Located in a town famous for its hills, University of Pittsburgh’s main campus climbs an especially steep one like a vine. You can see intelligent design (small ‘i’, small ‘d’) in the way classes, dorms and the medical school all sit within a short walk of Fifth Avenue at the bottom while a more strenuous hike is rewarded with the athletic facilities and an excellent view. Behind campus Center Ave. runs up the spine of the hill and over its peak, into a neighborhood understandably known as the Hill District.
Around dusk Center is busy with Pitt employees looking to avoid Oakland traffic, and crows. For reasons that probably involve old, tall trees that line the street, and the excellent view, crows seem to like that part of Center. Once in a while one can see what seems like half the crows in Pittsburgh wheeling around over the hill and holding corvid debates in a babbling din. You can drive on for miles and see murder after murder headed for Center in the fading light.
Of course you need look up, so like most commuters I usually missed it. In fact I only noticed it one early spring night when I opened my car window and looked around to see what the racket was about. I have not even taken that commute for a long time now so I have entirely lost touch with how often or what time of year it happens. This weekend I brought Dr. Mrs. Dr. F., Jr. for a walk on the hill at dusk but we only saw clear sky and a great view of Pittsburgh’s east end. The girl loves pointing out birds so I thought a living sea of crows could short out her toddler brain in a delightful and hopefully non-permanent way.
Maybe you all can help. Does anyone know motivates crows to gather in mega-murders like that? Mating season? I would love to hear actual expertise, educated guessing, suitably persuasive BS, whatever you got. Maybe some of you drive that commute and can pass on when you see it happen.
Use this space to share any unexpected wildlife encounters you have had.
This post has an italics tag that needs to be closed.
Did you forget to close a tag? ;-)
Got it, thanks.
At home, I have a picture of two crows sitting on a board titled “Attempted Murder.”
Big ole hound
Maybe they just like the racket they create like the GOP.
Hey, so BJ is back up.
To steal from WarGames:
UCSD’s Geisel Library – named after Dr. Seuss! – has year-round murders of crows that fly between it’s overhangs and the surrounding eucalyptus groves. They always struck me as oddly out-of-place for sunny SoCal, but oddly endearing.
Interesting, another connection between crows and death. Crows are an important part of Hindu death rituals.
From what I’ve read about corvid behavior, this is something they’re most likely to do outside the breeding season. When they’re breeding, they separate into families* and guard their territories carefully. They’ll only join into bigger flocks when they don’t have nests to guard and young ones to feed. ISTR they’re most prone to do it in winter as part of cooperative foraging behavior. I don’t know if they engage in mass roosting in the winter to preserve warmth, the way some other birds do, but it would make sense in a cold climate like Pittsburgh.
*Many species in Corvus form long-term pair bonds and nest in the same territory year after year. Adult children of the mated pair that haven’t yet found their own mate and territory will stay with their parents and help raise their younger siblings.
The grackles in Austin (and I’m sure elsewhere ), love to congregate in the mornings and evenings. They seem to be doing a lot of communicating (gossiping) and they love playing musical chairs (suddenly large groups take off and shift landing sites). It feels sort of like a social occasion!
The great flocks of crows you are seeing have gathered to compete in the local tryouts for the annual human dive-bombing championships. (It is the most popular sport among corvids and other avians that live near human habitations.) Don’t go walking on paths that pass underneath them without an umbrella.
I was visiting Israel in March 1980 and had spent much of the morning in the Dome of the Rock. When I emerged into the sunlight I heard the eeriest sound I have ever heard. Then, like a fast-moving eclipse, the bright sky went dark and throbbing as the eerie sound increased. The phenomenon lasted for, perhaps, 10-15 minutes. It was an incredibly strange and unique experience.
I subsequently learned it was tens of thousands of storks, flying from their winter home in Africa to their spring and summer European residences. From what I understand, one of the main thermals they use is directly over Jerusalem, and their flight path usually has them there on or about the first day of Spring — perhaps not quite as predictable as the swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano or the buzzards to Hinckley, Ohio, but always within a few days of the Equinox.
