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Posts Tagged ‘crows’

“If I had to choose, I would rather have birds than airplanes.” – Charles Lindbergh

I agree with Lindbergh. Yes, airplanes make long distance traveling easier, but for me, birds make my life richer. And today, the loud and comical antics of the crows made me smile. Then, I read this article about crows which is somewhat disturbing: 6 Terrifying Ways Crows are Way Smarter than You Think.

IMG_2395 The first way they list (actually #6 since they’re listing in reverse order): “The recognize your face.” This is true. When I lug the bread crumbs or seed or suet out to the birds, the watch-crow starts cawing, bobbing his/her head, and ruffling its feathers. Sure enough, within minutes, the rest of the crow family (or “murder” as a group of crows is called), arrive to feast upon whatever I’ve scattered about.

Which brings me to #5, “They conspire with one another.” True! If the watch-crow isn’t enough proof, the crows have shown excellent skill in chasing away squirrels.

#4 is “Memory.” As if facial recognition wasn’t spooky enough, it seems word gets around in the blackbird (I’m changing it from just crows here). Why? Word has gotten out in the red-winged blackbird, starling, crow, and bird communities that I feed birds. Every year, a migrating flock of hundreds (if not thousands) of blackbirds stops at my feeder for a few days each spring and fall before moving on to wherever it is they’re headed.

I witnessed #3 “Tools and problem-solving,” when I was in Anchorage, Alaska. A raven (larger cousin of a crow) was busily prying open a sun roof to get to someone’s groceries. He/she was using not only beak and feet, but also a stick. Clever bird!

#2, “Planning,” includes saving food for lean times and other thoughtful techniques. I’ve not witnessed that behavior (to my knowledge, but crows are tricky), but the whole watch-crow business seems like planning to me.

The #1 way listed in the article was “Adaptive behavior.” Well, knowing to check on sun roofs on cars seems rather adaptive to me, but the best example from my own life occurred years ago when we had a sliding glass door through which I used to exit to feed the birds. If the feeders were empty and I didn’t fill them promptly, a designated crow would come to the door and “knock.” The bird would fly to the porch railing or a nearby tree to caw his/her empty feeder alert. When I opened the door, the rest of the murder would alight in the trees and wait for their food to be served.

My kids say it looks like a scene from “The Birds” sometimes at my house. And it’s not just the crows —  blackbirds, starlings, chickadees, cardinals, jays, morning doves, etc. ALL seem to know my face, and fly close when I bring out the chow.

 

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As another ice storm approaches Wood’s Edge, I haul seed out by the bucketful to the wild birds perched on the branches of the trees and shrubs at the forest’s edge. Even with coat, hat, boots, and gloves, I shiver. I glance up at the heavy gray sky before filling the feeders. The chickadees, juncoes, wrens, cardinals, blue jays, red-winged blackbirds, sparrows, nuthatches, and tufted titmice (titmouses?) bravely swoop down and clothespin themselves to the perches of nearby feeders as I fumble with the first suet basket. Crows caw from the fence rail, several woodpeckers hop down the tree trunks, and a solitary hawk watches the goings-on with much interest.

 Meanwhile, Sandy the Black-mouthed Cur is bounding through the drifts, grabbing mouthfuls of snow, and rolling with abandon in the loose, fluffy snow in the corner of the yard. Joyful is the only word to describe her behavior. She looks at me, eyes bright, muzzle whitened by snow, tail wagging so hard the rear half of her body has joined its back & forth motion, and woofs. A playful woof that seems to say: The world is wonderful and isn’t it great to be alive!

Last winter seemed to be a long string of snowstorms. This winter appears to be much the same. I get lots of writing and drawing done it’s true, but I miss morning walks. Ice is not something I choose to tread upon when trying to manage an enthusiastic 60-pound dog. And tonight we expect more ice. 

