Saturday, March 03, 2007

Are they becoming a pair?

The drifting has been stupendous during the last two days. The Juncos are sinking into the snow in some spots again when they land. They're having to do the Junco Swim in some cases in order to get their feet back to the surface.

11:20am Doorstep Dove drops in for an early lunch with Friend in tow. (All times Central.)

2:46pm The minute and a half of sun we got today. The Birds used it to sing like mad things.

5:50pm I look out and Doorstep Dove and Friend are having dinner. Unfortunately I get too close with the camera and Friend takes off. DD watches him go, looks at me, then continues to peck more seed. After a few minutes she disappears as well.
5:55 Wait, there she is and there Friend is too-in the frozen Bird Bath.

5:58pm If you squint your eyes their bodies make a heart. (Sorry, sappy quotient is a terribly high, but it really does look a little like one if you squish your eyes a lot.)

Sunset is pink tonight against the clouds. As they're looking the wrong direction, they're probably not waiting for the eclipse. It would be in vain anyway. The sun only found a crack in the clouds once today so the lunar eclipse was completely obscured by them in this area.
6:00 They continue to sit together and watch.

6:19 I must be too active for Friend as he looks at me and then attempts to get up. Somehow he can't. He flaps his wings but doesn't go anywhere for a second or two. Then he's off. Is it possible that his body heat melted the ice in the bath slightly, it refroze as the temperature dropped, and his feet were stuck?

Doorstep Dove continues her late day ritual of "watching the sunset". (Even if Friend hadn't come out to the bath, if DD really were really watching the sunset she wouldn't have been able to see it from the step as the drift across the picnic table is too high. She wouldn't have been able to see it. I lay down on the step and checked. So I got covered in bird seed and snow. It's all for science, right? I did loose the chance though to find out if not being able to see the horizon would make a difference in her when position when she decided to follow Friend.)

7:01 Sunset is over. Doorstep Dove stands up, looks at me, then looks up at Friend.

7:02 Then she's off and to the N and no doubt, a roost. Friend, waiting in an adjacent Maple, hot wings it after her.

Donegal Browne

Friday, March 02, 2007

Crows- 6 3/4 Me-1/4 maybe

Thursday's Goodies: steak bits.
And the days weather? Sleet. Sleet. And more sleet.
I glance out the kitchen window to see if there's any change. What? There is a crow strutting towards the goodie stump and the steak bits. (Yes, they definitely strut. No, not steak bits, Crows.)
Pretending not to see the crow, I walk across the kitchen as if I'm going to the closet. Keeping a profile the entire way to the tripod, still profile, I turn on the camera. He's still there though giving me a gimlet eye and no longer strutting. In order to focus the camera I'm going to have lean down and actually face him. Boom. He's up and....AND he's landing in a tree that is actually this side of the park. Okay, that's progress. I get at least a quarter point.

Crow peers over a twig at me. Then settles down to a good preen.

Crow then preens and preens some more. There are a number of these sequences where Crow appears to find preening far more important than keeping an eye on me.

Suddenly Crow's head goes up and looks fixedly over the house. Good grief, I can see his entire head for a change. There must be something either fascinating or important over there for him to be so exposed.

Whatever it is, it must be innocuous. Crow gets back to preening the sleet off his chest.

A second crow arrives. The two then face each other, upper torso feathers slightly raised and bob their heads from the bottom of their necks, rapidly up and down, up and down, up and down, up and down. I get the impression they are vocalizing but being behind glass I can't hear them. As I said it's just an impression.
But immediately thereafter Second looks at me from under a branch. Did First "tell" him in some way?

Second shakes off the sleet.

Interesting that like a duo of perched hawks they keep watch in separate directions, neither of which is towards me. Could it be they've decided I'm reasonably harmless...or maybe just beneath notice?

Then for no reason whatsoever that I can see or hear they're up and off.

What an anti-climax. I feel utterly dis'd.
So that's what it is with crows. For some reason, when I bring up crows with the local people I heari stories about people attempting to shoot crows but failing.
I keep wondering just why people have this irresistible urge to shoot at crows in the first place. No one eats crow, except metaphorically. But now I'm beginning to get it. If one is anthropomorphizing them, they seem downright snotty. They strut. They exclude. If one isn't considered a threat one no longer even gets the time of day. They have secrets, they're private. They're the cool kids in high school who won't let the other kids into the group. It's the feeling of disrespect one gets from them. They are rudely aloof. Being humans we like to feel important or at least noticed for goodness sake.
Whereas a song bird either doesn't notice you because it hasn't seen you yet, or if it does it keeps a vigilant eye on you the entire time you're around. We're important if not loved. The Red-tails? City hawks at least, give a feeling of the whole. Pale Male sitting on one of his favorite perches observing his territory surveys the whole, giving each thing his interest and focus periodically. Humans, the pond, the squirrels, the trees, we're all included. But the Crows give one the impression that one is most definitely not included in whatever important matter they have going and they're not even going to let you know what it is either.

