This is an excellent time of year for studying crow calligraphy.
Their inky brush strokes are never more distinct than when scrawled across the blank parchment of a pale grey Vancouver winter sky.
The bulletin can be simple — “yup, it’s grey and boring down there in the human world, but every day is an adventure for us crows!”
Often though, the fleeting sight of a crow in an urban setting seems like a cypher — a key to de-coding a much bigger message.
As we dash around in the city it’s sometimes possible to forget that nature even exists.
Even if I try my hardest to feel connected, so many things can seem to stand in the way; the constant metropolitan hum-m-m of sound; getting from A to B; worrying about paying bills, meeting deadlines, not getting run over; the latest news …
I know there’s another storyline beyond it all — one that I really need to pay more attention to.
I know I’d feel better if I could tune into it, but can’t for life of me quite remember how it all fits together.
It’s like a neglected language.
One I’ve never been fluent in.
I’m sure I once knew how to hold a rudimentary conversation, but now the grammar eludes me.
Then, one random day, I look up and see four crows rolling and tumbling in the sky and then snapping back into a purposeful formation.
For reasons I can’t understand it brings to mind just one key bit of the syntax.
Like stumbling across part of a cypher to that complicated secret message — never quite enough information to crack it entirely, but offering a glimpse.
Everything does not suddenly make sense — but I am at least reminded that the other language exists.
I still don’t see the answers, but there’s a certain joy now in the not knowing.
I hope to spend more time in 2023 paying attention to, and working with, crow calligraphy.
Just look at how grown up and fully crow-like he is already!
It’s been about twelve weeks since I first saw Lucky out of the nest, and he’s come such a long way since those first helpless days.
The first time I saw Lucky, back on June 11
Now that he’s going to the mix and mingle at the roost every night, I can’t help thinking he must be starting to feel the temptation to fly off to see the world with some fellow teen crows.
On Monday and Tuesday of this week I didn’t see or hear him at all, so I was beginning to think that was that for our little family of three.
Marvin and Mavis having a quiet morning to themselves
But no — it seems he’s not quite ready to ditch those training wheels yet. As grown up as he’s looking now, he (or she, just a guess at this point) is wise enough to know he’s still safer when mom and dad have his back.
In the photo below, Lucky looks just like a fully independent crow coming for snacks, but further investigation reveals a watchful mom, waiting in the wings in case of emergency.
I think she’s also making sure he’s following all the protocols he’s been taught over the past few weeks:
look left, look right, look up, look down, look left again and right again and up again, etc.before taking a moment to grab a snack … and repeat
grab the highest value snack items first in case this is your only chance
dunk snacks in water to add hydration boost
pack beak and gullet with maximum efficiency before take off
Nice work, but remember, look left, right, up …
Efficient snack packing starts with careful planning
I noticed that the constant begging (feed me, feed me, feed me) sounds that filled the air all summer have recently ceased.
The photo below, taken on August 18, was the last time I witnessed Lucky begging from his parents — and you can see the somewhat cynical and unobliging look he’s receiving in response.
He still calls for his parents, but it’s more of an “I’m here. Are you there?” type of communication.
From a distance, Lucky looks just like a grown up crow.
His eyes are no longer grey or blue — they’re now close to the same brown as an adult crow.
The pink gape at the side of his mouth is now quite subtle when his beak’s closed.
Still goofy, but then aren’t all crows, regardless of maturity?
However, as soon as he opens his mouth, especially when the sun hits it, that pink gape lights up like a stained glass window!
His mouth HAS been open a lot this week — not for begging purposes, but for keeping cool in the ongoing hot weather.
Aside from expelling heat via the open beak, he also sits with his wings held out from his body to let the heat out that way too, and catch any hint of a cooling breeze — just like mom and dad showed him.
I have so many photographs of Lucky now — partly because he’s so darn photogenic and partly because there are weirdly few other bird models around at the moment. That’s another, rather anxious, story for another day.
Suffice to say, at this point I have so many pictures of Lucky, he could easily have a calendar all to himself.
I have to stop and watch and photograph every time I spot him because I can’t shake the feeling that each time might be the last.
Of course, I’d be so thrilled if Lucky turned out to be one of those fledglings that sticks with mom and dad to help out and learn the ropes of nesting next year, but I can hardly bring myself to hope for that much.
Any day now he could decide to take off to complete his crow-ducation at a faraway institute of corvid higher learning.
I just hope he’ll remember to look left, right, up, down etc and to always take the good bits first.
As with all families, there are fractious days when Marvin and Mavis get frustrated with their fledgling — and yet there are just as many peaceful days when the family bumbles along in (relatively) quiet domestic companionship.
I call the following series of videos, Wind in The Wires.
There are no moles, badgers and or rats (though I’m sure some of the latter may be scurrying about down below somewhere) and there’s a noticeable dearth of meandering rivers and lush green woodland in these mini-tales
Instead, I offer you a soothing urban nature bedtime story featuring East Van alleyways, crows, family bonds, Hydro wires and a stiff breeze.
(Note: There’s a bit of wind noise on the videos because, as the title suggests, it was rather blustery and muting those sounds, while keeping the crow voices, is beyond my technical ability. )
Wind in the Wires One
In which baby crow hangs out with mom while she preens and stretches and finds a stray bit of feather fluff.
Wind in the Wires Two
In which baby crow finds his own foot quite entertaining.
Wind in the Wires Three
In which baby crow hangs on in a gale and wants to be just like mom.
Other posts about Marvin and Mavis’s 2022 fledgling: