What Good is a Crow?

Sometimes in the winter, the extra high tides peak just when extreme winds blow the waves towards the beach and up over the edge of the road. Sand  churned up in the shallow water of the beach is deposited on the pavement as the waves retreat. At its most furious, the storm makes the road impassable due to waves carrying logs and sand, crashing on the pavement.

Something had to be done.  Why not use the logs that keep washing up on the shore to build a breakwater?

The only drawback was that access  was limited for people wanting to  spend time on the beach. Only a few pass-throughs allow access, but this is a small price to pay for keeping the beach material off the road. On the left foreground of the photo below, you can see the root system of a tree used in making the breakwater.

It makes a great perch for this crow to survey the beach and assess the possibility of nabbing a bite to eat.

Closer to the bluffs where the spit begins, people are enjoying the sunshine in spite of the cold brisk breeze.

Apparently they have brought some picnic food, and our crow is on the alert. See him in the foreground (below), keeping an eye on the people?

Those pebbles can twist a crow’s ankle. He hops up onto a better stand while he talks to us.

My name is Corby, I’m a crow,

A useful bird, I’ll have you know.

I clean up beaches, parks, and schools,

‘Cause people are such messy fools.

“A scavenger,” they say and sneer,

But really I’m an engineer.

A sanitation engineer,

Patrolling beaches without fear.

I’m much despised for baby theft

Of eggs and fledglings, moms bereft,

But on the beach and in the park,

With my intentions not so dark,

I use my observation perch

And beady eyes to scan and search

For chip bags, Ding Dongs, peanut shells.

I simply follow kiddies’ yells

For fast food wrappers, greasy hits

Of french fries, ketchup, burger bits.

I hop-skip over, spear a fry,

And poke some Cheezies with a sigh.

I fly up high, and watch, and call,

My cawing soon assembles all.

The local corbies cruising by,

Spy the garbage as they fly.

They’ve come to lend a helping hand

To clean the litter off the land.

They caw, “We are the cleanup crew,

Don’t look at us with eyes askew.

Don’t throw those rocks to chase us off,

You need us still,  you silly toff.

As long as you mess up the land,

Be thankful for the crows at hand.”

 

Large Flakes?

Looking out the window this afternoon, I saw huge snowflakes. Or were they leaves? But they were floating so easily, like snow. More and more flakes came down, and yet, not enough to say, “It’s snowing,” and besides, it was just a tad too warm. Something didn’t feel right. I went to investigate.

I picked up some of the “snowflakes” and saw that they were feathers. They kept falling from the sky. I thought of the German folk tale about Frau Holle who shakes the featherbeds (goosedown duvets, in our modern western world) in the sky and makes it snow.

I traced the path of the feathers to their origin and strained my eyes to study the top reaches of a fir tree. For a few minutes I saw nothing, but at last I made the culprit nervous.

A huge eagle took off from the tree with its dinner in its talons.

I knew from the feathers that the eagle’s meal was a duck. The harsh reality of  life and death in the animal food chain always leaves me with mixed feelings. Both are beautiful birds, but why does one have to eat the other? Couldn’t they just eat pancakes instead?

 

 

Are We Hungry?

When I went outside in the bitter cold the other day to refill the birdfeeders and put out more suet, I was surprised that there were no birds around. I wondered if a hawk had passed by to bully them. I refilled the feeders anyway, and hung more suet in the wire cage along with the half finished suet block. As I worked I heard one bird tell another, “She’s bringing fresh food,” and another bird answering, “I know, I know. I see!”

It reminded me of standing in a Chinese smorgasbord line-up, looking at the dregs of a pan of … something … and then seeing the waitress bring over a new steaming hot pan of fresh chow mein.

