It started as a normal Monday in East Vancouver. The dawn made it’s spectacular appearance (an hour late due Daylight Savings).
Birds began to reappear in the sky, taking their posts for the coming day.
Eric and his family arrived at their spot — in my garden, waiting for the first peanut handout of the day.
I was thrilled to see the first downy woodpeckers had returned from whichever winter destination they’d chosen.
I noted that the house sparrows were collecting nesting material. And giving the pine siskin some interior design ideas at the same time.
Suddenly, trouble in paradise.
Eric and his family of crows dove into the lilac tree where all the small songbirds like to be.
I thought the crows had suddenly and unexpectedly decided to start dining on full-grown sparrows and chickadees.
But no — the crows had spotted a juvenile Sharp Shinned Hawk darting into the lilac.
No doubt the hawk had certain designs on the songbirds, snack-wise.
The hawk fled, pursued by Eric, his family and the neighbourhood watch committee of concerned crows. They flew around the neighbourhood all day.
Hawk soaring, crows cawing.
A crow keeps a wary eye on the hawk from the top of street sign.
So, now we have a new kid on the block, adding to the daily excitement. Another hazard for smaller birds, like the bald eagles and ravens that already cruise the skies. But another thrilling ingredient into the mix of wildlife that calls East Vancouver home.
Bundled in my stylish plaid dressing gown, I climbed to the top deck of our house first thing this morning to participate in the annual Great Backyard Bird Count.
As I surveyed a sea of fog, things did not look promising.
A pale February morning sunrise.
I could hear a lot of frantic crow activity, although it was hard to see where it was coming from, or what was causing it. Suddenly a raven burst out of the fog into a patch of blue sky directly above me and, just as suddenly, disappeared — followed by his retinue of angry crows. I could hear the chase continue in the distance – to the west, then north, then off to the east – all hidden by thick mist. Sentry crows called from vantage points all around, offering helpful advice to the chasing committee.
A crow bursts out of the fog in pursuit of a raven.
A group of crow sentries in the lombardy poplars.
One of the crows decided it was time for breakfast, landing on the hydro pole with a snack in beak – forcing a quick exit by the pole’s previous tenant, a starling.
Crow arrival, starling exit.
While the foghorns continued their mournful calling down by the Second Narrows, all of a sudden it was a full-on scorcher where I was. There had been a clear winner in the sun vs. fog battle.
The northern flickers I’d been hearing came into view, landing on the hydro wires in the alley. The family of three was clearly enjoying the sudden warmth. One of the flickers luxuriantly spread a wing to soak up the sun – or perhaps he was just showing off his finery to the others.
My feathers are prettier than your feathers
The flickers flew off and were quickly replaced by another sun worshipper — the collared dove that I’d heard eerily hooting in the fog earlier.
Sunbathing collared dove.
The lilac in the garden was full of the usual suspects – house sparrows, song sparrows and chickadees. I even spotted the first golden crowned sparrow of the spring in our neighbour’s plum tree.
Eventually I was so hot I had to come inside – another first for the season.
The sun lights up the scarlet coral bark maple and the lime green moss on the studio roof.
Turned out to be a perfect morning the great backyard bird count.
I took some time to appreciate the last dawn of 2014 – and such a dawn it was.
After a festive season of heath challenges, it seems even more important that usual to appreciate the small things that are big.
Being with family, good friends, health (it’s all relative), moments of quiet loveliness, every dawn, every sunset. Crows, naturally.
A week or so before Christmas my husband was in a nasty bike accident. When we found him in emergency he couldn’t remember the last five years or so of his life, or how he had come to be in the ER. Thanks to his helmet, he did not have a major brain injury, “just” a concussion. By the next day he remembered everything, except for the ride to work, the accident, the ride in the ambulance and the hours spent in the hospital. These things he may never remember. Concussions, I am learning, are tricky things, taking anything from weeks to months to recover from. Phillip has spent about 90% of the holiday season in bed, in the dark with his new best friends — audio books. Even watching TV or reading is too much for his rattled brain at this point.
He will get better eventually, with rest and quiet, so as frustrating as the process of healing can be, we are grateful every day that things weren’t much, much worse.
So this morning I made a point of spending an hour or so bundled up on the top deck of our house to welcome in the last day of 2014 in all its splendour. This may be the most exciting part of my New Year’s celebrations this year, but that’s just fine with me.
The first of the commuter crows arrive.
As the sun rose, the sky behind the poplars at the end of our street was painted with sugared almond shades of peach, raspberry and lavender. And, as reliable as clockwork, the crows began to arrive from the east and their night time roost at Still Creek. Most were just passing through, heading to their “day jobs” in North Vancouver and points west of here.
But the locals stopped on the very tops of the poplars as if to take in the breath-taking views. I’ve often noticed them hanging around there on mornings with particularly gorgeous sunrises, as if they are as susceptible to the beauty as I am. Of course, it could be that they sit there every morning and I only notice them when I happen to be out taking in the view myself, but I prefer to go with my “crows as dawn worshippers” theory.
You can see the neighbourhood waking up from the vantage point of our roof, the sky changing and a positive rush hour of birds – flickers, gulls, geese, sparrows, juncos, were spotted this morning, as well as Eric and the gang.
The northern flicker scooped the weeping birch perch this morning.
As I watched Eric and his little group huddling together on the wires, I was also reminded of how grateful we’ve been for all the friends who’ve rallied around since the accident. It’s the crow equivalent of volunteers leaving the little crow family group to head over and scare away the eagle. I’m sure our friends would scare eagles away for us too, but, in the absence of winged predators, we are very grateful for all of the soup, cookies, help and concern that we’ve received.
And, of course, I’m very grateful to Eric and his corvid kin, because watching them lifts me away from my worries and cares for a while as I realize there are so many lives being lived in parallel to our human ones, even here in the middle of East Vancouver.
The colours of the sunrise glow on Eric’s feathers