You’re in Pittsburgh, Tim? For some reason, I always thought you were in upstate NY.
Anyways, those crows love to gather along the Allegheny. Tons of them flying over the Strip at dusk.
@Amir Khalid: I thought that was the dumber cousins of crows, also known as pigeons.
About the Hindu death ritual, an offering is made to the departed soul, if a crow eats the offering it means that the departed soul is no longer hovering and rests in peace. People make promises and pledges to reassure the departed soul.
i.e. if the dead person has young children. A sibling might offer to look out for them etc. This ritual can turn unintentionally hilarious, with people making ridiculous, impossible to keep promises etc.
Fun fact: The collective set of collective names for animals is called venery; as one might imagine, Wikipedia has an extensive list.
A congregation of alligators. A scourge of mosquitos (can’t argue with that one). A gaze of raccoons. A bale of turtles.
My birdbath is at ground level, with multiple depths, so I get everything from chickadees and wrens to flickers and jays. Never a crow. (Urban area, so nothing esoteric. Sharp shinned hawk lunching on a bunting is my most outré visit.)
A parliament of rooks.
Wildlife encounter: This was in Maine, at the end of summer almost a decade ago. I saw a momma black bear and two cute cubs on the greenery by the side of I-91. Very cute! Also glad I was not walking but in my car.
Open thread blog pimping.
My review of the much hyped dance-off between Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone in the upcoming Bhansali (of Devdas fame) movie, Bajirao Mastani.
Hardcover first edition of An Exaltation of Larks by James Lipton still has an honored place on a bookshelf.
Trivia: The first English language printed compendium of venery, The Book of St Albans was published in the 15th century.
Well, this post’s title grades “A” for clickbait, and “F” for fuck you, I thought you wanted my forensic foresight, not avian acumen.
Interesting thought though….would be fun to troll Redstate and ask the Skippies over there why so many black crows are murderers.
Speaking of members of the corvidae family, blue jays seem to love me. I see the damn things everywhere, including the Steller’s Jay that stopped to check me out when we were at Hearst Castle.
We get a lot of crows around here, and it’s not unusual to see ravens as well. If you see a big-ass black bird that’s the size of a small dog, it’s probably a raven, not a crow.
peach flavored shampoo
Did Chris or Rich Robinson whack their spouse or something?
Or costumed drones reconnoitering before the black helicopters swoop in.
I might be misremembering, but I think it used to be legal to shoot crows as pests (crop depredation, maybe?). Anyway, I believe the crow is the official bird of Mexico so many years ago it became illegal to shoot them and their population has predictable taken off. So to speak.
@Punchy: I thought it would be about the Johnson(?) flood.
Wasn’t that close to Pittsburgh?
BTW, folks speak of a comment being in “moderation.” Is that the 5 minutes that it takes for a comment to appear? Or is that standard.
@peach flavored shampoo
And a sweet-toothed childhood memory as well.
@Belafon: Nice…..any number of crows less than a hundred or so might be referred to as a “manslaughter.”
This isn’t quite wildlife, but my favorite corvid is Betty the crow (RIP): youtube video.
Some years ago I met the Oxford scientists who studied her, though I didn’t see her. As for why crows congregate, I don’t know; as smart and social as they are, it might be hard to find a simple explanation.
I’ve been writing a story that looks like it’s going to feature corvids, so their behavior just gets more fascinating to me. The other day, when I was walking on the hills behind my house with my companion of the Siberian Husky persuasion, I noticed a crow wind-surfing right over my head. I paused, fascinated, and watched as it came down, lower and lower, eyeing me and Luna and carking at us all the while. Finally the crow was within five feet of my head. I could, if I had strained and it had let me, have probably reached its tail feathers. Of course, being me, there’s a part of me thinking, “don’t poop on my head, please – that would really ruin the mood”; but the other part was just plain awed and thrilled as the crow went tree to tree following us up the hill, with more and more of its companions coming and doing the slow hover over our heads and wheeling thru’ the trees around us.
