Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

September 28, 2013

The Saga Continues...

For those of you who enjoy our visiting Pigeon Pierre, this one is for you.

He's been visiting for over a year and the adventures continue. Back in the Spring he had himself a little lady friend, who unfortunately disappeared and I believe something bad happened to her, like a Hawk snagged her as Pierre was a mess for some weeks after Maggie was gone. He was so skittish and spooked by everything. But in time, he was his old self again, and a lot more calm.

We enjoyed a not too hot and humid summer out back, spending lots of time through the afternoons in the backyard.

And as summer came to an end, it would appear that one of the younger Pigeons also visiting caught on to Pierre's "gig" he has with me, getting a good and seemingly never ending supply of shelled peanuts from my hand. And it's funny to see how Pierre reacts to this as it is a complete opposite of the days with Maggie... Pierre hates it! He doesn't like this bird and likes the competition even less. His peaceful meals are being interrupted by this younger Pigeon, a punk and a pain in the ass in the eyes of Pierre.

I have mixed feelings about a second bird flying to my hand for food. Sure it's cool to have that connection with another wild bird, even if it's all about the food and not so much about me (but I believe there's a bit of a trust built through this too). We see the trust in Pierre as he'll come to us with ease, more so with me since I've had almost daily interaction with him. I can give him belly rubs or just slide my hand under his feet and he walks right up me. While visitors to the yard can only watch. So, yes, it is cool. But for so long just having Pierre was special. It was our thing with him. He chose us. And the day he brought Maggie was quite endearing and very "Lady and the Tramp" like. But it feels different with this little guy flying in, Pierre gets quite angry and aggressive. The calming moment is lost.  Here's a video moment with us 3.

I found the scuffles comical at first. Now I do my best to keep them separated. I've had both arms stretched out, keeping them as far apart as possible. I've even put one hand around one of the pines to keep them out of each others sights. And other days I let Pierre know who is boss with only one hand of food put out. One of these days Angie must be out there with the camera when I'm feeding them both. Haha!

I named this bird "Jesse". It sorta fell into place with our sudden addiction to the tv series Breaking Bad. He's a little trouble maker. But as I looked through some older photos, I found one with Pierre, Maggie and a third bird who came around quite close back then that I was calling "Justin" and am now thinking this is probably him. Not sure where he went to for the summer but he's back...

to be continued?

Pierre and Jesse race for the food in my hand. Pierre is big and mean while Jesse is fast and lean. Can you figure out who is who here?

Jesse has a little feed after Pierre has had his fill.

One very full Pierre.

Back in April, Pierre and his lady Maggie.

I do wonder if that is Jesse behind them?

Yes, we have some fun at home.  :)

September 18, 2013

6 years with Misfit

On September 17th we celebrated our 6th year with Misfit joining our family!

She showed up in late May of 2007, and lived in our backyard (and surroundings) until September 17th when I finally decided to bring her in with the Autumn approaching and nights were getting colder.

A friend gave us a bird cage and I left it out back all summer.  Misfit ruled over the House Sparrows but wouldn't dare mess with the Blackbirds.  So when she was lower in the pecking order at the feeders, she would retreat to the bird cage and eat the seed within that I left out for her.  Funny thing is that the Chickadees and Red-winged Blackbirds caught on to this and also entered the cage for a good feeding in peace.  I so wish I got photos of that!

But I was fortunate to have our friend Alex over one afternoon, with her camera, and we captured this image.  Those were the days of me running around with a disposable camera and I'd need to be "in your face" to get a decent picture of anything.

The Blue Jays hated Misfit.  She was foreign to them.  They didn't recognize her as a regular bird, more like an intruder, and they would scream and chase her often.  Some days Angie and I would be sitting out back and we'd hear the screeching and Misfit would tear through the yard with one or two Blue Jays right on her tail.  But she always escaped.

Summer can bring in a few wicked thunderstorms and I recall one or two we had and the next morning we'd be sitting outside with morning coffee, waiting to hear her call from the neighbour's giant tree as we call it (it's really high) where we were quite certain she roosted.  And yes, she always let out her morning calls, and eventually flew in to feed.

