Posted in crows

Good Crow – Bad Crow Debate

This week on my area’s Nextdoor Neighbor there has been a post debating crows. It started with a do not feed the crows post and moved onto a two-sided camp.

Wow, we didn’t even agree to disagree but rather kept harping at each other about how bad it is to feed crows and even one person left a dead crow in their backyard. It was killed by their pet and it was used to run off other crows.

This had me in a conundrum. How do I as the crow lover enter the game without just echoing one side of the equation?

I decided to use a post I wrote years ago during the Halloween season. It is a brief history and lore about our black feathered friends. Hope you enjoy this reminder of crows ups and downs in history! On top the world at one point and then in hell in their next generation. That mankind has no place to tell crows and ravens how to act when we are not perfect citizens either.

How did the crow’s image get to the top of the evil list?

We humans think of one crow alone in a tree to be mysterious (as in the picture above). As the flock gets bigger and bigger we go into a primeval mode.  We feel on the defensive and that these dark crows could attack us.  Are you thinking of the old Alfred Hitchcock movie the Birds?

Renton Crows come to Roost at dusk
Renton Crows come to Roost at dusk

Go to the celebration of Halloween, the holiday of goblins, ghouls and the grim reaper and what do we see?  Huge flocks of crows forming roosts each evening.  Some roosts are only a hundred or so individuals but then there are the ones like in Renton, Washington that are in the thousands.  As dusk approaches they flock to the determined common ground.  Is it coincidence that large groups of crows gather during the celebrations like Halloween and the Day of the Dead?  Some may think not and again the crows image falls lower.

 

Our historic knowledge of crows and ravens has not always been happy images.  These images range from flocks of birds raiding the fall harvest to them scavenging among battlefield dead. How can anyone not fear a creature that peeks the eyes out of dead soldiers?  Not that we have witnessed this phenomena in the current decades.  Humans have found new ways in warfare that don’t leave dead just lying around.  We bomb them to pieces and think we are being more humane.  Hah!!  and crows are evil?  Look at our image before you throw the first stone on these intelligent birds.

Forklore around crows and ravens is not limited to just one continent.  How could it be many tribes and cultures individually admire and fear them?  Their intelligence is so above the norm for non-human creatures we attribute our own qualities to them.  Here are several myths and forklore that have grown up around our dear raven and crow friends.

Odin the Norse god of old had a pair of ravens named Hugin (Thought) and Munin (Mind). Each daybreak they were sent out into the world to observe what was happening and question everybody, including the dead. By sunrise they would come back to whisper into their master’s ear what they had seen and learnt.

Pacific Northwest indigenous people think of the Raven/Crow as a sage and trickster.  A similar story of the world with no light is found in many of the New World’s people. The world is a dark place and in that story the Raven decided he would bring light to the world. The Chief of Heaven kept it in a box and the raven conceived a plan to steal it.  He became a leaf on a stream where the chief’s daughter was drinking.  She gave birth to him and as the favored grandson the Chief of Heaven gave it Raven.  He turned back into a bird and flew away with the box of light.  Then he dropped it in error and the light broke into many pieces creating the stars, moon and sun.

In the North American mythology raven is a personification of supreme being. When it flaps its wings, it creates the wind, the lightning and the thunder. And it is also the raven who is responsible for the rhythm of seasons and providing the shamans with their visionary and healing powers.  Wait..this is a good image!!  Are we human’s confused or what?

This difference in how European and North American People saw the raven and crow led to several disputes.  Indigenous people respected and revered them while Europeans despised them.  This led to disrespect between the cultures.

The crow has also had a role in the Asiatic mythology. According to chinese legends, ten red crows with three paws flew away from the East Blackberry Tree to bring light to the world. But they brought an unbearable heat to the Earth. Yi The Good Archer killed nine of them, and saved the world. The last Crow is now in the Sun. Interesting how this is another myth around crows and the light on earth.

In the Bible, the crow is sent by Noah to search earth after the flood. But the crow didn’t  say that the flood was finished and was considered selfish. Another Bible story is after Adam and Eve were driven away from the Paradise, the crows started to eat carrion. So they became black-feathered. At the end of time, the crows will find their beauty again and sing harmoniously to praise God.  They are the symbol of resurrection in these stories.

