Nervous Nesting Notes

Crow couple photo

It’s a stressful time of year, nesting season.

Mostly for the birds, of course — but peripherally for those of us who anxiously watch the goings on.

Yesterday, for example, was very tense.

I don’t know where Marvin and Mavis are nesting this year. I used to be able to see them from my house, when they nested in the Notre Dame poplars and, for good or bad, could distantly watch every development.

In the absence of those trees, I mostly see them on construction fences of various kinds, or perched on the new duplex being built on the corner. Their nesting location this year remains a mystery.

I’m pretty sure they have built one nearby somewhere, as Mavis has been mostly absent for a few weeks, presumably sitting on eggs. One local nest possibility is a big tree in a neighbour’s garden. It looks like a pretty promising location — on paper — but they suffered a raccoon-related nesting disaster there about four years ago.

Crow collecting “soft furnishings” for final touches to a nest.

Yesterday it became clear that (a) someone WAS nesting in there and (b) raccoons have a good memory. We had a crow riot as about a dozen birds whirled round the tree, calling angrily from nearby wires and diving into the branches from time to time.

At first I couldn’t see the raccoon, but  eventually spotted her on a neighbour’s deck, moving somewhat clumsily up to the drain pipe …

Raccoon on a drainpipe

… and from there to the roof to examine the feasibility of leaping directly back into the tree.

In the end, she decided the jump was too much, but must have found another way up as the frenzied cawing went on from the afternoon and into the evening.

I imagine the raccoon probably got what she was after in the end. They usually do, in spite of all the crow racket and, after all, she doubtless had hungry kits waiting at home.

Many crows came to harangue the raccoon and, while I’m sure Marvin and Mavis were among them. I don’t know if this was actually their nest or not. Only time will tell, I say to myself, in an effort to see the big “Nature Unfolding” picture without giving myself a heart attack in the process.

The local bald eagles are another constant threat to the crows’ nests. They have their own nest nearby and cruise the neighbourhood several times a day, inevitably pursued by large groups of irate crows.

Crows pursuing a bald eagle

In the photos above you can see how close the crows are willing to get to those big claws. In the second photo the crow looks as if he’s trying to grab the eagle by the tail and pull the bigger bird back. You can also see that, in the eagle claws, is a bird  — most likely a crow fledgling.

So, you see what I mean about this being a tense few weeks!

In other, less traumatic, nesting news   — I’m starting to see the breeding female crows again. In April it’s as if they’ve all  joined a witness protection program, suddenly disappearing from sight in order to sit (ever so, ever so, quietly) on the nest.  If you hear a subtle croak from the nest in April, it’s most likely not a hungry fledgling, but a female quietly reminding her mate that he needs to bring her a snack. The males are also quiet and uncharacteristically low key. Definitely not the time of year to be drawing any unnecessary attention to yourself and give hints to nest location.

White Wing and her mate live on a shady street with a lot of big trees and she’s usually among the first of the local female crows to disappear into the nest. She reappeared this week, indicating that the eggs have probably hatched, and now she’s joining her mate in foraging for food for those endlessly hungry little beaks.

It also seems that, perhaps to entertain herself during those  tedious weeks on the eggs, White Wing was taking language lessons as this (earlier this week) was the first time I’ve ever heard her make sounds like this.

Just around the corner, Mr. Walker has been seen solo for a number of weeks now, keeping lookout on his favourite tree.

In recent days he’s been absent too, so I imagine he and his mate are being kept extremely busy somewhere up in the leafy branches.

In the next few weeks, I hope to see some of these little faces popping up around the neighbourhood.

The parents will be fiercely protective, especially during that high risk period when the baby is out of the nest but can’t fly. There may well be some dive bombing of unwary humans. But we should try to remember how hard these crow parents have worked to get that little fledgling to this stage, how many perils there were along the way, how many more dangers still stand between this little crow and adulthood. The crow parents may seem a little crazy at this time of year, but if you know the backstory you can understand why.

A few tips to avoid being dive bombed:

  • Avoid the area for a week or two if possible;
  • Put fake eyes on the back of a hat (they won’t dive bomb if they think you’re looking right at them;
  • Use an umbrella;
  • Leave a peanut or two as a token of peace.

More about crow nesting season in last week’s Georgia Straight (with Mavis on the cover.)

 

And remember, fingers crossed, in a few weeks time we should be getting to know some brand new crow friends in the neighbourhood!

One of Mabel’s fledglings, summer 2020, with tell tale blue eyes and pink beak edges.

 

 

__________________________________________________________________________________________

© 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.

Going Viral in a Pandemic

Well it’s been quite the week since my last post.

