Dear Readers …

Here is something of what I wanted to write last week, which ended up being a whirlwind of packaging and shipping pre-ordered City Crow Stories books in the middle of having the floors in the main part of our house re-finished.

“Before” floors with baffled pets

I’d hoped that the launching of the book and the floor project would fall at different times but they seemed pulled inexorably together like catastrophically aligned meteors. Luckily the convergence was more along the lines of domestic chaos than planetary cataclysm.

Outdoor kitchen set up — almost like a camping holiday!

Because the pre-orders came in as we were madly trying to get the house emptied, and I was still waiting for the books to be printed and bound, it was only when I was actually physically picking up each printed order and placing it with the book to put in an envelope that I saw all the names of people who had purchased one.

The “camping at home” might have been a little nicer if it wasn’t the coldest May in recorded history!

As I  packed each book I smiled at all the names I recognized, ranging from old friends to people I’ve come to know online.

I wished I could write a little note with every order, but things were so overwhelming at that point I felt I just had to keep going and get the hundreds (yes, hundreds!) of books on their way. 

So here is, with apologies for the generalization, the note I wished I’d been able to include:

Thank-you so much for ordering the book.
Thank-you so much for your support over the years (some of you since the first studio sale in the small garden shed I shared with squirrels!)
Thank-you all the encouraging, funny, touching, fascinating emails you’ve sent about your own experiences with crows and ravens and about what my work has meant to you. 

Amid the general madness, I’ve felt very grateful to know so many lovely people.

And a PS — many thanks to those of you who’ve received your City Crow Stories, read it and written back with such kind comments.

Lily was miraculously available to help with some of the packaging. Couldn’t have done it without her!

The Story Behind the City Crow Stories

I first started thinking of creating a book some time in 2020, but the thought just rattled around in my mind,  month after month.

The downside of self-publishing is that you don’t have an editor telling you what to do — the book can be anything you want it to be, which is actually rather terrifying.

By the start of  2022 I was determined to get started, but January and February consisted  of more mental flailing, as I became convinced that I had to write a book to Save The World via crows.

Relief came when I realized that I just needed to write a few stories about some crows I know — and let the crows do the saving on their own!

Some of  my goals in creating City Crow Stories were to:

  • make a book that is full of beauty and humour
  • create a lot of visual space to let the crows’ beauty and character speak for themselves
  • tell the story of how I came to love crows
  • help people realize that “my” crows are not the only special ones
  • offer some tips on how to recognize and make friends with crows
  • encourage people to take a break from the meta-verse
  • inspire curiosity in other lives
  • as stated earlier, save the world, via crows (a girl can dream …)

Meanwhile, on the home front, the floors look lovely. They’re still full of character, but with a lot fewer splinters. In fact, they look SO good we’ve now got to re-paint the walls to match their splendour, meaning we’re still semi-camping out.

The pets remain puzzled …

 

 

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© junehunterimages, 2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Crow Goes Boing

I’ve been thinking a  lot about crow calls after being obliged to make my own rather terrible approximation of one last week — on CBC radio no less! I made an attempt at the most common of crow calls — your basic “caw!”

There are, of course, many more linguistic arrows in the corvid quiver — from their lovely gentle “rattle” to the sharp barking alarm call warning of eagles or other aerial danger.

I’ve written quite a few posts about the amazing language of ravens, but crows have some expressive surprises up their feathery sleeves as well.

In fact, just yesterday I heard one of the local crows making a new call.
It sounded rather like “boing,” but I think it may have been a crow version of the beeping sound of a reversing truck. Due to the huge amount of construction our neighbourhood has seen over the past three years, this noise may have been an influential soundscape element for this crow’s formative years!

This next crow lives near some urban backyard chickens and I think I detect a bit of a clucking overtone to their caw.

Finally, White Wing stole the show last spring with her dog woofing  with really impressive cat meow finale.

