“Quiet” and “crow” are, let’s face it, rarely used in the same sentence.
We tend to think of crows as stridently outspoken and rowdy birds, bringing a racket wherever they go.
Crow nesting and fledging time can be especially raucous, with parent crows cawing wildly at fledglings, and at potential threats to fledglings; and the babies begging loudly and unreservedly for food.
Our attention is mostly drawn to them when they are being loud, but crow do spend a lot of time pursuing more secret, secluded and silent crow pastimes.
The large Katsura trees by our our house are never chosen as nest sites, but they do seem make for a perfect crow creche. Often, especially in the afternoon, Marvin and Mavis will come by with their babies and just chill for a couple of hours.
One of my very favourite things to do is peer up into those leafy rooms and see what exactly it is that they get up to during their “down time.”
Here are some of the things I’ve watched Marvin, Mavis, and this year’s fledgling get up to in there over the past few days.
Usually one crow parent takes the opportunity to go off for some “me time” while the other keeps a quiet eye on junior.
Parent on duty.
As the world roars along outside, Junior finds a number of things to pass the time in the peaceful green chamber.
There’s quite a bit of snoozing going on.
When nap time is over, it turns out there are a ton of other things to keep a baby crow amused in a Katsura. Playing with leaves is a lot fun, perhaps because the leaf stem looks just enough like a worm to be interesting …
Also bits of moss are quite entertaining. I imagine this is all part of the important “is this food?” learning that needs to be mastered in these early weeks.
The whole world is a classroom for a baby crow.
Then there’s a lot of s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g to do, preferably without falling out of the tree.
Risky shot of fledging undercarriage …
All those lovely new feathers need careful preening …
Baby M is a few weeks old now so their eyes have moved from that early blue colour to a soft grey now
Learning to be a “covert crow” just like dear old mom.
Mavis, model for Secret Crow image, 2017 … a definite family resemblance
And, of course, there’s trying to figure out what’s up with that strange creature down below with a camera.
Hope you’ve enjoyed this oh-so-quiet little look into the more hidden world of a crow fledgling.
Sneaking away now and maybe baby will go back to sleep and give mom or dad a little more time to regroup before things get rowdy again.
I shouldn’t really be writing a blog post, having promised myself that I will dedicate this month to (a) getting the City Crow Calendar 2022 ready to go the printer and (b) finishing my upcoming Crow Therapy online presentation.
But it’s crow fledgling season out there and therefore hard to stay on task. As justification for the distraction, one small drama currently playing out meshes rather well with aspects of my Crow Therapy talk.
It concerns periscopes and perspectives
As we go about our day, periscope firmly pointed in the direction of human life goals — not being late for a meeting, what to make for dinner, what’s going to happen next in our favourite TV show — it can come as a bit of a shock to be attacked out of nowhere by a crow.
As always at this time of year there are lots of news stories and tweets about “harrowing” experiences with “crazed” crows. I guess it can seem like that if it comes out of the blue.
But crow nesting season is a perfect time to swivel the periscope in your personal submarine and take in a different view.
There have been some screams from the end of our street lately. The elementary school there is currently being used as a training centre for School Board staff so there’s a lot of coming and going. At least one unsuspecting person has been pursued by furious crows.
Mabel and her mate to be specific.
Frazzled parent, Mabel
From the point of view of the dive-bombee, the crows have inexplicably gone bonkers and need to be restrained in some way.
But (swivel periscope … c-r-e-a-k) let’s look at the situation from Mabel’s point of view.
Mabel and mate have been tending a nest just across the street from the school since April. Early this week their fledgling (probably against parental advice) exited the safety of the nest and took refuge in a small bush right on the corner of school. Junior can’t yet fly enough to get into a tree, or onto of the school roof, leaving them heartbreakingly vulnerable in a terribly high traffic area.
At one point, I’m told by a neighbour, a landscaping crew heedlessly started weed whacking in the area!!!
From the point of view of Mabel and her mate, people are definitely bonkers and need to be restrained in whatever way possible.
