Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

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?

January 11, 2017

Hold On...

Hi everyone! I'm working on a blog at the moment. It's about my Pigeon friend Pierre and I having our biggest adventure EVER. It's near completion, but in the meantime, if you'd like to read something else from me... we do a monthly entry to Bird Canada and our latest blog came out yesterday. You may view it here at this link.

I just found this photo from October that I never shared as well. Anyone care to comment with a caption about this?

It makes me think of the more pleasant nights and I sure miss our nightly furry pals.

So ya, hold on, be back soon.

Cheers on Whisky Wednesday!

December 22, 2016

Days Before Christmas... Mother Nature Gave to Me

Hi everyone! What a week it has been. A few surprise bird moments right in our own backyard, sightings we never expected.

9 Days Before Christmas, Mother Nature Gave to Me... a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker!

Early December 16th I saw a funny bird fly into our Holly bush. It was my waking moments, I knew it was something different, but still half asleep and needing to make coffee, get our Budgies up, I quickly wrote it off as a Starling and my imagination.

About noon, as I am preparing myself for work, I saw a funny bird once again fly into the Holly bush. Now I'm wide awake and focus on what's going on. The daylight sure helped. Holy schnikes! A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker! The bird was picking at our Holly berries and then flying off with them. I was quite thrilled by this and hoped the bird would return for Angie to see, and the next day was the start of our 2 day counting for Project Feeder Watch. Thankfully the bird did return on Saturday. It spent the morning with us, then flew off in the early afternoon, not to be seen again. What's even more peculiar is there was at least 3 other people I knew of in Southern Ontario to suddenly have this species show up in their backyards. What gives?

Don't ask me, I'm just a bird!

6 Days Before Christmas, Mother Nature Gave to Me... an Eastern Screech Owl!

Here it is Monday morning. Yawn! The weekend went so fast. I dropped a bunch of Pepsi stuff off at Toronto Wildlife, had a peek about the park nearby (cold and quiet), and then I went home to finish up morning chores and prepare for work. Well, once again, around noon, I'm looking out the back window and I see something sticking out of our Owl box, which is about 40 ft away from the house. At first I'm thinking it's just a Squirrel but thought to grab the bins and have a better look. The shutters were closed so peeking through them didn't allow me to get a good focus at first. But when I did. My jaw hit the floor.

I know without any doubt that I said "holy *bleep*" over and over and over again; and by *bleep* I don't mean "shit" either. I quickly got myself dressed to step outside, going out the front door, slinking up the side of the house and creeping onto our deck at the back of the house. I was shaking with excitement. I joke to my closer buds that I was harder than a $3 jaw breaker. Yes, I was very excited.

I watched the bird, snapped half a dozen photos, and made my way back inside, going the same way to the front. I made sure I phoned Angie at work before I put this sighting out on social media.

The Squirrels were giving him some grief and I hope that has not effected him coming back. We've not seen him since.

Upon advice from others I've communicated with through some birding pages, I've put stove pipe around the tree. It's really worked in stopping the Squirrels from running up the tree. I may look into what can be done from above at a later date.

Both birds are new species (that we know of) to come to our property.

4 Days Before Christmas, Mother Nature Gave to me... a Great Horned Owl fly by!

We had a bit of a snowfall in the last couple hours before my work shift was done. It was big fluffy flakes but for some reason it still created some chaos on the roads. The drive home was slow. I made a detour not far from the house as traffic was really backed up on my regular route. I'm taking it slow 'n easy. Not as slow as what most were doing, but slow enough. Suddenly on my left, I see a large bird come flying across the road, full speed and getting lower and lower as it crossed the road. I almost came to a stop to let the bird pass even though it still had height over me. And it disappeared in someone's backyard on my right. Now what kind of bird would be on the hunt at almost 11 pm? A Great Horned Owl! No photos but the action is embedded in my brain. I can see it even as I key this. The darkened snow covered road, large flakes still falling and this bird... whoosh! That was the last thing I expected to see. There is a large woodlot very near here, multi million dollar homes on big lots with ginormous mature trees. Of course this is great Owl habitat.

