Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

February 21, 2016

A Nutty Thing Happened...

A nutty thing happened one morning this past week...

I had been out a number of times feeding Pierre and some of the other Pigeons. As I interacted with my flock of friends, I could not help but take notice to a peculiar Eastern Gray Squirrel who was observing us. With every visit out back to feed one of my birds buds, this Squirrel seemed to be more observant, like he was taking notes.

Probably the 5th time out for me, I'm on the back deck hand feeding one of the Pigeons, this Squirrel is on the ground below. He's looking up at the action and makes his way to a nearby tree. He's climbing up it, always keeping an eye on me and I could tell he was calculating his moves. Up the tree. Then on to the rail for the clothes line. He's almost eye level and a few feet away. Now he leaps on to my shoulder! If I was not expecting this as I watched him make his way here, he probably would have scared the bejeebus outta me. And from my shoulder he raced along my arm, scaring the Pigeons away and had himself a nice feast of shelled roasted peanuts and sunflower chips from the palm of my hand. It was a good handful and he was not about to leave any of it behind.

I was not freaked out by this but even with my comfort level I still used a heavy amount of caution with this interaction. The last thing I wanted to do was spook this Squirrel as who knows what could have come of it. I have been accidentally bit by a Squirrel in the past and it hurts like hell. Bee stings don't hurt nearly as much, well the initial stinging anyway.

He was cool and calm about this moment even as the p'od Pigeons fluttered around us.

I took a few photos, I shot a 1 minute video of the encounter and still had more time to kill as I let him finish up.

A good candidate for a "CAPTION THIS" contest.

When he had cleaned everything from my hand, I slowly moved my arm towards the clothes line rail. As I got my hand to it, he looked back at me, kinda like "I guess that's it, huh?" and hopped off.

He's been around every morning since then but we've not had a repeat occurrence. I've really not made the attempt. I'm fine leaving him a pile somewhere on the ground to have at and Pierre is quite okay with this too.

I talked to Angie about this. The Squirrel does look familiar and after some thinking back, we are certain he is one of our coffee deck buddies in the warmer days of 2015. He often got on the table and helped himself to some shelled nuts that Angie was tossing out to the Squirrels, so they would eat them and not bury whole ones in the garden. He has a very distinct tail, imperfect as some would call it. I am surprised we've not seen him for the last 4 months. I'm out there every day/night and if not, I am looking out the window quite often. Believe me when I say that not much goes through here unseen.

Hopefully he sticks around as Spring slowly approaches and mornings of coffee on the deck happen once again.

February 11, 2016

A Moment with Ivy

There is a new Peregrine Falcon in town. Her name is Ivy. You can read about her in the link here. She's a Jersey girl and her story is unique.

I first got word of her last year during Fall migration as she was "trapped" at a banding station down on the lake... Tommy Thompson Park banding station.

I borrowed this one shared through Facebook.

A bird bud of mine got some photos of her down there at some point during this time, Ivy was sitting in a tree. I thought of how cool this moment must have been because it's not often you see a PEFA sitting low in a tree.

Time passes from this point, talk of her seen about the city continues.

Jump ahead to mid-November and I'm watching a PEFA in Downsview Park. I see it is a banded bird. As a volunteer watcher of Peregrines during fledge time (and now all year long), it's become rather exciting anytime I chance upon a banded Falcon. Who is it? I gotta know! And at this point, I've let the buzz of Ivy in town slip to the back of my mind.

The way I read the band, it was 97.

I'm all "Holy s**t! A new visitor!" But thanks to my good friend Tracy Simpson of CPF, she corrects me and explains that it is actually 79. The numbers go around the leg band more than once; 3x if memory serves me correct. Okay so it's not a new bird in town but I've never laid eyes on Ivy before, so I'm still quite happy with my find.

Over the weeks, more reports of Ivy pop up. The ones I have been following are the ones in Downsview. A few other bird people like to visit this vast park more regularly than myself, and I thank them for the sightings. A thread on a bird forum has been started here, it's not about Ivy but about Downsview, and she does pop up in reports.

Ever since I signed on as a volunteer with Toronto Wildlife, I am in the park more often these days. If time allows between what I'm doing and going to work, I make the effort to have a look around. I had no views of Ivy for many weeks.

Then Monday February 8, 2016 comes, I am once again in the park, and there she is!

Actually, first sight of her had me stop for only a split second to take notice of a bird in a small tree just beyond Carl Hall Road. I could not stay because I had an injured Red-tailed Hawk in the back of the GMC. Apparently it had met with the front end of a bus. So getting this bird to TWC obviously was of utmost importance. But I could see the Falcon from the stop sign where I had to make a left on Carl Hall.

I drop the Hawk off, a short chat with the hotline staff and away I go.

A 90 second drive later and I am back to where I saw this Falcon. It's still there. I just knew it was Ivy! Seeing her in this tree that isn't much more than 10 ft tall was pretty amazing. I am so used to our birds at their nest sites many stories above ground.

