Here’s Hank

First there was Eric. Then there was Hank. Now there are Hank and Eric and Vera and Eric’s mate and some babies. That’s a lot of crows for a small area, but they seem to have worked out a way to keep things civil.

They key is that certain rules have to be adhered to. Eric and his family have the run of the front street and the large poplars at the end of the street.

Hank and Vera rule the back garden and the alley. They still seem to be tending to a nest in a big tree in the alley.

Hank is responsible for feeding Vera while she's nesting.

Hank is responsible for feeding Vera while she’s nesting.

Harmony exists as long as no-one forgets to cross the unseen borders. If they do – holy moly, there is trouble.

The other day Hank was on his usual perch on the neighbour’s roof when Eric came a-calling. After all, the back yard used to be Eric’s domain, so I can see how he might be confused. I was photographing Hank at the time, so I was able to catch the instantaneous transformation from relaxed, rather gormlessly sunbathing crow — to puffed-up (look how big and scary I am!) tough-guy crow.

On the left, Hank is in relaxed, sunbathing mode. One second later, sensing intruders into his space, he's in tough crow mode.

On the left, Hank is in relaxed, sunbathing mode. One second later, sensing intruders into his space, he’s in tough crow mode.

I can easily tell the difference between Hank and Eric because Hank has a rather distinctive “over beak”. His top beak curves over the bottom slightly. They engaged in a few minutes of angry cawing and a touch of dive bombing action before Eric relinquished the territory to Hank.

Hank Close Up

Ruler of the backyard.

It’s lucky the trouble was short lived — because Hank really seems to enjoy just hanging about and soaking up the sun. Here he is later that day doing some more sun bathing on the studio roof. He likes to relax with his beak open and wings spread out. He’s a real West Coast, laid back kind of crow.

Wings spread, beak open - I think it's like dogs panting, it must create some sort of cooling effect.

Wings spread, beak open – I think it’s like dogs panting, it must create some sort of cooling effect.

More wing spreading.

More wing spreading.

He probably does yoga when I’m not looking. Actually, I think I may have caught him a hula hoop practice in this picture.

Check out that hip action!

Check out that hip action!

I am getting quite fond of Hank and he is getting less nervous around me, and therefore a more willing model for my photographs.

If you’d like to hear more about what goes on with the local crows on a daily basis, check in at my Facebook page. 

I post lots of pictures there and keep you up on latest in the ongoing crow soap opera.

And if you’d like to see my collection of crow portraits for sale, check out my website.

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Winsome

 

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Meet Vera

Vera is a little nervous around the camera, but not as phobic as this photo would suggest. She was actually enjoying a good scratch!

She and her partner (Hank) are one of many young couples starting out and trying to raise a family here in East Vancouver.

Vera and Hank

Vera and Hank

The two of them started hanging out in my garden regularly a few weeks ago. Sadly, I haven’t seen Eric in a while, but I’m hoping he’s just busy nesting nearby. I hope to see him again in the fall.

Vera and Hank have been busy ransacking my trees for branches that are “just right” for weeks. I soon began to suspect they had plans to settle in the area. They fly in and out of a big tree close by, so I’m pretty sure that’s their new address.

This will look fabulous in the living room!

This will look fabulous in the living room!

A couple of weeks ago I noticed Vera begging for food and being fed by her partner, another sign that babies are on the way. Finally, I noticed a big pink patch of featherless skin under Vera’s belly. At first I was worried that she’d been in a fight and gotten injured, but then the phrase “brood patch” popped into my head.

Feeding Vera

Yum!

I’m nervously monitoring their progress. They both seem pretty young. Vera, in particular, could be one of last year’s babies. She still has the brownish feathers of juvenile crow. It seems that she’s pretty low ranking in the crow-verse. When I first saw her she’d appear in the morning adorned with droppings, meaning that, in the crow roost, she got to sleep on the lower branches. High branches are reserved for the senior crows, like Eric. Lately she’s been cleaner, probably because she’s not going to the roost at night, but staying with Hank to guard the nest.

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Curse those higher up crows!

Flying Cinderella

Vera looks as though she’s having a bit of a hard life. Her feathers are strangely tattered — the Cinderella of the crow world. She’s clearly at the opposite end of the crow hierarchy from Eric the Magnificent.

I named her Vera after one of my favourite British TV detectives. The fictional Vera is tough and determined, so I’m hoping some of that will rub off on this “Vera”. She’ll need all the help she can get make it in the rough and tumble world of the urban crow.

Vera, Incoming

I’ll keep you posted on any developments in the baby crow department!

For portraits of the crows of East Vancouver, check out my web site.

www.junehunter.com

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Look out – Crow!

Dive bombing crows are in the news again.
A scary experience for pedestrians, but it may help to know why they do it.

Incoming

Imagine this. You and your sleep-deprived spouse have just had triplets. A few days after they’re born they have the mobility capacity of toddlers — combined with the burning desire to see the world and the “I-can-do-it” attitude of teenagers!

They’ve got the keys to the car but have had no driving lessons.

They don’t know anything about “stranger danger”.

Is this food?

Is this food?

At the same time, they’re loudly demanding food and attention every moment of the day.

You’d be kind of wild-eyed too. You’d be prone to acts of desperate bravado to keep danger away, just until the kids get the hang of the flying business and the basics of urban survival.

 

Please may I have some more …?

If I just jump and keep flapping everything will be OK, right?

If I just jump and keep flapping everything will be OK, right?

