Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

July 17, 2017

Cool Outings

Sunday morning I went out looking for Dragonflies and Butterflies. I saw very few but I did run into this beautiful beast...


I did get to photo this guy, who I still need to ID.


Then Sunday evening I went out again elsewhere and encountered a few Coyotes calling in a field. I waited to see if I could spot one, but didn't. The mosquitoes were brutal but I put up with them for the 10 or so minutes I got to hear these animals call. You can hear a 30 second clip of it here. I don't encounter that many Coyotes so I always embrace these moments. Might as well pimp out a Coyote blog of mine from not too long ago. Apparently one was seen last week during the day in the hydro field by us which has stirred up some negative feelings from a few neighbours.

When I got home, I saw a big fat Skunk out back, but it disappeared before I could get my camera and headlamp. You saw my Skunk blog, right? Well, as consolation, I got to see our local momma Raccoon and her 3 young'uns. This is the third time I've seen them and they are always in this one tree.

Momma


Cuteness overload




Or how about this cutey... newly fledged Northern Mockingbird that Angie and I saw Saturday morning.


Toronto is a big city but we are blessed to have some great green spaces throughout where a nature lover can still go out and enjoy the wild world around us.

July 6, 2017

Sympathy for the Skunks


It's been great the last few months for us here at home, enjoying numerous sightings from a couple Skunks. They bless us with their presence occasionally well into the first morning light or an hour before dark. I've had some very close encounters throughout, sometimes leaving me frozen in the moment and it's left me with having a better understanding of these animals that so many of us fear in a "scents" (pun intended!). Nobody wants to get sprayed by one!


After dark I am out with a headlamp on just to help me not stumble upon one and startle it. It helps quite a bit but I've still had some very close moments where one has sent me a warning with some foot stomping.


I've noticed that the Raccoons can see them coming long before I can and they quickly react. I'm guessing they've had some bad experiences living outside with them, all fighting for the same food at times.


So ya, it's been great seeing them as much as we have and never having to leave the backyard.

Well, Sunday night (July 2nd) a smaller Skunk came through our yard while we were sitting on the deck and waiting for the Hummingbirds to show up. We have 2 Hummingbirds who are almost reliably seen in the last 30 minutes of light every evening. Anyway, it is quickly observed that there is something wrong with this Skunk, his back left leg is wounded as he is hopping around on the 3 good legs and keeping this one up to his body.

Since it was near dark, we got a few ounces of rum in us, it was decided to leave things be this evening. I left a message with Toronto Wildlife about what we just saw, asking in the message if there was room in the centre for this Skunk. It's a busy time of year for all wildlife rehab centres and sadly there are times when animals get turned away from the centres we rely upon in our area and we have to find someone else, sometimes much further away, who might be able to take them in.

We go inside for the night and go to bed thinking about that Skunk.

The next morning I get a call back from TWC hotline. First thing asked is if it is a baby Skunk. I said it was small compared to others I see but I am confident it's not a baby. The Skunk is out on it's own. It's not kitten size. What more could I tell them? No photo could tell them how big it is either. They told me that they cannot admit any more babies, they are full. Caring for baby wildlife is very different than adult care and with us just getting into Summer, I understand that their nursery is full.

It was ok'd that if I could catch the Skunk, to bring it up to them for assessment and determine the whole baby vs adult as well. If it was a baby and could not be admitted, they would help me try to find another rehab centre that could take him in. I had a partial feeling of relief. But I still needed to catch the Skunk before any of this came into play.

About 7:30 that evening I set the live trap out back. I set it near where the Skunk had come through the previous evening. I know they are creatures of habit and hoped for the best. It was just before 9 pm and the animal showed up. YES! I was worried about it getting dark and if 2 showed up around the same time and trying to get the right one into this trap.

I watched from a short distance away, standing still and keeping very quiet. I took a few photos of the moment, hoping it was going to work out exactly as I had planned in my mind.

Here he comes.


This is going way too easy.


Then he backed out and went around the other end.


Almost.


Success!


I was communicating with experienced friends in these matters about the potential to get sprayed at this point. It was unlikely but not impossible. They gave me some advice which I took. I slowly approached the trap with a large towel, talking softly to the Skunk, letting him know I was there. This was not for comfort but to make him aware and not startle him. It worked. I placed the towel over the trap and then I gently picked it up. Then for my own security and peace of mind, I set the trap inside a bigger cardboard box. It was a double plus really because it made it even darker for the Skunk, and if he did spray at some point, it would stay inside the box.

