Sunday 8 May 2011

The view from the Crow's nest

Seven weeks ago, towards the end of March, I mentioned a couple of Crows in one of my posts. Inquisitive readers may be wondering how they are getting on, as back then I wasn't too sure about their ability to raise a family.

To be honest, I'm still not sure. The intervening weeks have not provided a vast amount of evidence to enlighten my understanding of corvid behaviour. However, that might have more to do with my intelligence, or lack thereof, than that of the birds! Our observations have been sporadic, due to little inconveniences like work and, in my case, the burning desire to watch dragonflies. What can be said, is that the Crows are still there, off and on, but in a manner that has created much confusion.

Any particular observation will fall into one of several categories:

No Crows present at all;
One Crow present, near nest;
One Crow present, in nest;
Two Crows present, near nest;
Two Crows present, one in nest;
Three Crows present, near nest;
Three Crows present, one in nest.

To add a bit of detail, sometimes from a 'no Crow' situation, a single bird would turn up, sit near the nest for a while and then fly off. Or perhaps 3 birds would appear and then disappear again. Very confusing. I suppose I shouldn't discount the possibility that this is Crow behaviour, it's just odd, to my mind.

In recent days, there does seem to have been a more concerted effort to have one of the pair sat in the nest, so perhaps things are beginning to unfold in a more conventional manner. And perhaps that's been it, Crows are just unconventional to human eyes. They are deeply embedded in our mythology for all the wrong reasons. Harbingers of death, the Devil in avian form, thieves, murderers or just plain old evil. They aren't cute and cuddly, they come in a variety of colours limited to black (mostly) and have a rather grating call. What's not to like?!

From a corvid point of view, finding enough food to sustain oneself and one's family is just how you get through the day . But in human terms, this could be viewed as raiding the eggs and nestlings of game birds, attacking vulnerable livestock, or, in previous centuries, gorging upon the corpses on a battlefield. You would need a pretty good publicist to spin some positives out of that lot, in the face of the anger from gamekeepers, farmers and anyone fortunate enough to have survived the battle.

To redress the balance slightly, Crows aren't drastically altering the environment with their actions or negatively impacting on biodiversity. They are part of the environment and the biodiversity. Us humans don't seem able to grasp the fact that we, too, are part of that web and should therefore act accordingly.

But back to the Ash tree and chez Crow. The leaves of the Ash are now bursting forth, so soon the nest will be hidden from view. I've failed spectacularly in my attempts to photograph the nest, as its distance from Tense Towers requires me to resort to digiscoping. And the results ain't pretty. Too many branches in the way, too much swaying (mainly from Ash tree, a bit by  photographer) and nowhere near enough focus.

As the sexes are alike, this adds to the confusion about what is going on, but once the Ash tree is fully in leaf, this too will become a moot point, as we will have to rely upon our ears for clues.

Whilst I'm sure that all other birds nesting in the locality aren't hugely in favour of their presence, the Crows have had troubles of their own. Magpies have had to be chased away from an inspection of the nest, small flocks of Wood Pigeons have been discouraged from eating the Ash buds and, this morning, a pair of Grey Squirrels were given short shrift in no uncertain terms. Ah, the joys of prospective parenthood.

And, yes, I know, this post has been a view of the Crow's nest, but for all their 'faults', I hope I have added something of the world from their perspective.


holdingmoments said...

It's a shame the Crows have had such a bad press in the past; and still do.
I think they're great birds, and fascinating to watch their behaviour.
I hope they raise a good, healthy family.

Martin said...

Likewise, and I always get a certain thrill from being far enough north to be in the realm of the 'Hoodies'. Hoodies just seem to have a bit more character than black crows, similar to the feeling I get from watching the intelligent Jackdaws at work. Maybe the distinctiveness of these corvids just tips the balance for me.

Fingers crossed for Mr, Mrs and Master Crow!