Wednesday, October 22, 2008

And You Thought Crows Were Smart Before-- Or Mr.and Mrs. Crow Make Dinner Togerther.

All times Central--All Photos D.B.
When I look outside, there are two Crows. One standing on the bath and the other delving into a crack on the top of the stump with his beak. A squirrel keeps coming toward Stump Crow's stump at which point he jumps into the air and flaps, then comes down on the stump again. The squirrel does it again, and Stump Crow leaps up into the air and startles him again. Startled squirrel runs off a few yards, recovers, and heads back toward the stump. I try to take several photos of Stump Crow, but as I'm having to use the timer, I keep missing him. Suddenly after a delve with his beak into the stump he flies over to the bath, stands on the edge, bends toward the water, then flies back to the stump. I've turned the camera onto the bath but miss the two crows as I have to focus the scope. Then Bath Crow moves so I have to focus again. Better sharp than not right? Besides it's dim, and she's moving so they're going to be blurred so I need to do what I can. While I'm focusing, Mrs. Crow aka Bath Crow has taken a wad of leaves out of the water with her beak by sliding them up the side of the bath and pushing them onto the ground. Then she goes back to watching something in the bowl.

4:28:58pm Another leaf seems to have come into beak reach, she retrieves it, slides it up the side, over the top, and it drops to the ground.

4:29:30pm She then walks over to the left side of the bowl and dips her beak into the water. She raises a wad of several leaves, along with a stiff white something. Is it spaghetti! Is it petrified spaghetti! What happened to the leaves? Did she drop them back in the water? Her beak goes down into the bowl and moves towards the right like she is nudging something. When she raises her beak it is empty. What is going on here?

4:29:41pm She watches right.

4:29:50pm Then she starts walking toward the right edge again.

4:30:04pm She sees me and looks startled. Stump Crow flies off.

4:30:16pm Bath Crow watches him go but doesn't leave herself. Then without really thinking about why I'm doing it, or if it's a good time, or anything else. I just go to the refrigerator, grab a beef bone I've been saving for the wildlife, and grab a baggie with cooked spaghetti which I think is chicken. I go to the patio door, she's still on the bath. I open it a crack and immediately start squeezing and rustling the baggies together. Mrs. Crow who's been looking west, immediately looks at me with interest.

Aha! She does know the sound of baggies, ie. human with food. As I step out I try not to look directly at her. I turn to slide the door shut, and as I'm turning back again, I see her fly into the Maple that's a few feet away. The NEVER happens. Every other time if I look through the door and they catch me at it the Crows fly to the other side of the park. So it isn't easy but I don't look at her because I don't want to screw it up. I go to the stump and empty the baggies on it. That's when I discover I've brought cold spaghetti not chicken scraps, which perhaps was a subconscious act after all in the end. And I march directly back into the house. In the meantime, looking at the reflection on the glass door, I realize that the angle of the light reflects the back yard in the door at this time of day and that's why they hadn't seen me initially.

I don't look, I don't look, I don't look.

4:33:56 Back in the house I grab the camera and am surprised that she is sitting in a spot completely unobscured. Thank goodness for that reflection. I get two photos and she must hear the click because she goes a few limbs higher out of my sightline from inside the house.

She's sticking; she wants the food. Or maybe, just maybe, after how many years of my watching the Crows, and the Crows watching me, that she recognizes me as harmless. And not only am I harmless but I'm the one who puts snacks on the stump. Which I suspect now, she has watched me do before--out of baggies!

Then I remember that the Crows always, always have more patience than I do when it comes to waiting for the other to leave. She's up in the tree just waiting for me to get impatient and go do something else. But how do they know that I've left?

Then I remember the white stiff item that was in the bath. The possible spaghetti. Why am I thinking that it might be possible spaghetti? It was probably just a leaf stem.

Then the light bulb goes off in my head.

Last week I'd had some leftover cooked unembellished getting stale pasta in the fridge. When I was clearing things out, I wondered if since pasta is made from grain, whether the grainivore birds would like it. I went out and put it on the stump. Where it sat.

I kept an eye on it and it looked like it might have been stirred and eaten a bit but eventually after several days it became hard and petrified. Therefore I grabbed the bulk of it and threw it out. Brushed off the stump, where some of the dried pasta bits fell down in the crevices, and forgot about it.

Could they possibly have been pulling the dried pasta out of the stump, putting it into the birdbath and waiting for it to absorb enough water to be enjoyable and tasty?

It's been a half hour. I can't wait any longer. I have to go out and see if there is pasta in the birdbath! I head out the door.

5:03:08pm This is NOT a worm. That is a piece of spaghetti! She was. And there isn't a leaf in the bowl! And there always are lately as it is Autumn and the bowl is under trees.

Mrs. Crow has put pasta in the bowl, removed all the debris, and is waiting for it to soften. Unbelievable!

AND she had a total method for separating the leaves from the pasta. She separated them from each other. Then nudged the leaves to the right. Then she went to the right side of the bowl, waited for the leaves to get there, propelled by her previous nudge, plucked them out and disposed of them. Absolutely amazing!

In a way, Mrs. Crow was "cooking" dinner. She was actually watching the pasta closely while it went through the process of softening. Removing the leaves that might obscure the view? She was actually waiting for it to be "ready". Come to think of it if she left it too long she'd be unable to get it out because it would have turned to goo.

Think of how many steps they went through to get to the goal. They? Because two crows were initially working communally. The male procured it out of the stump and she "cooked" it. All for the goal of properly Crow eatable pasta.

And now she's waiting to come down and get the food from the stump or from the bath? How do I know.


5:43:10pm A flock of geese take to the sky from behind the park pavilion. They must have been foraging on the sports fields. It's been over an hour and Mrs. Crow still hasn't come down yet to the stump.

I need to go to the store. ( Yeah, I know, the Crows win again.)

When I get back it's completely dark but I immediately head for the stump.

The beef bone is gone as is some of the pasta.

I forgot to check the birdbath. Where's the flashlight?

Donegal Browne


Anonymous said...

I was amazed and happy reading your story, or rather, recounting of what you saw. You have a wonderful talent for laying out pictures, narrative and then forming conclusions about what you've seen. You do this in a way that draws the reader along with you. I really enjoyed this. I re read it six times!

Someone left a baby crow in a box in front of the 7/11 the other day. I am feeding him and doing my best not to imprint on him until I can get him to Project Wildlife San Diego. I alternately am sorry I went out late when I worry I might be doing the wrong things, and then I am happy I saw him as I walked out the door. One thing I identified with as I read your post, was that holding your breath feeling. I always have it when I feed the birds (I don't know what they all are :( ) and raccoons and feral cats. Will they be helped? Do they understand? Am I doing something they should not get used to? I look forward to reading the rest of your posts. I have a blog but I am shy about sharing it yet.
Again, thank you.

Shannon said...

=) thanks for the blog

Donegal Browne said...

I very glad you both enjoyed the posts. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and stories as well and I hope you'll keep reading.