Thursday, 8 January 2009

Crows

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When we first moved into this house in April last year I wrote briefly about the crows that came to eat any scraps I threw out for them. Today I realised that I've never updated on our charming crow family. Unfortunately I have virtually no photographs. The crows are not happy about cameras and fly off the moment I pick up anything. Since we live in a farming area where crows are shot by farmers it's not surprising that they're so wary. They're perfectly happy to come down in our garden when we're around, but not if we pick up cameras, binoculars... anything the crows don't recognise as food!

Since I moved to Scotland six years ago my life has been full of crows. The first house we lived in we had a single crow that mimicked the seagulls. I have no idea why as both the crows and the gulls hated it and would chase him away when he did so. Was he a bit mad or did he just enjoy the joke? I have no idea! From there we moved twice (renting is a pain) to houses where crows dabbled and dallied, but it's only been since living in this recent house that I've had a chance to watch crow family behaviour up close.

We live bang in the middle of a territory claimed by a pair of crows. They seem to own about two farm fields, our house and a strip of wilderness along the road. Theirs is a "mixed marriage". It's taken me months to figure out who was who. Mr Crow is a gorgeous sleek black Carrion Crow, but his wife is a Hooded Crow. I haven't any close photos, but found wonderful illustrations on the RSPB website.

Mr Carrion Crow

Mrs Hooded Crow
Last Spring/Summer they had one chick, a rather mottled Crow Junior. It is now January and Crow Junior is still living at home with his/her parents. Admittedly the "teen" is a bit rebelious and doesn't always follow orders from his/her parents, but they're still a close-knit family group.

When I put out food the ritual is this - Dad Crow comes in close and sits up high to watch for danger. Mom Crow flies low and fast across the garden to see what's on offer. If she likes what she sees she goes to her partner and calls. He calls in junior who sometimes refuses to come over. Then Mom flies to wherever he is and yells at him. Mostly he comes over if she yells at him!

If it's a little food they each take their share. If it's a lot Mom and Dad Crow take the extra and bury it for later in several stash places - in the corner rockery, in the field and in a small fenced off patch where the seagulls never go (too overgrown). The gulls are BIG here and very agressive so the crows have to act fast as they are no match for the bigger greedier gulls.

The only time they will take on the gulls is if the crow clan gathers. If they can get together twenty or so crows then they will chase the gulls or any other birds, off their land. Interestingly they never chase off their "cousins" - the Jackdaws and Rooks.

I love it when the Crow clans gather to fly. They are a delight to watch. Seagulls soar over us in perfect spirals, geese stream past in tidy skeins and regimented V formation and even the small birds fly in some kind of tidy order, but not the crows. Crows flying in groups mess about too much. They tease, they chase, they veer off to look at something and nearly bump into each other. There's no group mind-set where everyone flies synchrnised, like the gulls and the geese. Each crow is an individual doing his own thing.

They're silly, happy, loud and messy... they're NEVER tidy. I love that and I love the way they make flying look fun. Not beautiful or graceful, but just messy-flappy zip and zoom duck-n- dive FUN. :-) I can't watch crows flying without wanting to laugh. Eagles leave me in awe and swans flying make me want to cry because they are so beautiful, but it's only when I watch crows playing in the sky that I wish I had wings.

13 comments:

  1. Michelle, this was a delightful post to read. I've never really given much thought to crows before as I rarely see them here. I really enjoyed hearing their story from your perspective. :D

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  2. Hey Fellow Crow Lover:
    I enjoyed your comment, and enjoyed reading your blog even more. Your observations were wonderful, though I've never heard of a crow falling in love with a crow of a different type. Personally, I don't know how anyone would not love crows, with all of their antics, playfulness and loyalty of family. They mate for life, are keen & skilled ariel fliers, are wise, comical, very social and most loyal. Thanks for stopping by my place. Here are a few more posts I've put up in the past if you care to read and scroll down to each one. Wishing you many more hours of crows in your life.

    For more crow stuff, go here

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  3. Wouldn't it be wonderful if you could disguise your camera as a giant peanut, or something?

    Something that would not obstruct the lens or the button you need to push down...

    There are two crows here who let me take their pictures. They used to jump at the sound of the click, but have become accustomed to it, and just cluck at me now...like, hey. forget the camera...get outta my way, so i can eat your peanuts.

    i love that your crows have overcome any species prejudices...i'd love to see their babies.

    i've watched crows play while flying. i've watched them take turns flying under, over, and under telephone/power lines strung across streets.

    such intelligence...i never get over it. i just love the little guys.

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  4. I can't say I've ever admired crows or watched them fly but now that I've read your post, I'll start to see them in a different light in future.

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  5. That sounds hilarious--I'm glad you can find something to keep tabs on.

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  6. Daisy
    I love watching nature, there's always something unexpected. Oh and talking unexpected - I just noticed your daisies are wearing winter wollies! How CUTE. :-)

    tsduff
    Thank you for your links. I took a quick browse last night and will be back to read properly. I'm glad I found your blog. :-)

    catnapping
    LOL at the peanut camera idea.:-D I think they are getting more tame, I should try the camera again.

    Ting
    Some people think they're creepy when they fly in groups, but if you really watch them fooling around you can't help finding them amusing.

    Hi Derik
    What wild creatures do you get in your part of the world?

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  7. I love Crows, they are so funny, yet mysterious.

    Michelle, you are amazing. You write such delightful articles that keeps my attention from start to finish.

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  8. Once I tied a thread to a peanut, just to watch the Jays come down and try to grab it: instead a squirrel found it and it was just like the cartoon where the hotdog vendor gives a guy a hotdog with a string on it and yanks it away out of the bun after he walks away with it... The squirrel just didn't get it and kept coming back after the peanut was similarly yanked right out of it's mouth.

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  9. I AM IN LOVE with this posttttt!!! TRULY! Now I want to be a CROW!!! he he he he he...

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  10. When I was in primary school my parents and I used to live in Umtata (YOU know where that is) and the neighbours across the road from us had two tame crows which could talk the hind leg off a donkey... (as they say ;-). My memories are of these two HUGE black crows, probably because I was so small at the time :-D. I was in total awe of their intelligence.

    Looking very much forward to more chapters in the Crow Series! J.

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  11. tsduff.. Terry I gather from your profile?

    I giggled at that story. It sounds like a Chip n Dale cartoon. :-D

    Amel
    I think it must be such fun to fly, in any way or bird shape. :-)

    J-J
    I never knew you lived in Umtata! That must have been quite an adventure in itself. You reminded me that when I was a teen the one caraan park had a tame crow. It would fly slowly down our road barking like a dog. The dogs in the neighbourhood would go foaming-mouth berserk. The crow really had a wicked sense of humour! :-D

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  12. Hi Michelle,

    I have Rooks, Jackdaws and Hooded Crows in my garden, and although the birdtable (a raised planter) is only 1.5metre from the kitchen window, I have lots of pictures of those.

    I'm waiting for this year's Jackdaw fledglings again, which breed in next door chimneys.,

    Lovely blog you got, btw.

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  13. Hi Yoke :-)

    Thank you and welcome to my blog.

    I have had a quick look at both your wonderful blogs and I know I will be back lots more. Your photos are wonderful.

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