So, if there is ever another occasion when I’m asked to do a crow impersonation, maybe I’ll go for one of these!

 

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All Quiet On The Nesting Front (For Now)

The crow nesting season goes through various phases, some quiet, others much louder.

Right now we’re in a seemingly tranquil phase

All is secretive and low key as the parents try to keep the nest locations hidden from predators. Sometimes the game is given away when the female, sitting on the eggs, makes begging sounds to remind their mate to hurry up with the food delivery, but generally it’s as if the whole neighbourhood is made up entirely of of very quiet bachelor crows.

Marvin going solo while Mavis sits on the eggs, spring 2022

The mother crow will remain on the nest, incubating 2-6 eggs, for between two and three weeks. Once the eggs hatch, both parents will leave and return to the nest frequently to bring food. Another parental duty is carrying away the babies’ fecal sacs to keep the nest clean. A sure sign of hatched babies is seeing a poop-splattered adult crow — evidence of one of those sacs having failed in the disposal process. The love of a parent truly knows no bounds …

Mr. Walker on dad duty, Spring 2022

This is, of course, the calm before the storm. Soon things will start to get more exciting as dive bombing season begins.

This is such an issue in Vancouver that, a few years back, a Langara College professor created an open-source Geographic Information System called Crowtrax, allowing people to report where they were attacked by crows and thus contribute to a map of the most “crow-terrrorized” parts of the city.

I’m happy to report that there’s been a positive change in the way this part of the crow nesting season in covered by the local media over the past few years. It used to be all Hitchockian horror, with eyeball grabbing headlines about “savage” crows swooping from the sky and randomly mauling innocent pedestrians. In recent times there has been more curiosity about what’s really happening here, and much more thoughtful pieces have been written.

Last year, Georgia Strait reporter, Martin Dunphy, wrote such an article and one of my images was on the front cover.

The article included comments from Vancouver crow scientist, Rob Butler, and myself and was a refreshingly pro-crow look what can be a slightly hysterical time of year.

I have some tips on avoiding getting dive-bombed this year, but first of all it’s helpful understand what’s going on from the crows’ perspective.

The crow parents have been working on this nest since late February, carefully building it, sitting on eggs in secret, carrying bags of baby poop hither and yon, fighting off hawks, raccoons, cats and eagles. They are tired, stressed to the max, and very, very committed to the success of their little families. Now the precious babies are about the leave the relative security of the nest.

These “babies” are almost the same size as the parents at this point, so some people don’t even notice that they’re not adult crows. Sometimes they’re difficult to spot at all as they rest on the ground, camouflaged with dust and leaf litter. They’re often earthbound because, in what seems to be a bit of a design flaw, they come out of the nest before they can fly.

The young crows are curious and eager to explore, but have no idea what might be fun as opposed to fatal. The only things standing between the helpless fledglings and getting stepped on, run over or attacked by animals or birds of prey are good old mom and dad. These exhausted and very tense parents and are the “savage” dive bombers — and it’s really nothing personal, they just want you to STAY AWAY from their precious offspring until they can fly.

In my experience, sometimes the raucous cawing isn’t even directed at us humans. Often they seem to be screaming instructions at their fledging and/or making a lot of racket just to drown out the baby crow noises that might attract real predators.

So try to remember, you’re not in a Hitchcock movie — just a small domestic drama.

TIPS FOR KEEPING YOURSELF AND THE CROWS SAFE

  1. Avoiding the nest area if possible.
  2. If you can’t stay clear, wear a hat or use an umbrella when you walk by.
  3. Try pinning fake eyes (paper drawings, or make some with felt) on the back of your hat or hood. Crows only attack from the rear and if they see a pair of eyes “looking” at them they won’t swoop — according to Seattle crow scientist John Marzluff.
  4. Earn some trust with a small offering of  unsalted peanuts. Not a big pile — just 3 or 4 peanuts as a gesture of friendliness.
  5. This might just be me, but I always speak softly to the parents and tell them what a great job they’re doing.
  6. If you see a crow fledgling alone on the ground, don’t assume it needs rescuing. There will be a parent crow nearby watching over things and, unless the baby is obviously injured, it’s always best to leave it alone.

