Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

November 27, 2016

Damn! Bitter Sweet.

This morning I'm watching and counting birds from the kitchen window for Project Feeder Watch.  All is going nicely, had 18 American Goldfinches right off the start which is a great number for them, that I have not seen here in years.  A couple White-breasted Nuthatches, Chickadees, Juncos and Downy Woodpeckers as well.

In flew 3 Pigeons, I recognize the birds even though they aren't part of my flock of hand feeders.  The Pigeons are poking around in the garden, picking up whatever has fallen from the feeders above.

Suddenly all the birds rocket out of the yard.  The Pigeons are flying right towards the house and I know they are going to turn at the last minute and cut through the trees along the fence line.  Just as they are making this turn, which is maybe 15 ft from the back of the house, I see a Cooper's Hawk rapidly approaching the birds.

Before my brain really clues into everything, I see the Hawk on top of one of the Pigeons in the air, and forcing it to the ground.  BAM!  Just like that.  The two ended up just over the fence and in the yard next door.  I have a clear view of everything from the window still due to a very old wire fence that separates the yards.

I'm stunned at what I saw.  In all the years of backyard bird watching, I've seen a Hawk take something right in front of me only a very few times.  It's shocking, it's incredible to witness and it's also heart breaking.  But that is nature.  There is no mercy.  One can only hope the suffering is minimal, that the Hawk kills it's prey quick.

I'm watching from the window.  One part of me wants to run outside and try to save the Pigeon.  Another part of me knows this is part of the Hawk's survival, it has to eat too.  I want to watch.  I want to close the shutters.

I have the camera on the table and take a few shots through the glass.  I dare not open the window and possibly spook the Hawk, perhaps abandoning it's catch which I see is still alive and fighting back.

The backyard Squirrels have taken notice to this ordeal and aren't happy about it at all.  Tails flickering, they are slinking along the landscape, moving in on this Hawk.  A couple run past it, another runs right at it, stopping at the last second.  The Hawk stands it's ground over the Pigeon.  Another Squirrel charges in and the Hawk flies off, leaving the Pigeon on the lawn.  I can see the bird is still alive...  barely.  FUCK!

What do I do?  Do I go out there and end the Pigeon's life, perform a mercy killing on this poor creature?  The Hawk is still deep down the yard, just watching.  The Squirrels spread out and go about their business, not having one concern for that Pigeon.  Of course all the Pigeon's friends are long gone.

I decide to wait this out a little.  I fear my going outside could send the Hawk flying off.  The Pigeon is going to die regardless; it's almost lifeless now.  I don't want it's death to be a waste.

Moments later the Cooper's Hawk flies in again, going right for it's meal.  It grabs it in it's talons and flies off to the back, high in a tree, and goes to work plucking the Pigeon and then eating it's flesh.  I can see this all quite well from the window with my binoculars.

We have our very own nature channel.  Who needs television?

To think about 6 years ago I would be like "Ya!  Kill those Pigeons!  Get them out of here!"  How times have changed.

Just this past week an old Facebook status of mine came up where I was putting out some monster bird feeder that would be Pigeon proof.  Nowadays, I AM a Pigeon feeder in every sense.

I really hope this does not become a norm, our backyard turning into a blood bath, no matter what the Hawk(s) are taking out.  I'm only really spotting the Cooper's about once a week but that don't mean it's not been there more (not seeing carnage and leftovers, feather piles).  I've said it before if it ever got that bad, I would take down our feeders, dispersing things for a while.  I love all birds including birds of prey but I don't want any part of luring birds daily to their death.  It's not fair, especially to my Pigeon friends who have a trust in me.  The birds won't starve, we aren't their only food supply.  Not everyone will get this and I don't care.

I really hope I never see one snagging one of my special Pigeon friends.  I honestly don't know what I would do if I witnessed that in a way like I did with this bird today.  It's no wonder Pierre and his flock are staying well away right now.  Some think Pigeons are stupid birds.

November 16, 2016

Pigeon Pages Vol 2

Hello. Welcome back. I've been wanting to do another Pigeon blog lately and finally have the time on this drizzly November morning. I recalled doing one at some point in the past and found that I did, just shy of a year ago (Nov. 20, 2015), see here. Kinda funny, huh?

Things have changed around here a lot in the last month or so. As fall migration occurred, once again Hawks have come hunting our neck of the woods.

As I key this blog, the backyard is absent of all birds except one Sharp-shinned Hawk hiding in the cedars down back. This bird has wreaked havoc on all the other visiting birds. I've watched it even attack the Pigeons who are much larger than this Hawk.

Sharp-shinned Hawk from earlier this month.

Then another Hawk has been coming in as well. A larger species who even drives out the Sharp-shin. This is a Cooper's Hawk. Notice the bloody foot?

I don't have any ill feelings towards these birds. They are doing what they do. I offer food to all birds it seems, even if it's birds for birds. Hawks do help keep populations in check, weeding out the sick and the weak.

