Category: Corvids

hello, babies

Pierce street @ Ashland ave, St. Paul

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Data point: Corvids

Sunday, December 24th, 3:34pm

According to Google there are exactly 60 minutes before sundown. While idly exploring YouTube I couldn’t help but look up into the golden-blue skies and notice a few dozen (or even a hundred) flying monkeys up there. Of course by that I mean corvids. Couldn’t even keep count. They were flying northwest (or perhaps north by northwest) on some sort of invisible aerial highway:

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Couldn’t tell you where they were coming from but……Seemed to be passing over towards the zone over Marshall Ave (by the railroad tracks, between Snelling and Cleveland). I’ve seen them hanging out in the tallest of treetops over in that area before. Here’s a broader view of their observed flight pattern today:

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These birds seemed to be flying in a coordinated fashion. In the few moments where I’ve seen so many crows there was sometimes a commotion due to risk: Couldn’t see any birds of prey, but one lingering bird in the back of the formation was absolutely huge and barely flapping its wings. Seemed to be gliding more than flying but was still as black as night and unlikely to be an eagle or a hawk. Whatever.

As I was typing this I heard a few crows right in front of the house. Gotta go grab some snacks for them. Until next time!

 

field notes (06/19/2017) [*50th entry*]

Had the crow experience of a lifetime this morning. Will try to recount it in the fullest detail possible.

Last night I didn’t sleep well. For a week or two I’ve been without much coffee but during the day yesterday had a few cups – normally these many cells process that caffeine quickly but it seems likely that was why I tossed and turned. At 4:41 a.m. I gingerly crawled out of bed to meditate – felt pretty distracted, with lots of intrusive thoughts – and then at 5:00 kept hearing crows. Sounding close but not necessarily outside of the house – at least 2 or 3 of them.

After a while they broke my attempt at a meditative trance and I had to go see them. Grabbed my bag of snacks (corn) and went out onto Selby. Thought I was hearing them a block west and ventured out – expecting to see them in the tall roost-spot past Pierce on the north side of the street. No luck. Turned left down Pierce and quickly realized there were about 3 or 4 crows a block in past Augustine’s. Walked up the street- their cacophony was remarkable and chattery almost to the point of annoyance. The thick, lush green trees – and dark-ish sky, perhaps on a 2.9/10 brightness setting – made it hard to see the little avian monkeys. Their caws were in bursts of three or four and extremely consistent. As I approached I made a few ‘kawwwhhh, kawwhhh’ noises and shook my keys. Then I walked directly beneath the trees, over a manhole cover next to a basketball hoop (east side of the street). I grabbed handfuls of corn and poured them onto the manhole cover. They clicked and clacked and rained their clattery sound onto the ground and to my surprise the crows were rather responsive. It seemed clear as I did this handful after handful – at least 5 or 6 of them – that the birds were watching, and one rearranged itself (seemingly to get a better view).

I continued to alert them with noise and the 4-or-so crows quickly became 10. The most I could count (as they were moving) was 10, but I believe a few were in my periphery. Continued south to the middle-end of the block and laid down a few noticeable ‘lines’ of corn – perhaps 12-18 inches long, 3 or 4 inches thick, and just about 1 layer of corn tall or heightwise. Yellow enough to be bright and visible but not voluminous enough to deplete my entire supply. I laid out one or two of these on the ground and another on a blue recycling can – the crows were extremely loud at this point, and many more were flying in (primarily from the west end of Pierce, above the trees).

Wow – it was exciting. Always I am hoping that they are comfortable or at least unalarmed by my presence, which is to some obvious extent intrusive and loud, and if they are not unalarmed or comfortable my second hope is that they will comfortably leave. Or fly away. What sucks is the possibility that crows needing rest, or really just trying to roost in one spot, or that are otherwise unwilling to take off and fly away from me, are irritated by my presence. So this morning as they screamed and gathered I kept wondering if I was bothering them – scaring them – enraging them – etc. But as they were summoning one another (within a matter of 5 minutes there were 2 dozen large birds) and screaming together over my head, which has certainly never happened in the absence of food before, I must think there was some positive reward response associated with their screams. (Later tomorrow I’ll get back over there to see if they snacked on any of it – do crows even eat corn? Don’t ask me!)