The video of the ravens playing and rolling in snow, featured in Raven Therapy Part 2, was also posted on social media. I thought there were probably a few people out there, feeling stressed like me, who might enjoy losing themselves in raven fun for a few minutes.

It turned out there were a LOT of people who really, really needed to see ravens being goofy in the snow last week. The first indication that things were going bonkers was when I got an email from a company called Viral Hog, wanting to “rep” my video and see if it could bring in revenue. I decided against that, but I did end up being interviewed for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and Vancouver is Awesome. (You can see the CBC TV interview here. It’s the whole news show and I don’t appear until about the 10:10 point but you can fast forward after the ads.) I’m told the video was also featured on the Weather Network. In weather obsessed Canada, that is truly making it to the big time.

I’m not too savvy with figuring out the statistics for my social media — I normally just post things I like and hope other people like them too. I did manage, however, to find a thing called Insights on my FB page and it showed that it’s “reach” had climbed from whatever humble number it normally hovers at, to 3.42 million. Now that’s almost scary!

If you’ve been waiting for a reply from me, I apologize as I’ve just lost track of the emails, comments and messages on all the different platforms. I’m gradually working my way through them, but I may never get back to everyone. I think things are beginning to settle down now. Phew.

I did manage to escape back up the mountains a couple of times amid all of this. There were, alas, no more playing ravens this week — but there was magic of many other varieties.

There were, for example, the impossibly cute Douglas squirrels darting about through the snowy landscape. I think they were feeding on seeds from cedar trees as we saw lots of those shaken from the trees and lying on top of the snow.

In the video below, a Douglas squirrel gives an energetic alarm call. I’m not sure what the emergency was, since they’re generally quite fearless around humans.

And a small squirrel drama in which the protagonist drops his seed, is confused and seems to blame me …

On another mountain trip, devoid of ravens, we were amply compensated by a Northern Pygmy Owl sighting.

Almost missed it as it’s just a tiny little dot on top of this tall tree on the right.

Far away as it was, it obligingly sat there for quite a while so I could use my long lens to get some photos of it …

The perfect little tree topper. I’m tempted to try and make one out of felt for next year’s Christmas tree!

The last time we went up the mountain, we reached the view point over Vancouver early in the morning— only to find someone there ahead of us. His presence may have explained the absence of ravens.

While the ravens (and the squirrels, ironically) were keeping a low profile, someone else was furious and not shy about letting everyone know. You can hear them in this video.

And here is our tiny protester …

Our little Norman the Nuthatch didn’t return to the garden this last winter, so every time I see one somewhere else I wonder if it’s him, living his best life out in the wide world.

Much, much smaller than a raven, but in their own minds, just as majestic!

Do not mess with this bird!

You would not want this bird to collide with any part of your body …

Another bird displeased by the eagle’s visit was this vociferous Steller’s Jay.

… and furthermore …

The literal blue bird of happiness

And so, no more viral raven videos this week — just the run-of-the-mill magic of finding all different kinds of amazing beauty.

You never know what it will be until you get there.

 

 

 

 

__________________________________________________________________________________________

© 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.

Small News

Photo by June Hunter

I walk around the neighbourhood several times a day during nesting season, checking in on the crow news — taking photos and making mental notes of how things are with the various crow families I’ve become acquainted with over the years. 

At this point I’ve got so many crow-notes stuffed into my head, I’m not sure where to start unpacking them. 

Rather than trying to cram all the news into one post, I think I’ll go one crow family at a time, starting with the Pants family in the next post.

First though, I have to tell you about this morning’s drama. 

We’ve had nesting bald eagles in the neighbourhood for years, so all through each nesting season the eagle parents scour the area for baby eagle food, always followed by a loud and angry crow posse. This morning I happened to catch some of the action from relatively close quarters when the eagle landed in the school grounds at the end of the block.

The crows, backed up by screeching gulls, seemed even more loud and frantic than usual.

So impassioned, in fact, you can see one crow in the video below whacking the sitting eagle hard enough to cause it to fly off.

The reason they were so mad? It looked as if the eagle had scooped an entire crow’s nest right out of a tree. You can see a glimpse of the nest in the video below.

In the end, the eagle dropped most of the nest, although there was something still gripped in its claws as it flew off.

The eagle population is part of the reason the crows are changing their nesting habits. 

Local ornithology expert, Rob Butler, who spoke about crows last weekend on local CBC Radio show, North by Northwest, mentioned this change: crows who had previously chosen high nest sites for protection against ground based predators (raccoons, cats, coyotes) are now picking spots in lower, less eagle-accessible trees — even selecting quite small street trees they calculate will be awkward for raccoons to scale.