In India, in the Mahâbhârata, the messengers of death are compared to crows. In Laos, the water soiled by crows can’t be used for ritual purification.  Guess they are not thought all light and grace by all.

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No wonder these black beauties have an image problem.  One day they are riding high as the creator of the world and then the next century they are feared as the death of things. If you think about it, the end of something is the beginning too. The crow and raven then are one of god’s creatures who traverses both sides of good and evil.  Showing us that it is not as simple as black and white, good or bad and heaven or hell.

Thank you to http://www.perspectivesmagazine.sk/news/ravens-and-crows-in-mythology-folklore-and-religion/  and   http://thecrow.tripod.com/myth.html   for information regarding folklore on Ravens and Crows.

Posted in crows

Crows of West Point Treatment Plant

Buried deep inside of Discovery Park is none other than a sewer treatment plant. This large park has trails that skirt the perimeter of the plant. The dense brush and trees along the tall cement fence disguise its presence. That is except the occasional whiff of sewer.

I traveled the North Beach Trail which is sandwiched between the plant, the beach and a lagoon enjoying the winter day. First I found a flock of ducks bathing in the lagoon.  Not too far from them I stopped to try to catch a glimpse of a wren or chickadee I heard calling. I did not see the small bird but did see a family of crows perched in trees on the rim of the plant. Serendipity lead me to my black friends. I would have just kept on down the trail and never seen them.

Three crows watching over the West Point Plant from the North Beach Trail. (they are the black dots upper center)

To  help you see them here is a little closer view. They have moved around  but now you can see them better.

Three Amigos hanging out

One of the small trees that is bare of leaves is a perfect place to watch the world. Plus I bet this is the leader of the pack.

Crow surveys his domain

As is common this time of year there are mates hanging out close to each other.

Blue Sky highlight this pair at the West Point Plant

As luck would have it I got a lift off shot. Yes this is luck cause one cannot click the shutter fast enough if you see them in flight like this. I was just taking a bunch of photos in sequence knowing I would get something good.  That is bird photography.

Lift off caught on film

The trail was busy and several folks stopped to ask me what I was seeing. I get a mixed reaction when I talk about the Black ones. Never fails that their legend of evil has outweighed their true nature of smart and family orientation. This little murder of about 10 crows have it made is what I told one couple. They have food from the workers at the plant, the park traffic and natures bounty in the forest and shoreline.

As I left I gave them a peanut treat. Never hurts to make sure they know I am one of the good humans. Then off I went to find my way back up the bluff to the parking lot. As I headed down the trail I spotted a guard in a tree. That is right, they always have guards on duty to make sure the core flock is safe from intruders or the goodness of dropped food on the trail.

On my journey back I came across an overlook of the Treatment Plant. Right away I saw a crow on the wall.  Here is a photo of the bigger view there. This actually faces back towards the lagoon and where I had found the main body of the murder.

West Point Treatment Plant. Can you see the crow?

He proceeded to fly down to a small tree between the two fir trees, kind of behind the blue guard shack. Never know where a meal might have been discarded or lost by some poor human!

Crow in Plant Landscaping

Something caught my eye in the distance and I was curious if I could see the main murder in the distance. There they were!! If you look carefully in the photo above just to the right of the cement tank you can see them in the trees.

First I want to share a zoomed photo of my suspected leader of the pack on a tall tree.

Crow on West side of Plant – near where I originally found them

Then I saw a pair up in a tree over there on the west boundary near the North Beach Trail. They jumped down on the wall of the Plant. I was quick enough to get them in the tree but not for their landing on the fence. Next they drifted down into the plant out of sight.

Crow Pair overlooking Treatment Plant – moments later they jump into the walled off area.

The sewer treatment plant has lots of man-made things for crows to perch and observe us from. Nothing like the silent black fellows hanging out mysteriously.

Crows love a good rail to watch from.

The pair on the rail flew off and left the designated guard in a nearby tree to keep an eye on things. Hope you enjoyed the doings of the West Point Treatment Plant Crow Murder.

