Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

July 25, 2012

Where'd He Come From?

Over the weekend Angie and I took notice to one particular Pigeon out back who stood out amongst the group of nearly ten.  His personality was quite different, like how he walked among the group and not soon after, we found out how different he really is...

A morning coffee on the deck and I had company.

Of course it's not just me he's hanging onto, anybody who happens to be out in our yard.  Angie had some personal moments with him.  And so did some visiting friends on Saturday afternoon.  Be it on the knee, the tip of your toes, forearm, arm of the chair, whatever he decided, he did.  But this is all on his terms, he's still got some wild in him that you can't pick him up (which is a good thing).  I worry about wild creatures like this, getting too adapted to the world of people.  Sure he's safe with us, but who knows if he tried sitting on the lap of someone a few yards over who is not so caring about wildlife, especially Pigeons.  I know 10x as many people who have no love for these birds compared to those that go from toleration to admiration of this well adapted city bird.

Monday afternoon he chased me from one end of the yard to the other, and this is a near 100 ft.  He didn't fly the whole time, just ran as fast as his little legs could go (a Pigeon running through the grass is rather comical).  He is well and able to fly, and does so when he leaves us to join his friends at the back, or when the sun sets, and they all return to their roost for the night.

Today, Wednesday, I get up around 9am and he's sitting out in the middle of the yard just staring up at the back of the house, like he's waiting for someone to join him.

Thoughts go about trying to deter him but I don't think they will work.  He's quite set in his attitude.  And perhaps he's a little smarter than most would give him credit for, knowing we would never hurt him.

I figure we'll just enjoy his company while he is with us, try to look out for him the best we can when we are home, and hope he lives a happy long life. 

A funny photo op on Saturday afternoon.  Hey, might as well have some laughs and make things memorable.

And today I shot video this while sitting out back enjoying the cool morning.

July 17, 2012

Macro Mania

A fellow birder photographer friend of ours, Ann, offered me a macro lens a couple weeks back.  She happened to take notice that I enjoy photographing insects during the summer.  I jumped at the offer.

The lens is a Tamron 180mm 1:3.5, macro 1:1.  Which really doesn't mean a whole lot to me because I just don't understand all the technical talk.  It doesn't sink into my brain.  I find, like with most things, the practical means goes a lot further with me than the theory.  Practice makes perfect or as good as I can get with what I got.

Here is one of the first shots I took with the new lens, as soon as I got home, with the Butterfly bush out front of the house.  I am quite certain it's a "Painted Lady".

And soon after, I sought out a Spider in the shed.

I learned fast that a steady hand helps; but even better would be a tripod and a remote shutter button. The slightest movement and most of the shots are crap. New settings must be learned when photographing the invertebrates with this lens.

My friend Brian, who is much better at this kind of stuff, gave me lots of info over the weekend. And also gathered up a "subject" for us from a window sill. A small House Fly. We had a blast this past Saturday night with the little guy as the drinks flowed.

I am constantly seeking out other creatures in my travels through the yard. I see everything so much differently when in this "mode". The plants out back are the homes to these little creatures, their entire worlds for one season. And the detail on these guys is astounding. Insects half the size of my finger nail, being so colorful, having so much detail. Wow! Check it out...

Here is "Ash", one of our Fire Bellies.  I never knew he had tiny black spike looking things about his body.  And the pores are so visible too.

A Bee inside a Pumpkin flower sure looks like he's enjoying himself.

Not a clue what kind of Beetle thing this is, but he was chilling on the Milkweed.

Another mysterious creature out back.

I found this Moth resting on the lid of our BBQ.  The eye is huge.  But even cooler in this image, at least I see it and maybe you do too, is the bottom right corner, that squiggly stuff sure looks like my name.  Its either webbing, as you can see some on the Moth, or inside BBQ cover fluff.  I checked back for the squiggly stuff this morning to see what exactly it is, but its gone now.

And last is this really tiny colorful creature.  He was maybe an eighth of an inch long.  And I just found out he is called a "Candy Striped Leafhopper".

This summer is blazing hot and disgustingly humid but more tolerable for me when I get lost in the world of macro.

A big thank you to Ann for the Tamron!