I’ve certainly noticed that our local crows have rejected the once-coveted penthouse suites in the Notre Dame poplars this year in favour of much lower and more camouflaged trees. Marvin and Mavis have picked such a low, mid-street location for the nest this year, it would be quite the drama if the eagle swooped that low. 

If you think being dive-bombed by a crow is exciting …!

The Pants crow family, who I’ll be looking at next time, have long been fans of the low-rise nest building solution and we’ll have a look at what they’re up to this spring.

 

 

__________________________________________________________________________________________

© junehunterimages, 2020. 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.

Sudden Sky Drama

I thought I was actually going to be documenting the sudden and violent demise of Marvin this past Sunday.

I was at Make-It! Market for most of last week, but I took an hour or so off on Sunday morning to mail some online orders. On the way back from the post office, walking down the alley to the garden gate I heard a crow-motion, along with a simultaneous flash of massive wings.

A bald eagle had landed in the tree one street over. We often see them around here, but they’re usually soaring high overhead so you don’t really appreciate how very huge they are. You can see its true size as it perches next to the Crow Complaints Committee (CCC), voicing their various grievances from a nearby branch.

Eagle Hop

Eagle Take Off

I’m sure that the four crows are Marvin, Mavis, Eric and Clara — the two pairs with territory closest to the offending eagle visitor.

And this is where I thought I was about to witness the death of one of them.

Based on what I know of the personalities of the four crows, Marvin is the most likely to pull this stunt.

As I clicked the shutter I closed my eyes, not wanting to see what happened next.

Amazingly, what did happen  was that the eagle took off in search of a less irritating spot to spend Sunday morning … and Marvin the Maniac lived to annoy birds of prey another day.

Post eagle-exploits, Marvin was looking pretty full of himself.

While, at the same time, keeping a close eye on the sky.

With help from Mavis.

What I Did On My Summer Holidays

I wonder how many essays have been written under this heading in elementary schools through the ages.  Anyway, here goes my first effort in many a decade.

Panoramic shot with my phone of the Fraser River winding through the unique Lillooet area landscape

Panoramic view of the Fraser River winding through the unique Lillooet area landscape

Our holidays were short – only a week – but sweet, with all the vital ingredients — fun times with old friends, trips down memory lane, reasonably good weather, and breath-taking scenery.

We headed out of Vancouver on the Sea to Sky Highway, spending our first night with old friends at their gorgeous place on glacial green Lillooet Lake. A dive in determined that the top couple of inches were deceptively warm and welcoming. Beyond that, fathoms of icy cold.  We found that floating on the lake in inflatable chairs, drinking in a beer, along with the spectacular view, was a far more relaxing way to enjoy the lake.

The view of Lillooet Lake from our friends' deck

The view of Lillooet Lake from our friends’ deck

Next day we continued our trip on the wonderful Duffey Lake Road. We hadn’t taken that route since camping there on our honeymoon in 1986. The scenery is as great as ever, and the road is now paved – luxury! The really wonderful thing about this route is the dramatic change in scenery along the way. Closer to Pemberton there are forests, lakes and  snow-capped mountains changing to a desert-like landscape around Lillooet, and then the “painted” rock landscape nearer the Clinton end of the road around Pavilion. I highly recommend this drive.

Post card worthy Duffey Lake

Post card worthy Duffey Lake

Marking the 30km mark on the Duffey Lake road.

Marking the 30km point on the Duffey Lake road.

Indian paintbrush on the Duffey Lake road

Indian paintbrush

The Fraser River winds its way through the dry country just outside of Lillooet

The Fraser River winds its way through the dry country just outside of Lillooet

I love the abstract look of the dry hills around Lillooet. One stalwart tree had managed to find purchase, top right

I love the abstract look of the dry hills. One stalwart tree had managed to find a foothold, top right

“Painted” rock formations near Pavilion at the Clinton end of the road

We were headed for Likely. I lived up there, and built a cabin in the prehistoric 1970’s. It was quite the adventure for a young Englishwoman with zero wilderness experience. We still have a lot of good friends living up there — many of whom were responsible for my survival during my first winter living in the bush!

Once, hardly anyone knew where Likely was. Unfortunately, it’s now rather famous — for all the wrong reasons. The Mount Polley tailings pond spill of 2014 was a terrible blow to the environment in general, and the Likely community in particular. There’s a whole other blog post in that subject. Anyway, if you don’t know where Likely is, it’s in the Cariboo region of BC, about 50 miles north east of William’s Lake. William’s Lake is about 340 miles north of Vancouver.

In short, Likely is near Horsefly, still gorgeous, and a fabulous area to explore.