@dmsilev: Interesting that dogs have only one collective name (pack) but cats have five/six (clowder, cluster or clutter, glaring, pounce, destruction (for feral cats)). Capons are called mews, which seems more appropriate (and fun) for cats (a mews of cats).
@pat: If its the first time you are commenting then an FPer has to rescue your comment from the moderation prison.
I comment infrequently. Huh. Will I ever reach the exalted status of not being monitored?
Is the lead bird at the spearhead of the flock the russell of crows?
Cornell has the goods: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/crows/crowfaq.htm#roost
Here in NorCal large Ravens get up early in the AM and cruise down the 101 checking for any overnight fresh roadkill. They hang around by my place just waiting for something, anything to come along and provide some excitement – like playing tag with Turkey Buzzards, which are actually very capable flyers themselves, and harassing hawks. They love to do that. They will oftentimes drive them away.
In the summer when there are warm thermals rise off the hilly, steep meadows they will preform acrobatic stunts just for the thrill of it. They’ll fly downhill 70′-80′ off the ground parallel with the ground and pull in their wings. You can hear this loud rushing sound as they increase their speed doing that until they finally spread out their wings, sometimes they fly upside down, and, swoosh right back up into the air again. These birds just enjoy being birds I do believe.
There was a murder/manslaughter/severe bodily harm of crows in Iowa City more or less around the old newspaper building. One especially raucous night this magnificently enormous white barn owl suddenly swooped directly over my head escaping them.
(If I was a field mouse, I would be so dead. Those things are Silent, and when backed by a murderous chorus?)
@catclub: The Great Flood of 1889 or Johnstown Flood. Not close to Pittsburgh per se but on the grounds of a private resort area for Pittsburgh industrialists.
Crows often gather in large groups in response to a natural threat (i.e., owls), seeking safety in numbers. Here in Vermont, the influx of migrating owls has gradually increased over the last several years….
@pat: Usually, the second post with the same email flies right through.
If you change emails it will trigger the same delay.
The other moderation is for flagged words, usually.
Penn State University Park campus had a crow problem a while back. Whatever they did seems to have worked.
Major Major Major Major
My favorite animal group names are “a parliament of owls” and “a confusion of weasels”
@NotMax: a russell of crows
*ouch* indeed. But a good one. I like it.
And a group of kittens is a kindle!
So i never use flagged words and all of my comments are subjected to the 5 minute rule. Waaahhhh.
Including this one, the fourth or fifth this morning.
peach flavored shampoo
@NotMax: I wonder if the crow that acts out the most is named Cameron?
@SiubhanDuinne: Ah. That wasn’t in the venery list. But it’s cute. So maybe kittens should be a mews of kittens. ;)
Finch my dog, has managed to catch a bird and several field mice. He plays with the mice, just like a cat. Recently there has been a juvenile hawk sitting on my fence. I’m hoping that means the rodents will finally be gone. Although my yard is fenced, a fox has managed to come over the chain link a few times. That has not made me happy.
Many years ago I was in Banff National Park on Sulfur Mountain. I saw a cute little bighorn sheep and took a picture. I looked up and a bighorn ram was approaching me. I was pretty scared but a ranger was nearby and said to hold out my arm because he probably wanted to lick me. I did so and the next thing I knew I had three bighorn rams licking my arms. Other people held out their arms and got licked, but they kept coming back to me. I must have been particularly salty. I ended with my arms covered with sheep slobber.
Huh. I lived in Oakland for three of my four years of undergrad and commuted there for one (and have returned uncounted times since for alumni events, the museums, the libraries, the hospitals, basketball, an urge to eat at the Dirty O and so many other things) and never noticed the crows. But I’ll be looking next time I’m there.
We get lots of crows here in my part of Beaver County. We are in no way rural, but I assume that, like the deer and other wildlife we see regularly, this is a place they’ve always frequented since time immemorial. I really enjoy watching the crows, hawks, owls and eagle that put on aerial shows all year round.
Only about an hour away. I have relatives, including a great-great grandmother, who died in the flood.
