We noticed feathers falling from the sky, and I went out to investigate, spotting this. I can even tell by this Pigeon's markings, that it's not one of my special buds. I still felt some sadness although I know well enough that this is how it goes, it is nature.


Initially I was going to blog about the TWC adventure after it happened, but then decided to wait until his return, which finally happened. I will once again wonder how long until we meet again?

Don't stay away too long this time Pierre.


On a final note, I would like to add that I can honestly say that Pierre did not get any special treatment with his care at TWC. As I mentioned, he was lucky there was available staff on hand and it was a slower time of the year, plus early on in the day. All these things put together, along with the short time the thread was around his foot, made for a quick and easy visit. All wildlife patents get the same care and concern when coming in. It's just great when they can go free again like this, and so quickly. Any animal Toronto Wildlife can help, and not have to keep in care, is a great thing.

Pierre and I will forever be thankful for TWC.

Maybe you've made it to the end of this blog? Maybe you've got a warm and fuzzy feeling all over now? Maybe you are thinking about sending a "thank you" to TWC, they are a charitable run organization after all, here is the link to do so. If so, please tell them "Pierre" sent you. Sorry, couldn't help myself with this last bit.

Thanks for reading about our biggest adventure. Cheers!

February 17, 2017

This Week With Rob and the Animals

Hey hey! Family Day long weekend is finally here in Ontario. A nice 3 day break in February and the weather is looking amazing with near double digit temps and more sun than cloud. Is anyone partaking in the GBBC?

Some of you may recall Moonie and I pushing it a couple years ago. Thanks to Facebook "on this day" app, I got the reminder from when we appeared in the Toronto Star.  What a time that was!


Angie and I plan on a couple outings, even if just locally.

Last weekend we endured quite the snowfall for Toronto, nothing compared to other parts of Ontario, but it was a decent snowfall for us over the last few winters. It snowed most of Sunday, big fluffy flakes, then small flakes, then back to big flakes, and it went like that throughout the day. We decided to take Merry and Molly outside to experience it for the first time in their 22 months of existence. It went pretty good. Their curiosity got the best of them and they ignored the chill to explore a bit. Merry is more used to the leash/harness thing while Molly does prefer the kittywalk but she did pretty good this day. I figure the excitement of being outside again after months of not, the snowfall, it preoccupied her.

Molly


Merry


We all look forward to warm sunny days in a few months when we can stay out for hours.

With the snow, I took advantage of some local Cardinals for photos.




Then the big bird find this week was chancing upon a Barred Owl. I hadn't been out since Saturday, so Wednesday I finally made the trek to a new area for some exploring. New area to me, more or less, a vast area I've been a few times over the years but there's so much to explore. I'm so glad I made the choice to go, and stick it out with a lengthy walk despite seeing only 1 Red-tailed Hawk and hearing a male Northern Cardinal belting out his song. I was not in search of anything particular. It's not very often I, or Angie and I, go out with target birds in mind. Just taking things in as they come along is the best way to go about things, you may be pleasantly surprised with some finds, but you won't be disappointed since you have no expectation.

There was nothing to tell me that there was an Owl about. Usually I tune into birds screaming at one roosting. But that wasn't happening. Sometimes I find Owl pellets under a tree, or lots of spray (poop). Nope. I was just walking (lots) and suddenly passed one sitting in a tree not more than 10 ft off the ground. We were maybe 20 ft from each other. I saw him. He saw me. In my head I was like "holy shit!" I quickly backed up as I did not want to spook him and have him fly off.

I spent about 10 minutes watching the bird. It looked at me a couple times but for the most part focused on the ground. The sun was shining bright, the ice was cracking, and I think he was thinking there was prey moving about beneath him somewhere. At one point he left the tree and flew to a nearby conifer, a tree so close he probably could have just jumped to it. It started to cloud over and the snow began to fall. Huh! Smart Owl or what?

I snapped a few photos, took a short video and then walked away. A silent thank you to the moment. A grin on my face the rest of the day.

It's hard to describe the feeling of finding any species of Owl on your own. One that has not been reported. It's just you and the Owl, or maybe having a few friends with you for the moment. What I mean by this, no people, no bullshit. A zen moment.

Here are a few photos of the moment.



Camouflage masters at times!  I wonder how many Barreds I may have passed by over the years?


