Something to Crow About

So, I’m back with another less than crispy post.  Well, actually the last two are far from stellar.  This one from the Denver Botanical Gardens isn’t too bad but I probably could have taken a little more sheen off of it in the digital darkroom.
American Crow taken at Denver Botanical Gardens

If you are not familiar with this particular bird you have probably been living under a rock.  With the exception of Central America and some shoots up into the Western states, this bird pretty much has North America covered.   The intriguing thing about this particular species is their well practiced ability to prevent me from getting a picture of them.  With the exception of the Botanical Gardens above, this bird has managed to evade my glass at every turn.  I’ll try sneaking up on them and they’ll spot me somehow and tear out of the area along with all their friends.  This will cause such a racket with their squawking that all the other birds in the area will take flight as well.  Every once in awhile one will fly by insuring that they are between my glass in the sun essentially torching the shot.  They also appear to have some allies in the field.

American Crow taken at Denver Botanical Gardens

Twice I’ve had the perfect opportunity to take beautiful pictures of them.  The first time I was with my brother heading to Allerton park to go birding.  As we were going down the entrance lane there were at least two American Crows sitting in perfect light 10 or 20 feet off the road.  I immediately announced the presence of that bird and my need to still get in the tin.  At the same time I was bringing The Beast up to get a bead on them as soon as the car would come to a stop… only problem is the car never came to a stop.  There is a theory out there that the car might have even sped up.  Before the glass made it to my eye those Crows were a spot on the horizon.  Has it been mentioned on this blog yet just how competitive my brother is!?!  Their other accomplice is Linda.  Once again we were driving by some Crows in perfect light.  Think I used our special code word for “stop the vehicle immediately, there’s something cool to photograph”.  Clearly that is too much to get out before the moment passes so we have a special one word code (which will not be revealed because of the nature of it – not for the kiddies or easily offended).  Out came the word and once again prepping the glass to get the shot.  Well, that was the plan but once again the CAR DID NOT STOP.  Just kept going in complete contradiction to the coded expectations.  Sure enough the Crows decided to move on to better grounds leaving me empty handed once again.  For the record, Linda’s comment was “It’s just a Crow”.  “Yes, I am fully aware of that but I do not have one in the tin yet!”  Sigh.  Luckily a few flew by while birding at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge.  Not the best shots in the world but enough to count it – thinking we might have to amend our birding rules a bit.  This “no count without a post” is putting some serious stress on me – meanwhile Mr. Competitive is racking up +1’s after +1’s.

American Crow taken at Denver Botanical Gardens

Guess I better get to some quick facts.  My apologies for the short post.  You already know how clever they are from the information above, but they are a very intelligent bird.  They are actually quite deft at problem solving and have the rare ability to figure out clever ways to get access to their food.  They are also fairly aggressive birds having no hesitation to drive larger birds from their area – this includes Hawks, Herons and even Owls according to Cornell’s website.  Crows do not breed until at least 2 yrs old and more often in the 4 year range.  They share social responsibilities helping their parents to raise their young.  I was surprise to see they really are not much of a carrion bird.  Seems like I’m always seeing them in the middle of the road holding vigil over some dead form or another.  Apparently this is due to a wimpy bill that can’t even break through the skin of small animals requiring them to rely on other more skilled hunters to open the skin up or wait until it decomposes enough to get that large, but apparently useless beak into the juicy parts.  And my favorite fact about the American Crow.  A gathering of Crows is considered a “murder of Crows”.  There appears to be a number of different explanations of this naming.  One being that there is a folktale that Crows will gather and collectively decide the fate of another Crow – sounds similar to Obamacare death panels.  Another reason is again their scavenger inclination – basically people often see them next to dead things and may associate it with the explanation they did the dirty deed themselves.  Then, of course, there are movies like Hitchcock’s The Birds that managed to collectively give all black birds a bad rap – pretty sure that was a mixture of Crows and Ravens, but it has been awhile since I saw that particular horror.  I will say that “The Crow” is one of my favorite movies which again perpetuates the association with the dead.

Well, that’s a rap on the Crow.  Quick and easy for the count but tried to make it worth your read.  See ya’ all real soon now.

Nevermore … actually a lot more on the way

First off, being that this is the first post of the new year… Happy New Year everyone!  I have yet to decide on my 2010 goals and as a result my blog requirements are not set yet, but that isn’t any reason not to give a post or two.  One thing is certain, I am way behind on my wildlife posts based on the number of pictures I have in my “to post” folder for my blog.  As a result, I am going to bombard you with bird posts this month.  To be honest, I am actually having some problems identifying a few of them which is somewhat upsetting based on the amount of bird books I own and that wonderful thing they call the Internet is not helping out.  Thanks for sticking with the blog and looking forward to another year of observations.

As promised, here is the first of the bird posts.  Mr. Poe would be proud, however, it personally scares the bejeezzus out of me:

We were walking around the parking lot of Old Faithful when we saw this monstrosity of bird for the first time.  Although we had read about them and seen them in numerous horror movies, we had never actually seen one up close and quite frankly that was not a bad thing.  These common ravens are HUGE and apparently only have one thing on third little bird brain.  That, of course, being the dark seeded desire to peck our eyes out.  By the way, although it scares me, I happen to really like this particular photo and had one blown up to hang in our great room.

We had a Hitchcock flashback the first time we encountered these demon spawn.  As we walked across the parking lot to see the geyser a shadow crossed over us and landed directly above us on a light post.  Fortunately, we had our cameras and snapped a few quick shots.

Without a measure reference it is hard to actually appreciate the size of these birds.  The reference books indicate they range up to 24″ long with a 53″ wingspan.   The Smithsonian guide even credits them for removing rivets from aircraft.  This isn’t too surprising since they clearly want us dead.

Eventually this one heard the camera’s focus collars and quickly located the source.  None to pleased, it started a loud squawking in an effort to call in reinforcements.  Not wanting to test my martial arts skills against Raven-Fu we hauled it out of there and headed for the water spout.

They even stomp around with authority.  At another site we were on our way back to the car when this one made a grand entrance about 20 feet from the car.  Having experienced this previously, we took it in stride, but the family next to us were busing warning each other to find cover.  Once landed it started goose stepping its way around the cars.

On another day I did get the opportunity to snap this one.  I don’t know if this one was a juvenile or not, but it was slightly smaller than the other specimens above.  After reading all three of my bird reference books and checking on the Internet, there appears to be very little distinction between the Common Raven and the American Crow beyond the smaller stature of the latter.  So for all I know, this was an adult American Crow or simply a younger Raven.  In either case, I’ll keep the zoom lens on and keep my respectful distance.

Pleasant dreams everyone … Nevermore, Nevermore, Nevermore