Posted in Crows at the Beach

Crow Pool at a Glance

My current favorite spot on the beach deserves a moment in the lime light. Come with me to discover it’s wonderful beaches.

Fauntleroy Creek comes out into the sand and driftwood of Puget Sound right next to the Ferry Dock for the West Seattle to Vashon Island run. Before it joins the sound it parallels the bigger beach creating the famous crow pool and animal beaches.

It is a popular destination for crow families and a few other species. The crows are the main attraction and usually have a ready team of life guards on duty.

Crow Club watching over the pool

Using my best ability to determine who is who in this gang, I am guessing most are male crows. It is their hang out while the moms feed and try to corral the babies. The girls fly in periodically with the whining little ones in tow to this safe zone the boys are guarding.

Guarding the pool is serious business

Let us now highlight the pool itself. The creek flows along between the logs and actually has three distinct beaches. Check out the lay of the land before we go into each pool.

Fauntleroy Creek creates several beaches and bathing pools

The favored pool is at the top of the picture. It is the most secure area and it is the favored area. The lifeguard crows are always vigilant around this one. Conveniently it has a natural lifeguard shack that an observer can use to watch over the antics.

Pool Crow Guard

Check out this crow going in for a dip at the main pool.

It is not a shadow but rather a crow bather

The main pool is pretty special with a bit of greenery and a sloping beach down to the water.

Closer look the Main Crow Pool
Check out how the sand gently slopes down – easy access for all birds

A few logs and a bit to the north is the middle pool. This is basically an overflow area for when the main beach gets crowded. That can happen when the whole murder want to have a dip or drink. In my counts of this flock I estimate it is around 50 individuals.

Mid pool – not as secure by still has good beach access

Then we have the third beach. This is a bit more north towards the dock and where my viewing area is just at the edge of the dock. The photo below is what it looks like in my spot. It is out of the sun and a bit secretive so the crows will not be bothered by the my observations of them.

My viewing area slightly under the ferry dock. The Crow pool is to the left of this shot.

The last beach I call the Other Species Beach. This was where I found the gimpy duck and other little birds who want a drink. I have noticed quite a few pigeons here too. Like the crows the pigeons feed on all the human food left behind. Plus they have a perfect place to hang out up in the rafters of the dock.

The Other Species Pool/Beach

Hope you learned a little bit more about this lovely place in nature called “the Crow Pool”.

Posted in Crows at the Beach

Duck Drama at the Dock

Back at the Ferry Dock I went to see what was happening with the crows and the gimpy ducklett. The crows were a bit sedate even though I counted over 40 of them at this great territory they have claimed.

However, the ducks became the excitement for this round of beach time.

It started with my finding a parent duck with 5 fluffy babies. Obviously, not the gimpy duck flock but sure cute as it can get (check out the above photo)

They were just hanging out on the sandy beach to the north of the dock. In the photo below see how one of the babies is standing up.

Ducklings and Washington State Ferry
Duck family just above the surf line.

All seemed golden so I went to check on the Crow Pool. That was when I did my count of how many were hanging out to the south of the dock. Most of the flock was there getting lots of goodies from the negative three foot tide.

Next I went looking for the older duck family to see how the gimpy one was doing.  I crossed back under the dock and saw both families in the low tide seaweed and small tidal pools. Kind of a gooey mess that I avoided by hanging out on the edge where the sand was drier.

Low Tide with little pools and seaweed.

Once I got in the proximity of the families I started watching in my binoculars and snapped a few photos. Here they are close together foraging in the low tide tasty treats.

Two Duck Families of different ages. Little ones at the bottom & older up top.

This is when the drama got going. While I was watching them in my binoculars one of the older duckettes came over and tried to pick up one of the babies. I figured it was all over!! Instead daddy mallard came charging and gave that juvenile duck a good pecking. The baby got sort of tossed unceremoniously into a tidal pool. He scrambled back up and hurried to join his little buddies.