The photo above is pretty crap and blown out. I'm using manual settings more often these days and the one thing is I must constantly change things with the camera as lighting conditions change. So quite often, in these moments of excitement where I see something way cool, I forget about my settings and end up cursing the initial shots. Since I'm no pro, usually there is a lot of test pics and tweaking as I go. Thank goodness for digital where deleting the bad ones is just a click away.

I'm watching Ivy from across the small road. She's clinging to this branch in the high winds and looking around. There are 4 Canada Geese just off in the distance. Suddenly Ivy takes flight and goes after the Geese! What the hell?!?! In my mind, it's a matter of "I don't know what you are, but I don't like you, and I want you to go away! I own this park."

This photo freaks me out. Just looking at that Goose defending itself.

Here we go again.

While it's unlikely she could kill one of these birds, she certainly could do some heavy damage to one if her talons connect. The Geese high tailed it further away from this aggressive bird. That did not stop Ivy from still giving them some grief.

The Geese disappeared and Ivy returned to the open field. She seems to prefer this one lone massive tree. It's where I first saw her back in November.

You can clearly see her band ID now.

Ivy did this a number of times. She would leave this tree, whip around the field and then return.

At one point she sped along, just over the ground, and picked something up. She carried it for 50 ft or so and let it go. A heavily cropped photo here, but I am pretty certain that is a coffee cup lid in her talons. McD's by the looks of it.

Another return to the tree and she began to hack away. Mouth open wide and I'm thinking she looks like she is trying to expel a pellet. Do Falcons do that like Owls?

Apparently they do as you can see the pellet dropping in this photo below.

In and out she flew a couple more times.

It really was something to watch her.

I think my total time with her was maybe 10 minutes, not much more. I couldn't ask for a better show from a Peregrine.

Another drop to the ground. What did she grab this time?

I couldn't tell at this point.

She did finally let it go and I watched whatever it was tumble and blow along the grass. I followed it until I was close enough to see with my own eyes. Turns out it was a clump of dirt and leaf matter.

It was at this point that she kept going east, flying over the hill and the "Peregrine Party" was over. Perhaps she went off to terrorize those Geese some more?

Downsview Park looks rather bleak for birding, and sometimes it is, where I don't see much more than a couple Juncos or Tree Sparrows in my hour long walk. Then other times, there is a real WOW factor as soon as I show up. It's the chance you take, it's all part of the adventure, just going out and taking in what nature presents to you.

I thank Ivy for a real WOW moment on this morning.

February 4, 2016

Long Faces

It's been quite a season for me and spotting Long-ears. I've seen more individual Long-ears than Snowys! I never thought that possible with the Snowy irruptions the last few winters.

For me, the Long-eared Owl is a real treat to see because they are very difficult to spot. They hide themselves well within conifers and it's like a treasure hunt to find them.

I chanced upon this guy a few weeks back. He did not exactly pick the best hiding spot, roosting right along a foot path. I did not see him until we were more than a little too close for comfort. Shocked the heck out of both myself and the bird. I slowly backed up and was able to get a shot before he gave me the ol' "I'm outta here!" I hate it when I unintentionally flush them. They are the most skittish species of Owl I have ever seen. If I knew he was here, I would not have stepped into his comfort zone, and would have re-routed myself.

Last week I chanced upon 2 birds in another park. The first one was brought to my attention by 3 Crows. They were just freaking on this poor Owl and eventually went at him, sending him flying to another spot, deep within a Pine tree. I only saw the Owl after the birds got physical and sent him flying over me. I watched the bird take shelter, the Crows still squawked away but did not pursue the bird any further.

Can you see the Owl? He's looking right at you.

In the same outing, a short bit later, I chanced upon this guy just dozing the morning away in full view off the path.

He was well aware of my presence but with our distance between us he seemed fine with things. I bet he was also well aware what was happening to his buddy due to those Crows. "Better him than me" he must have thought.

I never left the path to get any closer to the bird. Why did I need to? Who could ask for a better view than this? The first shot of him is no zoom, no cropping whereas the second is zoomed in and then cropped quite a bit.

If I don't see another Long-eared Owl the remainder of the season, I'm good with that.

The funny thing is this second encounter I am blogging about, I was out that morning and Long-ears were not on my mind at all. I had another bird of interest in mind, hoping to spot, which did not pan out for me. So seeing this was a pretty darn good consolation.

Another find.

Can you see the Owl? I think I may have shared this in another blog.

This one doesn't even look real to me, more like a painting.

It seems to be a good winter for these birds in our area. I really hope they all have a peaceful stay with us but I've already heard a number of horrific stories from reported spots. There's nothing wrong with people wanting to see these Owls but the welfare of the bird must always come first over any close view or photograph. Seriously! What are these people doing with their shots anyway?