I just came back from Whole Foods and I have to admit, that it wasn’t terrible. The homo sapiens didn’t cause me any anguish.
@JPL: The fox is probably there for the mice, too. I was amazed a couple of weeks ago to see a fox mousing in the tall grass by our building in the office park in broad daylight, and unconcerned with passersby. I suppose he’s learned that folks walking about there in the daytime have business of their own.
Important question.. Normally I don’t make cocktails, but I thought I would try this for Thanksgiving
FOR THE WINE COCKTAIL
1 tablespoon Cranberry Simple Syrup
1/2 cup dry white or sparkling wine
When I make the syrup, should I add a hot pepper to make it zippier?
@Major Major Major Major:
A labor of moles. A business of ferrets.
A hassle of house sparrows.
Moderation doesn’t have a timer. Once you are in moderation, you’re there until a front-pager releases you. Are you perhaps referring to the five-minute edit timer that appears at the bottom of your comment when you post it? And your comment is visible to others during that five minutes, by the way.
No. Just no.
ETA: If you must pursue this madness, just drop a couple of Red Hots in each glass.
@Steeplejack: An “Avagadro of moles” would have been waaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyy more appropriate. And doesn’t a “business of ferrets” descibe Koch Industries?
@geg6: I read a novel about the flood (In Sunlight, in a Beautiful Garden, Kathleen Cambor; Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2001). I’m sorry for your family. It’s a perfect example of what can happen when you leave things like dam safety to private concerns with no official oversight and regulations.
@Steeplejack: Thanks. I’m not sure that I ever served a specific cocktail. You visit me and you have a choice of beers and wine.
@JPL: Listen to Steeplejack. And that lets people who don’t want hot anything in their cocktail choose not to have it.
@satby: I’m thinking of ordering the customized home spa gift for the future daughter-in-law. Do you think the aloe vera scent would be okay?
also.. would you just choose the selection? Maybe a mixture would be better
Wife and I are big bird enthusiasts, though not the type to spend tons of money going on bird-watching treks. Have several feeders in the back yard and get a large assortment of avian visitors, including the occasional red-tail or sharp shinned hawk which views our yard as a smorgasbord.
On a non-avian note, but still wildlife related, we live in the northwest suburbs of Chicago in an extremely residential area, although about 5 miles west and northwest the land opens up a lot. I was getting ready for work one morning last week and was looking out the bedroom window at the street in front of our house when I saw a very large, and obviously quite healthy coyote just trotting down the street.
We had some sightings of coyotes a few miles away but nothing this close. Wouldn’t be surprised if a few dogs started disappearing from the neighborhood if it sticks around.
Every few months the local crows will throw a party on my roof. We have vaulted ceilings, so you can hear every footstep as they hop around overhead. They use our skylights to crack nuts, it’s pretty cool, and a bit unnerving if you’re a Hitchcock fan, to look up and see a crow pecking determinedly right over your head. Drives the cats nuts.
I once came across a few crows harassing a falcon that had captured a fledgling. They kept after him for about 15 minutes until he released it.
You are probably aware of xkcd and a mole of moles.
I put a few peanuts out at the bird feeders every morning for the blue jays. Sometimes three of four will show up. One of them does a pretty good imitation of the cry of a red-tailed hawk, always bringing me to the window: “Ha, made you look!“
Ah, that explains it! Thanks!
“Scientists theorize that their giant roosts are mainly a social gathering, something between a crow singles bar and a restaurant critics’ pow-wow.”
This is from a wonderful NYT article by Douglas Martin from the 90’s about the huge crow gatherings on Staten Island:
” drawn by the odoriferous buffet of the Fresh Kills landfill, thousands have chosen to roost two miles from the dump in Bloomingdale Park in Staten Island, where, in deepest winter, they form a black hedge a mile long.”
I have a huge corn field in front of my house. When it is empty there can be so many crows when they take to flight they almost black out the sky. I’ve always found their behavior to be pretty cool. I also always kind of wonder when they are not in the field where the heck they all go.
Major Major Major Major
My dad has a fun wildlife story.