We are mere days away from Christmas. I don't expect anything else but can't help but wonder if I will be blessed again. I'd really love for that Screech Owl to show himself again, more so for Angie to see him. The knowing there is one in our 'hood is pretty awesome.

I didn't think I was going to do another blog before the holidays but here is one. I didn't think I'd have such sightings this week but here they were. It's great having eyes open to the wild world around us!

All the best! Might not be back till 2017 now. Cheers!

December 16, 2016

She Heard My Call

I do believe in energy, an unseen vibe I guess is another way of putting it. Not everyone believes in this kind of stuff, but I do. Let's take yesterday as an example. I keyed out that catching up blog, touching upon my Pigeon friends in one part. Then 3 hours or so later, minutes before I am ready to go to work, I see a lone Pigeon sitting on the clothes line pole by the back door. Not many Pigeons do that so I knew it was one of "my birds". Lo and behold it was Pierre's missus! That's what I call her... "the Missus".

I see dozens upon dozens of Pigeons out back some days but I know "my birds". There's something unique about every one of them if a person takes the time to look for it. Then there's personality traits with each of them. However it may be, I knew who that bird was, and I was delighted to see her. 45 days away is a long time!

This is not the first time over the years where I've been missing "my birds" and I post something, usually a blog, and within a day they start showing up. Or is it just a coincidence? Unfortunately it's not worked with wishing for an Owl to visit our backyard or me picking a decent winning lottery ticket (don't need a lot, just make life a little more comfortable).

I gave her a good feed even if it meant it was delaying my leaving for work and getting that much needed medium D/D on the way. But it was so worth it.

I'm hoping my big boy Pierre will be next to show up in the coming days.

This crazy windy cold yucky last days of fall which sure feel like February weather are bringing in the birds. Hopefully blow a rarity into the yard, even if it is going to be Mr. Pierre. He sure is a rare one now being absent almost 7 weeks now.

So far this morning a heck of a lot more Pigeons flew in. A few others I recognize, who have also been missing for a while now. Time will tell.

If you missed yesterday's blog, here is the link.

I came across this online piece about Pigeons. Whether you like them or not, you should give it a read. 21 reasons why Pigeons are so great. Click here.

Shout out to Margie for commenting yesterday. Thank you! And may you and yours have a wonderful Christmas, New Years and beyond. Cheers!

December 15, 2016

Tis The Season... to be busy (catching up)

Hey hey all!

Who can believe that Christmas is less than 2 weeks away now?  I can't.  Now that I put that horrifying thought in your brain, let's move on to a bit of this and that from the last few weeks.

For starts, my pal Pierre the Pigeon has not been around since November 1st.  Actually his whole flock have not come in since the morning of that day.  I miss him, his missus, and Mickey.  I hope they are all okay and we mingle again soon.

My new friends come in almost daily. They aren't Pierre but they are pretty cool. These 2 sure get a lot more attention due to their plumage. Slowly I'm picking up on their personalities and they are trusting me more as our time together continues.

They are wise to the Hawk activity but them and their flock still come in. It's a quick feed and away they go.

We've had a few Hawk adventures, my last blog was about one with a Cooper's Hawk who I have not seen since that morning.

We have more appearances by a Sharp-shinned Hawk though. The other morning, just as day light was coming, I was sitting at the kitchen window, enjoying my first coffee of the day and I saw the flash of a bird rocket into the tall cedars at the back of the yards. Then dozens of Sparrows flushed from those trees. I knew it was a Hawk making an early morning strike. The Sparrows were probably still in a sleepy slumber when it occurred. I got dressed and slowly ventured down back. Yes, confirmation on what I thought. The small Hawk was successful in her attack, and got herself a meal.