What was with that? Shame on me for thinking that these ducks would all co-exist since there was so much food to be had at this nice low tide.  But no – there was a bully in the older flock and he had to go mess with the babies!

After that happened they moved further out so they were at the true waterline of the sound. Below if you look right below the moored boat you will see the itty bitty ones & then off to the right is the juvenile group. It was interesting that the parents of the babies just went off and left them to their own devices. Survival of the fittest must be those parents motto.

Two flocks on Puget Sound ignoring each other after skirmish
Real little baby ducks on shore
Gimpy Duck family foraging at shore of Puget Sound

Drama was over and the two families continued to go about their business. We can only guess what caused all the meanness from the juvenile to the baby. Perhaps it was not wanting to share or he just had a bad attitude.

I leave you with the cuteness of the little ones after the parents shooed then further away from the bigger ducks.

Babies herded into tide pools and all seem to be A-OK.

 

Posted in Crows at the Beach

Gimpy Duck at Crow Pool

Gimpy birds seems to find me or do I just find them?  No matter they intrigue me with their tenacity and sheer will to live in a world that is not kind to one leggedness.

While I was hanging out at the Crow Pool this week I noticed a little duck.  I was enjoying some beach time, counting crows in this murder and in general watching them enjoy the pool. Closer to where I sat was a duck who was struggling to get out of the creek’s current. It is a little bit of an incline to climb but most birds just hop right up no problem.

Upon closer inspection I realized this ducklett (yes it was a juvenile duck) had a bad leg.  I mean a really bad leg. It seemed to be either deformed or somehow injured.  It was red and obviously made walking really difficult.

Gimpy Duck at creek

After taking a couple of photos I retreated to my position which is far enough away to not disturb the resident crows nor this little duck. From my spot I could watch the action but not interrupt their behavior.

The crows came over to bath and hang out just like normal. One came over to where the little duck was and she gave a little quack awaking from her sun nap.  However, the crow just skirted her and then walked down the beach to the stream. Then he came back and eyed her. In return she did a little silent quack. They must have known each other and just co-exist there at the pool.

That was Saturday afternoon and being a little worried that I would find her dead or disappeared I came back on Sunday. Up by the creek there was no sign of her except the rumpled sand where she had been laying. No feathers or bodies stuck along the bank either. I was relieved but still worried.

My next step was to go find the resident duck flock that I had seen several times under the dock. Found them hanging out where the creek flowed out to the north of the dock.

Ducks at mouth of Fauntleroy Creek

To my delight there was our gimpy duck. I was sure now she was a teenager. She was surrounded by her family of siblings and parent.

In the surf is easier than on land for this young gimpy duck

While I watched the youngster drug herself up to the adult. She was feeding off the small particles and creatures in the surf and creek water.

Gimpy duck close to parent

This video will give you a good idea of her disability.  What determination to survive!

After all this work our family of ducks including gimpy settled in for a sunny nap at the shoreline. Since gimpy birds are easy to tell from other of thier kind, I will keep checking on her.  Stay tuned on what I find or don’t find.

Time for a nap at the beach

 

Posted in Crows at the Beach

Crow Pool Rules

Watching crows for years I have noticed that they have a family hierarchy with rules that all members must adhere to. Think of these like our customs of respect to elders and other rituals we follow to insure our families stay within the box of a smooth operating unit.

On my recent trip I positioned myself to watch where Fauntleroy Creek flows into Puget Sound next to the Washington State Ferry Dock. This piece of the creek with it’s pool has been featured in several of my posts. It is fascinating to watch birds flutter in the water and then jump out to sun their feathers into perfect shape.

This time when I arrived and got situated in the driftwood nearly under the dock, I noticed several larger crows on driftwood around the creek’s beach they prefer. One was up on a curved vertical piece of wood and he was obviously the guardian of the pool. Nearby was another large guy also up high playing the ownership role. In the photo at the top you can see all driftwood that covers the stream as it flows towards us. The bathing hole is closer to where you see that tall upright driftwood with a crow on it. (under the word Rules with a bush backdrop). Shall we get a bit closer so you can see what I mean?

