Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

November 22, 2013

Little Lost Bird, Big City... Big Hearts

Wow, 4th blog in a week!!!!!

A little while ago I took notice to a post on a birding message board for Southern Ontario about a Budgie visiting someones bird feeder in Toronto.  Now as many of you know, Angie and I have a soft spot for these birds ever since we caught two in our own yard and brought them inside.  Misfit is going on 7 years and Moonie is going on his 3rd year in 2014.

So every time I see a report of one flying outside, I get a pain in my stomach.  That bird came from someones home most likely and I hate to think someone loved that bird and it escaped in some kind of accident.  We lost Misfit on her one year anniversary in this house.  She returned to her cage in the backyard 2 hours later.  How lucky we were and it showed that Misfit really belongs with us.  But without any sort of band on the bird, who knows where it came from, whose family it was with, and how can they be reunited.  And of course there is the whole part on catching the bird before any of that stuff.

I contacted the man who made the report of the Budgie at his feeder and we discussed in great length about what to do about it.  At first the idea of leaving her outside to fend for herself was ahead of any other ideas.  As exotic looking as these Budgies are, they are pretty tough birds and real survivors.  Misfit is testament to that.  She lived out back for at least 4 months, through heavy thunderstorms and attacks from Blue Jays and Hawk strikes.  But it was late May to mid September and the warmer temps were on her side.  As first frost hit that September is when I said she needs to come inside.

I've heard of Budgies in Toronto in January, being at peoples feeders for a few weeks but never once heard of them still being around come Spring despite the steady food supply.  Who knows what happened to them?  I personally think they couldn't stand the sub zero temperatures for so many weeks and eventually died.  But that's just my guess.  Maybe someone else caught them and they lived happily ever after in another home?  For me, I don't want to chance that for any of them and will do my best to help them whenever possible.

This bird arrived at this man's feeder on October 2nd.  And when you have a bunch of plain ol' House Sparrows visiting you, getting something unique as a pretty little blue Budgie is pretty cool!

In my communication with the gent who had this guest, his name is Howie just so you know, I made the gesture of trying to help him catch the bird as the weather turned.  I think it was late October by this time.  I know Howie's concern for the bird grew as the days got colder but there was some reluctance because of stuff like how does one catch it, how does one contain it and what does one do with the caught bird afterwards when it's not in the cards to keep the bird?  Nobody wants to go spend money on a bird cage just to house a bird temporarily.  And placing a bird is another issue for sure, especially when you want the best for the bird, and not just have any stranger come and take it off your hands.  Too often the wrong family takes in a free "pet" because it's free and never thinking about the responsibility of having the animal.  Even little Budgies need lots of care from regular cage cleaning to daily interaction as birds are very social creatures.  Sticking them in a cage and leaving them there is not a great life for a bird.

We have a spare bird cage at home.  Its been used to temporarily house other birds over the years.  It was the cage I initially caught Misfit in.  I left it outside all summer long and Misfit used it often when the bird feeder was full of Jays and Blackbirds (Misfit knew her pecking order).  And lately that big bird cage has been a community play ground for our Budgies.  There are lots of toys and baths in there and bird treats.  Misfit and Moonie will spend all afternoon in there together.  We don't keep them together 24/7 as Misfit likes "her space" and will act out when she wants it.  We don't need Moonie getting hurt when this happens.

I made the offer to Howie that I would come out one day and try to catch the bird.  If it didn't happen, I would leave him the cage for the time being and hopefully he could catch her.  Howie thought this was wonderful!  Here's a guy (me) living about 30 kms away but it's mostly city driving which can be easily a 45 minute drive offering to come out and help.  And since neither of us really know each other except from bird posts over the last few years, we still are strangers.  But hey, its a bird in need and I'm willing to try, and Howie wants to help this bird too, so he's willing to let some stranger come to his home.  Animals can unite animal lovers.

