Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

February 20, 2018


I've been informed about a pair of Great Horned Owls being heard in a park not far from us. It got me rather intrigued not just because it's a pair of Owls but because it's in a park where I released a young Great Horned Owl 2 years ago. I can't help but wonder if he is one of the pair.

In a perfect world I could post the name of the park, like putting the word out, and there might be kind and willing people to assist (more eyes and ears would be better). But in this world, this day and age, I cannot. Not that I think I have a mass of blog readers but putting the word out publicly on where Owls may be is not my thing as it may have a negative effect on the park and the birds. I have less to worry about people messing with Great Horns as I would over smaller Owls but my rule is to not publicly post Owl locations and I will keep it to ALL Owls.

I plan to explore the park a little more in the coming weeks while the trees are still bare. I will listen to the Crows and the Blue Jays as I walk, scanning pine trees. Hopefully the birds will help me in my search.

If I find the Owls, I will focus on the legs of the birds. The one I released is banded.

It would be an amazing continuation of this Owl's story. He fell out of his nest in February. Someone found him. Toronto Wildlife was contacted. The Owl could not be put back into the nest because it was too high up. The young Owl went from Toronto Wildlife to The Owl Foundation where he was raised by their super nanny Big Red who has fostered many young Great Horns over the years.

Come October, he was ready to be released and we chose a park a little further west of where he was born. I should have monitored better in the following months but only made two trips that winter without any sighting. Of course he wasn't limited to the park. He could go anywhere. Through the area, into the residential, there are a lot of massive conifers a Great Horned Owl could spend the days in. This is all if he chose to stay here. If he was not driven out. If he survived this time on his own.

We shall see what comes of this. If nothing else, I got some fresh air and exercise. Wish me luck!

The blog about his release can be viewed here.

February 8, 2018

Dein Kampf ist vorbei

Many of you have been waiting for an update on the injured Skunk I recently caught in our backyard.

Well here it is...

Unfortunately he had to be put down. The x-rays showed his injuries were quite extensive. For starts, the left shoulder was broken. This is why he was unable to use his front left leg. His nails on that foot were quite overgrown because he could not use that foot for walking or digging, which would wear them down. He also had several rib fractures. I suspect he survived a car strike. The poor thing was in pain and suffering, and he was not going to get any better. The humane thing to do was to end his suffering.

I was saddened when I got the news. I am saddened 24 hrs later as I key this. I always have the best hopes for any animal I bring into the wildlife centre. But I also understand that this was the best thing for the Skunk. I find peace in knowing he is not suffering any longer. I will not see him struggling about the backyards as he searched for food, trying to dig with his one good front paw and some how stay balanced with his other one.

It amazes me the strength in wild animals who have sustained serious injuries yet keep moving on, struggling to survive. Their will is strong. A lot stronger than most humans. I remember the pain of my 2 broken ribs from last Summer; the first 2 weeks were excruciating.

Some may argue I should have left him be. I don't know how many could watch any living creature struggle as this one did. It reminded me much of the Raccoon from a few years back that was pulling itself about our backyard with his front paws as he could not use his back legs at all. How it got around and where it slept the days away is beyond me (it couldn't climb).

Rest now little one. Dein Kampf ist vorbei which translates to Your Struggle is Over. I didn't want to give away the update to most reading this with the blog title so I decided to go for German which is half of my background.

If you are happened to miss the initial blog about this guy from last week, here is the link.

February 2, 2018


One of our backyard furry pals made an appearance a couple weeks ago, showing signs of un-wellness. It's one of the Skunks and seemed to be holding his front left leg up to his body. After some observation of this, I made a call into Toronto Wildlife Centre and explained the situation. End result was if I could catch him, to bring him in.

I'd seen the Skunk 4x. The initial sighting. Another morning he came out shortly after 9 am, I tried to trap him but he soon disappeared.

Note: I'm using my 500 mm lens so I am no where near him as I snapped a few pictures.

The next time it was just after 1 pm and I was about ready to leave for work. Funny to see him out at various day times but it's winter and when there's a little bit of a thaw, these semi-hibernating creatures appear and they are hungry.

This past Wednesday night, I am outside after work and notice him in the yard next door. He's digging in the snow by their shed, looking for food.

It's been difficult seeing him struggle to get around when the snow is on the ground. Then to try and find food, digging with his good foot while leaning down on his bad one. I'm not really sure if it's his foot or leg but something is wrong.

I decide it's a good time to try since I'm not having to rush out to work. This is going to make my Whisky Wednesday a memorable one.

