Marvin and Mavis have had a pretty stressful 2020.
They’re far from alone, of course, but spare an extra thought for these two.
Spring was looking pretty good. Several years of effort had paid off and they’d finally driven all other crows out of “their” row of poplar trees on Kaslo Street.
I like to think they had a couple of weeks of feeling satisfied with their achievement before the trees were all felled in June.
Left with a blue construction fence instead of 22 stately trees, they tried at least two different nesting sites in smaller street trees. At one point it seemed that they did have a single fledgling, which came to the house a few times and was spotted on the construction fence.
It’s always hard to keep track of the crows during this period as they change their habits, protecting their young ones and chasing off in unpredictable directions after their novice flyers. All that, combined with the summer of noise and dust on the construction site, caused me to completely lose sight of Marvin and Mavis and the young one.
Unfortunately, by the time the literal and metaphorical dust settled at summer’s end, there were just the two of them again, looking a bit glum on the blue fence and starting to moult.
Fall feathers came back in and I was looking forward to getting back to the normal routine of them coming by the house a couple of times a day and having some quiet chats about world events.
Trouble on this front too, though.
For new readers, a short crow history lesson may be needed here.
Before Marvin and Mavis became our “house crows”, our place “belonged” to George and Mabel. When George died in summer 2017, Mabel moved to the other end of the block and eventually started a new family there.
In 2019 Mabel and her new mate had three fledglings, with two of them staying with mum and dad. This spring they had three more, and the two survivors of that batch are with them now as well — creating a large family unit of six crows.
Six is a lot of beaks to feed, and Mabel seems to have now remembered that our house was once her territory. Consequently, we have a bit of a power play going on, with Marvin and Mavis seriously outnumbered.
I have tried to apply the Peanut Diplomacy method to the problem, scouring the scene for the Mabel gang before putting a few discreet peanuts out for M & M.
But, with six pairs of sharp crow eyes on lookout, it’s very rare that anything gets past them — and Marvin and Mavis are constantly having to fend off interlopers.
It’s rare to see either of them these days without fully deployed head or pants feathers, trying to look as fearsome as possible.
Or ducking …
Anxious to avoid crow riots, and potential crow injuries when they dive bomb each other, I’ve stopped putting peanuts out for anybody for now. When the dog and I leave our gate and I find eight crows waiting, I just walk off and try to lure Mabel and company back to their usual territory at the other end of the block, before rewarding them with a small nut offering.
At the end of the walk, I arrive by a different route at the back of the house and, if I’ve succeeded in losing my “tail,” I can usually find Marvin and Mavis and we can have a bit of discussion about how 2020 is going for each of us.
Suffice to say, sympathy is offered on both sides.
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