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.
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 …
… 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.
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!
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