July 12, 2012

Not What I Was Expecting

I am not certain if I even blogged on here about the Chickadee house having a second hatch. Maybe I keyed out the mystery of them possibly returning so soon after the first hatch had fledged?  Hard to remember right now, so much going on, and the nasty heat of this summer has seemingly fried my brain. It was all rather mysterious this second time around, and for the longest while, we weren't entirely certain what was going on. Its later in the season, it is hot and humid, the birds are far quieter now. But we were noticing one, possibly two Chickadees returning to the nest box. We never saw two together but especially over the Canada Day weekend there was a lot more frequency with in and out darts from the nest hole. So many times we would sneak up to the house and listen for peeps but never heard nothing; that is until this Sunday when I finally heard a teeny tiny Chickadee noise inside. Soon after I saw one little face peering out at me from within. I couldn't wait for Angie to get home and witness this once again for herself. And of course, she did.

Tuesday I took notice to the sounds of multiple Chickadees in the yard. Two for certain, maybe three.

Wednesday, all was quiet. I didn't even see an adult throughout my time at home.

Today, Thursday, having my morning coffee out back and listening to what was around me, and watching the little house... still nothing. I knew it was over, whoever was inside had "flown the coop" for sure.

I decided it was safe now to finally open the house up and see inside. I recalled the first time we had the hatch a few years back, and how I took apart the house, there was a perfect little nest inside. It was so soft and I couldn't get over how clean it was. Interesting that the little guys kept it clean. I never would have thought that. There were no feathers, no shells, just all the nest material nicely packed down. I expected to find the same today.

It turns out I was partially correct. The nest was as neat as it could be but sadly I did find one egg not hatched, and even more disappointing was the remains of one baby Chickadee. But let's try and not get too upset with this. First off, think about their first hatch... they had 5 healthy little Chickadees fledge. Second, the body within definitely was not that of the one we were hearing a few days ago. This one probably died very soon after the hatch, there really wasn't anything to him judging by his size. And with the scorching temperatures this summer, I am surprised anyone survived. The nest box gets lots of shade through the afternoon due to leaf cover from the Lilac tree, but lately, you just couldn't escape that heat when outdoors. And the nest box has only one hole in it, there is no air circulation. My mom and I were discussing it last week about how hot it must be inside.

I carefully pulled the nest out.  I placed the dime next to the egg to give you an idea on how small the egg is and the body as well.

That's one tiny egg, but when I think about the size of a Chickadee, its still pretty big.  I wonder how mom pushed 5 of those out the first time around.

I buried the nest with the little body in it out near the back.  I stopped for a moment to think about how many others have made their way here before him.  At least 7 creatures that lived with us over the years...  Kermy, Fatso, Pickle, Maude, NO, Bitch and Alice. rescue Toads, Newts and Tarantulas.  A surge of memories hit me all at once.  A few wildlife creatures came to mind as well of those who also share the ground under the apple trees.  Nice that we have such a large backyard with all that unused space when I think about it.

The house is rather dilapidated now.  We are going to seek out the same style come the fall and have it ready for their hopeful return next Spring.

Here is my blog from 2009 regarding the first fledge with the Chickadees.

And if you missed this from their first fledge of 2012, here you go.

July 4, 2012

A Story Long Overdue

Back in early May, I had heard from my friend John that our neighbourhood woods had a new guest in way of a Great Horned Owl. He and a mutual friend, Graham, had spotted it a few days earlier.

Angie and I had just started our holidays with many plans on the go already but were going to try and squeeze in some time to hopefully see this Owl so close to home.

Friday May 11th, we happened to be out in Whitby at another famous wooded area which can be quite a hotspot in the Spring migration for Warblers and others migrants since it is right along the lake line. We happened to see the resident Great Horned Owls this particular morning, and had a great viewing of the mother and one of her chicks as seen below.

We arrived home in the mid-afternoon, ready for a bit of a nap after such an early start. I had just drove the GMC up the drive, didn`t even have it in park yet, and my cell phone was ringing. It was Graham. I assumed he was down in the woods and had spotted our hopeful new resident. I was correct except this was followed by `I think there is something wrong with the Owl`. Graham and John had nicknamed him `Popeye`. I wish I could tell more of their story with him the days earlier but I wasn`t there.

My friends had seen the Owl a couple times in the past week but today he was sitting on the paved path for walkers and cyclists. He did not move as bikes raced past him. Owls typically do not sit on the ground, perhaps upon the catch of a meal, they may eat it there, but for the most part do prefer to sit high up in the trees. Graham had seen it on the ground a day earlier; he had caught himself a Garter Snake and was consuming it. But with what was going on this day, it was very clear the Owl was not right and well.

