Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

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.

May 18, 2017

Just Checking In...


Just thought I would pop in and remind some that I'm blogging more with my Toronto Nest Blog than this one for the next few months. Latest entry is here.

We spent a few days down in the Long Point/Port Rowan area while on a 2 week vacation. Nice area and I will blog about it soon, once I'm back on the grid, meaning vacation is over. Booooooooooo!

Speaking of nests, check this one out. Can you spot the nest of a Ruffed Grouse in this photo?

Here's another of a Northern Flicker.

See what you could be missing by not going to my nest blog?

But I will be back to this one soon enough as time sure does fly.

How long until you may be tired of the Raccoon ones coming? I can't believe it's that time of year already.

Here's a momma Raccoon near our home, covering the cavity where her children sleep inside. I'm sure this is to keep them from wandering around without her. What a good momma!

April 26, 2017

The Jerseys of Late

Good day,

Just stopping in to talk about the Jersey Pigeons that so many have taken a fondness to.

Unfortunately I don't have a lot of good to tell you at the moment.

For starts, Jersey One, has been MIA for about 2 weeks now.

I'm hoping he's just off with another part of the folk somewhere in the area.  I can't say Jersey One is my favorite of the pair but he is the kinder one, spending more time with me during visits, hanging out on my hand.

As for Jersey Two, well, he's at Toronto Wildlife.  He's been there since April 21st.

About a month ago I was feeding them and I noticed that wet look about him.  He smelled pretty bad too.  I couldn't quite nail it but it's something like old vegetable oil.  I can only wonder what he got himself into.

I made contact with TWC regarding him.  It was advised that if I could catch him, to bring him in (with advance notice of course) and they would most likely be able to clean him up.  It took a while to do this because either his timing was off, not arriving until too close to work time, or he got away from one of my few failed attempts; and with Angie's broken foot troubles we had been to a number of doctor appointments through the weeks and I've not been around or too consumed with my own life.

The fact he was still able to fly well and in every other way was a perfectly healthy Pigeon, I wasn't overly concerned.  I knew in time I would be able to get him.

Actually, the story of my grabbing him is kind of funny.  Believe it or not I had the assistance of Pierre.  That Friday morning Pierre is waiting outside the back door.  In comes Jersey Two.  The day before we had a really cool rainy day and I knew my bird pals were quite hungry.  Jersey had no patience on waiting for Pierre (King Bird) to finish up and he flew to my left forearm...  Pierre is feeding from my left hand.  The birds got into quite the coo coo cooing argument right there and next thing I know they are getting aggressive with each other.  They are biting at each other and wings are flapping, whacking each other.  I knew with his distraction to the fray, that this was my chance.  A quick grab with my right hand and I had him in that bander's grip I mentioned in my Pierre and TWC blog a couple months ago.  Jersey Two quickly submitted, probably very confused to what was going on, why his human friend was doing this to him.

It was a bit of a wait before we hit the road to the centre.  I wanted to wait for morning rush hour to die off.  I figured no sense in us sitting in traffic, crawling the roads; better off to keep him in a dark quiet spot at home until it was time to leave and have half the drive time.

He was a little restless during the drive.  I spoke softly to him.  I don't think it had the same effect with him as it did with Pierre.  This bird has only befriended me in the last 7 months; it's going on 5 years with Pierre.  But overall he was pretty good about the confined road trip.

I dropped him off and now it's a matter of waiting, hoping he comes home sooner than later.

And I've got just as much hope that his side kick comes back too...  sooner than later.

They've been such a joy to have around as you can see.

That's the thing with wildlife, we don't always know what happens to them.  I know someone else out there is befriending them, probably getting the ball rolling on these birds having trust in people.  It's funny when new birds fly in and jump right on me, being like "what up dude?"  I love them all but no way they can sense it just like that now.

Please wish the best for both of them.

April 21, 2017

Please Check This Out...

Hello!  How's it going?  Is anyone out there?

I've shared the news on social media but this is for anyone who may somehow follow me, finding out about my blogs through other means...

I've started a sub-blog called Toronto Nest Blog and you can view it here.

Why would I do something like that?  Well, more for me than anything else, keeping such data and adventures separate from my regular blog.  It's only seasonal, running from April until July, when I am helping monitor nest boxes in our area, mostly being Tree Swallows.

I may touch upon the latest with our Peregrine Falcon fledge watches or any other nests of interest I may chance upon.

Of course if anything else happens throughout this time, I will be right back here keying about it.

Life is getting back to normal around here as my wife's broken foot heals.  We may not be running after the Warblers as hard this year but we will still be out there.