It's only 6 years ago but seems so much longer now.  I don't remember the house much from days before her, the quiet days in the kitchen without a Budgie (or two).

After her capture, it was months of work with her, letting her set the pace on how things were progressing with us.  First thing was to build up trust and respect.  And in due time Misfit calmed down to a more relaxed bird and family member.

Our first cage for her had the bars being just a little too wide, just enough for her to squeeze herself through and get out when she chose.  The really funny thing is that she also squeezed herself back in when she was done.  I found evidence of this many days while I was away at work and before Angie moved in.  Often I left her cage door open and let her come and go as she pleased.  But on her one year anniversary we had a mishap...

Misfit out in the kitchen, we had my parents over, and as they were leaving, front door open, we talked just a few seconds too long and Misfit came flying through the living room, right over our heads and out the door!

That's a story on it's own but end result is 2 very long hours later, we got her back when she back into her cage when she got hungry.  I can still remember her sitting in the cedar tree, so close but so far away, and she was communicating with a Goldfinch.

That evening, after we calmed down, we went out and bought Misfit a proper cage.  It's more like a castle but the main thing was the bars were not going to allow her to go out when she chose to.  She still gets her time to fly around but it's under more controlled situations, like nobody goes in/out of the house during this.

I guess the rest is history now.

She's not the most affectionate bird, never was hand trained, but we have a special bond with her that took a long time to create.  The vet calls her the exception to common rules of being a Budgie.  She's a fierce girl and she's her own bird.

May we have many more years of Misfit's company in our house. 

Some of you may recall the situation we had last fall with her and the broken egg.  We almost lost her.  But with lots of love and care, she recovered the whole ordeal.  If you missed it, don't remember or are new to my blog, here it is...  What I find interesting is that this blog is actually in my top 5 most read blogs ever and it's less than a year old.  I want to thank everyone that visited, read it, and hopefully sent her some love.

Here's a short video of me medicating her.  I made it look so easy but this was on the last day of it all, almost 2 weeks later.  It went from a 20 minute ordeal to less than 3 minutes.  If anything, this is a reminder to me, if it happens again, I can do this no matter how freaked out I get about administering liquid meds to a Budgie.

September 17, 2013

Adventure in Algonquin

This past weekend Angie and I went up to Algonquin park for a couple nights.  Its a bit of a tradition for my birthday, which lands right in the middle of September.  It's a great time of year to visit even if the fall colors haven't really started up yet; as there are less people in the park, the weather is cooler too.

I will leave the tellings of our lodgings up to Angie as I am certain she is going to blog about it. Let's just say we upped things a bit as we made it our overdue honeymoon and in the coming years we are going to incorporate our birthdays and anniversary into this outing.

It was a bit of a rough go as the week prior Angie got sick and then like they say "in sickness and in health" she passed it on to me.  So I started feeling mine Wednesday and by Thursday I was pretty much down and out.  So this trip actually almost did not happen.  But after a couple days of rest at home, forcing myself to ignore the calls of the wild in the 'hood, 'cept our backyard visitors, I was mostly a pretty good sick patient doing what the doctor said...  rest.

But come Saturday morning, we pulled ourselves together and made the 3 hour journey to the park.  It was a peaceful ride up, no pressure to get there, little traffic, enjoyed hot coffee, good tunes, nice conversation, etc.

Over the course of our stay at the park, we had 26 positively ID'd species of birds and we know there were many more we couldn't name off with the brief sightings, fall plumage and sometimes only going by song.  Not bad considering we only did Beaver Pond trail and a short bit of the back end of Mizzy Lake... reasons being partially our energy levels and more so because we really wanted to take in where we stayed at.

The bird of the weekend was the Red-breasted Nuthatch.  They were everywhere!  White-throated Sparrows were aplenty in some spots, while we couldn't see them, we definitely made out their Autumn sub-song, which is like their Spring call only broken up.  Warblers were mainly Yellow-rumps (that we could make out) and one Black & White Warbler.  Water fowl brought us Common Mergansers, Black Ducks, Wood Ducks and a few Loons right by our accommodations.  Hearing them call from morning to evening out there was awesome!

