I’ve been thinking a lot about crow calls after being obliged to make my own rather terrible approximation of one last week — on CBC radio no less! I made an attempt at the most common of crow calls — your basic “caw!”
There are, of course, many more linguistic arrows in the corvid quiver — from their lovely gentle “rattle” to the sharp barking alarm call warning of eagles or other aerial danger.
I’ve written quite a few posts about the amazing language of ravens, but crows have some expressive surprises up their feathery sleeves as well.
In fact, just yesterday I heard one of the local crows making a new call.
It sounded rather like “boing,” but I think it may have been a crow version of the beeping sound of a reversing truck. Due to the huge amount of construction our neighbourhood has seen over the past three years, this noise may have been an influential soundscape element for this crow’s formative years!
This next crow lives near some urban backyard chickens and I think I detect a bit of a clucking overtone to their caw.
Finally, White Wing stole the show last spring with her dog woofing with really impressive cat meow finale.
So, if there is ever another occasion when I’m asked to do a crow impersonation, maybe I’ll go for one of these!
I’m just re-posting this story from this time last year as a reminder why it’s always important to pay attention to what those crows are up to!
It’s a story with everything — lost dogs, snow, mystery, love, determination, teamwork, social media and Geordie the wonder dog.
But crows are a key part of the story!
I had planned a quiet day of wrapping and baking. I have had the ingredients to make stollen bread for three years now, and not a single loaf has been produced. This year looks as if it might be year four, but I really don’t care.
The story started, as it often does, with a simple morning dog walk with Geordie. We were on our usual route when I saw a dog running towards us, off-leash. Geordie was very excited and I thought for a moment that perhaps it was a coyote. Once it got closer I could see it was a domestic dog, but very scared. Geordie, who assumes all dogs are his buddy, wanted to play and the ginger-coloured dog actually did let him get close enough for a sniff, before scooting off again. She did stay with us as we walked towards home and I was hoping I could lure her into our garden so I could read the tag on her collar.
Things went awry at Slocan and William, when something spooked her and she took refuge under a parked SUV. I couldn’t get her to come out, although she did eat a couple of treats I put near her. Not having an extra leash with me, and Geordie being beside himself with excitement, I decided to rush home with him and come back with a leash.
I drove back and the dog was still there, but definitely unwilling to budge. At that point I took this photo and put it on every social media platform I could think of.
Something scared her again and she took off. I saw her at the intersection of Slocan and Charles, amid a lot of cars and I braced for a horrible thud. Luckily none came, but by the time I got to the corner, there was no sign of the dog. Because of the cars in my line of sight, I couldn’t see which direction she’d gone from there.
There were, however, several crows in a tree, cawing angrily right there on the corner. That made me think that the dog might be hiding in the bushes that border the intersection, so I had a really good look around. No sight or sound of a dog. Maybe the crows were mad about something else.
At this point I was beginning to feel a bit dizzy because I hadn’t had breakfast yet, so I decided to drive home, have some oatmeal, and enlist Geordie in the search. Just as I was about to head out again I got a call from Desirée, who was part of a group of people who have been searching for this dog for forty long days and had got my number from all the social media sharing.
The dog’s name, it turns out, is Mika, and she had gone missing from New Westminster (a long, long way from our neighbourhood) in mid-November.
Desirée and I met up near where I last saw Mika and I could see that the crows were still cawing. This time I took Geordie up there and he seemed pretty excited about the bushes. After he sniffed at one spot for a while, I heard a very soft growl. I got down on my hands and knees, and very deep in the hedge, I spotted a flash of ginger fur.
I stepped back and called Desirée. By then a large group of other volunteers had appeared with all kinds of dog catching equipment. Apparently they had been this close to catching her before, but she was so scared she’d managed to escape.
This time we surrounded the hedge with blankets and — best of all — her actual owner arrived. (***Update — I’m told that the person who arrived was actually her original rescuer who had flow in from Taiwan! Even more amazing.***)
It was a tense ten minutes or so, but finally her owner managed to lure her close enough to get hold of her collar and she was safe at last!
I’m still not sure who all the dedicated volunteers were, but I think that they’re involved with rescuing dogs in Taiwan, and that Mika was one such rescue.
If I never end up making stollen bread again, I really don’t care. Seeing Mika back with her happy owner was far more delicious!
But honestly, if it had not been for the crows, I’m pretty sure she would not have been found today. The hedge was extremely dense and didn’t really look like a plausible hiding spot — but those crows are never to be fooled. Combined with Geordie’s sniffing abilities, we tracked her down!
So, next time you hear the crows making a terrible din, try not to get irritated with them.
It’s never about nothing.
I’ve seen some of the most amazing things (owls, racoons, coyotes … and now long lost dogs) by listening to what they’re on about.
Extra peanuts for the crows at Charles and Slocan next time I go by there. I may even give them some of the Cheezies I got as a special festive treat for Marvin and Mavis!
Geordie, the other tracking hero, has already received chew treats and much praise.
Who’s a good boy, then?
Thanks so much to all the people who spread the story on social media, to the great team of volunteers who showed up to find her, to Geordie for his sniffing prowess and, of course, thanks to the crows — who know everything single thing that goes on in our neighbourhood.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
A few days after I wrote this blog post I learned a lot more about the history of Mika’s adventure and all the people who teamed up to find her.
Mika was rescued from the streets of Taiwan by Tina Huang, the founder of CERA (Canine Education and Rescue and Adoption). A team of CERA volunteers had been searching tireless for Mika since she went missing and Tina herself had flown in from Taiwan the day before she was found.
They had been searching for Mika for almost 40 days before Geordie and I and the crows entered the scene.
Another key ingredient to the rescue that day was Barbara Borchardt, who is the creator of the I Live in East Van blog. Barbara is someone who seems to know everyone in Vancouver and everything that is going on, so it was great luck that she happened to see my social media post of Mika hiding under the car. She immediately recognized Mika from the many posters the volunteers had put up, and efficiently managed to get me and Desirée (one of the Mika search team) talking on the phone within minutes of the post going up.
Half an hour later, volunteers with dog capture equipment, Tina, the crows, me and Geordie all came together — and Mika’s scary winter adventure was finally over.
A few days later I was contacted by the CERA group and we had the great pleasure of meeting Tina and other CERA dogs and owners, plus Mika herself at a meeting in Burnaby park. Tina had treats for Geordie and it was a lovely conclusion to the epic search for Mika.
Tina presents Geordie with treats for his part in finding Mika.