Ideally, when your long awaited visitors arrive, you and your home are looking their spiffy best. As we know, this often does not work out exactly as planned, but it’s important to make the best of things and make the guests welcome anyway.
This week, bird scientists and activists from around the world are arriving in Vancouver for the International Ornithological Congress 2018, and to enjoy Vancouver’s International Bird Festival. Our city is just full of bird-focused visitors, looking skyward.
Today I went on my usual early morning “urban nature enthusiast” walk, which mostly consists of chatting with my local crows and topping up their strategically located water bowls. As I visited my corvid acquaintances, I began to imagine what they might have to say to our out of town visitors.
“First of all, sorry about how we’re looking.
We’d really hoped the molting season would be over by now and we’d be sporting our fabulous fall feathers. All midnight blues, deep amethysts and shimmery sheen. Sigh. Instead, we’re still in the midst of our crazy “hey, look, I could be an extra in a low budget pirate movie” phase.
We like to think of this as our Late Summer Casual look.”
Mr. Pants shows off his molting season hipster beard.
The crow shown here is one I’ve been following and photographing for a few months. I started calling him Fluffy Pants, meaning to come up with a more dignified name later. Somehow he’s gotten stuck as FP, but we call him Mr. Pants for short which I like to think is slightly more respectable. His claim to fame is (obviously) his extravagantly feathered pair of trousers. He had them last year too, so I assume they’ll stick with him through the molting season.
Although, this morning, as he flew over my head, one of his precious pant feathers came loose and spiralled slowly, slowly downward — right into my waiting hand.
Here it is, as fluffy and delicate as you’d imagine.
Mr Pants looking more fully fluffy and pleasingly purple, only a couple of weeks ago.
This is Mavis, one of the crows that lives right beside my house. She’s usually the first bird I see each morning. Fluffed up, her molting feathers, in all their faded colours, look rather magnificent
Mavis’s mate, Marvin, was looking a bit more dishevelled today. You can actually see the “nostril” holes in his beak as he’s lost the feathers that usually cover them.
“So, yes, human visitors, we realize that we crows are not looking our most magnificent for your visit.
But don’t write us off. We’re as clever, funny, feisty and fascinating as ever. Make sure and keep your eyes open for us. You can’t miss us. We’re everywhere. Watch for us at dusk, when we fly in crowds to the east for our nightly roost at Still Creek.
Oh, yeah, you may also have noticed that the much hyped mountains, and some other breath-taking vistas, have disappeared behind a pall of forest fire smoke.
Things are breath-taking, just not in a good way.
It’s been yet another long, hot, tinder dry summer and lots of BC is burning.
We’re sorry the view is more dsytopian than utopian for your visit.
On the small bright side, it’s visceral proof that the human race really needs to take a look at what it’s been up to for the last couple of millenia.
Many of you are scientists and activists, and we crows are cheering you in your work to help chart a new course for this environmental pirate ship we’re all crewing on.
Otherworldly sunrise over the Iron Workers Memorial Bridge, East Vancouver.
Vancouver summer 2018
On another note (June speaking again, not crows) ….
… I’ll have a booth at the Nature and Bird Expo at the Vancouver Convention Centre this week. Hope to see you there (Booth #623) and we can talk crows and murky skies …