Pool Crow Guards

In this photo look where the sand meets the logs between the two crows positions. There is a little gap in the wood where they walk down to the bird beach and pool. Fresh water is important and so these two are in charge of protecting this from any interloper.

The gang that were around the pool took turns washing up and then sitting in the sun preening their feathers. My vantage did not have the pool in sight this time but watching their family dynamic was very enlightening.

Towel off time after bathing
Crow looks wet and scruffy after his dip at the pool

Time went by and the pool gang hung out like a bunch of teenagers at the beach. I called them the amigos as they roosted on the driftwood on the beach side of the pool area.  Oh and the guard on the hook driftwood directly over the pool was still in position.

Crows hangout at Fauntleroy Creek.
Close up of crow gang

Several crows decided that where the creek’s channel was closer to the sound worked just as good. This was because the guards were keeping non-members from their private pool.

Group of Crows enjoying the fresh water of Fauntleroy Creek

Then a younger bird decided to use the pool. He flew over and started to enter the area. The guard on the beach side got down and herded him away. It was like he was checking him out and saying “Hey, you cannot just enter the pool. You need to ask the guards first.”

After they had their crow chat moment, the guard escorted the other crow to the beach and watched him carefully.

Wow – never saw that kind of interaction but knowing crows it seemed so like them. Family and rules not only drive us humans but so do they instruct crows on how to conduct their lives.

Crow interaction over when and who can use the Pool.

 

Posted in Crows at the Beach

Crow Britches

Britches?  What are those and do crows have them?

The definition for Britches is a bit of a history lesson in clothing.

  • Britches definition according to Merriam Webster is:   Breeches, Trousers – they were first used in 1571
  • What are breeches? Their definition is: short pants covering the hips and thighs and fitting snugly at the lower edges at or just below the knee. – They were first called this in the 12th century.

Here is a picture of old to help you visualize what they look like. Now review the picture above and see how that crow has feathers to his knees and then skinny legs below?  Just like he was wearing these short pants!

Have you heard these phrases?

  • Too big for your britches.
  • Hold onto your britches

Now you know what they mean and they too date back a couple centuries.

Enjoy another good look at Crow Britches and a short video of the crow looking for lunch in the low tide seaweed.  You can get an even better look at this Crow’s Breeches/Britches.

Crow at the beach showing off his feathered britches
Crow at the beach showing off his feathered britches

 

Posted in Crows at the Beach

Crows Patrolling Young Bald Eagle

Crows and Eagles have a hate relationship. Lets say there is no love lost between them.  This weekend down on the Puget Sound beach (great low tide) I caught a young bald eagle flying around.

At first a couple crows would take turns chasing the eagle.  They were on guard patrol.  I heard at least two baby crows crying in the madrona forest on the hillside. This made me worry that the eagle wanted a quick snack. This is what the pursuing crew of crows are trying to prevent. If they chase the bigger bird away, then he won’t find their precious nursery sites.

After a few pass over the bluff, the eagle landed in a madrona tree. This is where I got my camera out and took a few pictures. The first one is a distant view that will give you perspective of what I mean by madrona forest on the hillside.

Madrona’s growing on bank overlooking Puget Sound. Eagle and crows are in the tree sticking out on the right (center of photo)

As you can see this tree is a long ways from where I am down on the beach.  A telephoto lenses and a good pair of binoculars are a must to sort out what these the birds are really doing up there.

This photo is a bit closer to the action.  The red arrow shows you the dark blob that is the eagle.  The blue arrow is the guard crow making sure the family knows where the pesky predator is.

Eagle & Crow in madronas – red is eagle & blue is crow

Now that you know where the players are hanging out here is a little more zoom on the camera shot.  You can clearly see the eagle blob is more than just tree.

