Marvin and Mavis: 2020 in Review

Marvin and Mavis have had a pretty stressful 2020.

They’re far from alone, of course, but spare an extra thought for these two.

Spring was looking pretty good. Several years of effort had paid off and they’d finally driven all other crows out of “their” row of poplar trees on Kaslo Street.

I like to think they had a couple of weeks of feeling satisfied with their achievement before the trees were all felled in June.

Left with a blue construction fence instead of 22 stately trees, they tried at least two different nesting sites in smaller street trees. At one point it seemed that they did have a single fledgling, which came to the house a few times and was spotted on the construction fence.

It’s always hard to keep track of the crows during this period as they change their habits, protecting their young ones and chasing off in unpredictable directions after their novice flyers. All that, combined with the summer of noise and dust on the construction site, caused me to completely lose sight of Marvin and Mavis and the young one.

Unfortunately, by the time the literal and metaphorical dust settled at summer’s end, there were just the two of them again, looking a bit glum on the blue fence and starting to moult.

Fall feathers came back in and I was looking forward to getting back to the normal routine of them coming by the house a couple of times a day and  having some quiet chats about world events.

Trouble on this front too, though.

For new readers, a short crow history lesson may be needed here.

Before Marvin and Mavis became our “house crows”, our place “belonged” to George and Mabel. When George died in summer 2017, Mabel moved to the other end of the block and eventually started a new family there.

Mabel and just a couple of her clan.

In 2019  Mabel and her new mate had three fledglings, with two of them staying with mum and dad. This spring they had three more, and the two survivors of that batch are with them now as well — creating a large family unit of six crows.

Six is a lot of beaks to feed, and Mabel seems to have now remembered that our house was once her territory. Consequently, we have a bit of a power play going on, with Marvin and Mavis seriously outnumbered.

Mabel on the garden gate post, back to her old haunt

I have tried to apply the Peanut Diplomacy method to the problem, scouring the scene for the Mabel gang before putting a few discreet peanuts out for M & M.

But, with six pairs of sharp crow eyes on lookout, it’s very rare that anything gets past them — and Marvin and Mavis are constantly having to fend off interlopers.

It’s rare to see either of them these days without fully deployed head or pants feathers, trying to look as fearsome as possible.

Or ducking …

Anxious to avoid crow riots, and potential crow injuries when they dive bomb each other,  I’ve stopped putting peanuts out for anybody for now. When the dog and I leave our gate and I find eight crows waiting, I just walk off and try to lure Mabel and company back to their usual territory at the other end of the block, before rewarding them with a small nut offering.

At the end of the walk, I arrive by a different route at the back of the house and, if I’ve succeeded in losing my “tail,” I can usually find Marvin and Mavis and we can have a bit of discussion about how 2020 is going for each of us.

Suffice to say, sympathy is offered on both sides.






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22 thoughts on “Marvin and Mavis: 2020 in Review

  1. So interesting. Them there are some lucky crows to have you in both their courts.
    Mabel, dear, what WERE you thinking, all those kids? Are they like Gen-Y-ers who never leave home?
    M&M have my sympathy.
    I am still not able to discern who is who in my “flock”, only that there are two, sometime four that always show up at the assigned breakfast feeding spot in no-mans-land by the bus stop/ entrance to the little park. I think they are Harold/ Mrs H, and Maude/ Mr M. They are getting super relaxed including gently landing near me.

  2. Since it’s Thanksgiving eve here, I’d like to tell you how very thankful I am for your blog! It’s really been a one of the brightest spots during difficult days, and a connection to a different world. So thank you.

  3. Thank you for your photography artistry and bringing these wonderful bird friends I’m my life. They have brightened many days of solitude!!