As I key this, I am listening to the morning sounds of the first White-throated Sparrow in our backyard for the season.  They don't stick around us for more than a week or two so this is nice.

Anyway, I hope to see some of you over there.  I've done 2 entries this week to get it going.


April 12, 2017


Hellooooooooo! Welcome back. Sorry for my absence. Life got pretty crazy ever since my wife Angie broke her foot on the first day of Spring. All the more reason I share this blog now, since it was her last outing with me (for a while anyway) on the last day of winter.

March 19th Angie and I had an encounter with 2, but quite possibly 3 Coyotes. We had decided to go for a walk at dusk, the "golden hour" as some call it. It was a pleasant evening, the very last official day of winter. It had been sunny much of the day and +5 Celsius. Although I'd been unwell all weekend, the thought of fresh air and possibly some wildlife sightings enticed me. For Angie, it was getting a good walk in, getting her steps, and perhaps seeing a few birds and whatever wildlife presented itself to us.

First sight as we started our walk.

The animals stayed atop the hill. One kept an eye on us even though we were quite a distance away.

While the other looked on elsewhere.

This is their first light, as brief as it will be. They probably took in the last warm rays of the sun before the cold night set in.

All I can say is that it was an amazing sight to see these creatures. Of course the camera side of me wished for something much closer, getting some kick ass photos, but the nature side of me embraced this because it's not very often that I see Coyotes, especially more than 1. Most Coyote encounters of mine have been accidental. Quick views, I don't have the camera ready, and before I know it the animal has disappeared. So seeing these two taking in their morning atop this hill was very peaceful and I was quite grateful to witness it.

We continued our walk that had barely begun, heading away from the animals.

Then, X amount of time later, heading back, we saw a possible third elsewhere.

Another crop job just like some of the previous shots. There was actually a fence between us as well which added to the challenge of getting a photo. This could have been an amazing photo without the fence, without the distance, but I'm good with that because it was an amazing encounter.

When I share Coyote sightings on social media, most people are just happy about my encounter. Some do ask for locations to hopefully experience this as well and some want to know just to avoid the area because they are fearful of these creatures especially when walking their dogs or taking their kids out. It's the fear bit that I'd like to touch upon.

Why be afraid?

Sure a Coyote is a wild animal. It is a predator, and a smart one at that (never mind those Road Runner cartoons).

You live in your home. The outdoors, that is theirs.

It is my belief that respect must be given to all wildlife and their home(s). Coyotes won't come out and attack a human, adult or child. Like most wild animals, it would rather take the high road and keep clear of us. Leave the animals be, don't chase them because you will never catch up to them. Don't mess with their "children". A human would totally lash out and probably get quite aggressive with another who messed with their kids. Why think it's wrong for a parent animal to do the same?

Really it's just common sense. It's mind blowing how some lack this even in the slightest.

Reports of Coyotes biting humans involved scenarios where people habituated the animals, feeding them from their back doors basically and then taking that one step too close, trying to hand feed the animals. Whether the bite was intentional or not, in the end, it's that animal who loses. A reported Coyote bite lands the animal becoming a specific target, being shot and tested for rabies. The person may get a scolding for interacting with these animals as they did, and probably a round of rabies vaccinations. Some would learn from the experience while others unfortunately would gain a hatred for the animals.

Unintentional bites can happen when hand feeding any animals. I've been nipped by a few overly excited Squirrels in my day. It hurt like hell but it was me, putting my fingers holding the food towards the mouth of the animal. Sure I might call them "a little bastard" in the moment but I know it was my fault.

Another scenario is a person trying to save their pet from the clutches of a Coyote. This is why I am a firm believer in not letting cats roam freely outdoors and keeping your dogs on leash when out in the wild. The smaller the dog, the greater the risk. Keep the leash short. Or better yet, avoid areas where Coyotes are known to be seen. Usually there are signs posted either by the city or even handmade ones from locals which I have seen near our home. Some are almost laughable but the point is made. I am almost tempted to stop this blog momentarily and go to where I have seen one of these handmade signs posted and take a photo of it. NOTE: I started this blog days ago. Last night I went to where one of the signs had been on a post in a nearby neighbourhood for months. That sign is gone. In it's place is a sign of a missing cat now. True story! I will leave it at that.

It's not just Coyotes you have to worry about taking your pets. We heard one horrific tale of a Great Horned Owl taking a person's small dog when it was off leash out in the wild north of us. I've heard and even know someone who had their pet rabbit attacked by a Red-tailed Hawk. My friend's rabbit survived but with a vet bill attached, others not so lucky.

Don't take it personally, to the animals, these are just food sources and nothing else.