I locked him up in the shed and felt it was going to be a long night until morning would come and I could continue with this adventure.

I woke up at 2:30 am and in a bit of a panic, worrying about him, worrying that he would not be admitted at TWC. Silly stuff. I knew he was not a baby. But that's a Virgo trait, to worry about everything at times. I try my best to rationalize and contain it but sometimes it can get the best of me and in the worst times, like the middle of the night.

Morning finally came. I was up way too early to do anything about this but it helped me prep for the day since time would be lost with taking care of him. I left a message with TWC that I had caught the Skunk and would be up not long after they opened.

I never checked on the Skunk. I wanted this to be as least invasive and stressful as possible for him (and me). When it came time to leave, I approached the shed and talked even as I opened the doors, I gently grabbed the box, walked softly to the truck, and the drive to the centre I did my best to avoid sudden stops, pot holes, etc. Of course there was no radio on. I kept the windows rolled up. I just drove.

Same scenario upon arrival. I talked to him as I opened the tail gate, grabbing the box and bringing him in.

It all went as well as I could have hoped.

The Skunk did finally "let it all out" when it came time to take him out of the trap. Thankfully those performing that particular task are used to this and well prepared.

Now it's a matter of a waiting game. And holding out hope that he is going to be fine and can come back home one day.

I know there are those who disagree with interfering with nature. I understand their side to it. But when it's happening in your backyard, how can a person look away? For the amount of time I spend out back, and for both Angie and I on the weekends, how could this be ignored? I can't imagine just watching him go about his life, coming through here, seeing the struggle and doing nothing about it. I'm sure he is in some sort of pain.

I'm no hero in this even as I overcame my fears of getting sprayed. Sure being sprayed is not fatal by any means but it sure would be quite a stinky inconvenience and I don't know anyone who wishes this upon themselves.

These animals that come through the yard are our "friends". They make our backyard a wonderful place to be. I hashtag photos at times #whygotothewoods and that is so true.

Someone asked me last week how I can do this. Meaning how I can work at Pepsi 8 hours a day, throw in an hour of travel time, but still spend time daily with wildlife. It's not just about volunteering with TWC, doing the Peregrine fledge watch, or the nest box monitoring, it's everything! Spending time with my Pigeon pals, observing a cool bird in my walks, finding neat insects in the garden as examples... any of these are the things I think about at the end of my day. These are the things that make my life worth living. And of course I am grateful I have someone in my life who supports this and likes to partake in these things when we are together.


So as I am about ready to publish this, TWC calls me. They are saddened to inform me that the Skunk's injuries were too severe and unfortunately euthanizing was the only option.

And for a kicker, the Skunk is a female and a lactating mother! In some situations, they would return the mother back, even with injuries, to help the young ones; but in this case, with how bad her injuries were, they could not ethically do that. They wanted to advise me of all this ASAP and put our eyes and ears out to the neighbourhood for any wandering babies in the coming days.

So with that, I'm off to check under the shed, under the back deck, under the front porch and speak to a few neighbours about also keeping watch. *sigh*

Now if that wasn't enough, Angie also contacted me this morning to tell me she is almost certain our old friend Fluffy got hit on Scarlett Road last night.  Fluffy is a big beautiful Skunk and almost unmistakable compared to others.  I went for a walk to Scarlett which is 12 houses up from us.  I saw the body, but by this time it had been run over so many times.  The back fur was still together and I saw those big white stripes.  While I cannot confirm 100%, I'd say it most likely was her. Damn!

Thanks for all the moments Fluffy.


We had 2 other Skunks. One of which we called Lincoln. We can't remember why we called him Lincoln (Stinkin' Lincoln?) but whatever. Then the Skunk that went to TWC may have been him, who turned out to be a her. They look very similar with the broken stripe pattern along the back.


Some may think it's silly to name them, personalizing them, but when you see them so much, you are able to recognize them as individuals... why not? Pierre would certainly agree with me on this one (my near 5 years of visiting Pigeon pal).

It's not easy watching the wild world around us. Caring about all of them. Wishing they would just stick around our backyards and be safe. Moments like this, caring is gonna kill us; but if we don't care, we may as well be dead.

I did this blog yesterday and have sat on it, pondering whether I really want to publish it or not. I will (obviously if you are reading it) but I wanted to add some last bits...

I have 3 good caring neighbours now on watch for any little Skunks. They live a few houses away from us on either side and the third is at the end of the street. That's a good stretch of area that will be monitored the best of our abilities.

There is the possibility the young Skunks are at the age where they could be going out on their own. Let's hope this is the case.