He was out fishing in Labrador and an (American) pine marten came up and just stared at him for a few minutes and started creeping closer and closer to his creel full of trout. So my dad tossed one to the marten and it picked it up and scampered away.
Damn thing kept coming back twice an hour and stalking my dad until he gave it another fish; this while my dad was still moving up the river. The worry of course being that the marten could have dragged away the whole damn bucket of fish while my dad was otherwise occupied, say, catching a fish. Clever little bugger.
J R in WV
Years ago my brother and I were hiking in the eastern mountains of WV, in a wilderness area specifically set up to foster additional growth in the black bear population. On our way out of the Cranberry Back-country, on the reclaimed narrow-gauge railway between the steep hill on the left and the rushing Cranberry River, a really cute little black gob of bear hair rushed from the river, across the road, and up the steep hillside.
It was followed by Momma Bear, a considerably larger old sow bear, evidently with many generations of cubs to her credit. I told my brother to be quiet, as there were usually twins and often trips, so we stood still and waited.
Sure enough, after what seemed quite a while, the left-behind cub, desperate to not become a lost cub, came across the road and up the hill as fast as a cub could ever go. Very fast indeed, faster than Mom trying to catch up with the first cub. After a few minutes we ambled on up the river towards the main entrance where we had started 4 days earlier.
Then we came around a big gentle bend, and there was a solitary really big bear, out in the river (a small mountain river, gushing over rocks and holding a breeding population of trout) flipping big flat rocks over, looking for “seafood” like crawdads, trout, and the normal little non-game fish you see in these rivers. We stood quietly and watched with interest – you don’t see this kind of thing often.
Because he was focused on food (an all important thing to bears in the springtime) and surrounded by noisy rushing water, it took quite a while for him to notice us, and when he did, he flipped out. Turned and ran away, across the river and into a rhododendron thicket. There were saplings sticking up out of the thicket, and we could see them waving briskly where bear had put his nose between them and pushed to go in a straight line up the hill.
Amazing how big a tree a scared bear can push to one side barrelling through a dense thicket!
The closest I have been to a murder of crows in both senses on the word was one morning about 7, leaving our house for work. We lived on a quiet residential street in my boy-hood hometown, with steep streets in places (less expensive) and other places with level streets on ridgetops. There were lots of hemlocks and spruce trees in our nieghborhood, as there were lots of ravine walls too steep to build on.
The house across the street was two-story with a big brick chimney. There was a great horned owl on the chimney, and his traditional enemies, the crows, were swarming around the giant dignified owl! Eventually one of the more brazen crows would get too close, and Owl would jump up a little, and grab the crow in his talons – too late for the crow to do anything about it, to fast to get away.
The remaining crows would redouble their shrieking and continue their attack. Eventually, after nailing at least 2 or 3 crows right in front of me maybe 40 feet away, Owl made a dash for the nearest giant hemlock tree, too thick for the crows to fly around him in that dense pattern of branches. The show was over, and I went off to work.
Last wild animal story. Some years age we bought a tiny ranch (I call it the ranchette, 10 acres in a place where real ranches are 7000+ acres) to build a winter camp on. I like to build things, so made a plan to bring friends who are good with their hands out to build a small house.
Got a small RV and parked it in cousin’s backyard, for a bunkhouse. Three friends and me were the crew, and two winters away from the cold and wet winters of WV got us first under roof and tight, and the second winter, windows, doors, studded out, electric roughed in, and a little plumbing.
The third winter I went west by myself, and stayed in the little RV alone, which was fun. It rocked when the high desert wind blew hard. The summer before there had been a huge forest fire in the Chiricahua Mountains, which had forced all the game out of the mountains into the valley.
One night I ate dinner with my cousin, and we chatted and watched a little TV, and I headed for bed about 9:30. When I turned the back corner around the house, the direction of the wind changed, and I smelled a sudden rank feline odor – not like a litter box, like a lion, too close to be a good thing!