Graham had called me seeking out emergency wildlife care numbers that I knew of. The only one I had come to mind was The Toronto Wildlife Centre.

Angie told me to get myself down there and see what else I could do, since she knew there was no way either of us was going to relax now. She stayed at home, researching further on such situations, and staying by the phone. I gathered some towels and the animal carrier if needed and headed down there. This is how I found the Owl...

I met Graham and it was a long couple hours with a number of phone calls to various places like TWC, The Humane Society, another organization some passerby suggested to my friend. And I also called my friend Tracy from The Canadian Peregrine Foundation for any further assistance, such as over the phone instructions on the situation. Tracy has rescued many Peregrine Falcons in the wild so I figured a Great Horned Owl is very similar.

We all knew TWC was our best hope for this guy. But TWC is run mostly by volunteers and being early May, its their busiest time of the year. Between all the animal babies arriving for one reason or another to countless injured birds through migration, the centre is just swamped. And their volunteers are beyond busy with caring for every creature and taking phone calls with more animal emergencies every hour. Its unfortunate their response time cannot be as quick at this time of the year.

Graham had called and left a message. About an hour and a bit later, I also called and left another message. John was notified earlier about what was going on through Graham and luck have it that John was actually working up near TWC. He was finishing up, called us to see how things were going and decided to stop into the centre to hopefully speak with someone regarding the situation with the Owl. It was almost as if fate stepped in right when needed. And I believe moments after John had arrived at the centre, one of TWC`s volunteer drivers, Andrew, had just returned to the centre. Another moment of fate it seems! And soon after, John and Andrew were on their way to our favorite wooded spot near home to hopefully rescue this Owl.

From the time John and Andrew arrived on scene, it wasn`t long after that Andrew had Popeye in his hands and was walking back to the van with him. We all worked together, under Andrew`s instructions and guidance, to distract the bird with various light noises like breaking fallen sticks on the ground, snapping our fingers and low whistles while Andrew set a net over him. Popeye put up no resistance; another sign he was clearly unwell.

Andrew made a few phone calls back at the parking lot, even one to The Owl Foundation. I was raising my hand to take him there right away if possible since I had been to the Foundation back in the fall. But the decision was made to return back to TWC for further assessment. Andrew had already warned us this Owl was emaciated (meaning deteriorated from within due to starvation) and one of his legs was black and pretty much mummified due to a tie or wrap around it of cable of some sorts. One can wonder how the cable ended up around his leg and so tight but it doesn`t matter now. And with the lack of use with this leg, his other leg was now very swollen.

Sadly but understandably so, after his arrival at TWC, an assessment was made with the vets and it was best for him to be euthanized. We had such high hopes for this bird, especially after the adventure with him this day and what my friends saw of him earlier in the week. But at least he wasn`t suffering any further and kept his dignity in the end, something we all hope for.

I realized that afternoon something else, I missed my friends John and Graham. I used to see John quite often down in the woods, which I realize I never made mention of what woods... Lambton. It was there where we met and became friends through our mutual interest in wildlife and photography. And it is also where I met Graham. And John and Graham also met there. But with changes in work schedules for me and other events over the past year and a bit, we`ve just not run into each other very often.  During the wait this day, Graham and I had a lot of time to catch up and share our recent tales from the wild.  And after the smoke settled later in the day, John and I had time to catch up as well. Hopefully after the summer, when most people leave the parks as the weather gets cooler, we`ll be seeing more of each again through fall migration and into the winter months. Yes, I know it`s July now; but the colder months are far better birding months than the summer.  They are good guys, and over the past couple years, I`ve had some shifts in friendships for one reason or another; and have met a number of great people out there who share a common passion with the wild world around us.

Here is a nice photo John took of Popeye.  I can see through this why he got the name he did.

But that is life, it`s constant death of one, birth of another.  We were treated to a young Great Horned Owl sighting during our trip to Point Pelee National Park less than a week later.

This Owl caused some commotion amongst many people, creating a bit of a traffic jam in the park with so many trying to see him just mere feet from the road.

And we learned of another Great Horned Owl family west of Toronto.  This is a mother Owl who has at least one chick behind her up inside this bridge.  A very odd place to have a nest but also very safe being a few hundred feet up in a concrete structure.  No predators to worry about and that bridge is about the strongest nest a bird can have, it can take one hell of a wallop from Mother Nature and remain standing.

I wanted to tell this story a while back; but with Spring migration, and then the Falcon watches, there wasn`t the time to piece this together...  until now.