Well, time to get at it, run a few errands and get that thing called "work" over and done with.

I'm looking forward to the Family Day weekend with my family.

I hope you all have a great one with yours, no matter how you spend it.

February 9, 2017

Unusual Finds

I decided to go for a walk Monday (Feb 6), checking out a new area (to me) that I've been wanting to do so for quite a while now. I pass this area twice daily through the work week, and have been for 17 years now (say what?!?!).

I had a sampling of the area about 2 weeks ago, finding a way in further north. It was dusk, it was snowing quite heavily, so my time was limited. About half an hour out and I had 2 Coyotes come out in front of me on the trail and accidentally flushed a Great Blue Heron even though I never left the trail. Now what would a Great Blue Heron be doing in Toronto in January? Unusual find for sure!

I did not get a photo of the Heron but no mistaking what I saw. I did capture one of the Coyotes walking ahead of me. Look at him being a good citizen and staying on the trail.


As I said, I've been wanting to explore this area for years, and Sunday I did some Google map searching to find other entries to the trail, and hopefully learn more about it. Luck have it, I did spot an entry, and it's not too far from my work. That certainly helps me with ability and time to explore before my shift.

It's always exciting to explore new areas. My senses seem to be more in tune. I have no target birds in mind, I'm happy to see/hear anything and take mental notes of the species about. It started with the most common finds anywhere I go around Toronto... Cardinal, Black-capped Chickadee, Goldfinch, Tree Sparrow, Crow, White-breasted Nuthatch, Junco, Downy and Hairy Woodpecker, plus a pair of Red-tailed Hawks. I also found a Raccoon sleeping in a tree cavity. I seem to have a knack for finding these masked beasts wherever I go.

Oh, and then there was a pup tent set up just off the creek. It was in fairly good condition. I decided not to go anywhere near that in case someone was sleeping inside, or watching me from afar invading their "space". My imaginative side started playing horror movie scenes at this moment. Yep, keep moving along.

I was probably in the area for an hour before deciding it was getting near time to leave. I had barely touched the area really and have all intentions on returning.

No the blog is not done...

I'm making my way back to where I parked when I heard a sound. A rattling bird call of sorts. I knew the sound well but thought "no way in hell, not in February". I began looking for where the call was coming from. I knew I was right but I wanted a visual. It took some searching in this woodlot but I did spot the bird finally. Belted Kingfisher!

I don't see a lot of Kingfishers in my travels during the warm months, they aren't the most social bird out there, often fleeing at the sight of humans. But to see one in the middle of the winter? The bird (female) flew up and down the stream and I was not able to get a photo for record. That was fine.

But then I heard another Kingfisher south of where I stood. No freaking way?!?! I thought maybe I missed her flying back over me and decided to investigate this further.

I found the bird and indeed it was a second Kingfisher. A male. The creek was partially frozen but he was diving into the open spots and I watched him twice successfully pull out small fish to eat.

It was a blast to watch this bird move about the woods, staying near the shores of the creek. I stood in one spot, hoping he'd forget about my presence, and maybe land in decent range for viewing and a photo or two.

I didn't exactly get my wish of closer range or a decent photo, but the show was excellent and I managed a few shots to bring back with me to tell of this moment. Maybe Kingfishers aren't that exciting to some people but I like them, especially when they surprise the heck out of me like this. One would have been a pleasant surprise, but a pair was a great surprise.

Here are a few photos... if you click on one, it will open to full screen, not that they are National Geographic quality.


About as good as I could capture, slightly cropped, dim light, but the images in my brain are super sharp!


Nice they found some open water although really our winter hasn't been that bad; hence probably why they decided to stay.  Same with the Heron the other week.


Trying to follow his flight across the landscape was a challenge!


One of the catches.


Okay, that was super awesome! Time to leave now.

I'm making my way back, quite satisfied with my outing, but I'm still looking and listening as I walk. Now something else has caught my eye and it's not wildlife. It's this...


Of course, it was not this obvious to me, as this is at the bottom of the hill, a fair distance from the path.  I regret not taking the initial sighting photo.  But it's an old wreck (duh!).  I love old cars, especially North American models.  I'm thinking Chevy Vega.  Thoughts?

The only solid thing left on the car.


Straight 4 cylinder?    I've never owned a 4 banger so I know very little about such engines.


Years, decades, of settling in.