Likely Map

Downtown Likely on Quesnel Lake

Downtown Likely on Quesnel Lake

The Likely Hotel was undergoing a facelift

The Likely Hotel was undergoing a facelift

The Likely Hotel sign ready to be reinstalled

The Likely Hotel sign ready to be reinstalled

While we were there, we did a little bushwhacking, looking for the site of the cabin I built around 1978 on a mining claim. The cabin itself burned down circa 1990, but we hoped to at least find the spot where it stood. This proved to be surprisingly difficult, given how much everything had grown up. Trees can get quite big in 25 years, it seems. I’m pretty sure this little clearing is where it was.

As far as I could tell, this is about where my cabin used to stand.

As far as I could tell, this is about where my cabin used to stand.

How my cabin used to look in winter

We found this pot near the site of my old cabin, so I guess it was probably mine!

We found this pot near the site of my old cabin, so I guess it was probably mine!

An immature bald eagle flies along the Quesnel river

An immature bald eagle flies along the Quesnel river

Fall colour was arriving fast in the Cariboo

Fall colour was arriving fast in the Cariboo

Land of the silver birch, etc

Land of the silver birch, etc

Our Likely friends look us on a back road trip from Likely to Barkerville – the famous gold rush town. The road is gravel, but in excellent shape.

A black bear sighting on the gravel back road from Likely to Barkerville

A black bear sighting on the gravel back road from Likely to Barkerville

We took a short detour to see the falls at the Matthew River. Many a tree was planted by us, and by our friends, in that area. It’s also where my husband and I fell in love. We have a picture of us by those falls in about 1980, so we did a 2015 recreation. More wrinkles, pounds and glasses — but still in love!

Oh, so long ago …

The codgers at the Matthew Falls

The codgers at the Matthew Falls

Matthew River country, between Likely and Barkeville

Matthew River country, between Likely and Barkeville

Barkerville was a lot of fun. You can shop in the stores, take a horse and wagon ride, watch a show in the theatre, eat delicious Chinese food, buy candy, see a reconstruction from a trial from the Gold Rush era (with audience participation), or (my favourite) just browse all of the weathered surfaces — wood, metal, gravestones.

One of the churches in Barkerville

One of the churches in Barkerville

Lichen covered rust wheel at Barkerville

Lichen covered rusty wheel at Barkerville

One of my favourite spots was the old cemetery. I have “thing” for graveyards, having played in one a lot as a kid. This one is brimming with history and half-told stories of unique and adventurous lives — many of them cut short in the harsh frontier world of the late 1800’s.

John McLaren, died in 1869, aged 31.

John McLaren, died in 1869, aged 31.

We spent the night at the Wells Hotel. The last time I was in Wells was as a participant in the Snowball Tournament in 1978. Baseball was played in several feet of snow. I had a couple of severe handicaps. First — no snowshoes. Second — no idea how to play baseball. As I recall, rather a lot of drinking was involved, which leveled the playing field a bit. Our Likely team came home with the “Most Sporting” award that year, which I believe is a nice way of saying “Worst”.

Downtown Wells

Downtown Wells

The bottles in this lovely display were found by the home owner in the Wells/Barkerville area. The glass was blown and the bottles made locally during the Gold Rush years. You can see the vintage of the bottles from the amazing swirls in the glass.

The bottles in this lovely display were found by the home owner in the Wells/Barkerville area. The glass was blown and the bottles made locally during the Gold Rush years. You can see the vintage of the bottles from the amazing swirls in the glass.

Wells is a great little town. A LOT of snow in winter (it makes Likely look positively tropical) but full of fabulous artists’ studios and little houses painted in wonderful Newfoundland-style colours. Also, very important, the town has a vociferous crow and raven population.

The Wells crow committee holding its nightly meeting.

The Wells crow committee holding its nightly meeting.

We spent some time in the lovely Amazing Space Gallery talking to artists Claire Kujundzic and Bill Horne. I bought this lovely print of Wells by Claire. They also make an excellent cappuccino!

The print I bough from Claire Kujundzic of the Good Eats Cafe and the Wells theatre.

The print I bough from Claire Kujundzic of the Good Eats Cafe and the Wells theatre.

I could have stayed a lot longer. I’d love to get up there next year for the  ArtsWells festival.

After another night back in Likely it was, sadly, time to say goodbye and head home. We drove back once again along the Duffey Lake road, arriving back on the Sea to Sky Highway just in time for dusk and a series of watercolour skies along the way.

Porteau Cove at twilight, with heron

Porteau Cove at twilight, with heron

And then we were home in East Vancouver, with the local crows there to greet us first thing next morning.

And that’s what I did on my summer holidays. I hope you had a wonderful one too!