I've not had to touch my feeders sometimes for up to 4 days or more. I do see birds come in, but it's a quick grab and they are gone again. The Blue Jays are sometimes here screaming at one of the Hawks watching over the yard. The Jays will fight the Sharpie since they are similar in size. The Jays will not fight the beast that is the Cooper's.

I'm missing my birds visitors. It's not been a blood bath here that I can see. I've only spotted one pile of feathers in the last couple weeks between our backyard and the properties on either side of us.

I'm sure missing my pal Pierre. Most stopping in to read my blog know this bird. He's been coming to visit for over 4 years now. I see Pierre about once a week right now, along with his missus. I've only hand fed him once in the last month. Even Mickey is another MIA bird for the most part these days.

He must be missing me and the yummy treats he can only get when he comes to me. Shelled peanuts and sunflower chips. His visits now are whatever he can find on the ground, searching with 20 or more of his species that fly in with him in the few minutes they do before flying off in fear. I can't get my shoes on fast enough to go outside and greet him. It is obvious they have food sources elsewhere though some argue they are totally dependent on me.

What is interesting is that while he and his flock stay away, other Pigeons are coming in, taking advantage of the food source and taking chances with these Hawks lurking about. These new visitors aren't naive, first sign (sight or sound) of danger and they quickly vanish as well.

A couple of the new visitors stand out from the rest, and here you can easily see why.

The majority of Pigeon visitors are the typical blues and grays, with the odd red one. White feathered birds are far less common to come in, for us anyway. I think they are easy targets as they stand out from the rest.

It took no time for these two to figure out a better food source by coming to my hand.

I named them Jersey 1 and Jersey 2. I couldn't decide who was #1 and who was #2 but I finally figured it out. #1 has black feathers under one eye. #2 has black feathers under both eyes. I'm so clever! Ha ha!

I've not tried to take any better photos of them with my better cameras. So far it's only been shots with the phone. I'm just digging their company so much. Pigeons really are very personable birds if you take the time to get to know them. As I've mentioned in the past, having the opportunity to watch a flock day after day, I easily recognize individuals even when to others they mostly all look the same.

There is something about Jersey 2 that has me wondering. See, a couple years ago we had a Pigeon who looked identical to this one. We had named it Gene because of the Gene Simmons (KISS) similarities. I happened to be outside one morning when I noticed all the Pigeons take flight, and out from the garden ran a cat with Gene the Pigeon in it's teeth.

This is the cat. It hunted our yard often one Summer. I yelled at it, threw things at it, I sprayed it with the hose so many times. The little asshole continued to return. Feeders were moved, many times only putting a small amount in for the morning while home to watch and then that was it. We knew it had owners one street over from us, but they left it outside. In time, the cat turned quite sickly, had a terrible eye infection, later on a very bad limp and then was not seen again. How anyone thinks this is being a good pet owner is beyond. Good thing we are responsible pet owners, Meadow was always fully vaccinated and didn't catch these diseases such sick animals could leave traces of in our backyard where Meadow roamed on leash and harness.

So ya, the little *expletive* had Gene in his teeth and was trotting off with him. I ran to help. The cat got over the fence, still with Gene in it's mouth. I had a broom with me and in my rage and upset I launched it in the direction of the cat. My aim sucks, which is probably for the better, and the broom went beyond the cat but it was enough to make it let go of poor Gene. The cat darted off. Gene sat there on the ground for a moment. I quickly jumped the fence to come to his aid. Gene took flight, fast and hard, and disappeared. We never saw him again. This happened in 2014. We feared he may have had a heart attack in the panic especially when he took flight, working his heart even harder. Are you familiar with the term "scared to death"? It is real.

Also cats carry a lot of bacteria in their saliva, enough to kill other living beings as it travels through their blood stream. So while Gene may have gotten away, the cat could still have killed him slowly. It can even kill a human if left unattended over time. Believe it or not.

I came across this photo of Gene, not the best angle but...

Here is Jersey 2.

What do you think?

I know talking with some wildlife rehab friends about this when it happened to Gene, some remarked that if there was a bird who could survive a cat bite, it would be a Pigeon. Not to make them sound bad, but they don't exactly live in the cleanest conditions if you know what I mean. They adapt and can withstand things so many others could not.

We so bad ass.  Ha ha ha!

Here is Jersey 1 getting to know my friend Rob the other Saturday morning.

I'm having a blast getting to know these 2 birds. But it will be nice to see my old friends again, hopefully soon.

November 9, 2016

Love for a Dove

Yesterday, November 8th, 2016, I accepted a mission to help a youngish Mourning Dove find a flock to join after spending some time at Toronto Wildlife. There are certain species of birds who do better, especially at this time of year when the weather is turning colder, by flocking up with their own kind. Joining an established flock in an area gives them the best chance at survival, following the other birds who know where to find food, water and shelter.

Mourning Dove from backyard sometime ago.

It turned out to be quite the task.

I used to see Mourning Doves everywhere. But lately, and I mean for a while now, not so much.