Waving my keys on my carabiner (this is a sort of Pavlovian stimulus that I introduce when I feed the crows anywhere) I walked south into the intersection of Pierce and Hague. Wave wave wave keys, drop drop drop some food, caw caw caw, sing sing sing. A common and monotonous attempt at engagement – and, for my neighbors, probably a sickening morning regularity. There were so many crows (or corvids? Ravens? Hm.) above me that I didn’t know what to do or think. Just black mass after black mass, dipping and swooping like planes, but never getting close or suggesting outward aggression. Unless I am completely ignorant to their own aggressive strategies. Together they could have shredded my scalp (or worse) and instead they simply screamed like an avian chorus and made me super duper happy. I kept laying out seeds and lovingly cooing “hello, babies!!!”

Walked back northward after a while. Those few moments with a zillion birds around me felt like a zillion years. Really admired the big fat one that was atop the roof on the NE intersection of Pierce & Hague. It was short, squat, and had the same inward neck-thrust (head upwards, body fat) as a few ravens on youtube – at least, that was what my memory suggested. For some reason this one bird (on a roof instead of trees or in the air) caught my attention as I was walking through the crowstorm back towards Selby. I walked past Selby and onto Dayton a bit, seeing yet another fatty (maybe the same one from the roof) doing the inward-neck-thrust-guttural-call from atop a tree. NE end of Dayton & Pierce. Hm.

Went home. Scattered corn around the house as I arrived – also put a few round masses of the yellow stuff onto the roof. Then crawled back into bed with a cute girl as the crows kept hollering outside.

field notes pt. 2 (05/06/2017)

“haha Ian I love being in public with you it’s so funny and weird”

“what’s THAT supposed to mean”

“the way you just yell up at crows and talk to them”

“i talk AT them I do not talk TO them”

“uh huh”

“i’m serious. i talk AT them. i can’t talk to animals”

“uh huh. i’m suspicious”

field notes pt. 1 (5/6/2017)

An exciting morning.

Got up for my usual headache-coffee-nomoreheadache-sit in chair-birdwatch-meditate session this morning. My usual perch (the purple chair in the living room) had been twisted in the opposite direction when company came over yesterday, so I turned it around to face the window. Sat. Headache buzzing, coffee steaming (in the “Our Hearts are Very Old Friends” mug, extra sugar, a little milk. No meat for the crows today, even though I’d like to have some, so instead I was just watching them fly about. Pretty loud this morning too.

Suddenly, across the street- a little brown pup. Puppy? Dog? I was unsure. It was lingering on the sidewalk, conspicuously alone – I looked up & down the street while leaning forward in the purple chair. Didn’t see anything. The little thing crossed the street towards my house, now CLEARLY alone, with no collar to speak of. I immediately hopped up out of my chair, leaving the coffee & my keys in the living room, & went down the stairs. Got to the porch & saw the little critter out on the sidewalk in front of my house.

hello, bb!

It looked at me – cautiously and intently, while backing away towards Fry street.

hello, bb!