Look up and there is the guard crow doing his duty.

 

Posted in crows

Crow Family Recognition

It is true we can’t figure out individual crows easily.  Quite a few years ago I published this post about how I couldn’t tell them apart when I took this NPR test.  Check out the post and the test at this link.

Do you really know that Crow?

Then this week I heard on Bird Note, a regular feature on NPR, about how birds can see ultra violet light. This gives them the ability to see things we as humans cannot. The article went on to talk about crows. Of course this crow stalker’s ears perked up.

What they basically said was they can tell each other apart because that ultra violet color spectrum gives them visibility into their plumage we miss.  I like to think that they are not just black feathered. Crows also have violet colored areas.  Yes you heard that!  Crows are partly royal purple!

Next time you see a crow look for that sheen we just perceive as a reflection of the sun. See how it has a glossy iridescence. That is a glimpse into how crows see and recognize their family members. They are even more wondrous than we thought.

To leave you with a little serendipity of life. Today as I read the local paper I discovered something that relates to this light spectrum.  Pantone Color Institute has announced its color of 2018……..Ultra Violet – 18-3838.   Here is a link to their site so you can see exactly what the color looks like.  Ultra Violet – Color of 2018    I leave you with why crows are violet and not just black!  Mystery solved or are they just Black?

Pantone’s description of the color Ultra Violet – Complex and contemplative, Ultra Violet suggests the mysteries of the cosmos, the intrigue of what lies ahead, and the discoveries beyond where we are now. The vast and limitless night sky is symbolic of what is possible and continues to inspire the desire to pursue a world beyond our own. 

 

Posted in crows

Crows of Union Bay

I like to think crows follow me where ever I go. This was true at the Center for Urban Horticulture at the University of Washington.

OK – truth is crows are everywhere man is and we only have to open our eyes to see them. Some folks might think that is creepy but like I said I tell myself they are following me, their pied piper.

My first sight of them was in a lovely tree that is right next to Center for Urban Horticulture buildings. This was a good sign as I get out of my car and there is my first follower.

Crow follower in tree over Ctr for Urban Horticulture
Crow follower in tree over Ctr for Urban Horticulture

He is a little tough to see but look high up in the branches. That black blob is my buddy.

It is winter at Union Bay and it is a brown area that the wind was whipping across. Made my eyes water but I did see some ducks and got a few shots of the landscape, a pond and the raindrops pattering into the water.

There is a lot of reclamation and construction down here at the reserve. Way too many signs telling us to not enter but new gravel paths and lots of ground up stuff where soon natural foliage will be planted. Getting rid of the invasive blackberries is a good mission but it is looking bare in the meantime.  This work is getting done by Washington Dept of Transportation in exchange for a small piece of land they needed for the new Hwy 520 bridge.

Then I can around the bend and saw my black winged friends frolicking on the newly laid ground cover. If you look carefully in this first picture you will see them on the water’s edge mid photo.

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Crow heads poking up on the peninsula mid-picture

I quietly moved down the trail and got some closer photos of them.

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Crows playing at the water’s edge Union Bay
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They take flight and land across the pond
Union Bay Crow Murder seeking out a meal
Union Bay Crow Murder seeking out a meal or sip of water

Then they flew up into a row of poplar trees. That was my cue to check out the bridge over the slough which lead to the back of the UW Sports area. Crossing it puts one not far is Husky Stadium, Hec Edmundson Pavilion and training areas, plus the light rail station.

View North from bridge to UW from Union Bay Natural Area.
View North from bridge to UW from Union Bay Natural Area.

I turned around and there was this little pair bathing away in the water.

Not only was it great to see them brave the cold water and show how hardy they are but you can hear how the brisk wind is hitting me and the camera.

Are they following me around? Perhaps? They do tell each other who is naughty or nice. Since I feed them peanuts maybe the word got out even here at Union Bay.

Posted in crows, Uncategorized

Crow Dreams

To be a crow. I sat in the woods looking over the treetops from a bluff. I dreamed of soaring as a crow among the fir and maple.