I broke and ran for the RV door – where there was also a large bore pistol. The door wasn’t locked, just 3 small steps up from the desert floor. It was locked in a flash once I was inside, and I slid the action of the big pistol to load a round. My heart was thumping, it took quite a while before I relaxed enough to go to sleep.
The next day I drove to the tiny town north for some hardware bits and such, and coming back south, just a mile or so from cousin’s house, I saw what was probably that same cat lope across US 191, every bit of 6 feet long, with 4 feet of thick tail waving behind. I carried that pistol the rest of my visit, and when I got home I got a bigger one, which I still carry when indicated.
Evidently they are way more common in the area than I would have thought, all the mountain ranges around the Sulphur Springs valley are too steep for any human use, but the cats, the deer, antelopes, etc do just fine, until a fire or really heavy winter storm drives them into the valley for survival. Hope I only see them at a distance, from a car or pickup truck window. Too much like the olden days when lions and people had the relationship of predator and lunch.
A town north of me has (had?) an annual crow hunt. One year on that day, my yard filled with 75 to 100 crows hanging out away from the slaughter.
They also nest in my very large spruces. Cornell’s Lab of O frequently stops by in the spring to band them.
If you’re a newbie—in any field—stick to the recipes.
“Question: I’m building a go-kart in my garage. I’ve never done this before, and I’m wondering whether I can fuel it with nitroglycerin instead of gasoline to make it a little peppier. Thoughts?”
@J R in WV: You live in a beautiful state. I know many people that mock WV and I just always say have you ever been to the darn state? If you are an avid hiker like I am it is a paradise.
@Catherine D.: OK I got to ask where you live. A crow hunt? Look I got no problem with hunting but that doesn’t seem very sporting. And do folks eat them?
Mark Twain — “What Stumped the Blue Jays”
@Steeplejack: Okay..now I’m laughing at myself.
Seattle has a lot of crows as well, and the University of Washington is home to some great corvus researchers.
A story relevant to your interest ran locally on the public airwaves:
We get a many crows here. The noise they produce makes me think they are the barking dogs of the bird kingdom. They yell their heads off at each other. Smart birds. Probably smarter than dogs and cats. Tool using, good memories. But loud as hell.
On the subject of dogs: Last Sunday morning I was sitting quietly in my chair when I saw a man walk past my house. He stopped and tossed two bags of dogshit into my garbage can.
What is the etiquette here? Shouldn’t he have waited until he returned home, and then tossed his dogshit into his own garbage?
My trash haulers are busy, impatient men. Once a week they come by to empty my trash cans and recycling bins, and often smaller bags get left behind (if they are too far on the bottom of the trashcan). Am I unreasonable to expect a dog walker (and god bless him of course for bagging his dog shit) to throw his bag of dogshit into his OWN trash?
At least they’re not letting their dog run into my yard to shit, like the good neighbors at my previous, unfenced property.
God bless all dog walkers who pick up their dogshit. But could you please not toss it into my trash?
I have no idea. But I might be able to one up you. There is a strip of land across the road from my house. Technically owned by the city, but we all mow it. This one lady lets her dogs go to the bathroom there and just leaves it.
Something about that seems not cool on many levels.
Police in Brussels asked people not to share details about police operations on social media. Rather than running pics of police, Le Soir ran cat pics.
The dogwalkers who leave dogshit on the ground seem to think it biogrades after a few minutes; simply disappears into nature. Of course, the shit simply sits there for days and weeks, waiting to be stepped on.
@Germy: And if there are more than two trees visible from where they stand, they insist that they’re way out in the deep forest where it doesn’t really matter.
Can anyone confirm/deny that large groupings of crows is an urban phenomena?
Out here in the forest, I have a few crows and few ravens (who seem to live close to each other), but just a few. I never see more than 6 or so. Whereas when I travel to The City, there’s this wooded area where it looks like hundred of crows sometimes gather at dusk.
Also, fuck Blue Jays. Nature’s loud mouth.
And all praise to the best bird that ever birded, the Chickadee-dee-dee-dee-dee.