I set the trap and watch from a distance. He's fumbling around next door and slowly working his way over to our yard. Next thing I know is he has some company, or rather competition for food in way of a ginormous Raccoon. Great! The Raccoon smells the wet cat food in the trap and wants it. I lure the Raccoon elsewhere with some cat kibble that is not in a cage.

I head inside for a bit, giving the Skunk it's space and no distractions from me. I make my drink and watch things from the window. It's after 11 pm and I can only see so far down the yard but that's alright. I will be going back out there soon enough.

Twenty minutes later, my sipping beverage is done and out I go. The night air is filled with the stench of Skunk. He's in the trap and the Raccoon is up a nearby cedar. I am assuming there was some kind of altercation between the two and the Skunk reacted. Everyone is hungry and aggressive right now.

I forgot to bring out a towel to cover the trap. Back in I go. I can't find one I know we don't need. I have a bag of sheets we were going to donate so I use one of them. It's a lot bigger than a towel but it will work.

I slowly walk towards the trap. I can see the Skunk fussing inside, trying to get out. I talk softly to him as to not startle him. I know my words mean nothing, giving him no comfort at this time, but he will know I am there. I then drop the sheet over the trap.

I'm glad it's a mild winter night, being just above zero celcius, and I have no worries about keeping him in the shed for the remainder of the night. Plus he has a whole tin of Fancy Feast cat food in the trap with him, which I am sure he will eat.

As I put him in the shed for the night, I am choking on the smell of the spray. It's in my hair, it's on my clothes. I can taste it like I just took a big bite out of it in the air. I set the trap down. I mutter an apology and wish him a good night. I shut the doors and head back to the house, making a quick call to TWC, to leave a message about my success.

I go inside, get changed, leaving those clothes in the furnace room. I wash up, wetting the ends of my hair and shampoo the area. It's the best I can do at this time of the night. I'm exhausted from work and the adventure, the whisky has made me really mellow.

Jump ahead to morning. I am anxious to go out there and check on him but I don't. I wanted to wait until it was time to leave for the centre before bothering him. The centre doesn't open until 8:30 am and I was going to wait until after 9 when morning rush hour would ease up. The less time for us being in the truck would be a good thing.

I chat with someone at the centre prior to leaving, giving them a heads up I was coming in.

I go out to the shed to get him. Angie left me a towel to use for transporting him covered instead of the bed sheet. So now I want to pull the sheet off the trap only to realize he had pulled a lot of it inside through the night. Seriously dude?!?!

I bring the trap out to the lawn where there is more light and room to do this. I'm lightly talking to him, explaining what the hell I am doing now. I know I asked him to keep his cool.

It took some work to pull all the material back through the various points where he pulled it in. It was a bumpy ride for him inside. But I finally had it all out. As I pulled the sheet away from the trap, I was covering the exposed section with the towel. He fussed a bit but all went rather smoothly.

The drive to the centre was fairly quick and hassle free. It was a stinky ride because he had sprayed hours earlier. I just breathed lightly and dealt with it.

He was getting an initial assessment pretty much right away and then settle him in somewhere until the next steps.

They thanked me for catching him. I thanked them for taking him in.

I drove home with the windows down. I got some odd looks because no one on the road had any idea my struggle. Hey, it's the first day of February, +3 celcius and sunny; that's reason enough to have the windows open for a little while.

Anyway, it is now the waiting game until I hear an update. Let's wish him well and hope he gets a 2nd chance at a wildlife. Some time has passed from when the injury occurred until now, that can go against him and a good recovery. I have no doubt I did the right thing. He was in pain and most likely slowly starving to death as he was unable to properly look for food as how Skunks do.

There are a lot of opinions about wildlife rehabilitation. Some people have very strong ones for it, some as strong against it. I know there are times we should not interfere but this certainly is not one of them. We welcome these creatures to our property. We love seeing them. It's only fair to watch out for them. To have compassion.

What's funny is when I filled out my volunteer driver application, there was a section about animals not wanting to drive. The Skunk was the only one I could think of because of my fears of getting sprayed. This is the second one I have brought in, in the last 8 months. My how things have changed. We've learned a lot about these creatures, especially last Summer when we had so many wandering the backyards. They are misunderstood animals, like so many others. Not everything is rabid and wants to rip your face off. And Skunks aren't nearly as trigger happy as so many people think.

Lastly, none of that "hero" calling malarchy. I'd like to think anyone reading this blog would have done something for the Skunk too!

I have an short update on what has come of him in the last week, see here.

January 31, 2018

Fallen Kingdom

Here we are at the end of January. While the backyard mammal life has given us a slight tease the last couple weeks with the little thaw, or as they are calling it "wintermission", the bird activity suffers.

