Drainage is important anywhere. Here close to my house is a small pond that is in a low spot that captures all the overflow from heavy rains. Perfect place for a red wing blackbird to raise a family.
A year or so ago the county came in and dredged it out. All the cat tails and marsh grass was scraped out so when it floods things would work right. The resident red-winged blackbirds had to find a new home. I even saw one on my bird feeder which is so out of their character. This bird lover felt bad for them.
To my surprise this spring I was walking home from the store and heard a bird calling at the edge of the pond. I looked and looked till I found the singer sitting on a power pole.
He was not only singing for his lover but he was puffing up. This makes him appear bigger and more attractive to the girl blackbirds. He even made me fall in love with him.
Her turned around and gave me a back view of his lovely plumage with red wing feathers. He fluffed himself up for every call he made. I can hear him just looking at this photo.
Photographing birds can be challenging. I have learned to take pictures as you go. From distance to closer to finally very close. That way I don’t miss out on the experience when the bird fly away. Imagine trying to focus and hold the camera steady for a zoomed photo then they are gone. Plus if they stay in place then we have a good feel for the surroundings and his behavior.
This was one of the last in my series of him. Check out his uplifted beak in full song. He is showing his stuff and you have to know he has a girlfriend.
The days of the big flock party time is winding down. Soon we will see them going off pair by pair establishing territories and nesting sites. It will probably take a few months for then to settle in. The weather will drive a lot of the timing and make for false starts. See my blog article from last year called “Spring Mixed Signals end Crow Love” = http://wp.me/p1d1cX-4a
Last week in the trees surrounding the office I watched several pairs size up the area. Last year a pair made several false starts building nests in our pine trees. They eventually settled into a tree down the street next to the Blood Bank’s building. Our trees are probably too close to the street and not dense enough for their needs. However, they are back and maybe this will be the year we get to watch them raise a family right outside our windows.
Today in our backyard we got a good view of Crow Love. A pair landed on our weather vane awaiting a handout and you can see them grooming each other in this picture.
Here is another photo showing them cuddling up and becoming a pair that I took last year.
One final thought for the day – It was today in 1845 that Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” was first published in the Evening Mirror.
Crow families are a lot like us humans. When old man winter blows into town they stay close to home. They get together into their bigger family groups and hang out close to the best feeding spots in their territories. That might be a beach area or a family that feeds them. They might even have more than one honey hole feeding spot. When they go in group to another place within their home range they will leave a guardian. Then if another crow family invades or if food is doled out that guard crow can put out the call for all to come on home.
This last week I checked out my crow families in the area. For those that like data here are the spots and counts I took.
Marine View Drive & 114th – 6 members including my gimpy crow Ellie
Peanut House on 35th – apx 40 – it was high tide. When it is low tide they usually only have one or two here. Great example of a Murder with two honey holes.
Our House – every morning our neighbor starts the day with peanuts to Mocha’s family. Then my husband gives them bread. apx 10 members in our home group. Like the Peanut house they leave a guard crow when they travel away.
104th & 41st – small family of 3
Roxhill Garden – apx 30 members. This must be a great honey hole & that is why the numbers are so great. They also range into Roxhill Park where there is lots of tender handouts. Again, guards are posted around the key areas. Easy to see them since it is more urban next to the school with light poles and buildings to hang out on.
30th & 104th – small group of 3 hanging out next to the swampy drainage area that this street turns into.
31st & 106th – another small family with 2 members
That is well over 100 crows in a couple of square miles that I have observed. One has to figure there are at least twice that. Or am I fooling myself since they all look-alike. That’s right, we can’t tell them apart but they sure remember who we are.
Final Note on another subject – The Amanda Knox paparazzi seem to have disappeared or made themselves very thin. Makes one pretty happy that they are not bugging her family like crazy locust any more.
Have you heard of Storm Chasers? Like them today was about searching and chasing Baby Crows. Not only their parents but this Crow Watcher too.
I actually ran into three families who were watching their child fledge. I think this is a pretty terrifying time for them. The little ones are the same size as a regular crow but have no street smarts or idea of what is dangerous or not. They don’t fly very well and are still dependent on their parents for food. They cry and bring attention to themselves which adds to the chances that a predator will hurt them.
The first baby I heard was close to where Marine View Drive and 35th Avenue join at the hairpin corner. I had feed the adults some bread and was moving around the corner by the park. Then I heard the little guy crying. He was on the roof of a house about a half block back from where I came. I ran down there pulling my zoom camera out & getting it prepped. Time is a wasting when you see wildlife and want a good shot. I didn’t get a very good picture due to lighting but here it is:
The next baby was up in the Madronas. The parents were cawing and generally agitated when I started down the path. They got even crazier when a lady came up with her black dog. They don’t like dogs & she told me they were dive bombing her puppy at the beach.
Once I got to the beach I could hear the baby and when I got ready to leave it sounded like it was in the bushes there on the beach. I dug around a bit to see where he was and realized the voice was bouncing around the bluff. The baby was really up in the madronas. So, I decided to head up a rarely used trail that I thought would get me closer. So much for that idea, not only did I get all wet from the tall grass on this unused trail but the family of crows was not happy with me at all. I got some pictures but they are too shaky since my zoom had to be at max & that is always a challenge for good photos.
