Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Crows are Modifying Food in the Bird Bath Again! Does That Constitute Cooking in the Modern Sense...Just Add Water?

This is a Crow with a very large mouthful of stiff cheese.  She has now noticed that I've noticed her.

There is a back story here.  

A week or so ago, I made a toasted cheese sandwich, looked at the clock and realized, I didn't have time to eat it before having to rush off.  I quickly wrapped it up, jammed it into my coat pocket and thought, " I'll eat it on the way".    Then promptly forgot all about it.  

Fast forward.    

 Last night, I found the aforementioned, still wrapped thank goodness, in my pocket.  Needless to say,  it was one very dry breaded, tough cheesed, sandwich.  I put it on the Goodie Stump.  

Then about an hour before the above Crow was caught with a completely full mouth of stiff cheese, she or one of her cohorts, there was a three member Crow foraging party in the yard, saw me and  attempted to pick up the sandwich.  Either it was too heavy or decidedly not aerodynamic enough to fly with as it was abandoned and they all took off.  

And back to this post's starting point, the sandwich has moved to just the other side of the sparrow pile, and the Crow has a load of stiff  cheese stuffed in her mouth and partially down her throat by the looks of it.

Crow works beak.  Note the peanut gallery of sparrows waiting to fall upon the sandwich at the first opportunity.
Stretching her neck and tipping her head a bit to the side isn't helping much either. 

 Then he turned, gave me this look and I knew she was going to brazen it out and do something.
 She disappears behind the sparrow pile.  The sparrows shift.  We all wait.
She comes striding out.  Pause.  Look.
She marches toward the bowl.  Why isn't she flying?
                                    Up she goes. 
                                      Legs at the ready.
            Knees lock.  Feet grip.  Cheese still in place.
1:56:03 PM  I'm not sure exactly what happened here.  Her head went forward and down.  I don't know if it was just a motion to expel cheese?  She dipped her beak in the water?  She actually swallowed water?

 Look carefully and you will see only one small fragment of cheese back mid-beak, beyond those readily obvious  pieces which she is expelling.
1:56:04PM Now look at the contents of her beak one second later.  She is regurgitating more cheese into the water.  
1:56:06PM  She stretches her neck out and 2 seconds later her beak is again full.  This time there appears to be something lighter colored included.  Either another food stuff, bread perhaps, or cheese that has changed in some way by being "stored" in her body for a short time?

 1:56:07PM She deposits that beak full into the water.
 1:56:10PM  Then she stands and looks into the bowl.  Watching the rehydration process?  

Waiting for dinner to be ready?

But why rehydrate the cheese?  She obviously was able to swallow it as she regurgitated it.

I surmised that when the Crows placed dried out pasta in the bowl, waited, and then ate it, that it was easier to eat that way.

Now I hypothesize that she is doing it because it tastes better that way.   

(I suppose she might think it will aid her digestion but that may be going a bit far.)

Yes, according to the latest, not only are many bird's olfactory sense better than was suspected but they also have a full set of taste buds.  The existence of which had been denied for ages.  The issue?  They aren't located in the same places as ours are nor are they identical in structure to ours.  


 A gross example would be the fact that we have arms and they have wings. Can't deny that one, it's too obvious. 

Yes, we're structurally different to a point. That doesn't mean we don't have a possibly similar sets of basic senses even if they aren't identically processedThe basic senses have proved to be evolutionarily advantageous in most cases,  after all. 
 1:56:18PM  10 seconds from the last cheese deposit. 

At first I thought the light color between the two portions of her beak was cheese.  Now I think we are actually seeing the side of the bowl.  Perhaps she is touching the cheese with the very sensory rich tip of her beak to see if it is "done"?
1:56:19PM  Notice that the cheese no longer has the hard orange color and texture.  Ever get cheese wet, it lightens in color and as birds tend to be drier mouthed than humans, moistening food likely releases the flavor to their receptors just as it does for ours.  

Remember how Silver, the parrot,  always wants people to suck a hard candy first before they give it to him?  I've always surmised that the reason for that is, he can then taste it, as he's no saliva to liquify the sugar on his own.  

(Correct.  He only gets that sort of thing very infrequently.)

