The Crow Summer of ’23

I’ve been putting off this post because, as you may have guessed from my last mention of the Walker crows, things have not been going well for them. I know this update will make many of you sad, as it has me.

Their tragedy, set in the context of this summer’s many, many heartbreaking tragedies, can seem like “hill of beans” material; and yet, I keep watching, thinking about and reporting on the crows’ lives because I believe to my core, that we need to watch them all — the small pictures and the big picture.

For the Walkers, things went from pretty good, to very bad, to surprisingly hopeful, to disaster in a few months. To recap: by mid-April, they seemed all systems go for nesting when Mr. Walker suffered his eye injury, which put everything on hold as he recovered. By the first week of May, they were back in the nesting game. The next challenge was the empty lot next to them suddenly sprouting a massive new structure which surprisingly brought a lot of human activity right up to nest level.

The Walkers met that unexpected challenge and, in  what seemed to be the final victory, got both of the two fledglings safely down out of the high nest. I really thought the odds had turned in their favour at this point.

Two Walker fledglings safely fledged

It was right at this point that Mr. Walker just disappeared. I walked that block time after time, day after day trying to spot him but only found a very exhausted Wanda (who is also blind in one eye) braving the hot dry weather, trying to keep the two fledglings fed and out of danger.

Mr. Walker, last seen around July 12

Walker Baby on July 13

Walker Fledgling on July 19

Wanda doing her best as a single parent


Exhausted Wanda

Wanda’s impaired vision has always made it hard for her to make a smooth landing on branches. I guess her depth perception is a bit off, so she was crashing from one tree to another trying her best to keep the young ones safe. But there was one danger she couldn’t keep at bay. The first baby to fledge, and then the second, started showing signs of avian pox around the beak and eyes. They are the only crows I’ve seen recently with the pox, and I won’t post photos as I just can’t bear to look at them myself. I’m not sure why these two came down with it when all of the other local fledglings I’ve seen look healthy — but I do know that having the variety that infects the beak and eye area is usually fatal.

I was away for five days for the Hornby Island trip and went up to the Walkers’ area as soon as I got back to see how things were going, only to find an eerie silence. No baby begging sounds and no Wanda. No Walkers at all, in fact — from four Walkers in early July to zero Walkers a month later

I go back at least once, often twice, a day to see if I see anyone. I have occasionally thought I caught a glimpse of Wanda, but I can’t be sure. As always, watching and becoming fond of wild creatures is, as my husband always says, “not all beer and skittles.” It does require a willingness to have your heart broken (and yet hold on to a small patient hope that fall might bring some sort of miraculous return.)

Mr. Walker in happier times, spring 2022

In Happier News …

Other local crow families are faring better – the Wings, the Bongos and the very busy Earl and Echo have managed to get through the season, although all are looking a bit bedraggled as they combine the later-stage fledgling care with a moult that seems to have started earlier than usual for some of them.

More on them in the coming days …



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