We even checked eBird for sightings and Downsview Park, where TWC is located, had someone report seeing 20 just 2 days earlier. I had seen Doves there a week ago. Could I find a single bird? No.

Angie and I had seen a couple over the past weekend in Marie Curtis Park. It was only 2 birds but it was the only other spot I could think of.

I was making contact with friends who may have seen Doves in their birding travels lately, even people with bird feeders as a last resort. Nothing was working out. A couple friends had been seeing them but also a Cooper's Hawk who was doing quite a number on their Pigeon visitors. So ya, wasn't an option to send this guy there.

I hit a few parks where I am certain I've seen Doves in the past, nothing.

I ran into a birding bud of mine at one and he was at a loss about where one or more could be.

Funny thing is how many people talked about the fact that it is now legal to shoot these birds. I know this is true but facts on where and when are unknown to me. I should research it. Honestly it upsets me though. Who the heck would want to shoot a Mourning Dove? Sure they can be in abundance (or were), but they are such peaceful birds, some call them "not very bright" and they are much too easy of a target. Where is the challenge in that, if someone wanted to call this a sport? It seems more to me like jagoffs just getting their rocks off by obliterating these birds.

Mourning Doves can breed up to four times a year. They are a great food source to other animals, especially birds of prey. Yes, the grim side many don't want to think about, but it's true.

I just don't get it (hunting them). How are they ensuring the population does not plummet and go way of the Passenger Pigeon? Any one with an answer, please comment.

I made my way down to the lake parks. I stopped at a couple as I made my west towards Marie Curtis Park which is on the border between Etobicoke and Mississauga.

I had the last of migratory birds to release with me as well and they needed to be out and free sooner than later. As soon as I found a good spot, with other migrants in the area, out they went.

The last migratory bird release for me, for 2016. A White-throated Sparrow.

As you can see here, a funny thing happened with this Hermit Thrush. He left the bag but stopped on my hand. He decided to sit here for about a minute, taking in his new surroundings before flying off to join a couple other Hermit Thrushes. I was very happy that I had my phone in my jacket pocket when this occurred. This never happens! Sure made this last release outing quite memorable.

I kept onward with the mission at task. I asked bird people in my travels about any Dove sightings. Most said "no" and a few even said "why would I bother looking at a Mourning Dove?" One even called them an idiot species. WELL!

Through my mission, I chanced upon an Eastern Screech Owl. You know shit is real when I kept moving, not even running back to the truck for the camera to get even one photo. True story!

I had been in semi-regular contact with my friends at TWC on what was going on. It was agreed to keep the faith and just get over to Marie Curtis Park, going with that last sighting I had.

I slowly made my way through Marie Curtis, stopping at various spots, looking and listening. I parked the truck in a few areas and went for a walk. Nothing. I had made my way down to the lake, did a u-turn at the last parking lot and sat there for many minutes. I was in thought about what to do. I did not want to just let this little Dove go without finding him a friend or two, even knowing the birds are most likely still in the park... somewhere.

A small birding group was walking through the park. I had thought about asking them if they had seen any Doves but with all the responses I had gotten already, I decided not to.

I left that last lot, and got back on the driveway, crawling along in the truck, and really starting to stress now. I pull over about 50 ft out of the lot. I just sit, think and worry.

I kid you not about what happened next.

Suddenly in flew 7 Mourning Doves from the west. They landed on the drive right behind my truck! The birds wanted to get a drink from the large puddle on the road.

I just about pooped myself. My heart raced.

A car was coming and it forced the Doves off the road. NOOOOOOOOOOOO! The birds took flight and all landed in a nearby tree. I wasted no time now, getting to work. I did not want this bird to miss the opportunity.

I let the Dove out of the card board box there on the grass. The bird took flight and flew to a tree near where this flock was sitting.

I returned to the truck, watched and waited for something to happen. But nothing did. The birds stayed where they were, perhaps waiting for me to leave? I put the truck in drive and slowly drove away, watching out the mirror. Doves began dropping down from the tree to the puddle. I could not tell if my "friend" joined them at that moment or not. I just have to hope he did meet up with them sometime that day. Knowing there was more than the 2 birds Angie and I saw days earlier was a bonus.

I'm not a religious type. I'm not a believer in one God. I don't really know what I believe in. Maybe someone is out there watching over me, like a guardian angel. They say things happen for a reason but sometimes it's incredibly odd how they can work out so well, and just like that, when things seem so dark. This is one of those stories, for me, and this bird. I know I silently said "thank you". The relief that came over me with this grand finale was beyond description. I was exhausted. And now I had to get home and get ready for work.

No photos were taken of the bird or the flock. I kinda wish I even snapped one of the road, and that puddle. But capturing an image was of least importance here.

Here is one of my favorite Mourning Dove captures from the backyard a couple Decembers ago.

They really are beautiful birds. And if you listen to their song, you can be overwhelmed with a feeling of calm. We sure do. That call can lull us to sleep in the deck chairs on a Summer afternoon.