Cornering a Coyote, much like any wild animal, can be a cause for you to get bit. Why a person would want to do this, or how they could, is unimaginable to me.

Honestly, animals are very much like people. Put yourself in any situation instead of the animal; what would you do? I use this same analogy when it comes to photographing wildlife, especially sensitive species or situations like nesting birds.

I've found the only two recorded cases where Coyotes have actually killed a human in North America. Click on the links to get the full stories.

First was a 3 year old in Southern California back in 1981.

Second was a 19 year old Canadian country folk singer from Toronto, killed in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

The second incident hits closer to home, not because she was a Canadian and born in the same city as me; but because she loved nature and was on a nature walk. They list some possible reasons as to why this happened but in the end it remains a mystery.

As terrifying as both these attacks were, they are the ONLY two known cases where this species of animal has killed a human being. Now, for random attacks that ended in cuts, gashes, stitches, rabies shots, etc is considerably longer if you check this Wikipedia link. This is just information. This is NOT to spread fear. The list of incidents don't give too much info overall, I am sure there was much more to each individual story.

My actual Coyote encounters overall, I can probably count on two hands. If there was a total of 10, 8 were from respectable distances because I can think of only 2 really close encounters. One time a Coyote cut across a path right in front of me and never stopped even for a moment. The other time, similar scenario, I'm walking a path, a Coyote cut onto the path right in front of me, it was walking the same direction as me and continued on ahead, taking very little notice to me. Of course I'm like "damn, I want a photo of his face" but what can I do? Just enjoy the moment, consider myself lucky to see such an animal in my day time walk and be happy with it.

Here is a rare "face to face" moment with one recently. Intimidating stance and glare but there was easily 100 ft between us and the animal. Then in the blink of an eye, quickly disappeared into the field, not to be seen again.

The last few Springs I've heard Coyotes yelping in the hydro field near our home. I've been in the backyard after dark when the calling has started. It was exciting to hear. Early on in this past winter, I was out looking for Screech Owls after dark, and got to hear some Coyotes really belting it out in a golf course across the Humber River from me. It was very loud. It was a tad spooky since I was in the dark other than my head lamp. I knew they were across the river which ended any uneasy feeling I may have had. It would be my lack of experience and understanding of these animals that would set in the uneasy feelings.

Here is a great YouTube link to some Coyote yelping after dark. As they state in the video, please take notice to the reactions of your pets. I played this rather low, one of our cats ignored it completely, while the other's ears went flat and soon ran out of the room.

I'm just a guy who loves nature. I'm not a scientist. I'm not a behavioral analyst. Some people say I am a bit of a whisperer but I call it some good fortune with wonderful encounters of all kinds of wildlife. I've always been respectful. I'm in their house and I don't forget that. I hope people act in similar fashion. If you are fearful of these animals, then just don't tread where they may be.

March 14, 2017


I've had a few reunions recently. All were pretty cool but one was very touching to my heart and soul which you will see.

First off, we were quite a ways west of our home last weekend and I stopped into a very popular Screech Owl spot for a very brief moment. I first saw this Owl back in 2012 and most years in the month of March when we are in the area I try to see "him". I've been successful every March except for 2016 when the Owl was not showing. It was a peaceful moment with the bird and not another person seen; I wasn't there more than a couple minutes mind you. It was a quick view, kinda like a "hello" and away I went. I snapped a couple shots for the blog and they do look like pretty much any other photo I've taken of it years before.

It's nice to know this bird is doing well and surviving out there in the wild.

Then just days later I chanced upon another Screech Owl I know, who is no where near as popular because this bird's location has not been shared publicly. This Owl lives minutes from our home. Last winter I saw her quite often with my outings but this year, not so. The last time I saw this bird was back in November 2016. I don't actively seek it out and it's another one of these "nice to know it's still around and surviving in the wild" scenarios. A pass by, a short view, smile and continue on.

We were fortunate to see 2 Owls last winter but what I hear from another who frequents the area daily, it's only her this time around. I suspect this to be a female because her partner last year was considerably smaller.

She was trilling in the early morning of my encounter. Spring is just days away. Is she calling for a mate?

You can see the throat expanding in the second photo compared to the first. Attaching a very short video here as well.

Notice how enlarged it is?

Hopefully she does have a mate. Hopefully it's the same bird as last year; it was quite timid and often ducked back in the box upon noticing being observed. The 2nd Owl was rufous so easily distinguished from this one.

But now let's move to the last reunion. Meet Sabrina! Formerly known as Skittles.