 

This following little diagram is something I put together years ago as an easy guide to telling fledgling crows apart from adults …

 

Once the baby crows are able to fly the parents will become a lot more relaxed and spend a lot of time feeding, grooming and showing the young ones the ropes of being a successful city crow.

Spending time watching this process will reward you with many laughs as you see yourself reflected in the behaviour of the parents, kids, or both.

 

 

 

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© junehunterimages, 2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Modern Travel

“Wherever you go, there you are” was just one of my mother’s vast repertoire of Handy Sayings For All Occasions.

It sounded a bit eye roll inducing when I was young, but gets increasingly profound as I age.

Which brings me to travel.

Most of my journeys, especially over the past two years, have been of the internal variety, moving from one state to another. Sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly.

We’re all confined our own little vessels, one way or another.

This has limitations and does take a toll — leaving us at the mercy of time, wind, rain and whatever passing reflections come to visit.

Things become worn and begin to fall apart.

Colours fade — but then others become richer and more transparent.

I’ve always had a fondness for travelling in place, perhaps dating back to the time I lived alone in my little cabin. 

My studies of bowls in the garden are like small, eagerly anticipated, annual journeys.

I love the hellebore bowls in spring, which are always beautiful when first arranged, but often become far more interesting when left to their own devices — week after week, or even month after month.

Some of the images here are of the glass bowl hellebores from last week’s post, left to drown in a week of heavy rain since then. Others are one of last year’s collections, left in the garden to make their fading journey from March until May 2021.

Each fall there’s always the adventure of the gazing bowl to look forward to. Starting off as a rather pedestrian dog’s water bowl in September … by late November, who knows where it might have taken me?

I believe that my interest in watching the crows in my neighbourhood falls into the same category of static travel— spending so much time watching, not just a single bird species, but actually the same individual birds, year after year, is a bit like gazing into a solitary bowl.

It never gets boring.

The longer you look, the more ways of seeing you find.

The crow world is also full of reflections — yourself reflected in the eyes of the birds is the simple version. It becomes a hall of mirrors as you consider the infinity of crow reflections, real and imaginary, in the looking glass of your own eye and brain.

So there you have it: the future of modern travel lies with crows, reflections, faded foliage, and is always far more about the journey than the destination.

Get your tickets now!

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© junehunterimages, 2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Small, But Determined

I started to write this post about my song sparrow friends last week, but then world events, already dark, turned even more grim and made writing about small birds seem ridiculous.

Now I’m back to thinking that small things are sometimes the best subjects to hang onto at certain times. Also, their tiny determination seems somehow even more appropriate at this moment.

While Ben (the crow with broken foot I wrote about last time) is always the first crow to greet me in the morning, the very first birds there, every single day, are the song sparrows. Half a dozen or so seem to be in our garden at all times — more reliable companions than any other birds this winter.

Song sparrow on his favourite perch, as close as possible to the back deck..

The trees begin to rustle as soon as I open the door and small, drab, brown shapes emerge. At first it looks as if sad winter leaves are being blown loose, but it’s always the song sparrow gang.

They see the crows gathering but they always dive in fearlessly first, grabbing at least one peanut each before melting swiftly and seamlessly back into the foliage.

I always cheer them on.

And when I said they were drab — that is ONLY upon the most cursory of glances. Give these birds a single moment of inspection and it’s obvious that they’re one of nature’s more complicated works of art — and all created with a palette of infinitely varied browns, creams and a touch of pearl grey.

I’ve been spending time making simple bird figures by needle felting wool. Mostly it’s just an excuse to relieve stress and spend more time thinking about birds, but it’s also practice in noticing things about them that I might not properly see when photographing them. When I look at the intricacy of a song sparrow from the point of view of trying to reproduce it I am both defeated and filled with joy at their modest and complex beauty.

