Monday, May 02, 2011

Great Horned Owls as Crow Magnets And Thoughts on Empathy

Owl Photos by Mark Scarborough
A Great Horned Owl from the Raptor Education Group. Inc.

Reporter Mark Scarborough of the The Edgerton Reporter, (also an old college friend of mine), had me tag along to an event he was covering and maybe take a few pictures. The event was a raptor education talk by some folks from the Raptor Education Group, Inc. from Antigo, WI.(Much more about them in the next post.)

We all met at the boyhood home of Sterling North. Remember Sterling North? He's the one who wrote
Rascal, all about the baby raccoon he raised and eventually released into the wild.

After the talk, while I was jabbering in the front yard of North's house with Molly McKay and Karissa Mohr (visualize three Bird Nerds which they label themselves as and I have to admit I rather lump myself in there too- trading bird stories as fast as we could) who'd done the demonstration with the birds are now holding the Great Horned for a photo op. The light was much better outside.

When cawing, lots of it, started coming from multiple directions.

Including the trees, pretty much over Owl's head. Does he look amused? That would be a no.

The Crows weren't amused either.

They then began grouping behind him--and us.

And then they began flying back and forth and getting more aggressive. I began to know how Owl was feeling. Or any of the other raptors I've watched "get it". We humans because of our obvious "friendship" with Owl were now about to be mobbed by crows.

I've of course always felt bad and quite sorry when watching Isolde and Tristan fending crows away from their nest and being dive bombed. And certainly for Pale Male and First Love when they were run into buildings and injured by Crows but somehow it was never quite as real to me personally as this moment was.

Today's lesson. Empathy may be strong but it is never as vivid as the real thing happening to you.

Much more on R.E.G.I. to come. And of course other raptor news as well.

Donegal Browne


Anonymous said...

A few months ago, there was a hawk (young red-tail?) on my Brooklyn fire escape being harassed by some indignant crows. And these crows were not just cawking and attempting to intimidate the hawk.

I was surprised to see a few hawk feathers fly when a crow would occasionally body slam directly into the hawk. I didn't realize that a crow could actually beat up a hawk.

Donegal Browne said...

Crows can get intense, particularly as their numbers increase. Many of the mobbing birds seem to recognize the younger generation in raptordom and go for them in a more body contact way than the more experienced and therefore more dangerous mature birds.

It isn't like a Crow can sink it's talons into their harassment victim as they have none, but their plan in the least is to harass a hawk until it leaves their territory. If they can hassle the hawk enough to disorient it and get it to make a flight mistake, bang, into a window, that's even better in their opinion.