Monday, August 25, 2008

More Crow Games, Happy Bird, and the Mystery Image

(Sorry this is late, it didn't want to post last night.)

Saturday, the Crows were out in force. And a much bigger force than what I've previously see at Thresherman's Park. They started in the east treeline. The sentinel called and they moved to the south section of woods, between 75 to 85 of them as a matter of fact. There they gathered and became extremely vocal. I've seen this once before. The Crows gather in closely related trees in a forested area and vocalize in a call and response manner. It's as if they're having some kind of meeting. When I went closer, they began to move. There would be a number of calls and then they'd all move at once between trees. For a few seconds, they'd be visible in the air spaces and then seemingly they'd disappear into the foliage, though I could still hear their vocalizations.

After each "transfer" the decibel level increased. The calls became louder, longer, and more strident. Finally, all the Crow calls merged at one time to a communal extended vocalization. It was so loud that I was tempted to cover my ears. Something I've never before been tempted to do in the presence of bird calls. It was very unusual. After the last long surge of sound, a single call, possibly from the sentinel, and they all moved further into the woods--vocally silent, and masked by foliage.

The next day, I went back to the same area. No crows immediately sighted but there was a bird far to the NW cavorting. Yes, cavorting. He'd fly up, swoop down, then to the side, a quick circle. He looks--HAPPY! He moves--HAPPY!

The sun is in my eyes and I can't see what species it. All I can think of is the exuberant flight taken by male pigeons after copulation. The flight in which they often double clap their wingtips above their backs in flight. But I've not once seen a pigeon within 20 miles of Thresherman's Park. What is this bird? I begin pointing the camera at the crazily flying fellow, hoping I'll get something that will help ID him when I bring it up on the computer.

It could be a pigeon, but then again there are other pigeon shaped birds in the world though I don't know of any others that do copulation flights. Of course, that doesn't mean they don't of course...

Now he looks like a pale blue bomber. Or is that really dove gray?

The tail looks pigeonish. The wings are possible. Then he swoops towards the ground and actually lands in the field.

Who knew? It is a pigeon. A Blue Bar Rock as a matter of fact. This is the coloration of true wild rock pigeons. A small population is still extant in the cliffs of Scotland. Though no doubt this is a descendant of the domesticated variety

Then the Crows start calling. There is at least one to the W treeline, and one in the S treeline.

There is the sentinel. Part of the sentinels job is not only to make calls but I've seen they are often the only Crow in a group that is often more backlit than the others. In this case look to the Sentinel's left, there are other Crows there, but much less visible.

See the sentinel? But you don't see the other Crows for the foliage. The Crows begin to move and I madly point the camera in their direction hoping I'll catch some clues to what is going on.

Another Crow's head suddenly pops up above the foliage. I swing the camera to an area where there is a flurry of motion.

And this is the image I caught. What is that? That looks like a raptor tail but I can't make sense of the rest.
I'm open to suggestions.
(What happened next in More Crow Games Part II, coming up next.)
Donna Browne


Kevin said...

There are a few species of birds who fly for the joy of it. Crows and ravens have been known to play in the air. Circling, diving and cartwheeling. I have seen and heard Swifts speed sloping small hills into the wind. Slope flying is a way to fly up the side of a hill or bluff when the wind is blowing over it. The air gets compressed and picks up speed and generates lift through speed. Walking along the bluff at Lake Mohawk in Tulsa, OK, the swifts will come by you and you can hear them zipping through the air like bullets whizzing by. They circle about and repeat this process over and over picking speed with every pass. Truly an amazing sight and sound.
The raptor in your image has the underwing colorings of either a juvenile red-tail or possibly a red-shouldered hawk. Most east coast RS hawks tend to be smaller than RTs, but our western varieties are usually the same size.


mona said...

Could it be an owl? The head sure looks like an owl to me. The angle seems odd, but it is in motion.

mona said...

Donna, Sorry for the multiple posts. Having a senior moment! Forgot moderation was on and couldn't figure out why my comment was disappearing.

Donegal Browne said...

Hi Kevin,

I eventually spotted what might be the same raptor a few minutes later, but from a very long range. I got a couple of over pushed photos which will be up in the next post. It seemed to be Crow sized as at first I confused it with one of the numerous Crows who were after it. Though they have some pretty hefty Crows here in the Midwest. (I'm currently in Wisconsin.)

Ahhh, now that you mention it, it makes sense that Crows and Ravens would take joy flights being they are birds which participate in play. Have you ever seen the footage of the Crows taking turns riding the pig.

Yes, indeedie, pig riding. The Crows are all sitting on the side of a smallish enclosure which holds one pig. They then take turns jumping onto the pig's back and riding while the others watch. I didn't see any Corvidae stop watches being used, but I wouldn't put it past them to have another way of innately timing the rides. Kind of a Piggy Rodeo. Though anthrophomorphism aside, I do wonder what the point of the game is from the Crow point of view. Length of ride? Style of ride? I wonder if my parrot could learn Crow, ask a Crow the point, and then tell me.

Now there's a research project. :-)

Donegal Browne said...


No problem about the repeats, it happens all the time.

It might have been a bit early for an owl to be out and the feet look small for an owl if those are the feet that belong to the same creature that sports the banded tail. The feathers do look very fluffy though don't they?

Karen Anne said...

I went looking on youtube for the pig/crow thing and found this instead:

The more info says:

here is the story we found a crow in the desert while we were herping and it was late so we thought there is something wrong we got the bird took it to the ranger station and they didnt want anything to do with it so we took him in and nursed him to health and let him go one day he came back and became friends with our pig and now wont leave if the pig is out side he starts to call the crow then the crow answer and lands next to him and start to chatter and grooming each other . and vice versa...