A pair of needle felted Mountain Bluebirds.

I have reference binder of my own photos to work from, and so far I’ve tackled rudimentary versions of bushtits, chickadees, a spotted towhee, a ruby crowned kinglet, mountain bluebirds and a whiskey jack — but, honestly, I don’t think I know where to start with the quiet but infinitely elaborate patterns in a song sparrow!

Song Sparrow with an acorn cup

While the feather markings seems truly daunting, I’d love to have a go at the facial expression of a song sparrow. They have, I would submit, the very best “judgemental” faces of all the small birds.

Midweek brought terrible news from Europe, and also a skiff of snow here.

That morning the sparrows left some cryptic messages. They looked like a combination of frost patterns and a more intentional series of documents in a forgotten script.

So many big and very small things to think about these last few days and, as usual, no real wisdom to be found aside from trying to find wonder where and when we can.

If your mind is drawn to those suffering in Ukraine, you can make donations to the Red Cross Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Appeal. (Funds donated will be matched by the Canadian government until March 18.)

 

 

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© junehunterimages, 2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Benjamin Crow

Last week I wrote a post on social media about Ben, the crow with a bent foot, in which I mentioned that Marvin and Mavis seem to allow him to get first dibs on the nuts and kibble I put out in the morning.

I immediately started to worry that I’d over-sentimentalized their behaviour.

Crows, much as I love them, are not generally known for their charitable works.

It’s true that  they’re extremely loyal to their family members (see George and Mabel: A Love Story.) At night they’re very co-operative and social when they come together at the roost for mutual protection, information and general fun.

But, during the day, crows stick pretty closely to their own territory — usually half a city block or so — and defend it against other crow visitors.

So why do Marvin and Mavis put up with Ben’s intrusions? I have a couple of theories, none of which include pure crow altruism on their part.

But first, the story of Ben, as far as I know it.

I noticed him last spring when he started following me on dog walks. I assumed he must be a local crow with a recently sustained injury, as I’m sure I’d have noticed his badly deformed foot if he’d been like this for a while.

He would pop up on my walks and, while doing my best to avoid conflict with other crows, I’d try to slip him a few peanuts.

In so doing, I was contravening my own rules of Peanut Diplomacy, but …

As BC’s terrible fall weather made international news, with floods and even a small hurricane, I worried about all the birds — but especially Ben.

I could imagine him out there, clamped to a branch with only one functional claw while the rest of him was flung about in the gales.

Sometimes I wouldn’t see him for a few days after a big storm and I’d think he’d been swept away, but then there he’d be again.

That one good foot must be extra, extra strong.

By then he’d started showing up at my house. I think his territory is a block or so away, but he must have a line of sight to see when I first poke my head out of the back door in the morning.

A picture of Ben looking at me from the roof early one wet morning became the print, Frazzled 2/Too.

The fact that Ben was now showing up for peanuts in Marvin and Mavis’s territory was a further breach of Peanut Diplomacy protocol.

But that face … what to do?

So, back to my theories of why Marvin and Mavis seem to have come to terms with Ben’s visits.

Theory One: Crows Are Trainable

I decided to see if I could try keep both Ben and M&M happy by trying my hand at some rudimentary crow training techniques. I mean, not much else was going on, so why not?

Ben’s great advantage is that he’s willing to come for snacks while I’m still standing nearby. Like other crows with injuries (e.g. George Brokenbeak) the risk/ benefit calculation of getting close to people shifts more into the “worth the risk” side of the ledger as it gets harder for them to get their own food.

I decided to use this fearlessness “superpower” in Ben’s favour.

When the snacks go out in the morning, several sets of crow eyes are watching.  Marvin or Mavis usually sound the breakfast call from their favourite Hydro pole.