Then I started home and right across the street from the nest I think a first time crow couple had a baby I heard the little one crying. After looking around a little & being cawed at by his parents, I saw the baby in the flower bed to the side. They came very close to the top of my head & if they hadn’t known me I bet they would have clawed me. They were besides themselves with the baby on the ground. However, because of that I finally got the Baby Crow Chaser pictures I was dreaming of! These following photos show all three features of a baby; blue eyes, pink mouth & fluffy head with some pin feathers still trying to clean up.
That makes a good rock song. It has a good rhyme to it and pulls on the bad bird theme of Crows. Ok I digressed from my discussion today.
Its nest-building time for crows. Watch where they go with a stick in beak and you will find their new nest-building exercise underway. They prefer evergreen trees with a dense section of limbs high up but not at the very top. In this bushy area they will carefully arrange sticks for the base and form up the nice cubby hole where the babies can be contained for several weeks. Once they have the base built they will add moss, fur or any other soft material as a lining. Several years ago I saw a bird fussing with an old animal skin and found the nest he was building. Pretty funny when their beaks are full of fluff.
First picture here is from Saturday when I was going to a garage sale. There the pair were in a driveway picking out the best sticks. Got a shot of one up on the wire being sneaky about showing me where they are actually building.
Today I watched a guy on the wire manipulating his stick. He (She) flew in with the stick in beak. Then he moved it to his foot and turned it around to make sure it was suitable for his needs.
Next it was back in the beak for transport. Away he went and I found his tree home.
The other way to find their trees is to watch the pairs fly in & out them. When they like one they will poke around and check out the interior of the tree. This is different than their usual roosting where they stay on limbs so they can see who is around them.
Be aware that some nests never met the final inspection and are deserted before completion. I figure they didn’t have a strong enough structure to hold the precious cargo or they were discovered by an enemy of the crow. Maybe a seagull or a raptor spotted them working on it.
Keep your eyes open and you will be able to watch for the next couple of months them raise a family. Then you can have the rare experience of actually seeing a baby crow. Their blue eyes and silly behaviour identify them.
After many times seeing this banded crow I finally got a picture to share of his bands. Looks like facing him the left foot is green on top white and the right foot is red on top of silver.
He hangs out in the alley a lot but this time I saw him at the house where I have seen one of the gimpy crows. Didn’t see that crow today. Remember he is the one who actually still uses his handicapped foot to balance on. Unlike the ones who hop around like a one-legged ballerina.
Here is his pictures for those that track banded crows. This was on 39th Ave SW a couple of houses south from 100th.
Hope this helps the cause for tracking this banded Crow.
It’s too early for baseball but this crow didn’t know that. He was waiting for the ball on Second Base. Well, maybe he was looking for worms and bugs around the base. The rain was coming down and the crows and seagulls were all in the field staying low while the storm passed. See how the water was pooling all around his little feet. I stood in the dugout and tried to stay dry myself.
Today at the beach I had quite a crowd. 35 or so individual crows followed me around and in that group was Mr Crooked Beak again. He isn’t very afraid of me and he got close enough that I got a better picture of him. He does have a serious overbite and snaggle tooth end to it. No wonder the others respect him and stay out of his way.
At the trail head I saw my gimpy crow Ellie and her mate in the usual area. Then when I was feeding on the beach there she was again. That confirms that they live up on the road but come to the beach for low tides and more flock activities.
I also saw a Bald Eagle scoping out the area. It is nesting time and all the birds are playing chase me catch me plus looking for nesting spaces.
My local flocks are pairing up just like NASCAR racers did at Daytona 500. Everything moves along faster with two. In car racing on the new pavement at Daytona it gave us the ingredients for an exciting race.
But back to the Crows. On my weekly rounds I noticed that the large family groups were not in their usual places. Neither Mocha’s Family on 110th nor the Peanut House Flock (remember they had a huge crowd last week). Then I started to notice that every block there was a pair hanging out. They must be part of the greater groups because they begged for bread as soon as they saw me.
This can only mean that Spring is coming and they are staking out the best trees for their nests. More senior couples get the best trees and thenew kids on the block get the less than optimal ones. What I mean by that is the trees that are less dense in branches and more susceptible to weather and attack from prey.
The Gimpy Bird observations continued as well. The bird I call Ellie just north of the trail head came again for a snack. She was one of a double pair group.
Almost home I saw a bird with what I thought was a leg band. When I got my binoculars on him I could see it was really a bloody leg. Either he crossed into the wrong territory (remember the better trees above) or he had tangled with a car or got hurt during the recent wind storm. I was glad to see he had not lost function and was still walking on two feet.
Stay tuned for nesting time. Watch for them carrying sticks and nest stuff. That is the best way to find where their nests are being built. Then we can watch for the babies to arrive.
Today at the beach I noticed a crow with a snaggle tooth type beak. It was very long and had a sharp curved “snake tooth” end. The bottom appeared to be shorter or even a little off to one side.
The Beach now has several identifiable birds. Two with white feathers, my cripple bird (Ellie) and now the crooked beak male.
He didn’t seem to be bothered by this. In fact the other crows respected him & got out of his way. I suspect the hook at the end didn’t feel very good if you got in his way. He also came closer to me and was less shy than some of the others. (of course I have several that are not very afraid of me at all these days.
Here is his picture and Ellie’s. Notice the difference in the beaks. His is so much longer.