If not, and we round up these kitten sized stinkers, we do have a place for them to go and be cared for until they are big enough to go back out on their own.

I sat out back for about 90 minutes after work last night. I watched the wild world pass me by as I sat on the deck. I had a few pleasant encounters, being a wildlife lover as I am. Here they are...

A big lone Raccoon who stood up on his back legs to give me a glance as I sat on the deck. It's hilarious how many of them do this.


Mini-Fluffy!


A mother Raccoon with 3 young'uns. This is the first Raccoon family I've seen this year... anywhere.


They eventually came down the tree and the little guys started exploring. Now I know who has been dumping our flower pots every night this week.


I really beat myself up yesterday for a while about the whole Skunk thing. I chatted with a few people regarding it and everyone was supportive. How could I know she was a mother? Who would have thought to look? Who would have had the courage to try and inspect an injured trapped Skunk? She was hurt very badly, most likely got clipped by a car on our street and she was struggling, suffering and who knows how much more fight she had? The past cannot be changed. I must focus on the present and possible situation at hand. And I must remember that life moves forward. My sightings last night are a reminder to me about that.


Wish us all luck!

June 30, 2017

Update on the Jerseys

Hey all you Pigeon fanciers, or at the very least, those of you out there who have grown fond of our pair we call "The Jerseys", I finally have an update for you.

"Update? Say what?"

The last blog about them can be viewed here. But the jist of it is that Jersey 2 went into Toronto Wildlife Centre on April 21st due to a chemical substance about his feathers.

I am thrilled to report that 68 days later he was released back to his home... our neighbourhood.

Jersey 1 has been seen almost reliably daily between 11 and noon for weeks now. She's been well taken care of while her friend has been away.


We had some bully Pigeon issues as a massive bird had been following her around for days. He would constantly chase her, bite the back of her neck and just would not stop. She wasn't given a moment to eat and he stressed her quite a bit. It was infuriating to watch and it was hard not to want to give this guy a swift kick (but I'd never do that). It took a few days to get her to come to hand even with this goon about. He did manage to flush her a few times and it kept her from coming back during those visits. Eventually I got her on hand to eat and I pulled her into me as close as I could, something she's not been that comfortable with in the past; but it stopped the other from hitting her. He would stand on the ground and look up at us. She got to eat in peace but as soon as she was done and left my hand, he was on her again. I don't know what his deal was but within 2 weeks all this nonsense was done. Angie did get to see it with her own eyes one day and she was just as P'Od about it too.


So, ya, with her coming in as regularly as she has been, I was happy I could time my arrival back to our yard with Jersey 2 and chance that Jersey 1 would be present for his release.

It could not have played out any more perfectly than this!

I walked up the side of the house. I opened the gate. I was thrilled to see Jersey 1 sitting in the tree by the back of the house. She watched me rather intently, noticing the box in my hand. I'm sure she was thinking "wow, there must be a lot of food in there!" as she's quite used to me coming out to feed her. A few other Pigeons came to the grass as I set the box down but not her.

I spoke softly to Jersey 2, hoping he would remember my voice. I told him he was home. I told him his friend was waiting for him.

I opened the box and he quickly hopped out. In my past experiences, Pigeons are the slowest to ever leave their carriers (boxes) at releases. Twenty minutes isn't unreal. So having J2 jump out in 2 seconds was unusual but also appreciated. Let's not build the suspense here, let's just do this! Thanks buddy. :)

He was on the grass. A dozen or so other Pigeons were pretty much surrounding him. Probably all were like "hey, you're not food!" J2 scanned the area and almost immediately spotted his friend up in the tree. He took flight and landed on the branch next to her. J2 quickly burst out in a spree of coo's, puffing his chest out and doing silly circles on the branch. Talk about showing his happiness to be free and with his friend once again. Talk about a perfect ending!


Here is a short video of the reunion. I am so glad I was able to capture these first moments. Then about 30 minutes later here.

I had 2 hours to watch them before I went to work. They were both here that whole time. I watched as J2 would come to ground, feed, drink and explore.

Back home again.


One of his favorite branches.


Among his people.


The sky has never been bluer.  The sun has never been so bright as it is right now.



Good preening session.  Notice his right eye is red.


His left eye is black.


But then I had to leave them and go to work.

The next morning I was anxious to get outside and see what was going on. J2 was already here and quickly came to my hand for a feed. This surprised me a little because I was the one who grabbed him and took him away. He was handled in care as they washed him more than a couple times. As tame as these birds may seem, they are still wild birds. They have their limits. I was thinking all what has happened to him would break that trust. But it was like all was forgotten.