I would chase my family in a form of tail grab tag. Then play a mobbing game to see who can fly the closest to an owl or eagle in a tree glaring at us. We would watch for snacks such as roadkill or human garbage. Of course there is the old fashion natural stuff like berries, nuts, little crabs, grass and whatever we can forage for.

As the day ends we gather in huge murders and fly towards the setting sun. We sit in trees like ornaments on a Christmas tree all facing the sunset.

Renton Crows come to Roost at dusk
Renton Crows come to Roost at dusk

We say our prayers to the sun and mother nature as darkness forms. At night we huddle close in the big roost protecting each other with our warmth and numbers.

Come spring we return to stay in our home territories. There we pick the best tree our status can attain. Then we raise a family with the help of our older children and extended family. Our babies have blue eyes and act goofy learning to be crow.

I'm like a puppy all legs & beak
I’m like a puppy all legs & beak

Humans are a puzzle to us. Some throw things at us and act like idiots who own the world when they don’t. Others feed us and make sounds of endearment.

So, as I sat in the park I soared above the trees and tried to think of being black. Of being above the world. Of family. Of the world. Life is hard at times but when you see the treetops your heart grows and life is good.

May the holidays bring you crow vision to weather life’s storms and know the love of all the world.

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Posted in crows

Crows & Cats – Urban Survivors

And you could add cockroaches and rats, but I don’t like them, so we will ignore them and talk about cats and crows today.

Mankind has moved to an urban setting. We reshape the natural world so much that species are going extinct. However, two species are thriving and if you think about it have growing populations. Those two are crows and cats. Everywhere you go they are there right beside us. Every step along our house wrecking path they are pawing and flying along.

How can I compare Cats and Crows. Two distinctly different species. One is cute, cuddly and sleeps in your bed. The other caws at us, hardly ever lets us touch their feathers and they are all Black. OK, a cat can be black too and those cats create suspicion but nothing like a crow does.

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img_4506Another thing to ponder is we actually brought the cats along for the ride. We adopted them or perhaps they adopted us. Somehow they have convinced us that we were the adopters.  HA!! Do they have us wrapped around their little paws. They get food, warm beds, treats and toys. Unlike dogs they don’t fawn all over us. Remember, it is reversed, we court them and they allow us to be in their space.

 

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img_0571Crows, they approach their opportunistic use of us in a different way. They are much more aloof than a cat.  Yes a creature that is more aloof than a kitty cat is the crow.  Most people don’t notice that crows flock to places and humans that provide them with food and safe places for their youngsters to fledge. Most of us are spooked by them due to being associated with death and eating road kill or battle field dead. However, they are surviving and their populations are not shrinking even though in some places they have crow hunts.

I ask you which do you prefer? Most of you will say the cat of course you silly woman. My confession is I love them both. They provide me with endless amusement and joy. Both are smarter than some humans and have found surviving alongside us is better than just going it alone.

Posted in crows

Crow Idioms – Eat Crow and As the Crow Flies

Eating Crow has always been a sad affair. This phrase is an American colloquial idiom, meaning humiliation by admitting wrongness or having been proven wrong after taking a strong position. Crow is presumably foul-tasting in the same way that being proven wrong might be emotionally hard to swallow.

eat-crow

Most of us have had to eat crow at sometime in our lives. It is a moment to grow more humble and remember our fellow humans.

But where did this come from? As a lover of crows how did they become associated with this idiom? I have found a couple of explanations.  In the end we really don’t know.

First is around 1850 a story was published about a slow-witted New York farmer and his city boarders daring him to eat a crow.

This phrase is part of a family of idioms having to do with eating and being proven incorrect, such as to “eat dirt” and to “eat your hat” (or shoe), all probably originating from “to eat one’s words”, which first appears in print in 1571 in one of John Calvin’s tracts.

Or is it similar to a British idiom to eat humble pie. Pies made from low grade meat were known to be served to those of lesser class who did not eat at the king’s/lord’s/governor’s table. Another dish likely to be served with humble pie is rook pie (rooks being closely related to crows).