How many decades will it take for the plastic to break down?


The only proof on the car that it indeed was a General Motors product.


I really hoped to find a serial number, some kind of emblem.  Anything.  That's just me, being curious and adventurous.


May have to research this one rainy day.  The tail light could help ID this car.


Gas cap on the right side of the car.  Hatch back model.  All clues to what this once was.


A bit of a mystery how this car came to it's final resting place in these woods.  My guess is a long time ago it was rolled down that hill, before the trees grew in, before the industrial development and fencing at the top of the hill.  Tall trees surround this car, proof it's been here for a very long time.


My last unusual find was this dog house. It's been here quite some time as well, but looks like it's never been used by any creatures about the woods.


For a walk with no people, there was enough signs of them. I am happy it was just me and the birds... and some unusual finds.

I should note I did not forget to say exactly where I was. One reason is I've had in the past where someone decides they want to try and follow my foot steps, hoping for the same kind of adventure, only to be disappointed. Then they contact me about their disappointing outing. Seriously?!?! Another, I hope I've inspired someone to get out there and try a different area instead of your usual haunts or following reported birds. You never know what you may find.

January 23, 2017

They're Back!

Finally! They're back! Snowy Owls are in our area once again.

It's a much slower year for this species of Owl. So few have been seen in Toronto this winter. And any that have been seen, aren't sticking around, or being reliably seen may be a better way of wording it.

After weeks and weeks of nothing, I was beginning to doubt my spotting skills. But then... just like that... I first spotted one on January 16th, then moments later, about a block away, I spotted a 2nd Owl. They were just there, beacons of white in the darkness.

I've had 8 encounters overall in a week with these 2 birds. Encounters meaning "sightings" of Snowy Owls and not counting individuals.

The night sights are great. It's just the Owl(s) and myself. I can sit in the truck and enjoy the view of them on a post, or them being active and hunting. I don't get out, I don't chase, no need to. And there's no other people around.

It's not favourable to photographers but someone who loves birds and nature, it's awesome. Traffic may be whizzing by but I'm in the moment with the bird(s).

Last winter I finished off the season with 59 encounters which began October 29th actually and ended in early April. I'm curious how often I will see them this time? Stay tuned.

First Owl. I saw it 3 nights in a row on that same lamp post in a parking lot.


Second Owl. Like I said, about a block away from the other. I've spotted it on the same post numerous times too.


It's fun trying to get a couple photos, and after I get home, I have to seriously manipulate them to bring out the Owl. Nothing worth printing but cool to share what is a rare sight this winter in our city.


I hope you've enjoyed seeing what I saw.

Have a great week!

January 19, 2017

Wild Moment

I'm still sitting on a blog, waiting for the grand finish which has not happened yet... a moment I hope comes soon so I can complete the tale. Until then, here's a moment with a Red-tailed Hawk I had from last week.

I had gone out one morning for a walk. It was pretty dismal other than a couple Tree Sparrows and one Junco. In the distance I did see a pair of Red-tailed Hawks courting in the sky. It was like a dance. Ah yes, despite the calendar saying "January", things are starting to happen already with some of the birds. Love is in the air!

A third Hawk was in the area, a lone bird, and while it may not be getting some tail anytime soon, it did get something else, tail too, sort of...

This Hawk was flying much closer to my standing point than the pair.


First it lands in a tree near the parking area.


Letting me see it from various angles.


Then it drops to the ground and sat there for well over 10 minutes.


Then it takes flight even closer to where I was standing at the side of the road. My camera is awfully slow for flight shots in most scenarios.


it lands in the small ditch and suddenly pulls this out of the leaves!


I would have loved this photo if the fire hydrant wasn't in it. I was so in the moment, didn't even notice it.


It then takes flight to a nearby tree to feast on it's catch.




The meal was done in no time at all!


It was pretty amazing to see although at one point I did feel sadness for the animal it caught. But that is nature. Seldom do I ever experience anything like this. Here I thought my outing was going to be nothing more than a pleasant but cold walk with very few birds. This Hawk sure made up for it.

A couple construction workers took a moment out to enjoy this episode of "In the Wild" with me. They thought it was pretty amazing. One guy commented that they see Hawks all the time out in the fields wherever they work, but this was a first to see one catch a meal right there like that. I bet they will be watching the Hawks a little more intently in the coming weeks, eh?