Here… Birdy, Birdy

I love crows. I think of them as the Border Collies of the bird world – they are clever, creative and beautiful in their sleek, jet black feathers. My love for the bird may also be the fact that early in my life I had a friendly encounter with a crow.

When I was around eight years old, a crow flew into our backyard. We had a lawn sprinkler that had a very slow leak, and the bird perched below the hose as he allowed each drip of that precious fluid to dribble down his throat. He was clearly in a bad way. My mother took pity on the animal and put a small, metal tin of snacks out near the sprinkler. The famished crow barely flew-hopped a few yards to give himself some space from her presence, then quickly returned to the dish as she walked away. I don’t recall what she offered, but I suppose it was some scraps of bread or perhaps a couple of grapes or a handful of nuts. He consumed them, allowed a few more drops of water to quench his thirst, then settled down next the sprinkler. He was too weak to fly off to a tree. That night my mom warned us that he might not make it to morning.

The next day the crow was still there, and my mother offered another dish of nourishment and a pan of water. By the third day, we had named him Corey. By the end of the first week, Corey had learned our schedules. It was summer and we were sleeping in late, but Corey was hungry at sunrise. He began to carry the small metal tin in his long, sharp beak. Once on the patio, he hopped up on the window sill and began to tap that dish on the window. I suppose my mother did what mothers do and she fed the hungry child (er… bird.) The habit was built in a moment and each morning Corey arrived a few minutes earlier to demand his breakfast until his knocking became quite annoying – well, to my mother.

On sunny days, my mom would prepare a picnic lunch for us kids. She spread a few beach towels on the lawn and we ate our peanut butter and jelly, or baloney sandwiches out under the large shade tree. I suppose it was her way of getting us (and the crumbs from our food) out of the house. Corey’s recovery was going well and he was feeling chipper. He always joined us during our al fresco dining. I remember him tugging at the frilled edges of the towels and hopping up to sit next to us. It wasn’t long before he was standing on our lap and even our heads! Yes, Corey was like a pet and I suppose that was the beginning of my appreciation for crows. But, I digress. This post isn’t about Corey – just his species.

Crows have been gathering in large numbers here. I hear them often. However, I rarely get to film them as they tend to remain on the fringes of the property – assembling at the tops of the tallest trees. A few days ago, I shot this photo from a long ways away (over 1000 feet, in fact.)

How can I get close enough to film these birds better, I asked myself? Then, a favorite strategy came to mind. The notion of “if you build it they will come,” was first realized here at our home when we hung our first Hummingbird feeder a few years ago. Then, we put up a Bluebird nest box, and just a few days later, a Bluebird couple moved in. At the end of summer, I hung apples in an older apple tree from which all the fruit had been plucked, and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Gray Catbirds and a couple other species stopped by for the fruit. I was able to get some great shots because I knew where the birds would be! This autumn, we established two feeder platforms out near the pastures, fill them with seeds, nuts, fruits and suet and – yes – the birds arrived. They became acclimated to my presence, and I have been able to overcome my severe lack in photographic prowess by getting closer to my subjects!

The problem with filming crows is that they rarely visit standard feeders. But, that doesn’t mean they can’t be lured to a location with the right stuff.

As Robert was going into town for a few supplies, I requested, “Get something the crows will like. See if they have something that’s like an animal carcass – like a beef bone of some sort. Oh, and get some beef liver, that’s cheap!” Not to question my sanity because he knows better, he accepted the mission.

For a while, now, I have been observing Kestrels and Hawks, as well as at least one Bald Eagle. I have seen the Eagle circling over Jaye’s Pasture – as if hunting – several times. I captured a few grainy images of these birds, but none to my liking. Here’s a shot of the Kestrel I saw the other day perched at the top of a tree near the barn.

Here’s are a couple photos I filmed of other birds of prey. I don’t know if these are the same bird. it’s impossible to tell. I’ve recorded the call of a Red-tailed Hawk, and observed that bird quite often. But, it’s always been from afar.

I want better photos! I hoped that Robert would bring home a bounty that would not only attract the crows, but also hawks, and perhaps even the Eagle!

“I’m home!” Before he had the chance to say anything further, I asked, “Did you get stuff to attract the hawks and crows?”

So, yes and no. He pulled from the shopping bag one beef knuckle bone and a package of Braunschweiger. In case you are unfamiliar with that product, it’s liverwurst. Not exactly standard, unadulterated beef liver, but hey as my mother always said, “beggars can be choosers.” I should be happy that he even brought something home. I was not discouraged. But, the next day as he was running to town again I said, “Get a frozen turkey. Get the biggest, cheapest turkey you can find. And, get some real beef liver. It will be in the frozen section and it will be really cheap!”

That afternoon, with a turkey in tow, Robert met me out in Jaye’s pasture with a massive, frozen turkey and a package of real (and really cheap) beef liver. I figured that the neighbor’s cats, raccoons, possibly even coyotes would discover it before the birds would feel comfortable approaching our version of “road kill,” so we put up a Trail Cam to monitor the situation. It’s hard to believe that not one mammal showed up the first night. The next day’s check for activity let us know that the cable which was securing the camera to the pole had slipped down across the camera lens! Still, there was one, thirty second clip of a hawk’s legs on the SD card. I considered it a success.

The third day, although high winds and rain (or maybe even the bump of some animal) caused the pole to tip at a 40 degree angle, but we had success! Crows! A Hawk! Another success was that I figured out how to rotate a video file in my video editing software. Although it’s been very dreary and gray, so the lighting isn’t great and a trail cam doesn’t have the greatest lens, here are the first short clips of the Crows. If you build it – they will come! Now, I just have to acclimate them to my “blind” which is the golf cart and seems to be innocuous to most birds after a few days. Perhaps, later this week I will be able to share some great images of one of my favorite birds! For now, these tilt-rectified clips will tell the tale.

Today, the trail came captured a hawk (or two different hawks – can’t exactly tell) visiting the turkey carcass.

We did have one nighttime visitor and her fawn. I suspected we’d catch a deer on camera as they are curious creatures and they are all around. I assume that was the intention of this duo. However, I have read that, although it seems unbelievable, deer do eat meat on occasions. This clip shows the doe consuming something, but I assume it was just grass.

Time will tell whether my plan to lure the birds to my camera lens will be successful. Necessity (or desire) is the mother of invention. Since I can’t afford to upgrade my equipment any time soon, I have hatched a different strategy to film these incredible birds!

One Comment on “Here… Birdy, Birdy

  1. Absolutely fascinating! I carefully read every word of your childhood encounter with a wounded Crow. And your ability to THINK like a crow and come up with a way to attract them is genius! I, too, dearly love the birds. We live in a rural area and both my wife and I watch them daily. My love started as a young aspiring hunter at the age of 12 years old. I soon discovered that I was not good at finding rabbits, quail and squirrel, but I always saw crows – VERY far off. So I spent a few years trying to sneak up on them. I just knew one day I would kill a crow. Besides their season (back then – don’t know about now) was year round. Guess what? After a couple years, I gave up – never getting closer than several hundred yards. ……… thus started my love and study of the birds over 50 years ago.

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