Then we have this next explanation around a soldier.  According to etymologist James Rogers, eating crow became the subject of a story reported in the Atlanta Constitution in 1888, which told the tale of an American soldier in the War of 1812, who shot a crow during a ceasefire. A British officer complimented the soldier on his shooting and asked to see the gun, which when handed to him, he turned on the soldier, reprimanding him for trespassing, and forcing the soldier to eat a piece of the dead crow. However, on having the gun returned to him, the soldier promptly turned the weapon on the officer, and made him eat the rest of the crow.

Moving to a more positive Crow Idiom – “As the Crow Flies”.

Goofing around and acrobatic flying
Crow Flight

This has a simple harmless definition of just the shortest distance between two places. I have to think we all see crows fly to the roost at night and marvel how direct flying makes their route. Wiki gives us two quotes dating back to 1750s where this is mentioned:

First seen in the The Critical Review or Annals of Literature published 1758 by TG Smollet on p. 68.  He states “In our extracts from it we shall take the same liberty as in the preceding, of travelling with him as the crow flies, passing over many places, and only stopping at those which seem best to deserve our reader’s attention.”

Popular Science Monthly: 334 article “Fish out of Water” by G Allen in 1886 has the following quote. “They were traveling across-country in a beeline, thousands of them together, not at all like the helpless fish out of water of popular imagination, but as unconcernedly and naturally as if they had been accustomed to the overland route for their whole lifetimes, and were walking now on the king’s highway without let or hindrance.”

We who respect our crow brothers have to remember that mankind remembers those that are special and leave an impression on them. These two idioms are prime examples of how many do not like crows but they do respect them for their intelligence and sleek black beauty.

Posted in crows

Crow Rock Star – Canuck

A crow with a knife a rock star? Most people have a negative preconceived idea of crows.  Seeing this famous crow with a knife must bring the hebegebies to most.

Not for me! I got so excited when I heard the story of Canuck. He is a very famous crow in Vancouver BC. He hit the international news when he got involved in police business. Below you will find links and photos about this Crow Rock Star.

Before you go check out how cool Canuck is I want to explore our conflicting ideas of crows and how the word “Evil” is often associated with them.

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We humans think of one crow alone in a tree to be mysterious (as in the picture above). As the flock gets bigger and bigger we go into a primeval mode.  We feel on the defensive and that these dark crows could attack us.  Are you thinking of the old Alfred Hitchcock movie the Birds?

Renton Crows come to Roost at dusk
Renton Crows come to Roost at dusk

Our historic knowledge of crows and ravens has not always been happy images.  These images range from flocks of birds raiding the fall harvest to them scavenging among battlefield dead. How can anyone not fear a creature that peeks the eyes out of dead soldiers?  Not that we have witnessed this phenomena in the current decades.  Humans have found new ways in warfare that don’t leave dead just lying around.  We bomb them to pieces and think we are being more humane.  Hah!!  and crows are evil?  Look at our image before you throw the first stone on these intelligent birds.

Pacific Northwest indigenous people think of the Raven/Crow as a sage and trickster.  A similar story of the world with no light is found in many of the New World’s people. The world is a dark place and in that story the Raven decided he would bring light to the world. The Chief of Heaven kept it in a box and the raven conceived a plan to steal it.  He became a leaf on a stream where the chief’s daughter was drinking.  She gave birth to him and as the favored grandson the Chief of Heaven gave it Raven.  He turned back into a bird and flew away with the box of light. Then he dropped it in error and the light broke into many pieces creating the stars, moon and sun.

In the North American mythology raven is a personification of supreme being. When it flaps its wings, it creates the wind, the lightning and the thunder. And it is also the raven who is responsible for the rhythm of seasons and providing the shamans with their visionary and healing powers.  Wait..this is a good image!!  Are we human’s confused or what?

No wonder these black beauties have an image problem.  One day they are riding high as the creator of the world and then the next century they are feared as the death of things.

Back to our famous Canuck. His brush with the law is a perfect example of this good and evil crow story. Why did he take the knife? We may never really know but my guess is he likes to have fun. The knife was shiny and everyone wanted it. Canuck just got it first.   Enjoy reading more via this link to one of many news articles around his escapade.