I would think the crows get together for migration but have no clue. When we lived in FL i saw a flock of robins one time, must have been200 at least. Robins are not social animals so that was very surprising. Crows otoh seem to enjoy each other’s company.
@Germy: I think a lot of it is I live in a rural area so they think as you said, it just biodegrades.I find I just step in it which kind of sucks.
Also, coincidentally I just learned this weekend that crows and ravens can be trained to speak. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rIX_6TBeph0
@Mike J: My living room chair gives me a view of the front of my house. The dogwalker stopped, peered into my window to see if anyone was watching, then tossed his dogshit into my trashcan. I guess he didn’t see me.
Again, I’m grateful he’s bagging his shit, but why not deposit it in his own trash?
I used to live in a house twenty years ago with a big backyard. No fence. The people next door would open their sliding door and let their dog do his business in the neighbors’ yards. The guy next to me was livid one afternoon after he stepped in it mowing his lawn. He knocked on their door and got the “it’s not OUR dog” explanation.
So how does one post a link without going into moderation?
Very unlikely that they were attending a parliament of owls.
Geez, even Lin-Manuel’s dad is adorable. This is really not fair.
And, yes, I too have been in the car with a sho tune singing parent. My (now late) dad loved “A Chorus Line” and listened to it in the car nonstop when I was little.
@redshirt: Type text describing the link. Highlight it. Press the “link” button in the editor (3rd from the left). Type the url (or paste it from the clipboard with control-v) into the popup.
@PurpleGirl: Did you visit Cassie’s Kitten Kastle?
We were following it and have especially squeed over the calico and torties.
@Mike J: A talking raven.
Thanks Mike J!
Dress it up with the link-mo-tron gadget. FYWP doesn’t like naked links right now.
I must say, I’ve been tempted to drop off my package when passing a ready trash bin by the curb. But, as for the etiquette here, I’d consider it a bit rude, and I refrain.
When they added the code to do that, the site started barfing on naked links. I’d guess the plugin that handles spying is poorly written.
Two years ago, I left my wood shop in the backyard and heard the sound of a really noisy crow as it was flying towards me. It passed me at head level at a distance of four or five feet. On it’s back was a sparrow clutching tightly to the crow and pecking furiously at its neck. It was an amazing sight.
A mega-murder of crows has been congregating in my neighbor’s mega-pecan tree the last week or so. They actively knock the pecans onto the street below where the occasional car will run over the pecans and crack them out of their shells. Then it’s feasting time! Smart birds…
Hawks are beautiful. But be aware hawks – and owls – think cats are tasty.
Three of my cats showed up as strays at my door – different times at different doors – with similar deep neck wounds. Big, bloody gash around the sides to back of their necks. Always assumed it was from the cats managing to wiggle out of the grip of bird of prey claws trying to strike and take them aloft.
Your MSM, completely unable to call a liar a “liar”. “Strained relationship with the truth” and “post-truth” are now the euphanisms for what we used to call lying.
Chuck Toddler is a disgrace to his profession.
One morning last year, I heard what sounded like a flock of birds on the roof. I went outside and discovered that the roof was covered with seagulls, and the reason the roof was covered with seagulls was that the pair of industrious crows who hang out on our block had ripped apart the trash bag I had set out the night before.
The crows were making the rounds. They’d go to each house and rip open whatever trash bags they could, grab what they liked, and the seagulls would crowd in for the leftovers.
That sounds about right; I had been thinking along the same lines.
And I’m wondering, in more general terms—note, not trying to incite a riot among the commentariat!—how many of the other new plug-ins are introducing their own little gremlins into the site. Right now the mobile version, at least on my Android phone (with default Chrome browser), appears to have been infected with a site hacker that quite often takes me to GoGardenClub.com or (lately) to an ad-aggregator site whose name I can’t remember. And if I press the “Proceed to site” button I get tossed out to “about:blank”. Good times.
I live in Ithaca, NY. I think the crow hunt was in or near Auburn, NY, and it was for “sport”.
@MazeDancer: I don’t let the son’s six pound maltese outside by herself, when I am pet sitting. We had woods behind my old house also, and there was a great horned owl nest nearby. I wouldn’t let my dog out then. Several neighborhood cats went missing.