For one, we can blame a skulking Cooper's Hawk. In she comes and away go the birds.

As well as a few appearances by a Sharp-shinned Hawk.

My Pigeon pals flew away on the morning of December 6th. I watched them flee after a warning call from the Blue Jays and they've not been back since. I miss them.

The Jerseys have really been a blessing especially after Pierre's disappearance. Where did they go?

Mrs. Pierre popped in once late in December for a very brief feeding. Another alarm call went out and she rocketed off. She's yet to return. This is her from last Summer. Such a pretty girl.

A few new Pigeons started coming in. One of which was not very well. It had a bad left leg and kept it up tight to it's body. A tough thing to watch. I had made some calls regarding the bird's state. Pretty much if I brought it in, it would be euthanized. So for the time being, while it was still getting around alright, feeding well, flying, etc. I would leave it be.

Less than a week from when I first noticed it, I happened to be looking out the back window and saw it fly off with it's friends, only not as quick as the others, and seconds later there was the Cooper's Hawk on top of it and driving it into the ground next door. Any suffering for this Pigeon was over. The Hawk's hunger satisfied for another day. Witnessing a take down is fascinating, shocking, and sad. Once the catch is dead, it's still sad but easier to stomach because you know there is no more pain, terror, suffering, whatever. I don't enjoy watching the Hawks eat like I used to, be it a Pigeon, Woodpecker, House Sparrow or anything else. I used to want to try for the meaty rip 'n tear photos; now, not so much. I'm sure the Hawks appreciate me letting them eat in peace as well.

We have another new Pigeon making random visits and he's quickly taken to hand feeding. Our friend Steve who named Pierre suggested the name Fitz. It took a bit but has stuck with me. Angie prefers to call him Handsome Pete.

He's a big boy and has a lot of weight to him. He's quite a character too.

Like I mentioned, his visits are quite random. I guess he's well aware of the dangers that lurk out back.

Have you noticed the change in the landscape with these photos? Snow. No snow. As I key this we are getting more snow.

The resident Red-tails have made a number of drop ins. Here they are on their nest tower which we can see from our front door. You can see the remnants of last year's nest on the left side of the platform.

I've not seen any take downs from them in a while. unlike the Spring last year when I'd see one fly in and pick Squirrels right out of the tree tops on numerous occasions. But they are here, sometimes one flying in with the other coming in right behind.

Our over wintering Mockingbird has also disappeared. Hopefully well and feeding elsewhere.

We had 8 Northern Cardinals visiting, now we may see one pair. We had 6 Downy Woodpeckers, also now we may get one pair. 4 Black-capped Chickadees down to 2. 5 Blue Jays down to 2. Junco numbers vary. No shortage of House Sparrows though. Lots of European Starlings and I've had to put a cage around our shelled peanut feeder to keep them away and allow the pair of Red-breasted Nuthatches to feed on the one thing they love in our yard.

I know I'm being over dramatic. I blame one part on the Hawk. Another on my winter blues which I can get in short spells. I love all seasons and what they have to offer but some days I'm just sick of the cold and snow even though it's not been that bad overall. Did I mention I miss my Pigeons? *wink* I hope they are happy wherever they went. Honestly I would rather them not be here while threats lurk about. I can't imagine opening the shutters in the kitchen and looking out back to the Cooper's on one of my pals. I don't know what I would do.

That's the one thing about living with and loving our wildlife friends. They do what they want, when they want, go where they want and most cases we don't know anything about their lives away from here. Plus the fact they don't live nearly as long as us. I'm grateful for all the "friends" I have made out back but can't help but miss them when they disappear. It's always a thrill when they do return. Pierre was famous for winter absences the last few years. I always counted the days. 53 was his longest MIA spell. Some of you who read my blogs and are my Facebook friends have rejoiced with his returns just like this photo here when he came back some weeks after the ice storm in 2014 if memory serves me correct on the year.

Fallen Kingdom is overkill for a blog title but that's how it feels right now.

January 17, 2018


Last week we experienced a bit of a January thaw. It was short lived but enough to warm things up, melt the snow, and stir some of our nocturnal mammals. All waking with an appetite.

The first night there was a pair of Raccoons just over the back fence, dumpster diving at the Chinese take out place. Unfortunately some of the kitchen workers also discovered the masked bandits and started screaming at them and banging items to scare them away. I watched the animals run along the fence and go up to a garage roof to get away from these crazy angry people.

I was topping up bird feeders at the time and as always keeping watch of what may be lurking around in the darkness. It was then I saw the next mammal species pop up... an Opossum.