I met Howie a couple weeks back now.  I should have gone for the bird upon first sight of her at his feeder, just throwing a towel over her and hoping that would be it.  You know, before she even knows what is going on, just do it.  But I was hesitant, observing her and trying in my head to figure out the best way as to not hurt her in the process, what with the feeder and pole in the way.  But a few attempts came up empty and by now the little girl knew well what I was up to and wanted no part of that.  I guess it was an hour and a half later we watched the Budgie fly up over the neighbour's house and disappear.  It was cold, the rain was moving in, so we gave  up.

 I left Howie the cage and wished him the best of luck.

A few days later Howie contacts me that he caught the bird.  She sleeps in a shrub out back, not much more than eye level and near the edge.  He walked out there and grabbed her in her sleep.  I bet that was a shock to the bird.  And he put her in the cage, covered her up and put her inside for the night.  He called me immediately and I was out there the next morning.

It was nice to meet Howie a couple times that week and I hope to see him again out there in the wild world enjoying the birds and whatever else we may cross paths with.  And NOT chasing Budgies in the city.

The bird was clinging to the side of the cage when I got there.  Howie believed she spent the whole night like that.  And as I drove towards the west end again, the bird stayed just like that.  She wasn't keen on moving onto a more comfortable perch or going for a nibble of the seed in a dish.  I took Steeles across to get back to the west.  It was near noon and I was feeling peckish myself.  I wanted a Timmies coffee and had a hankering for an apple fritter.  We started our journey in the Bayview area and it was not until after Jane St before I found a Tim Hortons with a drive through.  I have no issues with going in a Tim Hortons for my coffee, usually its faster than the drive throughs, but I just didn't want to leave the bird.

I got my coffee and apple fritter.  Little bird is still clinging to the side of the cage.  She's actually upside down the whole time, hanging like a bat.  Its funny because Moonie does this on occasion too, and this bird could be Moonie's twin.

I'm pulling onto the Hwy 400 now, got the apple fritter out and am beginning to eat it.  It was at this moment the bird suddenly changed her whole demeanor.  She focused on me eating.  Her head would turn from side to side, looking at me.  She then hopped off the side of the cage, onto a perch and still watched me.  The head kept twisting from right to left, going sorta sideways in curiosity.  She let out a couple little tweets and next thing I know, she's in her food dish, eating with me.

For me, this moment was just pure awesomeness!  We had a breaking point here, she wasn't a stressed out little bird wondering where the hell she was going, who she was with.  Stressed out animals really don't eat when in distress and confusion.  So to me, this was a truly special moment with this bird.  Of course now she's suddenly warmed my heart right up and I love her already and want to keep her with us.  Unfortunately taking in another bird in our tiny house just isn't in the cards.  But that don't mean she can't stay with us temporarily while we find her a good home.

We got home and I put her in the upstairs area.  Its one room across the top of the house.  It used to be the attic.  The windows are small so I put her near the front window so she had natural daylight.  It was a mild day so I knew she wouldn't be cold.  The insulation up there is poor since this used to be the attic.  But I knew it would be better than any given day outside for her in November.  I let her chill out and rest.  A few hours later I brought her downstairs and let her mingle and be in our company.  She tweeted lightly and I believe she liked the company.  Once Moonie heard her, he went into freak outs of excitement and joy.  Moonie loves all other birds and any songs or tweets from Jays, Sparrows, Cardinals, Chickadees, whatever send him in a spree of shrieks and supposed Budgie songs.  Misfit was indifferent really.  She gave little acknowledgement of the bird.

Angie arrived home a couple hours later and met the little girl.  She adored her almost immediately especially when she began to tweet so softly.  We were pondering how to make this work, keeping her, but both knew it should not be.  But we were going to help her.

I had put a plea out to friends on helping find this bird a home.  A few offers came in and one was just so perfect for the bird and us.  We knew in this home, she'd be in the best of hands, with an experienced Budgie owner.  And the bird would have a couple feathered friends which is great for when the humans are busy, the Budgies have each other to talk to.  Angie and I cannot thank our friend Chris enough for taking her in.  Its one thing to find a home for an animal but words cannot describe when you know the animal is going to a great home.