Silver isn't interested in say a tidbit of soft caramel being moistened for him.
1:56:21PM  Pause, slightly open beak in bowl.
 1:56:22PM  No tidbit.  Closed beak.  She appears to scrutinize something.
1:56:28PM  (6 seconds later) She waited and now see the dark something inside her beak.  That is the tip of her tongueAnd there is a tiny yellow morsel of cheese in the very tip of her beak.  After all this trouble she is she going to taste that cheese instead of just swallowing it straight away?
1:56:29PM Beak into water.
  1:56:30PM  No bite just a dripping beak.
1:56:33PM  She appears to be touching and possibly moving cheese.

1:56:42PM  9 seconds elapse. She stands and looks around then stares at something on the ground I can't see.  But take a look at her right leg.  Your left.  Is that a band? 

Perhaps not.  A wrinkle in the skin?
 1:56:43PM Look back.

1:56:44PM  Ta DaAnd a tidbit which meets her standards is pulled out of the water.  The focus in the eyes and the curve of her beak makes it very easy to anthropomorphize a smile if one isn't careful.
1:56:46PM  More tending?  That wrinkle looks like a band again.
 1:56:49PM Unclear as to whether that is a food bit on the beak or more water.
  1:57:00PM  Suddenly she turns, alert, nictitating eyelids flash.
1:57:02PM Beak drops down again.
1:57:03PM  I get a BIG look.  

(Upon hindsight this look makes me wonder if she was just putting me on the whole time.)

 1:57:05 She turns to the side.  Is that a tidbit in her beak or is it only slightly open and there is a leaf showing through?  No there is just a trace of cheese visible in her beak in the preceding photo as well
1:57:06PM  She's off!

 1:57:09PM  And off she went across the field.

I don't know when she or whoever came back and ate the "prepared" cheese in the bird bath, but when I went out to clean the bowl and put in fresh water several hours later there wasn't a speck of cheese left. 

Donegal Browne
P.S.  There was a previous post in the last 12 hours so if you've not seen it, keep scrolling down.  

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Dam Search in Deer Season

A pair of cranes and their colt of this year make a break for it after being startled by gunshots.

This is the Sugar River.  I'm told there is a dam within walking distance.  And just why would I want to nail down a dam?  Because when it gets very cold this winter and the rivers freeze, the water around the dam won't and...the Bald Eagles will gather.  

I want to be ready as last winter there were very few of those days with climate change underway.

Unfortunately I've done it again.  For whatever reason I somehow end up trotting around on wooded  public land the first weekend of deer season almost every year.   

The weekend when those who do such things are very excited and sometimes more accidents than usual happen.

Do I know what happened to the blaze orange knit cap that is supposed to be in the car for such events?  Of course not.

Plus as there are constant spatters of gunfire in the distance, the creature spotting is at a minimum.   The wildlife, not having figured out just yet that it is the season for deer, many of the other creatures figure out before long just who the guns are after and settle down somewhat.  

The deer will also get the message and head for mucky swamps, enormous briar patches, and other spots unpalatable to hunters and lay low, particularly on weekends.  

The beasties aren't stupid.

There are a few exceptions to the wariness today.  Slate-colored Juncos blithely flit from ground to branch and back again.  A bigger bird zooms by.

Its a Cedar WaxwingI hadn't realized how good their coloring is as camouflage in winter.
More distant gunfire and a Kingfisher, making a kind of  loud buzzy growling sound, zips with purpose into the distance following the river.   
The link below has examples of the buzzy growl, intermixed with the Kingfisher call that sounds more "bird like". 

I was only able to get one shot of our Kingfisher friend.
See the speck heading over the treetops of the island?

 I cropped the photo down in order to see the "speck" and the photo turned out to be rather odd.  I suspect Kingfisher is in the midst of preparing for a dive but he looks more like a dabbler riding rough water.


One never knows where YouTube will lead, and as we've been having an animal tool use conversation for some years on and off- another chapter.  A bird who uses bread to catch fish.  I think we could consider bread a tool in this case.  (Beware the producer's tag at the tail of the piece.  Jarring.)

Then I heard it.  The sound of rushing water.

Ahhh, come January there may be a dozen or more Bald Eagles perched in these trees hunting the open water for fish.  Something to look forward to during the winter days before Red-tail nesting begins again.

And as if in answer to the thought...
 A Red-tail appears and soars into the light.

Donegal Browne