We were highly entertained by a small number of overly tame Chipmunks on the grounds around where we stayed.  They ran over you to get the peanuts, or climbed on you for them.  I had one go up my arm to my shoulder, back down and then park himself on my 500mm lens for a moment before looking elsewhere around me for the bag of peanuts.  One little bugger even got up in the wheel well of the GMC!  Reincarnation as one of these guys on this property would be a pretty sweet and easy lifestyle.

Red Squirrels were an easy find throughout the park as always.  But for other mammals after that like Red Fox, Pine Marten, Beaver, Deer, Wolves and Moose...  not so easy.  Minus the Deer, all the others we have yet to see anywhere in Algonquin, even with all the Beaver lodges, we've still not seen one.

The past few years Angie and I have sought out Moose, both Spring and Fall.  The closest sighting I had was the arse of one running through the bushes off Hwy 60.  So, after dinner one night she suggested we take a ride out at dusk and see if we can spot a Moose in our travels.  I wasn't feeling that great but catered the idea and getting some air after our meal might do me some good.

We drove east on 60, keeping eyes open on both sides, through the bogs and wetlands for them.  Before long we were at Opeongo Road and decided to trek it for a while before heading back, it was soon to be dusk.  I figure we did half the road, just crossed the second bridge as I am told it's called.  We sat for a few moments and scanned the area.  Nothing.  I just did a u-turn and as I am about to pull back onto the road, I said with a sigh, "I guess the Moose is my nemesis in the park" or something like that.  I hit the gas, straighten the truck out on the road and my eyes fix on something across the bridge.  A Moose!  And not just a Moose but a Bull Moose or as I said "a mother *bleeping* Bull Moose cuz when you are this big, you need some emphasis.  And besides, it was our first real Moose sighting in the park ever, and we got the grand daddy of them!

I backed the truck up a bit and pulled off the road some.  Camera in hand, I get out in the road, and have a good look at this beautiful beast.  I take a couple photos, not thinking about the dim light and my settings, so the shots were brutal.  Ever see that MADD commercial about drunk driving and 6 glasses later, you can barely see the road...  kinda like that...  just a big fuzzy Moosh is what I'd be slurring.  Haha!  Anyways, yes, what a sight.  He stood out in the road, looking in our direction.  I should add there is the bridge between us and some road on either side too.  I guesstimate 300 ft max separated us.  I was in awe and so was Angie for about 3 seconds.  Then fear, panic and just down right "he scared the shit out of me!" as she put it set in.

I don't see Angie get like that very often.  She's usually pretty cool about stuff.  But we've heard so many horror stories about rutting season with the Moose and how aggressive they can be.  She had that right across her brain and she couldn't get past that.  Of course I want to take pictures but I have a terrified wife right behind me.  I did my best to reason with her while I tried for a few more shots, adjusting my settings, praying the Moose wasn't going to leave the road...  or come at us.  I explained about our distance from it, how the need to be quiet and still is best, how their eye sight isn't the greatest and he probably doesn't even really see us.  But she wouldn't listen and the more she ranted about her fear, the more the fear grew within her.  And at that point, I've hit frustration, losing my focus on the animal, and it's now on Angie.  And at that point, the Moose decided it was time to leave the road and head for the wetlands.  We could hear him push himself through the brush, branches cracking, leaves rustling and we lost sight of him momentarily.  He did emerge on the other side of the bushes that run along the road and was now deep in the wetlands.  We got back in the truck and slowly drove across the bridge for a better look plus this was the way back out anyways.  But the bushes were high and we lost sight of the beast.  I was disappointed and trying my best to comfort Angie.  Of course we bickered back and forth the next 1/2 km or so and then it was over.  I understand her fear, she understood my frustration and my reasoning on how we were okay was probably true.  She's promised not to have a freak out if we ever run into one again.  And we've been laughing about this misadventure ever since.  And some of our friends have had a chuckle out of it too.

Here's the big beautiful beast...

Here he is disappearing into the wetlands...