Its been almost a week now since the bird arrived in her forever home.  She's doing very well and took little time adapting to her new surroundings.  She talks to her friends, she eats spinach which is something our birds never do...   eat anything but seed that is.  And most importantly, something we couldn't wait for, was this little girl was given a name.  Her name is "Belle".

Who knows how long Belle was out in the wild?  And imagine if she could talk, the stories she could share, much like our two birds.  All I know is I am grateful there are lots of caring people in this world, from Howie taking notice to this bird and wanting to help her, Angie and I for what we do, Chris for opening her home to this sweet little girl, and the many many others in this city, with their own stories.

Animals enhance our lives if we so choose to let them and make us better people.

All photos are courtesy of Howie, used by his permission.

November 21, 2013

See Ya Sideways Sam!

It is with sadness that I pass on the news of Sideways Sam and his outcome.

Toronto Wildlife Centre deemed his condition to be very rough and untreatable.  I called them Tuesday for an update and heard back from them on Wednesday.  They gave me a list of things wrong with the little guy and most severe was head trauma, which was in part cause for the condition in his eye, and he had a broken wrist some time ago that had set improperly.  I kinda forget the rest as big words were used and really it didn't matter because Sam wasn't coming home.  He went to the big forest in the sky.  They thanked me for catching him and bringing him in.

I feel like kinda feel like s**t as I think about it, and I am allowed to be sad.  But I know it was the best for him.  He's not suffering anymore and his passing was quick and painless.

We didn't have a very long time with him out back, not that I can say for certain.  The misfits of the yard, the ones who stand out among the rest for one reason or another get names.  Sammy got one in his final weeks among us and I guess that's pretty cool.  Even as a little Squirrel in a city full of humans, he still mattered and will be remembered in our memories and the 2 blogs about him.  The crook of the pine outside the back door is so empty without him there every morning waiting for breakfast.

Here's Angie words about him from her Facebook page...  R.I.P. Sideways Sam. I'm glad you made your home in our backyard, if only for a little while. I hope you knew some people cared about you. I'm glad you're not suffering anymore and I hope you run into Smokey, Jigger and all the others who have passed on from our backyard to the big backyard in the sky.

Of course if something like this ever happens again and we know an animal needs help, we will go the same route to try and help them.  I've turned 4 wildlife creatures into TWC and only one made it back out.  I'm hoping for a little turn around in those numbers.

I made this from one of my pics a couple months ago.  It's not Sam but I love the image and the words are so true that only some will get...

If you happened to have missed the initial blog about him, here it is.

November 20, 2013

Fund Raiser to Help Build a Songbird Aviary

Hey everyone!

 This Saturday we will be participating in a fund raiser at the Wild Birds Unlimited store in Etobicoke @ 5468 Dundas Street West (Dundas and Shaver).  It is for Hobbitstee Toggenburgs Wildlife Refuge. The goal is to raise $1500 to build a songbird aviary in the Spring of 2014.

There will be a 50/50 draw, raffles with some great prizes, 10% off many non-seed items in the store which include some great Christmas gift potentials for the nature lover in your flock.  Or come for a coffee and cookie, say "hi" and make a donation, nothing is too small, as every bit goes towards helping injured songbirds come next Spring migration.  Come meet Bilbo the Groundhog, Jim the Snapping Turtle and wildlife rehabber Chantal who may share some stories about life as a rehabber.  The event goes from 10am to 5pm.  If you cannot attend but still would like to help, message me for other ways, contact Hobbitstee or just call the Wild Birds Unlimited store @ 416 233 3558.  Hobbitstee also has a wish list of needed items that are just as much appreciated as cash.  The items include...

dry puppy food, UNSALTED sunflower seed and peanut in the shell, powdered milk (esbilac puppy)

Food supplies...
heated electric bowls or buckets, cage mounted water bottles

pine shavings, electric heating pads, incubating heat lamps

Cleaning supplies...
clorox or lysol wipes, laundry detergent or bleach

dog toys, pine cones, postage stamps, large garbage can with lids

clumping litter, recycled newspaper cat litter

heavy duty gloves, outdoor extension cords, working power tools

If you happen to donate any such items in used condition, please ensure they are clean and in good working condition.  Just think of it as if you were the receiver; would you happy to get such a thing from another in that condition?