Closer view of Eagle & Crow standoff

Then another crow decided he needed to get up close and personal with the eagle. He landed on a branch on the same tree as the big bird. Before he did that he did a fly by & swooped as near as possible.  This also gives you a better look at the eagle.  It is a bit tough cause he is on the other side of all the trees branches.

Crow Guard #2 flew in for a closer look

Getting even closer with the camera zoom, I am trying to tell which way the eagle is facing. I think he is looking away from me towards the south. His perch is such that we are looking thru the tree at him. It is open on his side so there is a clear view of the water and likely snacks he is seeking.

Which way is the eagle facing?

To wrap this up – here is a really zoomed view of the eagle. I think we are looking at his butt but I will let you decide.  Nothing like an eagle butt to make us all giggle like little kids.

Closest photo of juvenile eagle

 

 

Posted in Crows at the Beach

Beaks in the Sun

What a weekend in the Pacific Northwest! The hours of daylight are increasing and the sun was out in a wonderful warm way.

The crows and a young eagle were making the best of it just like us humans. We were all putting our beaks in the sun!

At the beach the tide was out and the sky was crystal clear blue. This crow was sitting on a rock telling the world about the sparkle.

Sparkle crow time

The flock was not shy as I fed them peanuts with the youngsters daring each other to see who could get closest. This adult guard posed on a piling for me in the sun.

Crow doing his composed look to the water.

His black plumage is iridescent.  Remember how I talked about their true color is ultra violet and that helps them identify each other.

I am so crow beautiful!

Then he turned to at me and gave me the look of …. where is the peanut?

Get with the food look!

The photo at the top shows a take off shot. This next one is a beach landing.

Watch out below – coming in for a landing

I left the beach with a smile on my face and started my trek home. Close to the 35th – Marine View Drive hairpin corner park I spotted an odd looking blob in a fir tree. It was just too big to be a cone and didn’t look like a bough.

It was a young eagle!

Not just a fir cone! It is an eagle!

Talk about serendipity!!  What a great opportunity to see a magnificent bird watching the water from up on the bluff.

I got down on the sidewalk, balanced my camera on my knee and zoomed a few shots of this youngster.

Immature Eagle in West Seattle – Seola Greenbelt Park

The wind was blowing a little and this next shot shows his head feathers getting ruffled.

Eagle feathers being ruffled in the wind

Then to make the scene complete an older couple with their dog came walking by. I decided I should get up off the pavement or they would think I was crazy or hurt.

Showed them the eagle and shared my binoculars. They were amazed and their happiness made my day even better.

Sun, birds, serendipity all come together for those that look up and cherish the moment. Get out and bask in the spring sun!

Posted in Crows at the Beach

Crow Mind Reader

Surviving winter for a crow can be tough. I could equate their hard work to humans getting busy this time of year. However, if we had to live on our wits like they do we would come in a sad second.  They are out there every day turning over leaves and observing activity that might land them a meal.

Down by the water’s edge in Lincoln Park on the back side of Coleman Pool (the only saltwater pool in Seattle) I encountered this family of crows. My first view of them was the watcher. He was perched in a great spot – on a flag pole.

Flag Pole crow watcher

You see this is a pretty busy park with a lot of people traffic flowing by here. Not missing a beat this guy is keeping his eye on all of us to see if we drop a snack.

Crow at Coleman Pool waiting for a Human Opportunity

Then between this photo and the next he flew off towards the pool wall. There he landed on the bright blue pool slide structure. His partner in crime showed up moments later.  They blend in with the trees so look closely at the far left corner. One is on the pillar and the other is on the door arch.

Crow Pair using the pool slide as their private tower

Nothing like having a buddy to watch your back. These two sat close and kept everything around them under their crow black eyes. Something got their attention and one of them gave the crow caw out. This was a warning or an alert that something was a brewing.

Crow Alert!! All you corvids pay attention I saw something!