But even as I cringe at the thought of another month of bad weather (and I suspect we shall get another month’s worth of frozen precipitation whether or not that famous Pennsylvania groundhog sees his shadow) — I think of crocuses and the sound of spring peepers. And since Sandy has only been with me since last June, I secretly wonder what she’ll think of frogs!

 And so, I share a quote from Anne Bradstreet: “If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant.” Indeed!  And if we had no winter, Sandy the Black-mouthed Cur would surely miss the snow.

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Last night’s win was a great beginning to the football season for Ray Lewis and his team mates. And shouts of “Ravens Rule” could be heard around my neighborhood.

As for me, I was born & raised in Maryland. First a Baltimore Colts fan, I’m now a Baltimore Ravens fan. It’s easy: I love purple & black. Edgar Allen Poe is one of my favorite writers. (I’ve even visited his grave on Halloween!) A bird-lover, I feed the black birds, crows & ravens who visit my yard. And most of my family members are Ravens watchers and fans, too.

 Autumn has also started off well for ravens lovers of the reader type. Emg-Zine, an online fantasy & science fiction magazine has made September 2010 – Ravens Month. You can find raven-themed art, stories, and poems on their site. Now before you football folks go crazy – these pieces have to do with the black-feathered bird, not the lads in the purple jerseys.

Though I have written a raven poem about Edgar Allen Poe and the football team, my poem published in the September 2010 Emg-Zine issue is about the bird and a Baltimore autumn. I invite you to enjoy it & the rest of the issue for free: http://tinyurl.com/vonnie-raven  And I invite you to cheer on Baltimore’s hometown team this fall as they fight to make the play-offs.

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 The blueberry bushes in the front of my house are producing their usual abundant berries, but I’m not getting many to freeze. What’s going on here?

In the past, the animals and I have had an understanding. No one gets greedy and everyone enjoys the blueberries. The cardinals, mockingbirds, Northern Orioles, robins and assorted other birds gobble their share of the sweet blue-purple globes from the bushes. A chipmunk or two scurry about grabbing a bit of fruit for their lunch. Three large crows gather many of the fallen berries for their meals. The ants clean up the rest of the ground berries, and the bees take care of those still clinging to the bushes that are torn open and oozing juice.

I still have plenty of blueberries to pick and enjoy fresh, and there are lots left to gather and freeze. In fact, I usually invite friends over to pick a bucket of berries in the relative coolness of a July evening. But not this year. This year, the other critter in the mix — the squirrels, have gotten greedy.

The squirrels have taken to breaking off entire bunches and carrying them to their nests. Thus, they’re not just picking a few, but stripping the bushes so no one else (yes, this is personification at its strangest) gets their fair share.

Balance is what’s needed here. Just like in a painting or a quilt or a flower garden, balance is necessary. Colors, textures, shapes and sizes need to be distributed in an even-handed manner.

In the case of writing, a story needs to be balanced, too. Too much description and the storyline gets lost. Too much action and the characters get confusing. Too much back story and the reader loses interest. Too many characters and the reader can’t keep the cast straight. Just the right mix of action, description, plot, character, foreshadowing, flashbacks, and location are need. The important thing is to balance the amount of each of these pieces of the story-quilt.

Now, back to those thieving squirrels. What is my course of action? This year, I’m afraid it’s a losing battle. The out of whack distribution of blueberries caused by the squirrels’ greed has destroyed the balance. Next year, all but humans, bees, and ants will suffer. I’ll drape the bushes with bird net, and only uncover them when picking berries.

The animals will not starve. There are wild raspberries and blackberries in the nearby woods. Many of the trees by our lawn are wild cherries. There are abundant acorns and pine cones, too. The grasses in the field next door provide seeds for the birds, and there are insects galore for the eating.

Lack of balance in fiction, poetry, painting, or quilt or garden design results in a finished product that is far from perfect. And in the case of writing — probably not publishable. So chase away your greedy squirrels, and remember: Balance is important in life whether sharing blueberries or planting a herb garden or drafting a novel.

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