It's odd that the Blue Jays are not messing with this Sharpie who is similar in size. Other winters we've watched 3 or 4 Jays go at this species of Hawk, pretty much messing with it. A couple would attack it while another one or two would go and get peanuts from the feeder. What gives this time around?

I'm not seeing our nocturnal mammals other than one of the Opossums. Almost every night I leave an apple core out for him, sometimes even a whole apple come the weekend when I'm not eating them like I do weekdays. There's usually one or two soft "mealy" apples come the weekend I will leave out. The Opossum never sees me do it. When I do chance upon him, he runs for one of the hiding spots in the yard and will stay there until I am gone. They are not a bold animal like the Raccoon. I've not bothered trying to take pictures of him for a while now. What's up with that?

Angie went away for a girls' getaway weekend a couple weeks ago. Now 20 years ago I would have been calling my buds up and we'd be racing off to the bars for a good ol' rocking drunken adventure, probably starting at the booby bars before hitting some live metal gig in the GTA. Nowadays, while many people seem to think I still live such a lifestyle because of my appearance, I'm more content for a quieter adventure, and often on my own. I always cherished my time alone with Meadow. Now we've got Merry and Molly, plus the others who enjoy their human companions being home. But I still make time to get out and have some "wild" adventures looking for birds and wildlife.

The weekend Angie was gone I decided to go looking for Screech Owls after dark. In the 2 nights, I ended up with 6 individuals within a 3 km radius of our home. That's pretty freakin' awesome I'd say. Of course I won't say where. It's amazing that during the day I'm not spotting these little Owls but come dark... BOOM! One was in a most peculiar place and it was on whim to try it in this spot while I enjoyed my fancy Italian dinner (pizza slice) in the truck. It was a small ravine area and an industrial area backed on to it. A small older woodlot not far off. I guess it was enough livable space for a Screech Owl (hopefully having a mate in the vicinity as well).

Owling after dark is not ideal for photos. Some people try, using flash, not knowing they are blinding these poor birds. Gotta love when someone shares a photo and the Owl has bright red eyes. *face palm*

Owling after dark is great for observing the Owls being active, and sometimes vocal, a listening video here for you. It's a totally different experience than finding one roosting during the daylight hours. I still may try for a photo, just for record. I won't use flash. I tweek the hell out of my manual settings on the camera and if there is lighting nearby, I try to use that too. I also have a small headlamp I will wear. I won't direct it at the Owl but below it to help in the photographic moment. I also use manual focus. 9 out of 10 pics are total fuzzy crap but usually I can luck out with 1 salvageable shot.

A week or so after having that epic Screech Owl weekend, I chanced upon a 7th Owl in another area during one of my morning walks.

He was seemingly asleep but was well aware of my presence. His head followed my standing position. A couple minutes watching him, half a dozen photos, I walked away. I was thankful for the surprise sighting.

I've seen some other Owls recently, visiting northern species of Owl (Screech Owls are year round in Toronto). I've made the oath not to share about them until the Warblers return to our area, meaning these Owls would be long gone. As with every winter, some of these Owls and their roosting locations get reported online, or even just a lot of blabber mouthing from one person to another, sometimes telling far more than one other individual, and it happens every year... the Owls get harassed constantly during the daylight hours. These are nocturnal Owls who prefer to sleep the day away. Some people are mistaken about Owls, thinking they actually like people, or at the very least do not mind them lingering around.

A colony of Long-eared Owls were reported and masses of people visited the location daily. Some people went day after day. I don't get the reasoning. Selfish sure is one word that comes to mind. Well, there are other words but I try to keep this an all ages blog. Some people do stay quiet, stay on the path and limit their time. It's sad that not everyone is like that.

I saw the Owls before all this took place, even before it hit eBird. I kept my distance for a few weeks while I listened to many stories of people behaving poorly with these birds. It was a colony of 5 and quickly reduced to one Owl in less than 2 weeks. Now that last Owl is not being seen for close to a week now.