11 years ago in February I almost ran over the tiniest of kittens in front of the house. I threw my car in park right there in the middle of the road late in the night, jumped out and gave chase to the cat, but quickly lost sight of it in the darkness. I went home bothered by seeing this wee little cat out on it's own, especially in the coldest month of the year. I kept a look out for it but did not see it again. Well, that is until some weeks later when I happened to go down to the old shed for something. I opened the door and there was the cat sitting on a shelf looking at me. We both startled each other. She quickly backed up, then darted out a small hole in the roof. It was obvious she was making a home of the shed judging by the numerous mouse parts I found scattered about.

I began to leave food out for her and it took over a week for her to ease up with seeing me. I set up a box in the shed, put some old t-shirts within, and draped a couple heavy towels over it. It took her no time to figure out that I had made her a bed, well more like a shelter, and she could hide inside, being as warm as she could for being outside in the late winter.

It's funny to think back to this time. It was before Angie lived here. We were obviously just getting into the birds because for years now I am in the shed morning and night. Why was it so long between my last visit to the shed? Maybe I did and don't remember now so many years later? But whatever the case, it was weeks before I saw that cat again. I remember how startled I was at seeing her but also amazed. I knew it was the same cat I almost ran over.

Gotta give her some credit for being a survivor at such a young age. She learned how to hunt on her own. She found that small hole in the shed roof and knew it was the best possible shelter she could have for herself at such an unkind time of year weather-wise.

I just found this cell phone photo of her on Facebook. She's laid out in her box.

Meadow, my last cat, made it clear that she was not keen on Skittles living here, not even down back. One afternoon Meadow slipped out the back door and went right for the shed. It always was a one cat house with Meadow AND it was also a one cat backyard with her too. You can easily see that with this photo of Meadow and another homeless cat named Smudge.

Meadow was always on a leash and harness and her getting out to where Skittles was, was accidental. So lucky for us Meadow wasn't into much free roaming. She left the house with a purpose and I can only imagine what she would have done to Skittles if she got to her. Skittles was not home and Meadow couldn't figure out how to get inside the shed but she knew damn well there was another cat living in there. She must have smelled Skittles on my hands.

More than a few cats have felt Meadow's wrath, even with her on leash, she had no problem letting them know this was her home and they were not welcome. Most cats never came back. Swear on that one I do!

I remember Angie and I sitting on the deck one weekend talking about Skittles. She was growing up fast. She was hanging around the back of the yard, showing herself a lot more often to us. She had become quite comfortable with her surroundings, and us, she wasn't "skittish" like her baby days. I think we were talking about somehow trying to make this work with her and Meadow or something. Then suddenly Skittles jumped up at the bird bath and pulled a Red-winged Blackbird right out of the water. We both jumped out of our chairs and started running to help the Blackbird. I remember wiping out on the wet grass that early summer's morning. Angie half debated stopping to check on me but she knew the bird needed help ASAP and she kept going. The bird was quickly freed from Skittles's clutches and we decided that we really needed to find her a home.

Finding any animal a home isn't easy. Skittles had youth on her side but the fact she was living outdoors all her life, she was not spayed and had no vaccines were against her. But luck have it that Angie found someone through her work. The following weekend Skittles was off to meet her new family. They changed her name to "Sabrina" and Angie took that as a good sign since it's the name of a comic character she enjoyed reading the adventures of when she was a little girl.

An unfortunate incident happened recently. The death of a person who was related to Skittles, er, Sabrina's owner occurred. Angie knew the deceased woman as well. We went to the memorial service which happened to be in the condo party room of where Skittles now lives. So we got to have a little reunion with her after the service. It was wonderful to see her again after all these years. She's a lovey girl, living the life of a spoiled rotten princess as it should be. She was affectionate so that made it all the nicer to mingle with her. I like to think that she remembers me. Hey I can pretend! She couldn't tell me otherwise. LoL! I did feel sadness for the family and friends of the deceased but I took what positive I could from the situation. Most will get that I am sure.

I'm sure there are some people out there from my past, that if I had a reunion with, I'd be quite delighted about but y'all would never hear about it in my blog. This is "Rob and the Animals" after all.

As always, thanks for stopping in.


March 3, 2017

Goodbye Mickey

Sad day yesterday as one of my beloved Pigeon visitors fell victim to a Cooper's Hawk. I named her "Mickey"

Don't ask me where I get my names from, they just come to me sometimes. It has nothing to do with that celebrity mouse though. Maybe because of a wonderful Budge we had in our household when I was a young boy? Even I don't ask myself where/why the names come from. But I will admit I do get a little help at times from Angie and friends.

Just last week I posted on social media about Mickey. We were going into our 3rd year of being "friends". She's probably been around longer than that but it was February of 2014 that I really took notice to her, and she to me, picking up on where to hang out behind the house to really get my attention... the back door, on the clothes line post, just like Pierre.