Donegal Browne

Emu Feathers, Juncos, and Doorstep Dove (Crow Saga Tomorrow)

Harry Studebaker, the owner of Emmie the Emu, gave me one of Emmie's feathers. They are really quite fascinating and well, odd, compared with the usual North American ones I see. But then again isn't everything that comes from Down Under. In a way they remind me more of foliage than of feathers. Okay, I admit, you do have to ignore the fact they aren't green to get the foliage effect.

Emu feathers are double stalked from one shaft. That is the feathers on the body are anyway. I've not gotten one of the short curly ones that grow on Emmie's head to check out if it's universal for all their feathers.

Junco who is currently king of the picnic table as he's run off the competition. This tough guy seems to have just the slightest touch of black on the tip of his beak.

Black Tip in the midst of swallowing a seed. See the long toes?

Black Tip heads out, feet disappearing in the fresh sleet. When there is several inches of new powder snow, so fluffy that it won't even bear a Juncos weight when landing, the Juncos disappear almost completely into the snow and have to "swim" their way out with their wings after landing. Once those longs toes spread though, they often can get around with only their feet disappearing. How do those amazingly teensy legs keep from freezing off? I realize they have special blood vessels to keep their exposed parts warm but still...


At 5:45pm when I looked for Doorstep Dove she wasn't on the step. Oh dear! I looked up. There she was in the nearest tree, complete with her friend just a twig away. I spread seed on the step and they both stayed put instead of taking off in a frenzy. Looks like Friend is less skittish than the average dove as well. Could there be a romance budding in the backyard?

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Crows-6 Me-0, Doorstep Dove, and, Someone peeks in the windows

Tuesday, when I checked for Doorstep Dove at five minutes to six, I was very pleasantly surprised to find she had a friend with her. They looked downright cozy. I'd been worried about her sitting there on the ground in a way that seemed very vulnerable to predators. Especially this late in the day when the Fox come out, to say nothing about the Bobcat that pads by now and again.
I realize those animals have to eat too, but somehow I'd prefer they ate birds I didn't know. And now there are four eyes watching instead of two. A mini flock is better than no flock at all.

The Crows have duped me again for the last two days. The goodies are gone but not a black feather have I seen. That is excepting the Crow chasing the Kestrel over Milton Junction's tiny business district.

Last night around 2AM, I looked out the window and saw the prints in the snow. At 6PM when I'd watched Doorstep Dove and her friend, I'd checked and no human prints were there but in the intervening time The Window Peeker had been at it again. There amongst the squirrel, bunny, and bird tracks were those, once again of an unknown human. I carefully don't walk in that area as this has happened before; the day before the "relative" pushed in the back door of the garage to gain access. Hmm.

The Peeker after having gone onto the back step where the glass doors are, steps off, crooks left a bit to check out the side windows, and then makes his way south towards the pump house.

The window peeker comes over the snow bank and another set of smaller prints join his and then they go off together towards the street. Creepy.

One of my favorite stories about tracks in the snow took place in this town. Some years ago someone held up the Kwik Trip, the local convenience store, here in town. The perpetrator was arrested quite smartly as he'd committed his robbery during a snowstorm...on foot. The police just followed the tracks that led to his apartment.

Donegal Browne

Monday, February 26, 2007

Weathering the Storm

Sleeping through the storm.
Actually with her head into the wind, she may have her eyes closed to keep the snow out. I look around. All the birds I can see, have their heads into the wind. See the angle of the snow flakes. It's totally unlike the stance mammals tend to take. Mammals protect their faces. Visualize what cows and horses do. They put their rumps to the wind, often cozying up to a pasture mate or two, with their heads down. Their faces and eyes are then protected from the wind. Why the difference in birds?
Wait. A good many species might well have the same problem that sometimes bedevils Lola in a high wind. She stands up to check on the eggs, circles, leans over, her lovely aerodynamic bottom feathers spread in the wind, and whoosh, she's been completely flipped over more than once. (She always sits back down with her face to the wind, she's no dummy.) I can't see why these smaller birds wouldn't have the same problem and find themselves knocked completely off their perches if the wind got under them.