I did go visit the location one morning last week, and not for the Owls, but a curiosity of the area after weeks of human activity. I saw no Owls. I saw no people. But I saw the change in the area. I saw the footwork of people who ventured through the cluster of small trees, trying to obtain photos without branches going through the shots. I saw broken saplings. I saw broken branches. One person even went to great lengths to carve a trail in the path with a large broken branch. It went from the entry point of the woodlot, following the path hundreds of feet, and then at the roosting spot, they pretty much carved a trench right across the foot path. Then, to add to it, they piled some broken branches to the side, pointing to where the Owl(s) once were roosting. How sad is that?

Some even try to bullshit the world by saying the Owl(s) are from elsewhere when they share their pictures. Or that they suddenly decided to venture into this tiny woodlot on their own accord and found them all on their own. Amazing how so many people suddenly, all together yet on their own, decided to go "Owling" in the exact same forest. How bad do some need their ego stroked, needing to feel like they are a great finder of Owls. If only they tried just a little harder to find these birds on their own and not chase the reported ones; they would see how much more rewarding and plain freakin' awesome it is. It's almost insulting that they try and BS like this to others.

And as usual, there is a lot of arguing among people about what is right and wrong with such things going on. It's mind boggling that some people think it is totally fine to disturb the Owls like they have, and just as okay to damage the property. Would they do this in their own backyard? It's a complete opposite to everything they would tell others that they stand for.

I must stop before I start cursing in this blog.

Please think about the birds and wildlife you may be trying to get pictures of.

And lastly, a few weeks back I happened to spot our resident male Peregrine Falcon "Lucky" at a nearby lakefront park. It was so nice to see him face to face, and not through binoculars hundreds of feet above the street.

He did put on quite a show.  You can click on the photos to make them full size.

Lucky is spotted here periodically.  He likes having a bath in the lake from time to time.  The park was rather busy, lots of joggers and dog walkers about.  Some off leash dogs were going to the shore in various spots which kept him moving about.

Super crop and full zoom with my 500 mm.

Nice fly by.  I actually have one where he's looking right at me but it's not clear at all.  Oh well.  It was fun regardless.

He seems to like this particular rock over on the west side.  A very safe spot from everything other than any big waves that could come from behind him.

It's funny how some people still do not get my love for everything. How can I love my Pigeon friends and still have something for Peregrine Falcons who LOVE to eat Pigeons. Why can't I enjoy everything the natural world has to offer us?

I hope to key something else out again before Christmas, but if not, I will you all the best in the holiday season, no matter how you spend it.

Cheers from the animals and I!

November 27, 2016

Damn! Bitter Sweet.

This morning I'm watching and counting birds from the kitchen window for Project Feeder Watch.  All is going nicely, had 18 American Goldfinches right off the start which is a great number for them, that I have not seen here in years.  A couple White-breasted Nuthatches, Chickadees, Juncos and Downy Woodpeckers as well.

In flew 3 Pigeons, I recognize the birds even though they aren't part of my flock of hand feeders.  The Pigeons are poking around in the garden, picking up whatever has fallen from the feeders above.

Suddenly all the birds rocket out of the yard.  The Pigeons are flying right towards the house and I know they are going to turn at the last minute and cut through the trees along the fence line.  Just as they are making this turn, which is maybe 15 ft from the back of the house, I see a Cooper's Hawk rapidly approaching the birds.

Before my brain really clues into everything, I see the Hawk on top of one of the Pigeons in the air, and forcing it to the ground.  BAM!  Just like that.  The two ended up just over the fence and in the yard next door.  I have a clear view of everything from the window still due to a very old wire fence that separates the yards.

I'm stunned at what I saw.  In all the years of backyard bird watching, I've seen a Hawk take something right in front of me only a very few times.  It's shocking, it's incredible to witness and it's also heart breaking.  But that is nature.  There is no mercy.  One can only hope the suffering is minimal, that the Hawk kills it's prey quick.

I'm watching from the window.  One part of me wants to run outside and try to save the Pigeon.  Another part of me knows this is part of the Hawk's survival, it has to eat too.  I want to watch.  I want to close the shutters.