If you are on Facebook, check out and LIKE Hobbitstee here.  They have a blog which you can view here.  A YouTube channel which you can view here.  This here video is my fave since Angie and I took part in the release which was amazing to see 5 young Red Fox return to the wild.  And here is more ideas for donating.  Lastly here is the event page on Facebook for this Saturday.

As I mentioned, Angie and I will be there much of the day too, minus lunch break.

Thanks for giving this a read and we hope to see you there!

Here is one of the young Fox from the release back in the summer.

November 17, 2013

Sideways Sam

Look at that photo above.  That is the back of our GMC Jimmy on Sunday morning.  What a mess!  The empty bird cage is a blog all on it's own that will be coming later this week.  Ignoring almost everything else, just look at that blue towel now.  Underneath it is a live animal trap and in it is our Sideways Sam.  What's a "Sideways Sam" some of you may ask?  Well, he's a grey Squirrel.  And he got his name due to his condition being partially (or fully) blind in his right eye.  So when he runs around, whatever is up with that eye, makes him run in a sideways motion, always pulling to the left but he'd correct himself if he had to or just kept going that way.  I had my friends try and come up with a name for him since I drew a blank.  And in the end, Angie called this one and it stuck.

I can't really say when Sam showed up.  We have so many Squirrels running around these days and only one had been named in the last while, and that's "Baby", once again by Angie, and she will have to tell his tale one day.  But Baby stands out from the crowd and got a name.  And when I began to take notice to the "blind in one eye guy", he soon got a name.

It's only been a few weeks of seeing Sam in this condition.  We've only had 3 grey Squirrels lately and I'm sure he's one of them and whatever happened to him is pretty recent.  I'm hoping it's only an infection or something else treatable because we'd like to see him around the yard again one day.  But time will tell.

So ya, with his condition, I noticed the other Squirrels giving him a real hard time in the yard.  I guess it's the "something is wrong with this guy, lets run his butt outta here, can't waste good food on a sickly Squirrel" because sometimes I would see 3 or 4 Squirrels chasing Sam out of the yard.  Sam would flee from the terrors and watch the yard from a distance.  I felt bad and did what I could to help him.  First was coax him near me down at the back of the yard and I began feeding him steadily and ensuring he was eating and not being bothered.

I've spent easily 45 minutes to an hour at one time with him, tossing nut after nut to him, and Sam would stay close by me, eating in peace.  He ate 10, 12, 14 in a row!  I've never seen a Squirrel eat so much, not burying anything.  And then either I had to leave or he did and we'd meet up before dark or the next day for another session.

I decided for the time being to monitor Sam and see whether he'd be okay or eventually need help.  As he ate more and more, he made some noticeable changes...  like he began fighting back against the other Squirrels.  He didn't take their crap and stood (and kept) his ground out back.  Me being home on short term leave due to my shoulder allowed me lengthy amounts of time to keep watch over him.  I relayed my observations to Angie and we both agreed that this was the best way for him right now, let him do his thing, be a Squirrel, but continue to monitor him.

But sometime last week, I took notice to his right eye now being completely shut instead of 90%.  I also noticed all his Squirrel friends and foes packing on the body fat for the coming cold days ahead; but Sammy still looked pretty thin and runty.

I called Toronto Wildlife Centre and had a talk with one of the people in the call centre.  I already knew everything that they were going to tell me just because of previous experiences and really there wasn't a whole lot they could say without seeing him for themselves and giving him an examination.  I knew they lent out live traps with a $20 deposit and asked if they could hold one for me.