It was funny to watch Mickey develop over time. She was such a sweet heart and a very docile bird in the beginning. But she changed. She got attitude. She got mean. She turned into a real bitch. She had no problem beating on any other Pigeon that came in. She was very vocal and those wings of hers packed a punch. It didn't matter the size of the bird, Mickey stood her ground. Heck she even copped attitude with me a few times. I always say "You will always know where you stand with a Pigeon". It's true! But Mickey was my friend, as friends go between a man and a Pigeon. She trusted me. Of course when it boils down to it, it was always about the food, the good food, but she would hop on me and hang out, go for walks down back to the shed if I didn't have seed by the back door.

She was a welcomed addition to our flock. Plain and simple. She was a unique bird, standing out from the dozens that come to visit day in, day out.

Anyone who follows my blogs knows it's been odd the last few months with my Pigeon visitors. They've all been disappearing for long periods of time. 50+ days! First Pierre's flock. Now the Jerseys have been MIA for a week and counting. I know they've found another feeding spot. I wonder where? I wonder what they are being fed? As long as they are happy, healthy and safe is all that matters to me. I do enjoy the surprise drop ins as I never know when they are going to come, or who it will be. Pierre started this all, and the Jerseys were a gift in his absence. Then all of them have been MIA and Mickey picked up as of last week.

If you look at that photo above, you can easily identify her from the masses with that prominent eye ring. Also, look for the small Pigeon beating the hell out of the others. LoL!

We've had some Hawk activity lately. Red-tail grabbed a Pigeon not too long ago (think it's posted in my last blog about Pierre) and then a Squirrel this week. A Sharp-shinned Hawk was here on Monday and nailed a Starling. Then a couple days with a Cooper's Hawk. I think I jinxed things when I shared a crap shot of the bird on Facebook's Ontario Birds page and wondered out loud what was on it's menu.

Sharpie on a Starling.

The Cooper's Hawk.

They do blend in.

Yesterday was a bizarre day as I think about it. That Cooper's Hawk was here all morning while I was home. It sat in the tree down back. Chickadees and Nuthatches squawked occasionally at the bird's presence, then went back to their own business. A small group of Pigeons, maybe 6 at the most, including Mickey came in and out numerous times. I had given Mickey a few handfuls of sunflower chip but it was never enough it seemed. Weird as our cat Molly also had a voracious appetite yesterday. Must be the return to winter weather?

Usually Mickey has a good feed and then is gone again for the day. Not this day.

The Pigeons were even feeding under the feeder pole with the Cooper's less than 30 ft from them. I chalked it up as the Hawk had probably gotten his feed for the day and was just chilling. It wasn't even observing the activity around it, including me out there observing it and taking a few photos.

Almost 6 hours of it hanging out, not moving. I thought how odd. It was time to go to work, I did wish Mickey to leave as I did, and obviously she did not.

Three and a half hours later, Angie comes home, and felt this need to go out back. She didn't know why but she went with it. She found a dead Pigeon near our back deck. She did not who it was but texted me a quick snap of the body, informing me of her find, and that she hoped it was not one of my friends. I could not really get a view of the face but the wing pattern sure looked familiar. I suspected it was Mickey. While her eye ring is what really stands out to me, they all have distinct marks elsewhere if one really pays close attention to them.

I was having a pretty crappy day at work and this made it all the more crappier. I wanted to be home now even though I knew there wasn't a damn thing that could be done.

Angie did notice a Cooper's Hawk way at the back but it never came down again for the rest of the Pigeon. She later bagged it for me to check if it was a bird I knew.

This stayed in my head the rest of the night. I could not wait to finish my shift.

I get home, play with the cats for half an hour or so, who are very happy to see me. Then I put my head lamp on, go to the shed and investigate. Sadly, there was that prominent eye ring. Fuck!

Then to add to all of this, I can't help but notice Mickey's body was barely consumed. I will describe what I saw, it's not pretty, but I promise you I am not adding a gross photo. I can't. So, from neck right down to her bum was all exposed. Exposed as in all the skin and feathers were gone. But all her insides were still intact. The only damage was what I am guessing is her crop was opened up. I could see white millet seeds in this area. But everything else, still intact.

Obviously the Hawk was working on her body when something must have disturbed her. The house next door is a rental and the landlord was over late in the day with some contractor doing a fence repair. This is the only thing that I can come up with. The section they were working on is between our houses and where Mickey's body was found, was less than 20 ft from it. The Hawk got spooked and abandoned it's kill. I'd seen something like this once last fall. Cooper's grabbed a Pigeon, was working on it, and the Squirrels all rushed the Hawk while it was on the ground finishing off the bird. The Hawk flushed, leaving the dying Pigeon there, but it returned less than 10 minutes later after the Squirrels spread out. The Hawk quickly grabbed the Pigeon and flew off to a safer spot to "enjoy it".