Normally M & M would immediate swoop in and summarily scatter the competition — but I found if I stood right beside the peanuts and fixed them with a stern look and said “wait” in my best dog training voice, it bought Ben and his mate time to stuff a few peanuts and kibble in their beaks and take off.

After a couple of weeks of this everybody seemed to have got the hang of things.

Occasionally a tail tweak from Mavis is needed to reinforce the “taking turns” etiquette, but generally Ben and friend seem to know when their time is up.

Theory Two: Not Worth the Hassle

Another risk/benefit calculation, this time on the part of Marvin and Mavis, might be further explanation for their forbearance.

In spite of his limping gait, Ben is fierce. If attacked by other crows  I’ve seen him respond with impressive force. Perhaps Marvin and Mavis, knowing their food supply is generally secure, figure it’s not worth the risk to life and wing to take him on.

The M’s know, after all, that they can always come back later in the day, when things are less competitive, for a quiet visit and some extra peanuts.

Both theories, I guess, boil down to “crows are smart,” which is hardly news. I do know that I’ve spent countless hours watching crows, and the one thing I’ve learned is that they always have another surprise tucked up their wing feathers.

Anyway, I’ll keep you posted on how Ben makes out, and how long we can keep the Golden Age of Breakfast Co-operation going.

 

 

 

 

 

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© junehunterimages, 2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

Crows to the Rescue

The peace of wild things has been so very much needed over the past weeks and months. Years.

The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

It can be hard to chisel those precious nuggets of joy from the daunting and somewhat featureless rock face of pandemic living —and there’s certainly no shortage of  things to wake us, clammy and panic stricken, in the night. In those sleepless hours, poetry and quiet prose is a wonderful solace (along with a cat on the lap, some medium-complicated knitting and a cup of Ovaltine.)

Going to lie down where the wood drake rests, however,  remains less of an option for us city dwellers.

Luckily, nature is really is everywhere — even in the the cacophonous concrete city.

It’s so easy to miss it all among all the stresses and distractions of urban life —but this is where the crow rescue squad can help. Just pay them a little attention, and they will drag your attention (kicking and screaming, if necessary) to the Peace of Wild Things. Dammit.


Crows are wild things, but something … something … about them —  their tight family units, that look in the eye, that tilt of the head — makes them feel like quite close relations.

It really doesn’t seem like that much of a stretch (trust me) to start having conversations with them.

Hey, Mabel — how’s the family? Got one of the kids home visiting I see.

Any sign of spring out there, Marvin and Mavis?

Again, I ask myself quietly, am I spending too much time with birds … ?

And I conclude: not possible. I’d happily spend a lot MORE time with birds!

In fact, every time a see any bird — crow, sparrow, hawk or bushtit, I feel a thrill.

Perhaps it’s because where I grew up, on the Quayside of the industrial Tyne River in Newcastle in  50’s and 60’s Britain, the only birds I saw were rooftop pigeons and distant gulls. (See: Birth Of An Urban Nature Enthusiast)

It seemed to me then that things like birds and trees and squirrels and grass were just for rich people — so that’s what makes spending time with crows and all the other birds lurking in my part of the city, feel like such luxury.

And why it feels as if having a crow rescue committee for darker days is wealth beyond compare, even if I don’t have anywhere to lie down with them.
Probably not such a good idea in any case, when it comes to crows …

I’ve looked at life from both sides now …

 

 

 

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© junehunterimages, 2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bushtits To The Rescue

Group of bushtits sheltering from rain on a metal rack with flowers

Well, it turns out that one of the lesser known symptoms of COVID is the complete and utter inability to write blog posts. 

Like many others, we had a rather Omicrummy Christmas as the virus raced through our household, and although triple-vaxxed, we were laid low for a couple of weeks.

Fortunately it’s been mainly just medium horrible cold and flu symptoms, overlaid with exhaustion and the need for many naps and lots of Advil.