I have the camera on the table and take a few shots through the glass.  I dare not open the window and possibly spook the Hawk, perhaps abandoning it's catch which I see is still alive and fighting back.

The backyard Squirrels have taken notice to this ordeal and aren't happy about it at all.  Tails flickering, they are slinking along the landscape, moving in on this Hawk.  A couple run past it, another runs right at it, stopping at the last second.  The Hawk stands it's ground over the Pigeon.  Another Squirrel charges in and the Hawk flies off, leaving the Pigeon on the lawn.  I can see the bird is still alive...  barely.  FUCK!

What do I do?  Do I go out there and end the Pigeon's life, perform a mercy killing on this poor creature?  The Hawk is still deep down the yard, just watching.  The Squirrels spread out and go about their business, not having one concern for that Pigeon.  Of course all the Pigeon's friends are long gone.

I decide to wait this out a little.  I fear my going outside could send the Hawk flying off.  The Pigeon is going to die regardless; it's almost lifeless now.  I don't want it's death to be a waste.

Moments later the Cooper's Hawk flies in again, going right for it's meal.  It grabs it in it's talons and flies off to the back, high in a tree, and goes to work plucking the Pigeon and then eating it's flesh.  I can see this all quite well from the window with my binoculars.

We have our very own nature channel.  Who needs television?

To think about 6 years ago I would be like "Ya!  Kill those Pigeons!  Get them out of here!"  How times have changed.

Just this past week an old Facebook status of mine came up where I was putting out some monster bird feeder that would be Pigeon proof.  Nowadays, I AM a Pigeon feeder in every sense.

I really hope this does not become a norm, our backyard turning into a blood bath, no matter what the Hawk(s) are taking out.  I'm only really spotting the Cooper's about once a week but that don't mean it's not been there more (not seeing carnage and leftovers, feather piles).  I've said it before if it ever got that bad, I would take down our feeders, dispersing things for a while.  I love all birds including birds of prey but I don't want any part of luring birds daily to their death.  It's not fair, especially to my Pigeon friends who have a trust in me.  The birds won't starve, we aren't their only food supply.  Not everyone will get this and I don't care.

I really hope I never see one snagging one of my special Pigeon friends.  I honestly don't know what I would do if I witnessed that in a way like I did with this bird today.  It's no wonder Pierre and his flock are staying well away right now.  Some think Pigeons are stupid birds.

November 16, 2016

Pigeon Pages Vol 2

Hello. Welcome back. I've been wanting to do another Pigeon blog lately and finally have the time on this drizzly November morning. I recalled doing one at some point in the past and found that I did, just shy of a year ago (Nov. 20, 2015), see here. Kinda funny, huh?

Things have changed around here a lot in the last month or so. As fall migration occurred, once again Hawks have come hunting our neck of the woods.

As I key this blog, the backyard is absent of all birds except one Sharp-shinned Hawk hiding in the cedars down back. This bird has wreaked havoc on all the other visiting birds. I've watched it even attack the Pigeons who are much larger than this Hawk.

Sharp-shinned Hawk from earlier this month.

Then another Hawk has been coming in as well. A larger species who even drives out the Sharp-shin. This is a Cooper's Hawk. Notice the bloody foot?

I don't have any ill feelings towards these birds. They are doing what they do. I offer food to all birds it seems, even if it's birds for birds. Hawks do help keep populations in check, weeding out the sick and the weak.

I've not had to touch my feeders sometimes for up to 4 days or more. I do see birds come in, but it's a quick grab and they are gone again. The Blue Jays are sometimes here screaming at one of the Hawks watching over the yard. The Jays will fight the Sharpie since they are similar in size. The Jays will not fight the beast that is the Cooper's.

I'm missing my birds visitors. It's not been a blood bath here that I can see. I've only spotted one pile of feathers in the last couple weeks between our backyard and the properties on either side of us.