Washington Post article on Canuck

He also has a Facebook page that now has gone viral for a crow!!

Canuck & I Facebook

This is one special crow. He was saved after falling out of his nest way before he could fly. After spending months with his human family they released him. First they banded him with a red zip tie to insure everyone knew who he was.  He gained a new friend for life when he found himself lost. That was when Shawn Bergman found him and in this crows eyes, he is his savior and now best friend.

This rings so true to me because the reason I started my blog the Crows of Arroyos was we saved and raised a baby crow 10 years ago. However, Ellie flew away with another crow never to return. Shawn and Canuck are so special in that they have a prolonged relationship.

Warning all – raising a baby crow is not only a huge commitment but in the USA is illegal.

This one year old crow is so famous now that he has his own logo.

Canuck logo

He is a mischievous sort demonstrated in this group of photos.

I leave you with this crow surfing on a car hood. Are you envious of his good times? I am!

Posted in crows

My Top Five Surprises

After five years of sharing my experiences with the world I had a retrospective moment looking back on my most popular posts. I wanted my blog children to be popular after working so hard on them. The ones you think are super-duper are often not the ones that skyrocket to the top. Instead some sleepy post comes out of nowhere and just keeps on giving. Then there are the posts that are huge flashes in the pan but do not have the staying power.

Going back in time…. here are the top five.  Lets see if you are as surprised as I am.

#5 – 6 Baby Crows Crying  – we begin with a 2011 post about a walk around my neighborhood echoing with the cry of baby crows. Not a lot of photos but this post got 308 people to learn more about baby crows. Baby Time

Mom - we think you should come feed us NOW!!
Mom – we think you should come feed us NOW!!

#4 – Crow Pellet – leave it to an icky subject like bird throw up to be on my top list. A sunny day at the beach a crow coughed up this thing and I took a picture. A little research later I found out it was called a pellet and then wrote this blog that got 514 looks.  Go check out Crow Throw-up

Crow Pellet - interesting look at what this crow was eating
Crow Pellet – interesting look at what this crow was eating

#3 – Crows – Ravens Halloween – at 586 hits how can you go wrong writing about black crows and the scary holiday of Halloween.  Check out all the bad omens associated with our black beauties.  What an image they have! Surprise to all they actually are thought to be the creator and the destroyer.  Can you match that?  crow legends

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#2 – Crow Stalker and Amanda Knox Paparazzi – no matter if you call it a fancy word like Paparazzi, it is still a form of Stalking. It was happening right here in my West Seattle neighborhood, international paparazzi looking for Amanda Knox when she was released from jail in Italy.  This was heralded in October of 2011 with media helicopters and traffic jams.  On my Sunday walks looking for crow photo opportunities I stumbled upon them sleeping, watching and hanging out by her mother’s house.  I started calling myself Crow Stalker after I accused them of stalking her and they said I was doing the same thing to my beloved crows.  This first post got 927 number of views in a short couple of months.  The followup post recieved 161 views.  Here are the links to both of them.

Amanda Knox Paparazzi – #2 all time post  and the second one is.  more Amanda

This weeks Amanda Knox Paparazzi
This weeks Amanda Knox Paparazzi

#1 – Its Molting Time – Crows, Herons & Madrona Trees  – this post has the most staying power of all with 1,444 views. It was conceived in the fall fo 2011 and every week someone reads it. I think it is the madrona trees molting that catches the traffic. They are a very special tree that molt at the same time as the birds I follow at the beach. But then again it could be the crows who sure don’t look black and shiny when in molt.  Its Molting Time – my #1 viewed post

Mom - where are my new winter coat?
Mom – where is my new winter coat?

I want to thank my readership for all their input and support. My Top Five is a testament to you.

Posted in crows

Crow Street

Rambling around Kent, Washington on the way to the Green River Trail I came to West Crow Street.

Crow Stalker couldn’t help herself and took a photo of this place.  Wonder if the local murder of crows know they have a namesake.  Too bad one didn’t just land on the sign while I had camera in hand.  Oh well…. still very cool.

Crows have a street in Kent
Crows have a street in Kent