FAMILY NUMBER ONE
Our first crow family consists of my old friends, Clara and Eric.
They started nest building in mid-April, choosing a spot in the poplar trees bordering the high school at the end of our street. It was visible for a while, but in May the leaves filled in and the nest was veiled in secrecy
Weeks passed by and I waited to see signs of baby crows. Radio silence — until last week when I woke up to a loud crow-fuffle outside the school.
Half a dozen adult crows were cawing at each other in a circle inside the school fence. Outside the fence sat this little bundle. It seemed as if the adults were trying, and failing, to reach consensus on what do do about the problem at hand.
The dilemma: baby crow was sitting right where, in another half an hour, cars would be pulling up as parents dropped off their children at school.
I went home to collect a protective hat and some conciliatory peanuts, and returned, prepared to move the baby off the road to the relative security of the fence line about 5 feet away. Of course, this did not go over well at all with the adults. A crowd of about a dozen outraged crows had gathered by now, and they all offered their opinions (loudly) from the trees and fence.
Whether it was their advice, or my getting closer, the baby crow picked himself up and scuttled under his own steam to the fence and off the road edge.
Day 2: My husband spotted the baby, somehow herded by it’s parents to the inside of the fence line and into an area overgrown with blackberry bushes. Excellent cover.
Day 3: No sign of baby, but parents being very loud and protective.
Day 4: Spotted the baby up in a small crabapple tree on boulevard beside the school.
Day 5: Nightmare — the school gardener had taken a weed-wacker to the area where the baby had been taking cover. A sea of chopped up blackberry stems. No sign of baby.
Day 6: Spotted the baby hopping around the diced foliage. Phew. Parents cawing protectively.
Day 7: Heart stopping moment when I see this inert form lying in the middle of the empty school parking lot.
Closer inspection reveals it to be a rolled up black sock. But no sign of baby and parents around but not being protective. Not a good sign.
Day 8: Up very early again to see if I can catch the faintest sound of a baby crow calling. Silence. No baby sounds, no parental cawing. Eric and Clara were in their usual spots but not seeming to be in protective mode any more.
If this fledgling hasn’t survived, it will be the second year in a row that Eric and Clara have not produced any young. Last year no babies made it out of the nest — I think because a big windstorm that happened just as they were about to fledge.
However, better news from …
FAMILY NUMBER TWO
This crow family lives about six blocks from us. I see them on the daily dog walks.
It’s rather hospitable area for a growing crow family — a quiet street, lined on both sides with very big, leafy trees The crows there seem to be the first ones in the neighbourhood to have their babies out of the nest.
Last winter I started to notice one particular crow around there. She stood out from the corvid crowd because of what looked like a streak of white on one wing. The flash of white is actually because one feather sticks out at an awkward angle, but the name White Wing stuck in my head.
Her feather mishap didn’t seem to slow her down at all and I saw her almost every day — until early March, when she disappeared. I was quite worried. as it seemed a bit early for the annual nest building, when couples do tend to make themselves scarce.
I saw her companion almost every day, but no sign of White Wing.
Until just over two weeks ago.
Remember this little fellow from my last blog post, Fledgling Alert — he had just dragged himself (literally) out of the gutter. It turns out that he and two siblings are White Wing’s offspring.
Now I see White Wing every day, being harassed by her brood of hungry offspring.
These crow babies are gaining skills fast. They can fly now — airborne, if not graceful. This fledgling was playing with a twig on a roof and managed to hop/fly to another roof while still hanging on to her treasure.
Already the bright blue eyes of the first few days are changing to a soft grey. They’ll keep the bright pink “gape” of the mouth for a few more weeks as they continue to beg their parents to be fed.
While life will continue to be a risky business for Whitewing’s three offspring — fledglings seem to do quite well in this little neighbourhood every year.
The leafy canopy of trees provides some cover from aeriel predators like eagles and hawks (although there is a hawk’s nest in those same trees a block or so down the street). It’s a street with lots of gardens, providing plenty of cover, and not much traffic.
I’ll try and keep you posted on the progress of families one and two. I’m still hoping against hope for Eric and Clara’s single fledgling, but preparing to accept that things haven’t worked out for them this year.
There is also a third family on my radar — post pending.
Marvin and Mavis have a nest in the same trees as Eric and Clara and they seem determined to keep their babies in there until the last minute.
Stay tuned …..