Then as per norm, about 11 am I look out the window and there is J1 with J2 next to her. That lifted me more than the coffee in my veins.


Of course I went out and had a visit with them.


I am so happy he is back. I am so happy to see them hanging around together again. And it's great to know so many others are just as happy and they've never even met the pair!

Honestly though, I am not sure if they are a mating pair. They seem more like siblings. I mean look at them, they are so unique compared to all the others that come through here. They must have come from the same nest. I think I've mentioned in the past that there was a 3rd, who was mostly white and had no eye spots but that bird has not been seen in months now.

Whatever the case, I hope both of them are with us for a long time to come.

Now if I could just go back 10 years and tell myself in 2007 that you will fall in love with some Pigeons one day. 2007 me would never believe it.

Have a great Canada Day long weekend! I know we sure will.

Last bit, as per norm with Angie and I, we made a donation to Toronto Wildlife on behalf of the Jerseys. Sure we are already monthly donors and I do a fair amount of driving for them throughout the year; but nothing is free in this world, his care over 2 months and a week adds up. This is not a bragging statement, just a reminder to others that TWC is a charitable run organization and every dollar given helps.

If you suddenly feel warm and fuzzy after this blog, and would like to make a donation, click here. You can always tell them that "The Jerseys" sent you. Or Rob and Angie Mueller since they might have no clue who The Jerseys are. They are also having a sponsor a wild baby campaign, nothing is too small, which goes to the animals. You can sponsor an Opossum, a Turtle and others.


My latest nest blog is out, you can view it here. It's really short.

June 26, 2017

My 250th Life Bird

Hello! I'm baaaaaaaaack! The nest season is almost over and it will be the end of my nest blog which I hope many of you checked out. But this is not about that blog, this is about my 250th life bird.

I was sick all through the weekend, actually came down with it Thursday night. Whatever bug hit me, hit me hard and fast. I laid low through the weekend as much as I could. I even turned down helping TWC with a local wildlife situation near our home. I just couldn't move on Saturday.

Sunday when I woke up, I could tell I turned the corner on this illness. I was starting to feel a little better. I didn't want to push it and had every intention to lay low once again. Then the phone rang around noon. Long story short, it was a friend seeking any updates on a rare bird sighting not far from the house. A Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. When I think of this bird, I think Texas, as that's generally where one could see them reliably in the nesting season. It winters in Mexico and Central America. So ya, this bird is quite a ways from home.

I scoped the internet for my friend, giving him what I could find which was a pretty good location and last time it was seen. He thanked me and off he went.

The thought of this bird being so close to home played heavy on the minds of both myself and Angie. Over the next 2 hours Angie asked me 4 or 5 times if I wanted to go see it. I kept saying "no, I should rest". I was feeling better but my responsible side kept saying "be a good boy, stay home and rest". I worried about an exhausting walk in the field, standing around for who knows how long until the bird popped up... IF it popped up again. There was a thread on social media regarding the bird and people going to see it. Thankfully a few were keeping everyone updated on the sightings.

Angie asked me once again if I wanted to go see it. There was discussion about regret in the following days if I didn't go. She didn't want me to feel that. We don't chase rarities very often but this one was really close to home. I thought about it and this time I said "yes". We were in the truck minutes later and on our way.

A short drive to the park, a short walk to the location from the parking area and we were greeted by a few "bird people" as some call us all. One man quickly pointed out the bird to us. It was way out in the field and I caught a glimpse of it momentarily as it flew from a tree and then disappeared around a small hill. Unfortunately Angie did not see it at this moment.

There were some familiar faces in the small crowd, quick hellos were said and then everyone started walking the trail to hopefully find the bird way over across the field, somewhere behind this hill. No time for socializing when there's a rare bird to be seen. So no offense was taken by anyone for these brief greetings.

As we made our way over, there was a larger crowd already there with a few more familiar faces. The bird seemed to be doing the rounds about this field and people were in various spots, waiting, hoping it would come closer to where they stood on the trail. If there was 50 people there in total, 47 stayed on the trails. The other 3, well, there's always a few. They weren't aggressive, just eager. One woman politely asked one of them to please get out of the field and stand on the trail with everyone else. No arguing back, this person joined the group and that was that.

The bird reappeared. A long distant view for everyone but there it was. This is the scenario that played out over the next 45 or so minutes we were there. We had some great flight displays from this bird. What a tail on this creature! It never came in close for great naked eye views or photo opportunities but that's okay. It was awesome that everyone present enjoyed what was there and not a single person bitched about not getting THE photo.