Every day I’ve thought “must write a blog post’” . . . and every day I’ve taken the alternative route of  flopping in my comfy chair and watching hours of TV.  Even daytime TV was not off limits! Some desultory knitting or needle felting was completed in between naps.

Throughout this period there was a tiny, slightly more active, part of my brain just itching to write a blog post. Whenever I did get outside to walk the dog, or just stand in my dressing gown in the garden, there was bird inspiration everywhere — just begging to be shared.

It seems, however, that the COVID brain cannot process inspiration.

Also, complete sentences seemed like just . . . so . . . much . . . w — o — r — k

Yesterday, however, the bushtits decided enough was enough. A committee came, literally,  to my back door to FORCE me to write about them.

In case you’re not familiar with these characters, bushtits are tiny, grey, determined and objectively adorable birds. See my previous post Consider the Bushtit for just some of the reasons why.

During the very cold weather we had over the holidays they came to the garden many times a day to visit the suet feeder.

I did manage to write a few short social media posts while I was sick and one of them was about the bushtits …

Single female bushtit on a branch

The rare sight of a lone bushtit. 

They travel in close knit chattering charabanc tours of 20-30. The rest of the tour group was close by. I always wonder if one of them is the Rick Steves of the gang, pointing out the local attractions. “On our left we have the famous suet feeder — but be sure to step out of your comfort zone and try the exotic delights of the hummingbird feeder. Don’t miss the bugs up there on the maple. OK, time’s up … on to the next step on the tour … no laggards please.”

It is just possible that I am spending too much time with birds … 🤪

Of course, as many of you wisely pointed out, it is impossible to spend too much time with birds!

And here’s a photo of the tour group having a refreshment break at the hummingbird feeder.

Flock of bushtits at hummingbird feeder

Bottoms up!

Incidentally, I’d been wondering for a while why I kept losing the little yellow nectar covers on the hummingbird feeders until I noticed them lying in the snow after the bushtits had been by. How did they get them off? Again, see Consider the Bushtit to see how cleverly they can use their tiny claws.

So what could these birds have done yesterday that was even cuter and cleverer than all of this?

For context, the weeks of snow and icy slush have been replaced this week by yet another Atmospheric River, bringing relentless rain and grey skies. Not much inspiring to look at outside, but I just happened to glance outside of my back door window and did a double take. It looked like a scene from the old Cinderella cartoon of my childhood …

This is only a small portion of the whole group. By the time I got my phone out to video them, about two thirds of the crowd had moved on, but you can see that they were making themselves very cosy under our deck, taking advantage of the heated hummingbird feeder and  arranging themselves on the big floral metal shelf as if it were a specially designed bushtit drying rack.

Snuggling bushtit couple sheltering from rain on a heated hummingbird feede

Pair of sleeping bushtits sheltering from rain on a floral rack under a deck

Bushtits drying out, and apparently napping.

As you can see, this was already too amazing not to write about, but there was more!

Check out the couple snuggling together in the next video. They were pressed so tightly together, and for so long, I worried that they’d got sugar water on themselves from the hummingbird feeder and become stuck!

Sorry the video and pictures aren’t the best quality. I was filming sometimes through the window and the shadow in some of the video is the door, open just a crack to stick a lens out.

While the whole group was heart stoppingly cute, this particular couple took the cake. This is one of the chief joys of watching birds. You may think you’ve seen all the amazing things about them.

But you never have!

Very cute snuggling bushtit couple sheltering from rain

The delicacy of their tiny, wet, translucent, slightly bedraggled tails …

I’m not sure if they are actually shivering here, as the weather was much milder than it’s been, or if it was part of their feather drying technique. Or perhaps they were just so excited to be together …

I imagine that the bushtit delegation was sent by the other birds to overcome my inertia by dint of sheer cuteness. Now that I’ve actually found where my keyboard is again, I hope I’ll be able to make some new posts about some of the other amazing birds that stopped by over the last couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, keep your eyes open for what new and amazing things the bushtits have up their tiny feathery sleeves.

