Benjamin Crow

Last week I wrote a post on social media about Ben, the crow with a bent foot, in which I mentioned that Marvin and Mavis seem to allow him to get first dibs on the nuts and kibble I put out in the morning.

I immediately started to worry that I’d over-sentimentalized their behaviour.

Crows, much as I love them, are not generally known for their charitable works.

It’s true that  they’re extremely loyal to their family members (see George and Mabel: A Love Story.) At night they’re very co-operative and social when they come together at the roost for mutual protection, information and general fun.

But, during the day, crows stick pretty closely to their own territory — usually half a city block or so — and defend it against other crow visitors.

So why do Marvin and Mavis put up with Ben’s intrusions? I have a couple of theories, none of which include pure crow altruism on their part.

But first, the story of Ben, as far as I know it.

I noticed him last spring when he started following me on dog walks. I assumed he must be a local crow with a recently sustained injury, as I’m sure I’d have noticed his badly deformed foot if he’d been like this for a while.

He would pop up on my walks and, while doing my best to avoid conflict with other crows, I’d try to slip him a few peanuts.

In so doing, I was contravening my own rules of Peanut Diplomacy, but …

As BC’s terrible fall weather made international news, with floods and even a small hurricane, I worried about all the birds — but especially Ben.

I could imagine him out there, clamped to a branch with only one functional claw while the rest of him was flung about in the gales.

Sometimes I wouldn’t see him for a few days after a big storm and I’d think he’d been swept away, but then there he’d be again.

That one good foot must be extra, extra strong.

By then he’d started showing up at my house. I think his territory is a block or so away, but he must have a line of sight to see when I first poke my head out of the back door in the morning.

A picture of Ben looking at me from the roof early one wet morning became the print, Frazzled 2/Too.

The fact that Ben was now showing up for peanuts in Marvin and Mavis’s territory was a further breach of Peanut Diplomacy protocol.

But that face … what to do?

So, back to my theories of why Marvin and Mavis seem to have come to terms with Ben’s visits.

Theory One: Crows Are Trainable

I decided to see if I could try keep both Ben and M&M happy by trying my hand at some rudimentary crow training techniques. I mean, not much else was going on, so why not?

Ben’s great advantage is that he’s willing to come for snacks while I’m still standing nearby. Like other crows with injuries (e.g. George Brokenbeak) the risk/ benefit calculation of getting close to people shifts more into the “worth the risk” side of the ledger as it gets harder for them to get their own food.

I decided to use this fearlessness “superpower” in Ben’s favour.

When the snacks go out in the morning, several sets of crow eyes are watching.  Marvin or Mavis usually sound the breakfast call from their favourite Hydro pole.

Normally M & M would immediate swoop in and summarily scatter the competition — but I found if I stood right beside the peanuts and fixed them with a stern look and said “wait” in my best dog training voice, it bought Ben and his mate time to stuff a few peanuts and kibble in their beaks and take off.

After a couple of weeks of this everybody seemed to have got the hang of things.

Occasionally a tail tweak from Mavis is needed to reinforce the “taking turns” etiquette, but generally Ben and friend seem to know when their time is up.

Theory Two: Not Worth the Hassle

Another risk/benefit calculation, this time on the part of Marvin and Mavis, might be further explanation for their forbearance.

In spite of his limping gait, Ben is fierce. If attacked by other crows  I’ve seen him respond with impressive force. Perhaps Marvin and Mavis, knowing their food supply is generally secure, figure it’s not worth the risk to life and wing to take him on.

The M’s know, after all, that they can always come back later in the day, when things are less competitive, for a quiet visit and some extra peanuts.

Both theories, I guess, boil down to “crows are smart,” which is hardly news. I do know that I’ve spent countless hours watching crows, and the one thing I’ve learned is that they always have another surprise tucked up their wing feathers.

Anyway, I’ll keep you posted on how Ben makes out, and how long we can keep the Golden Age of Breakfast Co-operation going.

 

 

 

 

 

__________________________________________________________________________________________

© junehunterimages, 2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

Crows to the Rescue

The peace of wild things has been so very much needed over the past weeks and months. Years.

The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

It can be hard to chisel those precious nuggets of joy from the daunting and somewhat featureless rock face of pandemic living —and there’s certainly no shortage of  things to wake us, clammy and panic stricken, in the night. In those sleepless hours, poetry and quiet prose is a wonderful solace (along with a cat on the lap, some medium-complicated knitting and a cup of Ovaltine.)

Going to lie down where the wood drake rests, however,  remains less of an option for us city dwellers.

Luckily, nature is really is everywhere — even in the the cacophonous concrete city.