It was Friday that I picked the trap up.  I set it with some peanut butter and bread and waited and watched.  Sam was on it in no time and he was reaching in the side of the cage at the bread.  He managed to scrape some of the peanut butter off, and licked it from his paws.  I left the room for a bit and upon return, he or another Squirrel had gone in the cage and pulled the bread out without tripping the wire (setting off the trap).  Saturday we had a very busy day so there were no attempts to catch him.

Today, Sunday, we were watching him from the window.  I had been feeding him a few peanuts already.  And at one point he was running along the deck when he just fell off the ledge and dropped.  It was a little comical but because we knew of his current state, the laughter quickly silenced and concerns rose.  I set the trap up once again and in very little time, but with some interference from other Squirrels, we caught Sam!  A handful of peanuts in the cage got him in there once again.

I quickly got outside and put a towel over the cage.  Sam was making some awful grunts of being totally freaked out.  But once under the cover, he calmed down pretty quick.  I called TWC and left a message I was on my way with him and away we went.

It's about a 20 minute drive to TWC,  I turned the radio off, kept Sam covered, and wondered how this was all going to go.  Of course we want him well and back home with our crew again but its 50/50 until he gets examined and hopefully treated.  And all the while I am thinking and stressing, I hear this crunch crunch crunch in the back of the truck.  I know that sound all so well.  It was Sam eating the peanuts I put out for him.  He was shelling away and eating them!  I have to laugh about this.  Seriously?  Little Squirrel dude is in a cage, in pretty much total darkness, inside a truck, a place he's never been, no idea what's going on but he manages to stop worrying about it and eat 4 whole large peanuts, shell 'em and chomp 'em down!  Stressed out, freaked out animals aren't supposed to do that!  I will chalk it up to Sam knowing he wasn't in danger, feeling the vibe that he was in good hands.  What else could it be?

Anyways, this is where it ends for now.  I got him to TWC and here we are nearing 12 hours later.  I will call to inquire about him on Wednesday and pray for some good news.  If you feel it in your heart, think about this little guy and send him a well wish too.

I really want to see him like this outside our kitchen window again soon...

and not have this as my last memory of him...
I had to have one last peek at him before I took him into TWC this morning.

Here's a video of him just before the weekend, gives you an idea why I decided it was time to get the trap and try to help him.  Click here.

Its a few days later, and I heard back from Toronto Wildlife Centre late Wednesday afternoon.  I did a short blog about the update on Sam.  Please click here to check it out for the latest!

November 12, 2013

The Birder Vs The Photographer

A cool blustery morning this November 12th, 2013.  A high of +2c but with the winds it sure felt much cooler.  I finished my physiotherapy mid-morning and got myself a Timmy's and went for a walk near the house.  I didn't have the camera with me and thought just taking in the brisk air, sipping my coffee and enjoying the sights and sounds of nature would be awesome.  And it was, as most times it can be...

I enjoyed Cardinals, Chickadees, Jays, Ducks, Gulls, and a few Golden-crowned Kinglets through my trek along with a couple sleeping Raccoons, no humans, and that coffee was damn good.

As usual, I'm scoping the conifers (cedars, pines, spruce trees) and any cavity, no matter the size, that I could see without the help of my binoculars or camera lens.  And to my joy and surprise somewhere along that walk I discovered an Eastern Screech Owl sitting on the edge of a tree cavity up the path.  We had about 40 to 50 ft between us (rough guess but it wasn't close) and I just froze right there, looking at him, and he looked right back at me.  If you read my last blog about the Saw-whet Owl...  I said "no matter how softly you walk, they always hear you coming" and this guy sure did.