The innocent people walking into work don’t have any idea where all this avian wrath is coming from. Minds inevitably turn to Hitchcockian scenes of malevolent bird invasions.
Mabel and her mate just know that people are deeply unpredictable and often dangerous.
They might step on their baby without even noticing, or back their car over it, they might let their dog or cat attack it, they might inexplicably assault the bushes in which the baby is hiding with a foliage chopping hell machine. You can’t make this stuff up!
So, if warning caws are ignored, humans must be kept away from the fledgling using the only way open to crow parents — the time honoured dive bomb technique.
I’ve attempted to bridge the understanding gap by explaining to a human person from the school what is going on, so hopefully periscopes will be redirected on the human side.
At least until Junior here figures out the flying thing.
I’ve also had a word with Mabel, but I’m not sure she’s about to change her mind.
I confess. I have been hoarding a small bit of good news.
First, because I didn’t really believe it could be true.
Second, in a year with so little good news, I felt sharing it might be a jinx, leading to me having to give you bad news later (which no-one needs.)
The second reason still stands, but I can’t keep this little nugget of joy to myself any longer. Time to celebrate the small good things as they come along!
Drumroll, please . . . I think Marvin and Mavis, after 3 years of failure, may have finally achieved parenthood!
Our immediate neighbourhood has not heard the gurgling/quacking sound of a baby crow in some years. Raccoons, eagles and simple gravity have stymied Marvin and Mavis’s efforts time after time.
And, of all years, I hardly dared think that 2020 would be the one in which they’d finally luck out. Apart from losing a big part of their habitat when the poplars disappeared in June, they’d already built and abandoned three nests in other trees before I lost track of their nesting activity during the construction chaos.
So, when I thought I heard baby crow sounds just outside the house in early July I wrote it off at first as wishful thinking. Or maybe a baby crow from elsewhere that had flown off course on an early training flight.
But I heard it the next day too. And the next. Finally I saw this small face peering out of the tree in front of our house. Then this happy scene in the weeping birch across the street.
The “direct deposit” feeding method.
Now, small caveat: with all the upheaval going on in our neighbourhood, it is just possible that this is some other crow family taking advantage of the chaos to move in on Marvin and Mavis’s turf. All of the crows are behaving a little differently and varying their daily routines — partly due to the rigours of nesting season, and partly due to the suddenly changed local ecosystem. Other crows have been popping by from time to time, but judging by the regular appearance of these two and offspring, I’m 95% sure this is Marvin, Mavis and family.
Anyway, I am trying to stop myself from feeling like a besotted new grandma. Unchecked, I could easily start knitting tiny crow-sized bonnets for this youngster.
As it is, I’m out several times a day taking photos. “See how adorable s/he is?” “Isn’t this absolutely the cutest little fledgling you’ve ever seen?” ”
One of the first “baby” photos — July 9
Such a good eater!
Strong family resemblance!!
I had all but given up on such good news for Marvin and Mavis this year. In the days after the poplars came down I often saw them sitting together on the construction fence assessing the devastation.
But somewhere, I guess, they had this little newcomer tucked away until rudimentary flight skills had been achieved.
Things could, of course, still go badly wrong. The survival rate for bird fledglings, including crows, seems to be 50-50 at best. Every morning the first thing I do is go outside and anxiously listen for the tell-tale begging sounds.
A few days ago, parents and baby came to hang out in the Katsura tree in front of the house for a couple of hours. One of the summer’s highlights so far!
So far they haven’t brought junior into the garden with them when they come for their breakfast, but I’m hoping they may do so soon.
Baby in the background
Parenting is a tiring business …
Worrying about a baby crow is a good exercise in taking one day at a time. Here is junior yesterday looking for interesting things in the gutter (a reminder to check around your car before taking off too quickly at this time of year!)
Checking out a wide new world
Here’s my most recent photo (I told you there’d be lots!) taken this morning. The blue eyes are changing to grey now and more adventures (much nail biting) are being undertaken.
The video below, also from this morning, captures one of the things that make crows so very entertaining to watch.
Who among us, human parents or kids, cannot relate to this little exchange?