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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

CROW VOICES

bullhead
The crows went somewhere else today. I think I only heard one crow bark and never saw one all day until now, up in the day around 4. I hear them returning to their nesting areas in the mountain across the highway. They must have been the other side of the mountain today. Mother hen and her chicks never showed up today. I never saw the brown-headed one. I saw in the way he was marching about the lawn yesterday he had his strength. It was the first day I could call his walking a march, the way older crows walk. I've been seeing crows learn crow behavior. They are not born with crow wariness. The young ones see everything harmless. When something unexpected moves, mama takes off and the youngsters follow. She's teaching them wariness. And she's an especially wary bird.


She creeps up on an apple slice in the grass about half sideways and reaches as far as she can with her beak to pick it. Then she jumps back with wings out. She creeps up on it again and this time just darts her head back after a peck. Then she jabs it good with her open beak, a two-pronged fork, and raises it up. She takes off and flies out over the meadow out of sight. My brown-headed friend, Babusch, walks up to an apple slice and starts pecking. There's only basic wariness in him and the others. They've just been hatched not very long ago. I suspect mother brought the younguns to the place apple-man throws out apple slices for crows. Once she started feeding her babies there, the other crows went on to other places. I felt like she was weaning them, taking them to a place where the food was plentiful and good.


I've become a bit more convinced in the direction of my guess that young crow friend very likely was the last to hatch and the least aggressive in the nest with open beak. The runt of the litter that some believe is supposed to die. I'm not one to believe that. When it was time for all to leave the nest, I doubt my friend was ready. For two days he ate apple slices all day long. He let me make 3 short films of him pecking apple slices and walking about. Yesterday he was marching good with mama. When she'd pick somthing up, he'd be there fluttering wings, beckoning to mama with open beak. She turned and hopped away from him and he followed her, annoying her until she'd had enough. She turned on him and pecked at him fiercely, making him fall back on the prop of an open wing with beak open in submission. She walked away and he followed her. She lit into him again and he came back for more. She hopped down the driveway and he walked after her. By the time she reached the bottom of the driveway by the mailbox, she was able to peck about untroubled. When he marched up to her, fluttering his wings, she pecked at him again. He dodged the peck. She flew out over the meadow. Young brown-head lifted his wings and flew after her.


He looked healthy as the other youngsters. Maybe he needed the nourishment and mother found it for him here. I've not seen him or her today. No crows today. The ones returning to their territories across the road have quit their talking. It's odd to have no crow voices in the air. I'm hearing several different birds, birds I can't name by sound alone. One that flew looked like a brown thrush. I hear a towhee, a song sparrow and crickets that I can't tell if they're out there among the other sounds or inside my head. I think that's my own sound contributing to the oriental symphony of one sound at a time like windchimes.


From the tractor repair shop down by the highway I hear a cranky old truck motor start up then rumble low for awhile. Out of the west comes the sound of several crows barking an alarm. They're excited about something. Three days ago I saw a crow fly over to the mountain across the highway I've identified as their condo complex. He was barking a steady bark as he flew the length of the side of the mountain, then up from there he flew back the length of the mountain barking all the way, and turned again up the hill and flew back the length of the mountain barking. He went from down low to the top in about 6 or 7 turns of the mountain's length, then over the top, barking all the way and continued on the other side. He was telling something to the entire tribe it looked like. It didn't seem like an alarm, rather something everybody needed to know.


I'm guessing there are at last a dozen sounds crows make. I recall a sound I've heard only a few times. First time was probably 25 or more years ago. I saw a crow flying along in a loping kind of way, in no hurry, just strolling through the air. It sounded like a human voice talking in another language. It was talking to itself. Perhaps the sound was more like a babbling brook that when you listen sounds like somebody talking in a foreign language. I heard one here doing that about a week ago. Now that I've seen a hen weaning her chicks, maybe I'll start counting the various sounds they make. Country crows don't often live their lives before people. I recall a time I was sitting still on a rock in the woods when a crow landed on a branch nearby without seeing me. He set about preening feathers, grooming, putting feathers ruffled by flight back in place.

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