Mabel: A Requiem

Her Mabelness was the third crow in the City Crow Stories.

And now she is the hardest one to write an update about.

Those of you who have been following me for a while may have noticed I haven’t posted anything about her for a long while. Partly I kept hoping she’d reappear, and partly I was reluctant to share more bad news, however small, with the world seemingly awash in the stuff.

Anyway — Mabel was the crow I’ve known the longest, dating back to when she and George Brokenbeak were our “house crows.” She’s certainly the crow I’ve written the most about, following the her trials and tribulations with George Brokenbeak , and her survival and thriving after the loss of her mate.

George and Mabel’s love story is one of my most popular posts, and was even “stolen” and mis-told in a viral post that has been circulating for years.

Last spring Mabel seemed hale and hearty and preparing for another nesting season with her new mate. I took the next photograph of her April last year, not knowing it would be the last time I’d see her.

When she vanished for a few weeks, I didn’t worry at all as it’s normal for female crows to seemingly go AWOL for about three weeks as they sit quietly on the eggs in the nest.

But then May rolled around, and then June. The summer passed by with no sign of Mabel. What happened is a mystery and I just have to assume she went to join the great roost in the sky, where perhaps she’s reunited with George at last.

I still miss Mabel, the Queen of  Frazzled — capable of looking dishevelled and yet regal all at once …

Apart from being a devoted mate to George, she was a pretty darned amazing parent.
Here are some of my favourite and oh-so relatable Mabel-being-a-mom moments from years gone by …

The classic  and ever-popular “Art of Parenting” shot

A slight look of panic in Mabel’s one good eye as the brood descends

So hard to get a moment of peace and quiet …

I will especially miss Mabel in the next couple of weeks when the pink plum blossoms appear on the local street trees.

The plum tree branches were always a favourite material of hers for nest construction. It was Mabel who was the model for the rather lovely and hopeful moment captured in Sky Messenger as she flew over me trailing a long garland for the nest.

Mabel was perhaps most at home upon her throne, inherited from George — a specific rusty yellow ring holding the chain at the entrance to the local school’s parking lot.

For a long time, only Mabel was allowed to perch there.

I noticed in the year before she disappeared that she’d occasionally permit her favourite offspring to take a turn. Perhaps she knew they needed to practice that regal pose.

I assume that one of the crow couple who took over Mabel’s corner includes one of those favoured heirs.

They’re certainly carrying on the Mabel tradition of confidence and sense of place.

One of the new pair is prone to making a beeping noise, something like heavy machinery backing up. So talented!

So here I present Mabel’s descendants, exalted inheritors of the golden ring — Beeper and Bopper.

More crow updates coming soon …

See also:

For a history of George and Mabel’s amazing lives:



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More on Mabel

Mabel and I go back a long way.

When I first met her, she and George were a couple, and they visited my garden several times a day … for years. I wrote about them a lot in earlier blogs: their love story, their very tough year, the time that George was missing and, finally when George flew off to that great Crow Roost in the Sky.

Mabel never did return to our garden after the summer that George died. I’d still see her every day, as she took up residence at the other end of the street where I’d pass her often and exchange pleasantries (and peanuts) on dog walks. The fledgling she and George had that last summer stuck around for a while, then she seemed to be alone for a bit.

Mabel isn’t a classic beauty. If she cared about such things (which I’m sure she doesn’t) she’d always insist on having her photo taken from the right — her “good” side. From this angle, she looks perfectly hale and healthy. From the left you can see her bad eye, which started to look a bit “wonky” a couple of years ago. She’s also got one very elongated claw, which she’s showing off in the photo at the top of this blog post.

Mabel, February 2017

Mavis, Both Sides Now, July 2019

Mabel is one tough cookie. Although she almost looks blind on that one side, somehow she manages, just as George did with his broken beak. She must be able to see out of that eye a little bit as she never, ever misses a dropped peanut and is ALWAYS first to get to it.

In Spring 2018 she built a nest with a new partner. They didn’t have any surviving babies that year, but she and Gus persisted.

This spring, 2019, was a very tough one for prospective crow parents around here. Marvin and Mavis, Mr. and Ms. Pants,  Eric and Clara, White Wing and her mate — they all built nests and tended them diligently for months. I think the bald eagle family in the neighbourhood may have had something to do with the fact that none of them had any surviving fledglings by July.

Mabel and Gus, however — they hit the jackpot!

As of this morning they still have three surviving fledglings. There are days (quite a few of them) when it looks as if Mabel could use some baby sitting help from all those footloose, fledgling-free, parents out there.

So far, no childcare offers from the other crows. Luckily Gus is an active partner in the endless care and feeding process.

Stiff fledgling competition for that one half a peanut.

Wing stretching exercises on the Hydro wires.

Full of personality already.

Some days, there is just no getting away from parental responsibility.

You think you’re having a quiet rooftop moment to yourself and suddenly …

Pop-up babies. There is no escape!

I’m just going to walk away over here …

To start off with, all three of the babies needed to be fed constantly.  Now that they’re a few weeks old, Mabel and Gus are training them to do some of their own foraging. With varying success.

Two of the three seem to be getting the hang of it, but there’s always that one who just never gives Mom a break. Until she finally snaps …

We’ve all been there, Mabel.

You just need a few minutes of peace and quiet to regain that maternal equilibrium.

Then, back into the child rearing trenches.

Every once in a while, when the fledglings are tucked in for the night, Mabel and Gus get a few moments to dream of grown up crow fun. and being able to fly off to the roost with the other crows. Some time in September …

Mabel has been a past City Crow Calendar cover model. Her “Frazzled” portrait graced the 2018 version. Marvin is the high wire crow on the 2019 cover and  2020 (available now!) will feature Mr. Pants.

Related posts:

Mabel and Fledgling 2019

Hey Mom, tell me the story about when you were a cover model …