I was overwhelmed with sadness. I'm going to miss that bird. She was a highlight to the backyard. And to think that her death was a waste in the end.

I'm not angry at the Hawk. A Hawk must eat too. It's all a part of nature.

Mickey got cocky. Or maybe too comfortable about it's presence? Perhaps even forgetting that such a threat was there since it sat for over 6 hours doing nothing.

I put her back in the bag, closed the shed door, went inside, hugged my cats and made myself a little night cap. It wasn't whisky Wednesday but I sure felt like one now. I kicked back, played some tunes, drank my drink and eventually fell asleep.

Today I wake up and ponder what to do with her body. I just can't throw her in the garbage. The ground is too frozen to bury her.

I look out the kitchen window and see the Cooper's Hawk is back in the same tree as yesterday.

I have an idea.

I go outside, slowly making my way to the back. Of course I have my camera in hand and snap a few photos of the big beast. It's just up there looking around, occasionally down at me, but it's not flying away.

I go to the shed, the frozen plastic of the doors makes a loud crackling sound as I open them and the Hawk leaves our yard. It flies to a tree a few yards over.

I brought Mickey's body out to the lawn and set it down. I'm hoping that the Hawk will find it's kill from yesterday afternoon and take it. Please let's not have Mickey's death be a waste. I also don't want the Hawk starving on this bitter cold morning (-18c windchill).

I come back inside, put the kettle on, make a coffee and start this blog.

It's been over an hour now since I started keying this. I almost forgot about Mickey's body still being out on the grass. I decide to have a look out the window and this is what I see.

The Cooper's Hawk has found it's kill and is eating it. The Squirrels are ignoring the Hawk now, busy looking for their own morning sustenance.

From the deck. Leaving the Hawk be. Mickey isn't there anymore, this is just her shell. She's not suffering. She died about 18 hours ago.

I am having a real mix of emotions right now. I am very sad. But I also feel a sense of relief. I feel closure. It's a little fucked up. One of my bird pals has died, it's being eaten as I key this, and I have two very different feelings about it all. It's clashing but also working out somehow. It's the stuff I've thought about over the years since I've made friends with some of these visitors and now it's happening. Others have just disappeared, never to return again, and I can only wonder what became of them. I will never have to wonder what happened to Mickey.

It's almost 2 hours now since the Hawk found it's kill and it's still feasting away. No need for any more photos. Nuthatches, Cardinals, Woodpeckers and a Red-winged Blackbird have flown in. I can see a small flock of Pigeons on a tv tower a few yards over, they aren't convinced the coast is clear.

I've taken a break from the blog and 30 minutes later I see the Hawk is gone, it's taken whatever remained of Mickey's body with it. There's a pile of feathers on the lawn now, slowly blowing away in the strong winds. How symbolic.

I love my Pigeon friends. I am happy to bond with them. I am happy I can help them along in life because Pigeons really are very dependent on us humans for survival. But they are wild birds. I can never cage them to keep them safe. Sure they would be free from all the dangers they face living in the city, but they would also lose their freedom, and their happiness. This is their life as cold and cruel as most ends for them will be.

Thanks for all the memories Mickey. We will always have that crazy ice bucket challenge moment.

Macro moment with Mickey.

February 22, 2017

Pierre and Rob's Biggest Adventure

Hi Everyone,

I assume most of you know who Pierre is. If not, quick re-cap, Pierre is a wild Rock Pigeon who literally jumped into our lives back on July 21, 2012 and has been a regular visitor here ever since. Surely you've seen the pics somewhere over the years, feeding from my hand, the Global News story. "Oh ya, that Pigeon!" Right?

"Hi there!"

The last year Pierre has had longer breaks between visits. I've missed him but in another way it's helping me get used to the idea of him one day not coming back. This July will mark 5 years since we first met. Bird guides say ROPIs live an average of 3 to 5 years in the wild; although some do live much longer than that with help from others, and if they can stay out of trouble or the talons of Hawks and Peregrine Falcons. Pierre has some great friends in way of myself and Angie. He seems to be pretty aware of the surroundings and smart enough to avoid here when Hawks are present.

I make mental notes of our last encounter especially when days pass with not seeing him. He's been exceptional with his absences the last number of months. November 1st, then not again until December 23rd, then December 29th and then finally coming in again on February 18th. Four visits in almost four months! But this is where our biggest adventure takes place. I actually started this blog a long time ago but with time passed, I'm not liking what I keyed out and have decided to start over. None of the facts have changed even with time passed and my memory of it all. I do hope to shorten it though. HA!