If you know there are worry-crazed parent crows in your neighbourhood, I hope you’ll try to forgive their seemingly aggressive behaviour. It will pass soon, once the kids are just a little older.

In the meantime, give them a wide berth — or use an umbrella for protection. Maybe soothe their frazzled nerves and offer a bribe by dropping a few peanuts.
Try to put yourself in their shoes/claws for a minute.

Crow Family Moment

www.junehunter.com

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Just Another Day

It started as a normal Monday in East Vancouver. The dawn made it’s spectacular appearance (an hour late due Daylight Savings).

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Birds began to reappear in the sky, taking their posts for the coming day.

Dawn bird

Eric and his family arrived at their spot — in my garden, waiting for the first peanut handout of the day.

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I was thrilled to see the first downy woodpeckers had returned from whichever winter destination they’d chosen.

Downy Woodpecker male

I noted that the house sparrows were collecting nesting material. And giving the pine siskin some interior design ideas at the same time.

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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.

Sharp Shinned Hawk

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.

Hawk on High

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.

Who Is Eric?

Well, I’m sure he has a different self-image entirely, but this is his CV from my perspective.

Here I Am

Eric, first of all, is a crow.

He is, relative to others of his species, quite unconcerned by my camera. In fact, since I use a long lens, I often have to back away from him to keep him in focus. We crow paparazzi are a minor inconvenience in his life.

My husband has described Eric as the James Bond of crows.

He lands on any awkward surface with purpose, aplomb and minimal flapping.

One down, four to go.

One down, four to go.

If there are 5 nuts he will make sure he methodically picks up each one with no spillage.

If there are only 4 nuts, Eric will wait and look at me meaningfully until I fill his quota (5). After all, the trip has to be worth his time. Plus he’s letting me take his picture. Further evidence that birds can count!

Three down, two to go

Three down, two to go

Eric does not like celery. I saved the scraps from the turkey this Thanksgiving and froze small bags of it to serve up as special treats. He loves his turkey leftovers with stuffing, but I always find any trace of celery meticulously picked out and left behind.

Eric LOVES cheese puffs. I believe, like humans, he is addicted to whatever terrible substance is in that yellow powder. These are a very occasional treat. I don’t want to turn him into a junk food junkie.

Eric is a family crow. His mate usually watches his food gathering antics from the hydro wires. The two kids come with him to watch and learn. Occasionally Eric lets them get a morsel or two.

He’s a real stickler for appearances, spending a lot of time grooming his (sometimes impatient) offspring. I can almost hear him muttering, “How do you expect to get on in the world, with your feathers all uncombed like that?”

There. Now that's better.

There. Now that’s better.

Hmmm....

Eric Junior is not sure about the new hairdo.

Finally, why “Eric”?

The name just popped into my head one day.

It seems to combine Viking boldness with Monty Python humour.

This will be the first of what I hope will be many Eric Reports. Of course, you never know with wild creatures — today may be the last day I see him. So I’d better get out there with his five almonds!

Eric the Crow

Sit Still, I Think I Missed a Bit

Crow grooming hilarity. The recipient of the thorough going-over seems happy enough for a while. S/he seems to tire of the process part way through — but there is no way the job is going to go unfinished! I am reminded of my mother polishing my face with a hankie before I headed into elementary school. You can almost hear the junior crow muttering, “gerroff”.

Honestly, I could spend all day watching the local crows. Luckily, it’s kind of my job!

http://www.junehunter.com/collections/crow-portrait-series-fine-art-photo-prints

Edgar the Crow makes his daily rounds, in spite of a torrential downpour.

Edgar the Crow makes his daily rounds, in spite of a torrential downpour.

Crow vs Raven

In a competition judged on cuteness and goofiness, I would have said that crow babies would be the hands-down winners. Until, that is, I came across baby ravens. They are like giant baby crows — with impossibly large feet. This is a series of images in which I’m exploring beauty of these birds in their urban setting.

Baby Crow and Baby Raven

Crows and their babies seem pretty robust, especially in comparison to the little garden birds like chickadees and sparrows. When you see a raven close up, then you understand why the crows mob and chase ravens from the nesting areas with the same ferocity they exhibit for eagles. Clearly the raven is something of a bird of prey with these massive legs and a beak that is all business. The crows look positively delicate by comparison.

Note the size of these feet!

Note the size of these feet!

Look Ma! No Hands!!!

Look Ma! No Hands!!!

These new crow and and raven portraits are available for sale on my web site. There  you will also find more detail about how the images were composed using many layers of my own photographs; including ancient graffiti from the cave of a Welsh saint, and the Vancouver skyline.
I would love to hear what you think about them.

BABY RAVEN PORTRAIT

BABY CROW PORTRAIT

JUNE HUNTER FINE ART IMAGES

Dive Bombed by Crows!

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If you have recently been terrorized by seemingly deranged crows — it’s likely because the crows ARE slightly unhinged. Like all new parents they are consumed by the fear that something is going to happen to their newborns. In the case of crows, the danger to their offspring is very real. Strolling along the boulevard, you may not see yourself as a threat to junior — but the hyper-vigilant parents can’t really tell you apart from real danger (cats, off leash dogs, eagles, racoons, cars etc). So please try to have some sympathy for their soaring stress level, and don’t feel too victimized. It’s not personal! Plus, dive-bombing season should be coming to an end soon as the babies become less vulnerable.

Here’s a guide I created to help you spot baby crows. They’re surprisingly adorable once you start noticing them. Don’t get too close though — remember those protective parents!

Guide to Baby Crows