We had a great weekend away and I look forward to our next trip up there sometime in the winter, probably after new years.

Please enjoy a few other photos from our weekend away...

He's almost falling over trying to stuff them peanuts.


Peaceful times with the wildlife.

 An Eastern Pheobe on the grounds (saw one in same spot last year...  same bird?)

 My fave "bug" shot of the weekend.

A view at dusk from our place of stay.

Night time view.

Morning view with a Common Loon out on the water.

A "painted" Painted Turtle for study.

Meadow was so excited when we got home, she needed a nap soon after in the warm afternoon sun. All the backyard critters were pretty happy too. 28 Pigeons greeted me, double that in Sparrows. Life in the city, eh.

September 10, 2013

I Got Her Number!

If you read my last blog, you will quickly catch on to what this blog is about.  If not, click here to get caught up.

Its been just over a week with this female American Goldfinch coming around the nyjer feeders and teasing me with the flashes of her band.  I've spent many hours out back with her in recent days.  I've waited, I've stooped on the ground to shoot up at her, I've crawled across the grass to hopefully get a little closer or shift my angle, I've climbed on lawn furniture to shoot down on her, I've cursed at Squirrels, Pigeons and myself for spooking her, and I've "chimped"...  that's a phrase a friend of mine uses to describe when one of us is going over our pics on our camera in the field and making noises of happiness over good shots...  "oooooo" for this one, "oo oooooo" for another.  And as I mentioned first, I've waited.

Today was +43c with the humidex in the mid-afternoon and crazy me went out back with Meadow and the Budgies.  They were all loving it, Moonie and Misfit tweeted and squawked to the masses of feathered visitors.  Meadow found a cool spot and quickly went for a nap.  I wanted to join her but didn't.

At first I was focused on our partial leusistic House Sparrow "Snowflake".  I've been trying to get a decent photo of her, showing off her white plumage.  And of course I was keeping an eye out for the little lady Finch to come around.

Luck have it, Snowflake was visiting and put on a good show.  Unfortunately she seldom stopped for more than a few seconds and never really landing where I wanted her to for a shot.  But I will keep trying.

Sometime later I heard the familiar Goldfinch in flight call and I searched the trees for one.  Oh happy joy to see it was our girl!  I took a few bad pics, adjusted the settings and shot some more.  Suddenly a Squirrel came bombing through the garden, right through the dozen plus Pigeons, sending them all flying, which in turn got every other bird high tailing it for cover, including my bird of interest.

One of many photos from today as she moved about the feeders.

She returned, fed at one feeder, flew to another, back and forth, then over to the clothes line, back to the feeders.  And all through this I just kept taking photos.  I forgot to mention this but as of this morning I was one number away from getting her full band.  So close yet so far really.  I even called the bird banding office after work, at the 800 # I was given last week, and gave them the partial since I was getting anxious.

I took nearly 100 pics while she was there this afternoon.  I had no intention on stopping until she left or I drained my battery which was on it's last bar already.  She left.

I raced inside and loaded the pics.  How convenient the computer is by the back door, eh.  And I browsed the photos, deleted the useless shots, kept some interesting ones of her, and kept zooming in on every pic where the band was visible.  I was seeing a lot of the numbers I already had.  And my most recent find from yesterday being the word "open" at the band seal along with the #7 below it.  I'm about 90% through the pics, thinking I got nothing as the next bunch were seemingly all the same.  But luck have it, and maybe her band twisting around her leg, I saw a number I hadn't see before...  it was the #3!  I was grinning as I stared at the computer.

Here is the #3 shot.

I quickly searched for a bird banding reporting site and entered what I thought her ID # was.  Everything was going well until I hit the final submission and got a message.  It read something like my report was unusual with reasons being it was a very old band number, and second, it was the band of a Slate-colored Junco.  I was like "no !@*#'ing way!"  I blamed the bander in my head, accusing this unknown person as entering the wrong bird when they scribed it.  After 5 or so minutes of this frustration and accusation, I went back to my photos from today and older pics.  I went over every band shot, trying to see if I misread something, if any of the blurry numbers might actually be another number.  And there it was, I found a 6 in one where I thought was an 8 previously.  I double checked, and then went back to the reporting site and started all over.  I hit the final enter and that second wait sure seemed a lot longer.