Snuggling bushtit couple sheltering from rain on a metal rack with flowers

 

 

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© junehunterimages, 2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Marvin and Mavis

….Would Like To Speak to the Manager

Marvin and Mavis are the models for some of my most popular images.
Judgemental Crows, for example; that’s Marvin and Mavis . . . and I see them staring at me with that stern look every single day.

Their critical gazes always seem to imply that I’ve mucked up the service again.

Did I inadvertently press the “torrential rain” button again?

Have I gone and leaned on the “unbearable heat” lever in the climate control room?

And really, to be honest, they’ve had a few valid complaints over the last year and a bit.

How Come No-One Told Us How Exhausting Kids Are?

I’m sure Marvin and Mavis were even more thrilled than I that they were finally able to raise two beautiful fledglings this year after many years of disaster and disappointment. But of course, like all parents, they had their moments of asking “did I really sign up for this?” and it WAS a particularly challenging summer to be raising young of  any species, with the Heat Dome and weeks of hot and unrelentingly dry weather on top of all the usual parent stuff.

Marvin and Mavis sneaking away to the stadium fence for a few minutes of peace.

They were busy for weeks, keeping the babies fed and alive while they learned the essential crow life skills of getting their own food, flying without crashing into stuff, not playing on the road, and avoiding getting eaten.

Mavis and one of the cute kids

Here’s one of the babies, after much encouragement from mom and dad, gingerly grabbing their own snacks from the back deck for the first time.

Once the kids finally got the knack of acquiring their own grub they became a lot more independent and free ranging. By late August they were off doing their own thing much of time and hanging out with the other neighbourhood teens.

At least they didn’t ask to borrow the car.

What Have You Done With All The Trees?

Another hot button topic for the past couple of years has been “who keeps taking all the darn trees?”

Since mid-2019 their little half block area has lost 24 big trees, leaving a big hole in their habitat, and that of all the local wildlife.

Raccoon peacefully sleeping in the old poplars

Twenty-one huge poplars were removed in summer 2019 to make way for the Notre Dame High School football stadium and were supposed to be replaced last spring. Trees WERE planted in April but most were dying even before the Heat Dome, and now they are a row of crispy sticks.

On behalf of the wildlife (and people) who are left without shade and beauty, I’ve been writing to the school and the City to see when replacement trees might be expected. We don’t have an answer on that as there’s a fundamental design flaw with the landscaping and retaining wall that needs to be resolved first.

I tell Marvin and Mavis this and they look less than impressed.

Marvin poses with one of the many dead trees at Notre Dame.

In addition to the lost poplars, three big street trees have  been removed or fallen in this one half block over the last few months, making the loss of habitat and shade even more noticeable.

The plum tree shown below, further down the block,  lost a limb recently and looks likely to be joining the list of the fallen any day now.

I’ve been writing more letters and reaching out to City staff and officials on the topic of street trees, as well as the privately-owned Notre Dame trees — asking to have lost trees on this block, and in the surrounding area, replaced as soon as possible.

I’m also trying to  encourage the City to plant trees  on the currently barren boulevard beside the school’s stadium. I hope that, once the school trees are finally replanted and thriving, a double row of trees would create a slightly pocket park-like area for our park impoverished neighbourhood, as well as providing nest sites and protection for the local wildlife.

Potential pocket park …

These proposals are crow-approved.

Who’s In Charge of Neighbourhood Watch?

Marvin and Mavis would like it known that that the ancient territorial rules, whereby each crow family keeps to its own half block, are not being taken seriously by certain crows this year.

Our fearless couple are spending a lot of time in full fierce ‘n’  fluffy mode, resolutely guarding their slice of paradise from crow rivals.

Regular flouters of boundaries include my old friend Mabel, who often makes cheeky incursions from the West. That’s almost expected as our backyard used to “belong” to George and Mabel, back in the day.