Now you ask who is the boy or the girl here? I am not sure and at first thought it was the cawing crow. Then the upper guy who has the upper advantage seemed to have puffier and blacker head feathers.

Not sure who is who actually. What was I thinking? Can’t tell them apart nor can I tell what sex they are.  Adds to the mystery does it not?

Who is a girl? Who is a boy?

Now for the freaky part of the winter crow story. I started thinking about the peanuts in my bag. Yes in my mind I thought about getting them out and offering my black wonders a bit of protein to help them thru their day.

Bam!!  Before I could even do that one of the two crows flew over to the bench I was standing next to and landed. He/she was only few feet away looking at me.

What just happened? They read my mind? Now there is another explanation. I have fed the crows at Lincoln Park peanuts before. However, it has been months and I mean many months.

Another explanation is  they are part of my Ocean View Crow Murder who I feed regularly. Perhaps one of the birds knows me from there or the crow newspaper in the area has my mug shot on it. Whatever way you look at it they either read my mind or remember me from many months ago.

Hand over the Peanuts!

Then the feeding began. They were actually polite to each other. When I give out peanuts I try to make sure every body gets one. Often there is an alpha bird who will gobble up as many has he can get in his craw.  Not here. They each got one and let then let the next bird have one.

As they flew away to crack their treat open I went to a picnic table around the corner. Then one of them came back. No fear again. He was within 5 feet of me giving me the “Cough up another one of those Peanuts” look.  Of course I obeyed!!

Look at me, so brave!! I am next to the human.
Posted in Crows at the Beach

Arroyos Crows are Back

It has been more than HOT here in Seattle. All of us Northwesterners including the local crows have been feeling a little frumpy. In my walks around the neighborhood the local murder was not to be found. I worried that the heat had been their demise.

The less dramatic me figured they were holing up somewhere cooler; the beach, the Renton valley, or just the madrona trees on the bluff over the sound.

Then this weekend the weather finally changed and as I walked to the beach there they were in force. I counted over 30 of them at the hairpin corner of Marine View Drive and 35th Ave SW. Relief flooded me as I fed them a pile of peanuts.

Down on the beach they were going about their business. I felt silly being worried about them.  What was I thinking?

Crows at Ocean View Beach

That brings me to their appearance. They look like they have been put through the ringer. Tis the season for molting and the hot weather has added to this shedding of feathers for a new shiny black coat. I equate this annual transformation kind of like getting new clothes for the first day of school. Fall tradition at it’s best but the heat aggravated it.

Crow looking disheveled

I leave you with a head shot of one my black friends. He is not only molting but has a dirty bill from poking around in the sand. Nothing like a dusty dirty birdie.

What you looking at? You would be frumpy too after this hot dry weather!
Posted in Crows at the Beach

Keep Thine Enemies Closer

Crows live by this creed. They do not flee when a threat is presented. They have even been known to pull the tail of eagles.

Today at the beach in the “nursery tree”, there was a peregrine falcon and the crows. The peregrine would fly off and the crows would tag along, making sure he knew who was in charge. Then everyone would get back into the tree.

Peregrine falcon and crows in tree together

At the end of one of these chase me catch me games, the crow and falcon were in the tree like kids in bunk beds. Now that is keeping your enemy close!

Peregrine and crow hanging out

In my research of what kind of hawk this was, I found that he is probably a youngster. This is from his more buffy coloring.  They get grayer as they become adults. This photo shows that and the gorgeous feather definition.

Immature Peregrine Falcon – see brown tone in breast

During my research with Sibley and Stokes Field Guides I noticed to my delight he was banded. I will leave you with not only the famous words  –  “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer” but also a close up of this beautiful bird.

Never know what the day might present.  Look up from the little screen and watch the real world voraciously.

Banded Peregrine Falcon at Ocean View Beach

Serendipity is alive – never know what the day might present.  Look up from the little screen and watch the real world voraciously.