As we saw more and more of the bird, we all started to relax and actually socialize among each other. Some people there I've not seen in a year or more. I was still feeling alright, not winded like I was a day earlier, and didn't mind catching up. When I'm unwell, I am the epitome of anti-social.

All in all it was a great little outing for Angie and I.

It's always nice to get lifers but even better when we can get these together. It's an even greater memory!

After we got home, Angie opened up the spread sheets with our life lists and added the bird. Little did I know that this was a milestone life bird for me... #250. I might'a celebrated this in the moment if I knew. Oh well, there's always #300, whenever that may come in the next decade or so.

Here are a few photos of the bird. Cheers!  The bird is in every photo except the first one; you may have to open them to full screen to see it though.  Just record shots that help tell the story.

Making our way over, a small crowd already gathered.


First long view of it sitting on a branch far far away.


If I didn't see it fly to this tree, I wouldn't have been able to spot it again.


Now I can really appreciate the tail on this bird.


When everyone is hoping to see the bird from where they stood and waited.


I was laughing at this moment below.


Always happens, look away and the bird does something.


Dude in the hat, please put down your notes and look at the bird passing by you!  LOL!  It's the only thing that comes to mind with this photo.  I'm sure he had many views of it by this time.


Our time there ended on a high note, really getting some great views of the Flycatcher, even as far off as they were.


You can see why they are called "Scissor-tailed Flycatchers".


Here we are the day after, there are a lot of people that have gone down looking for it already but the bird is not being seen. It has probably moved on. I'm still not 100% health wise but I have no regrets.

June 5, 2017

Made a Friend

One morning in late May. I was out in the shed working on some bird houses. It was cold and rainy, and the rain was coming down pretty heavy. The yard was full of birds. There was a lot of European Starlings with their young. Oh those squawky young birds chasing their mommies around for food. Bottomless pits!

I am moving about the shed, hammering some nest boxes together when suddenly I sense I am not alone. I stop, look around and spot this bird sitting there watching me.


I was a little stunned for a moment but then highly amused. My initial "what's wrong here?" disappeared as I watched him watch me, then shake the rain off himself, preen, look at me again, squawk, and repeat.

I finished up what I was doing. The noise and my movements did not bother him in the least.

I talked to him and he looked at me rather curiously. He tilted his head from one side to the other. I asked him where his mommy was. I talked about the crappy weather we were experiencing. And then I lost the fight to not put my hand towards him. I kneeled down and put my finger tips to his toes and as soon as we connected, he stepped on.

I now stood up and he stayed on. I held him to the open double doors, looking out to the yard. He wasn't interested in going back out there. I gabbed away to him a little bit more. I took a couple short videos, a few "cellfies" and then enjoyed a few more minutes with him in total silence. I just watched him. He preened himself on my finger tips and occasionally let out another squawk.

I couldn't resist the "cellfie" as I call these photos.

Looking out at his family and friends.

The morning was moving fast. I had somewhere I needed to be with those bird houses, even with all the rain coming down. I moved him over to the handle of my lawn mower. He stepped down like he knew I needed to go.


I told him he should go see his family now. I told him he couldn't stay in here all day. I gathered up the nest boxes, leaving the shed doors open and started walking up the yard, heading to the truck. I walked backwards so I could see what or if anything was going to happen, preferably returning to his family. And he did just that. He flew out of the shed and to the nearby trees, squawking a few times, and then he disappeared from my sight.

What a wonderful experience this was on such a dismal day. I will remember it for many years to come, that I am sure.

He may have been a young and naive bird but obviously he was pretty darn smart to know where to go to get out of the rain for a while. I can't help but feel a little honoured with what happened. Sure Starlings aren't high on any birder's list and even I get frustrated when they dominate the bird feeders some days. But we connected, our two worlds met for a brief moment, we were just two living souls and not man and bird. That's the best way I can describe it.

I know I grinned through much of my work shift later that day.

I look at all the young Starlings still about the backyards and wonder which one is him.

Perhaps the next rainy morning we have I will open those shed doors once again and see what happens?

I posted one of the videos on my YouTube channel, even as I put my hand out of the shed doors with him still on my fingers, he never left. Video here.

I expect some to frown upon this but he came to me. I didn't coax him with food. I embraced a unique encounter. Sure I did not need to have him on my finger tips like that but obviously the boundaries between us were missing. It was like seeing an old friend. I let go of my frustrations at this bird species for a while. Maybe my story will alter your view of this type of bird as well.