  4. I can’t write that I actually have a crow family, however, I have fed crows periodically and although I enjoy it very much, that same thing keeps happening. Eventually, more and more and more crows arrive, fights and noise….and then nasty looks from the neighbors. I love them, but eventually always end up having to step back and stop the peanuts. I am heart broken over the felled trees….such beautiful homes for them….just destroyed. I really wish I could establish a family like yours…but I am surrounded by neighbors, have too little space…and eventually end up upsetting someone. I have purchased your paintings and I have Mr. Pants and Frazzled and a few more. Thank you for your sharing and story telling . I really enjoy it very much.

  5. Thank you for your wonderful blog and artwork. I really feel for Marvin and Mavis, and I sure wish them better luck in 2021. I have your 2020 calendar in a prominent place in my apt. and have ordered the 2021 calendar. I look forward to the beautiful crow illustrations and to learning more about these fascinating birds from the accompanying write ups.
    I have befriended the neighbourhood crows around my block – I live in an apartment at Woodland and East 3rd Ave. I talk to them and toss them peanuts often. It’s such a heartwarming experience to be recognized by the crows whenever I walk down our street, and to have them “fly with me” (they fly along with me as I walk, gliding closely past my shoulder).
    A couple of years ago Fortis BC began a monstrous construction project right outside my apartment that lasted for just over two years, and “necessitated” the the removal of about 75 very large pine trees that stood in a long row outside my window. Needless to say, this was a serious disruption to the crows, to other the birds and to myself. I was actually really heartbreaking. But I watched in admiration at how the crows, at the end of each working day, when the construction workers vacated the site to go home, those crows would go right into the site and inspect the the equipment and newly emerging building with great courage and curiosity. They perched on these structures and examined them thoroughly with eyes, beaks and feet! They are so amazing.
    Thanks for educating, and enhancing my appreciation and understanding of our crow-friends.

  6. Thank you for your wonderful blog and artwork. I really feel for Marvin and Mavis, and sure hope that they have a better year in 2021. I have enjoyed your 2020 calendar in my home and look forward to another year of crow images with accompanying write ups in your 2021 calendar.
    I have also befriended the neighbourhood crows in my area, conversing with them and tossing them peanuts. In return, they accompany me when I walk along our street, flying along with me, gliding closely by my shoulders, then landing on something just ahead of me and waiting for me to catch up!
    Almost three years ago, Fortis BC undertook a monstrous construction project next to my building that lasted over two years. It “necessitated” the removal of about 75 large pine trees that stood in a long row directly outside my apartment window. Needless to say, this was a huge disruption for the crows, the other neighbourhood birds and for me. It was actually quite heartbreaking. But I also watched in fascination at how the crows, at the end of each workday, after the construction workers left to go home – those crows would fly right into the construction site and perch boldly on the equipment and the emerging new building. With their keen eyes, and using beaks and feet they inspected everything with great curiousity!
    Thanks again for educating and increasing my appreciation of these fascinating birds.

  7. I have a crow family here I have been feeding for over a year but unless one has a feather sticking out I have no clue how to identify them. I knew when the young ones were out back though. What a racket. I love hearing all the different noises they make and their talk time. How awful that all those trees were removed. To what end?

    • The trees were removed to make room for the private school where they stood to make an artificial turf sports facility. They will be obliged to eventually plant some replacement trees, but it remains to be seen how many, what kind, how big …

  8. I always enjoy your urban nature/crow tales – thanks so much for the observations, pictures and sharing. Patty in Gibsons, BC.

    (p.s.. Hope 2021 will be a better year for the Mabel crew and Marvin and Mavis….and the rest of us!)

    On Wed, Nov 25, 2020 at 5:52 PM The Urban Nature Enthusiast wrote:

    > The Urban Nature Enthusiast posted: ” Marvin and Mavis have had a pretty > stressful 2020. They’re far from alone, of course, but spare an extra > thought for these two. Spring was looking pretty good. Several years of > effort had paid off and they’d finally driven all other crows ou” >

  9. How wonderful that you have some crows to observe. I’ve been feeding my neighbour Crows for probably 15 years..I have so many but a few who come up on my railing to ask for peanuts. I also feed the wild birds off the balcony so it’s always hard to make the crows share.

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