So, here we go...

Between November 1st until December 23rd, I had made comments on social media about missing Pierre. I did not suspect anything was really wrong because his whole flock was not visiting. Yes, there are stand out members in his flock that I easily recognize. A lot of people question this ability of mine and I can see their point. All I tell them is to spend time with a flock of Pigeons, years in my case, you will be able to identify them even in a mass of nearly 100 birds coming to visit like I had a few times last winter.

With his absence, I made new friends with "The Jerseys" last Autumn, who are a bigger hit with people and I assume it's because of their unique plumage.

They eased my need for bird bonding at home. But even with my sharing about them, I still threw in about my wonders of how Pierre is, where he is. He is THE ONE who started this all here.

As Christmas approached, I did a few "Days of Christmas" blogs with the nature gifts that were presented to me. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker for a couple days in December at our holly bush, and then the Screech Owl in our nest box. Then on December 23rd, Pierre finally came home. 53 long days he was away. I spread the news on social media but with it being so close to Christmas, I did not get the chance to blog about it. I had thought he was going to be here with us over the holidays but he once again disappeared. Then returning 6 days later on the 29th.

Pierre showed up sporting some "trashy bling". His left foot and toes were wrapped up in blue thread, lots and lots of blue thread. While this may not seem that serious, it is, as over time it can cut the circulation to the foot, the muscle tissue dies, toes can fall off, maybe even his whole foot and mobility will become difficult.

I had some discussion about how to deal with this, but being home alone, and not having any experience on how to handle this, it was a real challenge as you will read about.

Pierre was feeding from my hand and I put my free hand over top of him. Now any other Pigeon would suspect something was up and quickly react, like flying to the ground, but not Pierre. He's got a lot of trust in me from the years together and he ignored my hand. I lowered it over top of him and grabbed him in a bander's grip the best I could. A grip I've not used in a while and a grip I've never used on a larger bird. Bander's grip on a small Sparrow or Warbler vs bander's grip on a Pigeon... big difference actually. The grip is your index finger and middle finger around the bird's neck while the remaining fingers and thumb surround the body, keeping the wings pressed to the body. An example shown here that I borrowed from Google.

Pierre is a big Pigeon from years of good eating. A bit different than holding any small songbird.

But with Pierre, there was very little fuss, and he quickly submitted. I think he quickly realized what I was trying to do as I inspected his foot, toyed with the thread, looking for a loose end. I wasn't having much luck in finding one. I was having a lot of distraction by his friends all fluttering around us, more so wanting food, than any care/concern for their King in my hand.

I decided to bring Pierre inside where I could look at him in a closed off room, having some more light, and no distractions. First I needed to put him in something. I remembered I had a spare box in the shed, a box we often use for birds of his size for transport to and from Toronto Wildlife. Now I had to take him for a walk with me (the shed is about 100 ft from our back deck). I can only imagine what any neighbours must have thought seeing me holding this Pigeon like I was, and walking with him. I can only imagine what was going through Pierre's mind as well. He's belly up to the sky, looking at me, and around, but still not putting up a fight.

I get him to the shed, close the door over and put him in the box. Then it was a quick pace back to the house, a call to TWC, leaving a message about the situation in case I needed to bring him in and then downstairs to the bathroom. I close the door, get him out and see what I can do. He puts up a little struggle at first because I'm sure being inside a house, bright light over him that is not the sun, was rather confusing. But I talked to him in a calm voice, kept telling him it was okay and he relaxed. While he may not have understood my words exactly, I like to think my voice did help. He was even pretty chill when suddenly there were some cat paws coming through the underside of the door as Merry and Molly were on the other side, wanting to join us. That wasn't happening. I dropped my bath towel across the bottom of the door to put an end to that.

I inspected his foot, and manged to cut about 3 inches of thread off with some small scissors. Pierre kept pulling his leg to his body, like I was ticking him, although I know it was just a reflex (I was not hurting him nor pulling on his leg, impossible to do without a third hand). My hand was shaking as I tried to perform this sort of surgery on him (of course I was nervous). Trying this alone proved to be extremely difficult.

I had the phone with me and suddenly it rang. It was someone from hotline at Toronto Wildlife. I'm still holding Pierre with my one hand while I take the call. I swear he gave me this look like "Dude! WTF? Taking a phone call now?" I had left them a detailed message already so there wasn't much to say other than "yes I still have him contained" and they said "bring him in".

Back in the box he went, and away we went for a drive.