It took off. Walking neatly & adorably along the sidewalk – too civil (and too small) to be any type of wild creature. Nope. Definitely domesticated, definitely helpless, definitely hungry and thirsty, and I’m definitely not its poppa. Therefore no surprise that it bolted. The other morning (a few miles away on Jefferson) I saw a poster for a missing dog – even made an effort to memorize the number. On that day I remember walking away & being concerned that I couldn’t remember the number. Not because I was expecting to find a missing dog (I don’t even have a cell phone to call anyone should I run into a missing dog), but because numbers are really fun, & to be forgetful of them is really annoying to me. So as I saw this dog in front of my house, backing away, I remembered the poster – bright yellow, located on Jefferson ave – it had 2 numbers listed. What were they? 651-???-6041? Even though I couldn’t remember them I could remember 2 other details from the poster: that the dog might have its leash or harness on it (purple in color) and that the dog would run away if approached. With the available information, and the small possibility that this was indeed the dog, the best I could do was to not approach it. At least not too clearly/aggressively/etc. After this first moment of observation and cogitation had passed the dog took off from the house pretty quick & I just walked down to the end of the stoop. Watched it run up the street towards Fry, turning left into the lawn of that apartment building on the corner. At that moment it paused to glance back at me – I was still looking at it -& it left. A crow flew overhead as I walked eastward up the street, & as I tried to call out to the dog the crow landed over my head. Even though the dog situation was sorta stressful the crow certainly made me smile. In fact the entire encounter was smile-worthy. For all the intentional and planned and calculated effort I’ve put in buying meat for the crows, & all the exacting regularity with which I’ve fed them, it is of course while I’m out chasing a lost creature that a crow actually comes up to greet me. It sat overhead in the tree & adjusted itself once, so that its head was facing me. I continued calling for the dog up the street, but it was further up Fry. So up Fry I went. Turned right onto Dayton and, upon getting a few houses up the street someone yelled at me from out a window. They were trying to guide me towards the dog – & then the voice asked, “Is that Ian?”

A former classmate from a few philosophy classes was the onlooker! We chatted a bit thru the window about the pup – they had spotted it the night before over on Selby – but the lil’ fella had disappeared somewhere on Dayton and I decided to walk home. Walked home. Decided to go back out. Went back out.

Found the guy back on Dayton & Fry after poking around for a while. Brought him back up to classmate’s house & left him there. I’ll add a little more about the guy & his movements, etc – but I have 6 minutes until I need to leave for work. And to think- as soon as I sat down with my coffee in the living room I had already assumed it would be a boring morning. Guess not!

field notes (05/02/2017)

Out on the railroad tracks. Left home with a mug of coffee, still rather sleepy (especially in the eyes and face) – walked to the tracks by Marshall & Fry. Am sitting on one rail facing the sun – the entire length of tracks here along the highway are sort of sunken into the landscape; the highway behind me being perhaps 10-15 feet higher, & the block/street/backyards in front of me being up by 30 feet (?). In front of me the sun is just now scaling over & past the rooftops & trees over the top of the mini-hill/valley thing. It was quite remarkable a few moments ago to see the highway side of the mini-valley (behind me) illuminated while the tracks & street-side (in front of me) were dark. In the time I’ve been writing this the sun has risen enough to directly light the page of this journal – but if I tip it even slightly towards me the page is again a darker blueish. Unlike the living room at home this spot offers a wide & expansive outdoor scene to sit in- at least extending in 2 directions. The massive steel tendons cast thru the middle (indeed, the only reason this urban boulevard and associated mini-valley even exist) are obtrusive and the chunky rocks beneath them are as well.

Like the living room at home the sonic environment is barraged and beaten by the roar of hungry vehicles. That screaming gnashing engine sound. The sun is now past the branches – wondering if the paper will need sunscreen. Heh. A few sights while walking here – the graffiti over the Marshall/Snelling bridge is ever-evolving. I enjoyed the bright easter-green of a large piece on the northern side – some white scribblings by another atop it. The same green speckled & splattered all over the tracks a few yards up. I couldn’t decide which of the rusted wires or steady chunks of glass or jagged corpses of old spraypaint cans seemed the most ominous. Paused on the bridge to drink some coffee – cars on either side down on street & it felt best to sip in private. Kept walking.

The body of a rabbit – recently deceased. Was sipping on coffee & taking a big gulp when I noticed it. Super dead. Like…wayyyyy dead. A bit bloodied on its hips – but not really mangled or bitten or whatever. Train incident? My wonderings were unsatisfied – kept walking. A bit further on: a perfectly formed fetus of some kind – 3, maybe 5 inches long. Shiny, grey, more pig-looking than rabbit. Or squirrel. Abdomen ripped open, perhaps snacked on but not entirely ‘gutted’ (heh). Lots of birds along the way – pigeons, a few mystery characters, one corvid. My energy level picked up some 20 minutes into my walk – sitting here now I am a bit sleepy again. The slightest suggestion of a shortage in sustenance signals my senses – maybe it’s food time soon. I’ll walk back. My butt is pleasantly cold from sitting on the track.