I think all corvids can be trained to speak, or at least to imitate sounds. Mynah birds are in the same family.
I remember seeing a talking raven at a petting zoo in Illinois when I was a kid, but I can’t remember if it said anything or just stared disdainfully at the tiny humans.
African Grey parrots are apparently famous for being mischievous — one at a pet store I used to frequent would wait for the employees to go to the back of the store and then imitate the phone ringing so he could watch them run back to the front to answer it. For obvious reasons, it had a large NOT FOR SALE sign on its cage.
The GoGardenClub and MySpace bugs have been here since before the upgrade — I used to get them constantly, but they’ve eased off post-upgrade. So I think that’s an existing gremlin that hasn’t been hunted down yet, not a new one.
@Mnemosyne (iPhone): They need to get rid of the sitemeter widget. That’s what’s responsible.
Hmm, I never got them before the upgrade. Oh, well.
I did a little Google-fu, and it seems to be a well-known thing with a known fix (allegedly), but I’m not in a position to tell the upgraders exactly where to look or what to do. They’d have to search the source code for certain phrases.
Well, there you go.
@SiubhanDuinne: Re the storks flying over Jerusalem: growing up Jewish I heard all about how the modern Israelis improved things once they settled in by draining the swamps and planting forests. Turns out the “swamps” were what we now call wetlands and were important stopping points for many migrating birds, and that the “forests” that were planted were all of the same type of tree. I guess that was the state of the art back then but nowadays we recognize these things as ecological disasters.
Anyway, sounds like a wonderful moment in your life, watching the storks fly by.
@ThresherK (GPad): Yes, I was there but not sitting in range of the cam. The kittens we had loose that afternoon were/are cute. Cassie tried having them in a fenced in area but they found they could walk through the fence so they were loose. Glad to hear you watched it. (She is keeping the cam off right now until she fixes up a bedroom — plaster, paint, etc.)
Are pigeons really stupid birds?
Crows that haven’t succeeded in mating in a small family group will attach themselves to larger migratory groups. They’re a sort of lonely hearts club.
Yearlings have a strong urge to belong. if something happens and a yearling finds itself alone, it will persist in efforts to join a group, even though driven away over and over again.
– The American crow and the Common Raven, Lawrence Kilham, p.40
One of the crows is telling a story.
And then it gets to find out whether the other crows liked it or not.
I once saw many very large flocks of crows gathering to roost in the twilight in Hartford Connecticut, driving through some time in the year when twilight was early. The purpose seem to be roosting. It didn’t appear to be complex purposeful behavior.
Had a cat with big cuts and an abscess at the back of his head. Pretty sure it was a great horned owl because there was a great horned owl pair nesting about 100 feet away, we discovered later that summer. (Owls had two youngsters. They were pretty quiet except for the chicks when being fed; those feeding noises were pretty weird until we spotted the owls on day.)
@Amir Khalid: At the rate we are destroying the planet and each other, human beings certainly qualify as the stupidest and the most destructive species.
Who is the bird brain now
Lots of deer live within the NASA Johnson Space Center complex south of Houston, so when I worked there I was used to seeing them early in the morning (JSC puts out an annual “if you see a fawn, leave it be; its mama will come back for it” email). What I didn’t expect to see were roseate spoonbill birds, cavorting in a ditch by the back gate one afternoon. They were so distinctive that it took me no time at all to google them. That was my first and only spotting though.
I tend to address ravens as “Matthew.” They seem okay with it.
@Mnemosyne (tablet): I get that reference! And he was a great character.
I always thought they gathered to plague my dear kitty cat – sheesh, they are noisy.
I worked at UNM in Albuquerque for many years, commuting by bus to the train station.
In the afternoons as the sun started slanting (around 3 pm) the crows came flying in to campus, I presume after spending their day in the trees near the Rio Grande, since that was the direction they came from. Why? I don’t know. But this occurs every day, in all seasons.
I think maybe they are academic crows.