I guess they can hear the camera after all. Note the expression. She looks a bit put out.

(Sorry about the vignette, I run into a kitchen cupboard when I attempt to back up any further.)
The Mourning Doves hunker down at regular intervals along a wire. Wouldn't a branch be warmer than a metal wire? Then I realize, it isn't a metal wire, look above, it's insulated power line. It won't keep conducting cold into their feet. In fact it might even be warm from the power going through inside.

And why isn't this bird with the rest of the flock?
(The snow has collected on the bird; it's not collected on the window.)
This bird has done this before in a storm and often she'll be found just there before sunset while the others have already gone to roost. She'll eat her fill and then just sit on the step, very relaxed, and look around as if enjoying the view of the sun going down. Perhaps some heat radiates through the glass from the house or maybe there is a chink that allows heat to escape as she always chooses that exact spot.
But then again, perhaps the view really is best there.
Donegal Browne
(And yes, I can recognize her as the same bird I've seen on other days. She still has a juvenile look to her face and she isn't as skittish as your average Mourning Dove.)

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Bringing in the Crows: Crows-4 Me-0

Crows 4, and me- nothing? It's a long story. As I'm housebound, no, it isn't the weather, though we just got four more inches of snow today to go with the previous foot or so, It is a relative who wants to sell all my Mom's things against her wishes, she's still alive after all, if I don't hold the fort. That is remain in, and I mean that quite literally, the family house, so the Dickensonian relative can't change the locks, sell the house, and Mom's stuff before the Will is produced or the court date comes round.

What can I say, some people boggle the mind and as a matter of principle I don't believe bad behavior should have lucrative consequences.

Therefore I'm here, in the house, looking out the windows.

And I keep seeing the crows go by----

The Milton Crows are always going, they're always doing, but where they're going or what they're doing or an even better question from my point of view, WHY they're going and why they're doing, remains shall we say, extremely elusive. Just like the crows. In the days before video, and all the techno bird spying equipment we have now, we really didn't know diddly about the species.

As I can't follow them all over creation at the moment-------

I've been attempting to lure the wily, extremely intelligent, ever vigilant crows into my observation area with "goodies".

This is the closest I've gotten one to come and stay still long enough to get a photo...the bench is about 100 yards away.

First off, what might tempt a Crow in the way of goodies?

The original "goodies"

The first two days I tried an orange and ground beef.
Hey, it's the middle of winter I thought perhaps a little fruit might be enticing. Not a chance.

The crows absolutely prefer the raw beef. But they didn't prefer it enough to let me see them take it. Though there were several landings next to the stump I observed. So far they caw as they're about to arrive. (Calling in the others to share? Or is it, "MINE,MINE, MINE"? One of the things I want to find out for myself. As they're adaptable what happens in another local might not be what happens here. Just like we've found with the Red-tails.) Upon hearing a CAW, I race to the kitchen, creep into the far back of the kitchen. I might add, in the dark far back of the kitchen, and look all the way through the kitchen and out the glass patio doors. No matter what, they see or hear me and it' beady look at me and , flap, flap- they're gone.

Yes, I've tried waiting them out. So far their patience is far better than mine. I've begun to wonder if they've discovered a way to see me lying in the dark on the floor while I don't see them. Reflection off the glass?

So attempting to be cagey and find something they'd be more impatient to eat, on the third day I put out this.

The second goodies.

A rather large wad of thinly sliced ham...left over funeral meats which seemed apropos for crows. (Don't freak out. Here in Wisconsin there is always a meal served after a funeral. In the old days people still had to ride back to the farm in a wagon after a funeral so it was polite to feed them so they wouldn't be downright famished by the time they got back to their farms. If anything it was slightly less attractive to crows but more attractive to Blue Jays.

The crow in the picture who seemed to be looking at something held in his feet immediately looked up with I pushed the button the camera.

Can he really hear the not very loud klee, klee, klee of the camera timer from a football field away?

I can't see anything in his feet. ???

I click the camera and his head goes up again.

Someone ate all the ham today while I wasn't looking.;
Somehow I have a feeling he's laughing.
(The newest goodie was placed on the stump just before dark. It's a large piece of dried out cooked tenderloin. Hopefully it will be too heavy and too tough to grab a large chunk and fly away with it. Perhaps they'll only be able to peck a bite off at a time and remain longer on the stump so I can see their interaction with each other.)