And here's what I got back...


Bird Banding Laboratory

Dear Robert Mueller,
Thank you for reporting Band#: 2221-79263
A confirmation email has been sent to you.
See below the banding information for the reported bird:

Woo hoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

How cool is that?  She was banded 4 years ago and approximately 260 kms away from here.  She's at least 5 years old and to me that means she's a survivor (its tough out there in the wild).  Through time and travel she somehow made it to our backyard just over a week ago and is sticking around.

It was a fun mystery for me and I enjoyed sharing the adventure with my friends.  I'm just so happy my mission has been accomplished. 

She's a special visitor for sure and I will enjoy our visits always. 

I'm just adding this about 12 hours since I initially blogged this story.  I woke up to an email from the bird banding program which is the U.S. Geological Survey and Canadian Wildlife Service thanking me for my submission, or rather as they put it,  reporting my "encounter" with a banded bird.  And with it came this printable certificate.  How awesome is this?

September 8, 2013

Banded Birds

Over the Labour Day weekend we took notice to some banded birds visiting our bird feeders.

First off was this male Baltimore Oriole. You cannot see the band in this photo but I love this shot and had to share... and really I am not one for birds on bird feeder shots overall.

A better view of the band here, and our point of view of him, zoomed in of course, from where we sit out back and watch all the action fly in.

It took some time and a bunch of photos before I was finally able to get a partial band number on this bird being 22 over 952.

I started putting the question out on where I could possibly submit these numbers and hopefully get a little information about the bird, like where he was banded. I wasn't having any luck until I was told of an 800 number to a bird banding office that I never knew about, I was told that they may be able to help me even with a partial number. So I called them up and we started talking. Initially she thought the bird was dead and that is why I was calling it in. She got pretty excited once the story was fully told and the Oriole is alive and well, visiting our feeder and I got a partial number with my 500mm lens. In the end she made no promises on getting information but did promise they will research this the best they can, it will take some time, and perhaps they will have something to share with me. I thanked her and have had my fingers crossed ever since.

For us, it would be so cool to learn where this bird got banded. We all know Orioles are migratory birds and hang with us in the summer months and winter over in the far southern USA while some travel even further south to parts of Mexico or even South America. But to know an exact place this guy landed that wasn't here is interesting to us. I bet if you had one in your yard, you'd like to know too.

Unfortunately Mr. Oriole left after the long weekend and I can only hope to maybe see him again in May 2014.

And while this was happening, little did I realize a certain American Goldfinch visiting us is also banded. A smaller bird with a smaller band and the only reason I discovered this was I walked past her one early evening and took her photo for the heck of it. Later upon loading the pic on the computer did I notice a bit of the band on her leg. I was quite excited and couldn't wait for the following day to hopefully spot her again.

First shot of the Goldfinch.

The very next day I saw her numerous times but couldn't get a shot. Yet another day later, I had myself down on one knee in the muddy strawberry patch shooting up at her leg and lucked out with some numbers of her tiny band. It looks like 21 over 8. And I see the band was put on upside down as well.

This Finch is not keen on the photo sessions and me paying too much attention to her. She started flying off sooner than later when I had my camera pointed at her. She'd never fly far but upon first spook, I back off and let her return to eat. I'd try shooting from a distance which was pointless for getting those much desired numbers off her leg. Occasionally I did succeed but every time it was the same numbers. Finally today, 4 days later, I got more of the band. Looks like 222 over 92 in this one.

I'm wondering if I'm correct to piece it together as an even closer full number with 2221 over 928?

She's been around everyday for the past week now. I will keep trying for more leg photos and hopefully can put together a full band number. The numbers on each line can be 4 or 5 digits. When I feel confident on this one, I will definitely make the call in about her. I'd love to be able to share what I have learned about each bird to you all. :)

I guess this has been a little bit of pay off for spending more time at home the last bunch of weeks instead of out and about looking for birds elsewhere.