I'm sure missing my pal Pierre. Most stopping in to read my blog know this bird. He's been coming to visit for over 4 years now. I see Pierre about once a week right now, along with his missus. I've only hand fed him once in the last month. Even Mickey is another MIA bird for the most part these days.

He must be missing me and the yummy treats he can only get when he comes to me. Shelled peanuts and sunflower chips. His visits now are whatever he can find on the ground, searching with 20 or more of his species that fly in with him in the few minutes they do before flying off in fear. I can't get my shoes on fast enough to go outside and greet him. It is obvious they have food sources elsewhere though some argue they are totally dependent on me.

What is interesting is that while he and his flock stay away, other Pigeons are coming in, taking advantage of the food source and taking chances with these Hawks lurking about. These new visitors aren't naive, first sign (sight or sound) of danger and they quickly vanish as well.

A couple of the new visitors stand out from the rest, and here you can easily see why.

The majority of Pigeon visitors are the typical blues and grays, with the odd red one. White feathered birds are far less common to come in, for us anyway. I think they are easy targets as they stand out from the rest.

It took no time for these two to figure out a better food source by coming to my hand.

I named them Jersey 1 and Jersey 2. I couldn't decide who was #1 and who was #2 but I finally figured it out. #1 has black feathers under one eye. #2 has black feathers under both eyes. I'm so clever! Ha ha!

I've not tried to take any better photos of them with my better cameras. So far it's only been shots with the phone. I'm just digging their company so much. Pigeons really are very personable birds if you take the time to get to know them. As I've mentioned in the past, having the opportunity to watch a flock day after day, I easily recognize individuals even when to others they mostly all look the same.

There is something about Jersey 2 that has me wondering. See, a couple years ago we had a Pigeon who looked identical to this one. We had named it Gene because of the Gene Simmons (KISS) similarities. I happened to be outside one morning when I noticed all the Pigeons take flight, and out from the garden ran a cat with Gene the Pigeon in it's teeth.

This is the cat. It hunted our yard often one Summer. I yelled at it, threw things at it, I sprayed it with the hose so many times. The little asshole continued to return. Feeders were moved, many times only putting a small amount in for the morning while home to watch and then that was it. We knew it had owners one street over from us, but they left it outside. In time, the cat turned quite sickly, had a terrible eye infection, later on a very bad limp and then was not seen again. How anyone thinks this is being a good pet owner is beyond. Good thing we are responsible pet owners, Meadow was always fully vaccinated and didn't catch these diseases such sick animals could leave traces of in our backyard where Meadow roamed on leash and harness.

So ya, the little *expletive* had Gene in his teeth and was trotting off with him. I ran to help. The cat got over the fence, still with Gene in it's mouth. I had a broom with me and in my rage and upset I launched it in the direction of the cat. My aim sucks, which is probably for the better, and the broom went beyond the cat but it was enough to make it let go of poor Gene. The cat darted off. Gene sat there on the ground for a moment. I quickly jumped the fence to come to his aid. Gene took flight, fast and hard, and disappeared. We never saw him again. This happened in 2014. We feared he may have had a heart attack in the panic especially when he took flight, working his heart even harder. Are you familiar with the term "scared to death"? It is real.

Also cats carry a lot of bacteria in their saliva, enough to kill other living beings as it travels through their blood stream. So while Gene may have gotten away, the cat could still have killed him slowly. It can even kill a human if left unattended over time. Believe it or not.

I came across this photo of Gene, not the best angle but...

Here is Jersey 2.

What do you think?

I know talking with some wildlife rehab friends about this when it happened to Gene, some remarked that if there was a bird who could survive a cat bite, it would be a Pigeon. Not to make them sound bad, but they don't exactly live in the cleanest conditions if you know what I mean. They adapt and can withstand things so many others could not.

We so bad ass.  Ha ha ha!

Here is Jersey 1 getting to know my friend Rob the other Saturday morning.

I'm having a blast getting to know these 2 birds. But it will be nice to see my old friends again, hopefully soon.