Below: Marvin deploys the “eyes in the back of the head” technique before eating his morning peanuts.

Mavis, eyes on the sky for interlopers.

I’m pretty sure some of the other crows they caw angrily at are actually the kids, trying to come home to do the corvid version of peering into the family fridge — as recently moved out young adults are wont to do.

One of today’s visitors, who definitely has the look of a returning family member.

All in all, I could sum up Marvin and Mavis’s current mood as “disgruntled.”

But who can blame them really? It’s been a tough, tough year for all of us.

 

For more on the life story of Marvin and Mavis:

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© junehunterimages, 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Crow Therapy Thoughts

This summer I gave a couple of webinars on the topic of Crow Therapy and it’s something I think about almost every day as I try to understand why, after 15 years or so, I never tire of watching and taking photos of my local crows. Somehow I feel that the crows are a key to unlocking a big mystery and I’m still working on what it is. But here’s what I’ve got so far, starting with what I don’t think it is.

Precarious

Every time I write the phrase Crow Therapy I worry that it sounds just a little exploitative — as if crows, like the rest of nature, are just there for our entertainment.  As if it’s something that could be packaged in a fancy jar and marketed to a stressed consumer. *

Fashion Statement

I hope it’s a more reciprocal arrangement — one in which crows can regularly jolt me out of my default setting of seeing the human race as the centre of the universe.

A little daily crow therapy reminds me that other lives  —  every bit as ordinary and epic as mine — are being lived alongside mine. This realization brings great  joy, but also a weight of responsibility and I feel a constant obligation to communicate both. 

Interpretive Dance

Joy, I feel, is something that we’re going to need more of in the coming years — and it needs to be a different joy than the kind with which we’ve soothed ourselves up to now.  We need a more sustainable source of joy — less of the kind  acquired via tropical holidays and the general accumulation of material things. I’ve convinced myself at different times in my life that I’m just one Tupperware container, one pair of pants, or that fabulous kitchen appliance away from my whole life falling into place, so I’m as much in need of convincing on this front as anyone else.**

Judgemental Crows

For the last few days my Twitter feed has been a rushing river of terrifying news from my own province of BC — roads and rail lines washed away, entire towns flooded, homes and lives lost in a moment. In the midst of this harrowing torrent, an ad for Lincoln cars bobs up regularly like a jolly life buoy. The ad assures me that driving a Lincoln will provide great relaxation in the face of life’s little frustrations — things liking having odd socks disappear in the laundry and (in a final touch of unintentional irony) having my umbrella blown inside out by the wind in a storm. 

I am 100% sure that a new Lincoln is NOT the answer to life’s daily trials,  and definitely not the way to relieve the sadness of seeing life inevitably altered by climate change and coming to terms with the difficult changes that will be needed.

But I do know that spending half an hour watching crows will help.

Philosopher Crow

Or watching rain drip onto a patch of moss. Or listening to the Northern Flickers chattering.

This is a sustainable joy, free, readily available to anyone, and consuming no natural resources … and  it’s the kind of joy I’m trying to rely on more and more.

I do realize that I spend so much time exploring the meandering rabbit hole of my Crow Therapy theory, that I often fail to get around to posting anything about actual crows any more.  I have a musing problem, I know …

Consequently I have a huge backlog of crow news and photos, so I will try to remedy this, starting tomorrow with a Marvin and Mavis update.

I guess the one thing that I was trying to say in this post was that I mean the idea of crow therapy (and my images) to be, not just a respite from general and/or climate stress, but also an inspiration and a focus for taking action to make things better — for ourselves, for crows, for nature as a whole.

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*& **  I say these things, even as I hope you’ll purchase my images, calendars, bags etc, to enable me to continue thinking about, writing about and photographing crows, so I am aware of contradictions and I am far from having all the answers.

 

 

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© junehunterimages, 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.