We were at the tail end of a small snow storm, which in Toronto with driving could still be like 20+ cm with some drivers. Thankfully a lot of people were still off work with the holiday season so traffic was light.

I spoke to Pierre through the drive, just a calm light voice, saying "it's alright Pierre" or "I got your back Pierre", etc. No matter what I said, I said his name with it. I'd like to think he knows the name we've given him after all these years. Normally you are supposed to be quiet when traveling with wildlife but Pierre is not your normal wildlife, is he?

We get to TWC and he is quickly taken to the back room. I offered to wait if someone was able to observe him sooner than later. Depending on what was going on beneath all that thread, he could come home right away. But they had to get the thread off first and see.

Lucky for us, it's a time of year where things are normally much slower with wildlife emergencies and there was enough staff in that morning, that he was observed almost immediately. And even luckier was that there was nothing going on beneath the thread, no skin breaks, no bleeding, no infection. He was deemed fit to go home right away.

Pierre just won a little lottery I think.

I don't know how many "thank yous" I said and that they probably helped me end 2016 on a really high note. I'm sure they could tell I was a little emotional about it all but there were no tears... just saying.

I kept Angie in the loop via text about what was going on. When I said we were on our way home again, she replied with "make a donation!" Doh! I ran back inside the centre and got that on the go.

Now we were going home. Once again, the drive back, I talked to him throughout. "You're going home Pierre".

We get home, and I get him out back, releasing him down at the shed. I was happy to see his flock was still around almost an hour and a half later. Weird that they were all still here. Remember, it's been 53 days since they were all here like this.

I release him, which took a little time, and I put my hand in the box to help him out. He took to my hand like nothing, and came out to the open wild world once again from my palm. Mere seconds passed and he took flight, going to a nearby roof top to join his mates. I threw more food down for everyone and they all came back in to feed. Pierre was a little delayed about this all and I worried that maybe our trust was broken. Silly me! He finally flew in, picked at the corn for a moment until he saw me put my hand out to him, saying his name and I had the good stuff to offer him... shelled peanut bits (no salt of course) and sunflower chips. He was in my hand in the blink of an eye. All was well in his world and back to normal.

They all flew off and I did not see them again before I went to work.

I anticipated a return the next day. Nope. The day after. Nope. Now with the New Years weekend upon us, hoping to bring in 2017 with him. Nope.

How long would it be until I saw him again?

51 days later (Feb 18) he flies in like he does any other time, landing in his usual spot by the back door, and greets me like no time has passed. It certainly was a great start to the Family Day long weekend because Pierre sure is like family to us. He ended up coming in all 3 days, showing up just before 8 am each day.

Here we are.  The gang is all here and 2 flocks are mingling with a little bit of squabbling.  We all look like shit first thing in the morning, but we don't care.  LoL!

I tell people he's cheating on us these days, having a new friend to mooch off of. I say it in joking manner but of course it is true. Pigeons are very dependent on humans for survival.

I guess his other friend went away for the long weekend or something, which brought him in. Now we are back to the work week and I've not seen him at all, nor any of his flock.

He did have a few threats lingering about here this past weekend and I'm certain that kept him wary.

Cooper's Hawk late in the day on Feb 18.

Resident Red-tailed Hawk caught one of his friends on Feb 20. I had seen the Hawk come in a couple times, flushing birds, Pierre and his buds were long gone, but the Hawk managed to grab one somewhere nearby. We noticed feathers falling from the sky, and I went out to investigate, spotting this. I can even tell by this Pigeon's markings, that it's not one of my special buds. I still felt some sadness although I know well enough that this is how it goes, it is nature.

Initially I was going to blog about the TWC adventure after it happened, but then decided to wait until his return, which finally happened. I will once again wonder how long until we meet again?

Don't stay away too long this time Pierre.

On a final note, I would like to add that I can honestly say that Pierre did not get any special treatment with his care at TWC. As I mentioned, he was lucky there was available staff on hand and it was a slower time of the year, plus early on in the day. All these things put together, along with the short time the thread was around his foot, made for a quick and easy visit. All wildlife patents get the same care and concern when coming in. It's just great when they can go free again like this, and so quickly. Any animal Toronto Wildlife can help, and not have to keep in care, is a great thing.

Pierre and I will forever be thankful for TWC.

Maybe you've made it to the end of this blog? Maybe you've got a warm and fuzzy feeling all over now? Maybe you are thinking about sending a "thank you" to TWC, they are a charitable run organization after all, here is the link to do so. If so, please tell them "Pierre" sent you. Sorry, couldn't help myself with this last bit.

Thanks for reading about our biggest adventure. Cheers!