Monday, December 14, 2009

Crow Sentinel, Eating, and Caching

Pyewackit the cat burrowed under the patio door curtain and I immediately heard Cawing. I gently slipped back the curtain on the window over the sink in the kitchen a couple of inches with one finger attempting to stay out of sight. No good. The caws become more rapid and insistent. Stealth being useless and stunningly the crow eating on the goodie stump is still standing there with a chunk of cheese and a lump of something else in her beak. Whatever the something else is, isn't staying in her beak. She leans her head down, perhaps to use the surface under her to help wedge the item in with the cheese. Unfortunately the snow is still too fluffy to create a surface for wedging and her food and her head disappears into the snow. The piece of mystery food doesn't come back out with her head and the cheese chunk. Was that an intentional stash or accidental dropping I don't know. She looks directly at me. Attempted stealth being useless, I grab my camera and head for the patio door curtain and nudge Pyewackit to scoot over.

The sentinel Crow somewhere to the right (north) and above Pyewackit and I in a tree, takes the cawing up another notch. Cheese Chunk Crow flies towards the small evergreen on the edge of the park. She lands on the bough you can see about mid-way up and sticks the cheese chunk into the snow, an obvious intentional caching of food.

She takes off and looks as if she is going to return to the food stump. The sentinel crow at this point is virtually screaming. Cheese Chunk Crow finally seems to take Sentinel in or at least take his "advice" and makes a turn and heads back towards the park.

Still cawing like a mad thing Sentinal watches her go. I suspect he is being so radically intense because Cheese Chunk Crow didn't hop to it when he first warned her of "danger"--Pyewackit and I looking out the the glass of the patio door. Then Sentinel looks back at me and realizes my camera is on him and that he is sitting on a branch which exposes him fully from our angle.

Still cawing he switches branches attempting to make himself more obscure by getting into a position in which there are some small branches that will break up his shape against the sky from this angle.

Suddenly he seems to see something, he leans over, and Caws even louder if that is possible. I suspect that Cheese Chunk Crow or another of the family may be making it this direction to get other chunk of cheese still extant on the stump.

A slight change of direction and heavy cawing. Due to the flight of the other crow on a flight past?

A second chunk of cheese sits on the stump--waiting.

Sentinel Crow, what a surprise, is still cawing but now he's more upright and eventually gives us the eye again. All his charges must be out of range...

...because in a few moments he takes to own wings and heads for the park himself. Quietly.
Photo by Karen Anne Kolling
And from Karen Anne Kolling of the Gonzo Deck in Rhode Island--
"Snow here too, just a little - that-a-way to the food dishes. "

Donegal Browne


Beyond The Garden said...

I've enjoy reading about your crows, I've been trying to befriend our local mob but it is slow going. I keep my blog readers up to date on it, I think the crows now keep someone watching my door in the mornings. A step forward for me!!

Anonymous said...

Is cheese an acceptable food for birds? My cockatiel goes crazy anytime he sees cheese so I have to hide it from him. If cheese is left on a counter, he will immediately let out a shriek and fly over to munch on it. He seems to have an inexplicable craving for cheese. However, I've been told the lactose and salt aren't good for avians.

Donegal Browne said...


Crows are a tough crowd aren't they? And it is slow going but just keep at it and they'll eventually, sometimes it takes years, come round to letting you into their lives. (I find that they are even more secretive than usual during breeding season.)

If they are watching for you that is definitely a step in the right direction! They are such a fascinating species with a complicated social system and "language".

I remember the first day that I came out with food for the Goodie Stump and a Crow actually sat in a tree in my yard and watched me put it out. I felt like I'd won the Derby!

Donegal Browne said...

Dear Anonymous,

Quicksilver is mad for cheese himself and asks for it by name. And can become quite grumpy if it isn't forth coming. Obviously the crow that was ignoring the sentinel's warnings was pretty mad for cheese herself.

As to cheese and birds, it is a case, as the Greeks wisely said, of "All things in moderation." I'm told that as long as a parrot doesn't have more than 20% dairy in their diet they do just fine.