He had found the half eaten apple I left out and was looking for anything else. I noticed the frostbite on his right ear. I snapped some pictures and noticed his tail tip and some toes are also frostbitten.

Opossums originate from further south. Word has it they wound up here, stowing away on produce shipments. Our winters can be tough on them with their hairless ears, tail and toes. Plus they don't know a thing about hibernating, or as I call it "semi-hibernating" like the Raccoon and Skunk. I wonder if somehow they will adapt? During the coldest nights I don't see them though. I see no signs of them either. We were blessed some years ago by one who came out every day around 3 pm to feed under the bird feeders in February. It was like clockwork for that one.

I *accidentally* spilled some nuts and seeds which he found after I went back inside.

I was hoping for a hat-trick by getting to see a Skunk as well. I did not while I was out but ended smelling one just before bed. Close enough I suppose.

The next night I am outside and keeping watch for that Opossum. One shows up but it's not him. As you can see, no frostbite on the right ear. Plus, from what I could see, the rest of his exposed body parts were free of it too. Miraculous!

Then a Raccoon ran past me with a large bone in it's mouth. What kind of bone and where he got it, I have no idea.

The smell of Skunk later filled the night air once again.

As the work week was coming to an end, we got some long steady rain. Friday morning it was +13 celcius. I look outside just before 9 am and to my surprise there is a Skunk digging through the last snow piles looking for something to eat.

I am not certain if it was one of the Toppers because there was striping on the hips and thin lines that ran to it's shoulders. The Skunk ran off to the back, hiding under our shed after this photo was taken. He came back out again about 20 minutes later but I did not chase him around for any more photos. He was hungry and didn't need me stressing him out. He too had the great fortune of finding a spill of peanuts and sunflower seed. Man, I am so clumsy these days!

It was great to see all these animals in the middle of January. The weather has turned quite cold again after last Friday morning and the sightings are no more. I've spotted Opossum tracks one other night and my apple cores disappear almost nightly.

A few more months and these encounters should become almost nightly once again. I can't wait.

January 5, 2018

Christmas in Alberta

Angie and I trekked to Okotoks, Alberta for Christmas. Her father also had flown in from Nova Scotia and we all stayed at Angie's brother's place with his family. It was their first Christmas all together in over 2 decades. But since this the "Rob and the Animals" blog, I'm here to share some animal encounters I had while exploring a wood lot not far from their home.

First off, it was cold, and I mean really REALLY cold! Don't accuse me of bringing that weather back to Toronto now.

Our trip was a very short one, I don't get that much time off work. While I really hoped we could explore some areas and hopefully see some western bird species, especially a Pygmy Owl, there just wasn't the time, it was just too cold and this was a family visit obviously.

My brother-in-law mapped me out a wood lot not too far off from their place, less than 15 mins walking distance, if I wanted to go out for a walk. I explored the area both on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Angie and our sister-in-law joined me for part of them.

Here are the highlights from the outings.

Epic views of a Pileated Woodpecker. The bird was so focused on the tree that it did not care one bit about my presence. We have Pileateds in our area but I seldom see them and most times they are skittish and don't linger in decent range. So watching this guy beat the daylights out of the tree was awesome!

There was easily 100+ Common Redpolls about. We get these birds in our area some winters but not every winter. I think it's been 4 winters since I've last seen them and probably 6 years since we last had some visiting our backyard feeders.

Another treat was to see half a dozen or so red shafted Northern Flickers. We get yellow shafted here in Ontario.

I encountered a few Magpies but none were in decent range or open views for a photo. A common species out there that we don't get here. I was told some nickname them the "Prairie Pigeon".

Encountering Mule Deer in this wood lot was another highlight. We chanced upon 7 of them!

No I did not just throw a snowball at her face.

Apparently the Deer are very used to people here.

Is he sick of winter already?

The "Mule (Deer) Train".  Ha ha!

It was great they adopted Tianna a couple years ago. She was quite entertaining to us all. Every home needs a furry family member, or two, or three.

Of course I had a great time with the whole human aspect to the trip. But this is my animal blog.

I look forward to another trip out there sometime and hopefully see some more of what Alberta has to offer in way of wildlife.

I hope you all had a great Christmas and New Year's, are keeping warm and stick with me here through 2018 and what goes on.

December 22, 2017

Happy Holidays!

I was hoping to blog one more time before the holiday season came upon us, and I guess in a way I am. I just want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Have a happy and safe holiday season no matter how you spend it, doing whatever you love to do and who with... human and/or animal.

Busy days ahead for me but hopefully I will get some time in with the wild ones to share about soon.

I want to thank everyone who comes to read my scribes, and occasionally throw a comment back. Cheers to you all!