As soon as I left the birdfeeder area, a flock of tiny birds (bushtits, I think) came to the suet and covered the whole block with their hungry little bodies. When I looked back I couldn’t even see the suet block, only a swarm of feathers. I think now, that maybe the suet had frozen and was hard to pick at. It was that cold. The fresh block was not frozen and everyone ate well that night. My photo shows only six of the birds, but I’m sure there were more than ten or twelve on the suet in those first moments after I left.
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Harshest winter, freezing cold,

Tests survival of the bold.

Icy winds pierce feathers fine

As the tiny creatures dine.

They know they’ll die if they can’t eat

So at the feeder they all meet.

New suet hangs there in the wire

Perhaps their fate is not so dire,

Internal furnaces will warm

The bodies of the little swarm.

They’ll live to see another day

And soon the spring will come to stay.

 

Ready for Action

In the previous post I told about the newly named “three lame ducks,” the old duck hunters who brought the duck blind they built out to the field. At the time I didn’t have a photo of the blind in its location with the final touches to have it blend in a little. Here it is, ready for action. Probably it will need a stormier day to work better, but for now it can sit out here and get used to its new surroundings.dscf2187a

Heron Junior

This not so great, “great blue heron” landed in the firs outside my house. I say he’s not so great only because I think he’s a juvenile. The adults have much more of a show of feathers. I’m guessing this one is a new chick from this spring. You can see an adult great blue heron in full plumage at the end of this post.

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Someday Junior may look like this beauty.018a

A Bug is a Bug is a Bug

With the new fence around my garden, the area was bigger than before, so I had a bit of sod to turn over for the first time. The soil under the grass was almost pure sand but I would add to it and gradually turn it into better growing soil. As I dug up the sod I came across pests that I put aside to feed the robins.

We’re hearing a lot in the news about the European chafer beetle (Rhizotrogus majalis) having been brought to our gardens in western Canada, but the prawn-like larvae from my yard will change into  ten-lined June beetles (Polyphylla decemlineata) which must be a cousin of the chafer beetle. They look the same in the larval stage. 002

You’ll see cutworms and some other thing in a maroon coloured pupa (maybe they’re cutworms in the pupa stage, I don’t know), but most of the treasures being served up on the green platter are the ten-lined June beetle larvae.

These larvae eat the roots of grass (and other plants, I presume), so they are not wanted in my garden. I’d rather fatten up the robins.

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Here is a short video I took of a robin eating my beetle larva offerings.

 

Doesn’t it just make you want to go out and order a plate of prawns?

Eagle Eyes

Today the sun was out for a short time, perfect for a walk through the fields with our dogs, Emma and Ruby. In the cornfield below, some bits of corn might still be left, but by now they would be hard to find. Almost all the corn and new shoots of grass have been eaten. The odd bird still flies in to see if anything was missed. The Canada geese flying over this field will probably land in the one to the left, behind the trees, and glean the last grain seeds they can find.

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Watching and waiting are the bald eagles. They keep their eagle eyes open for any bird that can’t keep up with the flock, a bird that is weak or hurt and would be easier to take down.

Four eagles (and a lump that looks like an eagle but isn’t one) have taken up positions in these trees. Great place to sit and survey the whole area. Eagles have excellent eyesight for this kind of  hunting.

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Here is one of the adults in this group. Notice his sharp hooked beak, perfect for tearing meat. He’s keeping a close eye on Emma, but so are we.

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The immature bald eagle below may be the chick of one the adult eagles in this group, but they weren’t telling me. His head is not white yet, nor is his beak completely yellow.

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The ducks that spent a lot of time in this field over the past weeks have left very little to eat. The kernels of corns that were left in the cobs of corn missed by the harvester, are all gone.You may be able to see that the blades of grass are clipped off. That was probably the work of large groups of widgeons. You can see widgeons in an earlier post. The link is https://wordsfromanneli.com/2016/01/11/the-estuary/

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I also saw evidence of crippled or sick birds that the eagles finished off. Just the feathers were left. I could have taken a picture of that evidence, but my camera’s battery died just then and you’ve been spared.