It’s so easy to miss it all among all the stresses and distractions of urban life —but this is where the crow rescue squad can help. Just pay them a little attention, and they will drag your attention (kicking and screaming, if necessary) to the Peace of Wild Things. Dammit.


Crows are wild things, but something … something … about them —  their tight family units, that look in the eye, that tilt of the head — makes them feel like quite close relations.

It really doesn’t seem like that much of a stretch (trust me) to start having conversations with them.

Hey, Mabel — how’s the family? Got one of the kids home visiting I see.

Any sign of spring out there, Marvin and Mavis?

Again, I ask myself quietly, am I spending too much time with birds … ?

And I conclude: not possible. I’d happily spend a lot MORE time with birds!

In fact, every time a see any bird — crow, sparrow, hawk or bushtit, I feel a thrill.

Perhaps it’s because where I grew up, on the Quayside of the industrial Tyne River in Newcastle in  50’s and 60’s Britain, the only birds I saw were rooftop pigeons and distant gulls. (See: Birth Of An Urban Nature Enthusiast)

It seemed to me then that things like birds and trees and squirrels and grass were just for rich people — so that’s what makes spending time with crows and all the other birds lurking in my part of the city, feel like such luxury.

And why it feels as if having a crow rescue committee for darker days is wealth beyond compare, even if I don’t have anywhere to lie down with them.
Probably not such a good idea in any case, when it comes to crows …

I’ve looked at life from both sides now …

 

 

 

__________________________________________________________________________________________

© junehunterimages, 2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crow Therapy Thoughts

This summer I gave a couple of webinars on the topic of Crow Therapy and it’s something I think about almost every day as I try to understand why, after 15 years or so, I never tire of watching and taking photos of my local crows. Somehow I feel that the crows are a key to unlocking a big mystery and I’m still working on what it is. But here’s what I’ve got so far, starting with what I don’t think it is.

Precarious

Every time I write the phrase Crow Therapy I worry that it sounds just a little exploitative — as if crows, like the rest of nature, are just there for our entertainment.  As if it’s something that could be packaged in a fancy jar and marketed to a stressed consumer. *

Fashion Statement

I hope it’s a more reciprocal arrangement — one in which crows can regularly jolt me out of my default setting of seeing the human race as the centre of the universe.

A little daily crow therapy reminds me that other lives  —  every bit as ordinary and epic as mine — are being lived alongside mine. This realization brings great  joy, but also a weight of responsibility and I feel a constant obligation to communicate both. 

Interpretive Dance

Joy, I feel, is something that we’re going to need more of in the coming years — and it needs to be a different joy than the kind with which we’ve soothed ourselves up to now.  We need a more sustainable source of joy — less of the kind  acquired via tropical holidays and the general accumulation of material things. I’ve convinced myself at different times in my life that I’m just one Tupperware container, one pair of pants, or that fabulous kitchen appliance away from my whole life falling into place, so I’m as much in need of convincing on this front as anyone else.**

Judgemental Crows

For the last few days my Twitter feed has been a rushing river of terrifying news from my own province of BC — roads and rail lines washed away, entire towns flooded, homes and lives lost in a moment. In the midst of this harrowing torrent, an ad for Lincoln cars bobs up regularly like a jolly life buoy. The ad assures me that driving a Lincoln will provide great relaxation in the face of life’s little frustrations — things liking having odd socks disappear in the laundry and (in a final touch of unintentional irony) having my umbrella blown inside out by the wind in a storm. 

I am 100% sure that a new Lincoln is NOT the answer to life’s daily trials,  and definitely not the way to relieve the sadness of seeing life inevitably altered by climate change and coming to terms with the difficult changes that will be needed.

But I do know that spending half an hour watching crows will help.

Philosopher Crow

Or watching rain drip onto a patch of moss. Or listening to the Northern Flickers chattering.

This is a sustainable joy, free, readily available to anyone, and consuming no natural resources … and  it’s the kind of joy I’m trying to rely on more and more.

I do realize that I spend so much time exploring the meandering rabbit hole of my Crow Therapy theory, that I often fail to get around to posting anything about actual crows any more.  I have a musing problem, I know …

Consequently I have a huge backlog of crow news and photos, so I will try to remedy this, starting tomorrow with a Marvin and Mavis update.

I guess the one thing that I was trying to say in this post was that I mean the idea of crow therapy (and my images) to be, not just a respite from general and/or climate stress, but also an inspiration and a focus for taking action to make things better — for ourselves, for crows, for nature as a whole.

You might also be interested in: 

 

*& **  I say these things, even as I hope you’ll purchase my images, calendars, bags etc, to enable me to continue thinking about, writing about and photographing crows, so I am aware of contradictions and I am far from having all the answers.

 

 

__________________________________________________________________________________________

© junehunterimages, 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.