As usual with Owl encounters, I didn't spend much time in his company and I didn't move in any closer because I didn't see the point.  I just watched from a distance, sipped my coffee...  and I could feel a battle within me, the joy of the birder spotting such a wonderful creature and the photographer side cursing away about how I'm missing a great photo opportunity.  I don't really like to refer to myself as a photographer because my outings really are what this was...  just being out, enjoying what I see and hear, and the creatures are living beings and NOT photo subjects to me.  I just love getting a few photos when the opportunity presents itself to me and especially with Screech Owls in cavities because they are unique photos, no two cavities are the same and its great to show how the birds blend in.  See my Masters of Camouflage blog as testimony to this!  I love to share what I see in my travels with family and friends and slowly turn people on to getting outside their own neighbourhoods and enjoying all that is around us in the wild world.  But anyways, the joy and the disappointment battled away in the back of my brain while I watched this bird.  Eventually the birder won, kicking the photographer's ass out of the moment and it was great.


Here is pretty much what I saw (zoomed in of course) as the cavity wasn't more than 7 or 8 ft from the ground.  This is Echo from a photo shoot we had at Mountsberg's Raptor Centre a few years ago.   Now if you came across such a thing in the wild, wouldn't you wish you had your camera with you?

This blog has been brought to you by me, an Owl, White Owl Whiskey and Zimmers Hole!


November 7, 2013

Here We Go Again (Owl season is here)

I saw my first Northern Saw-whet Owl of the Autumn season today, well one that was not at a bird banding station anyways.  Since I am off work right now still healing from that shoulder injury, I try to take advantage of the few nice mild days that still remain as we slowly move closer to the winter season.  Going out for a walk someplace is great for fresh air, mild exercise and overall mental health.

I make it a habit of scoping conifers in my walks no matter the time of year because all sorts of birds like to hide in them and you just never know what you may see.  And it's November now so northern Owls are on the move south once again.

I saw the back of this little Owl and my heart jumped with a moment of excitement.  The white spots on his back just caught my eye and his tree wasn't much more than 15 ft from the path I was on.

Can you see the little Owl in this photo?

I scoped the area a little at first, seeing who was around me.  If you aren't sure why I did this, perhaps you should visit some of my older blogs about some people disturbing Owls?  Like Through The Eyes of a Saw-whet Owl or Stealing An Owl Ain't Cool.  

And once all seemed clear, I looked to find an opening and make my way around the trees to see his front side while not be too disturbing of his day time rest nor destructive to the grounds.  I had to do a bit of a walk around as there was a fairly open space on the other side before another grove of cedars.  I walked as lightly as I could but even while they appear to be sleeping, they are quite aware of what is going on around them.  Owls have an amazing hearing ability, I forget the scientific facts at the moment, but being able to hear field mice moving around, even under a blanket of snow is incredible hearing.  So yes, while I think I am being stealth like, its never enough to sneak up on these birds.  But I am a firm believer in respecting the creatures we see out there, and in many cases we will be rewarded with great views of them.

So, I found my way around the trees and got a lovely view of this little one's face.  What a sweet sight watching the Owl sleep the day away!

I took about 15 photos, zooming in and out, toyed with the settings and enjoyed my less than 5 minute view of him. I quietly watched him with my own eyes, and not through the lens or binoculars, for much of that time. 

It was upon my leaving that the little Saw-whet opened his eyes, of course hoping I was leaving and not coming in any closer. 

Please enjoy all the wildlife out there and give them all the respect they so deserve.  They are just trying to survive.  And don't be afraid to speak up to someone who may not be acting as such.  You don't have to be loud and mean but sometimes it is necessary and expect anything in return.  I try polite and educational bits first and take it from there.  If you can change one person, or educate a group, it will help.


*note* the last year I have been mostly using a Sigma 500mm lens which has great zoom capabilities.  So while the creatures I display to you in these blogs seem really close, in reality they are not.  Wildlife photography should be done with great zoom equipment to ensure even less disturbance and invasion of the animals' habitat.  You don't need a big heavy lens these days as even the small point and shoot cameras have incredible zooms on them.