Monday, March 9, 2009

Where There's Crows There's Probable Caws

On Sunday Morning I parked at the end of Clarkhurst Road in East Hampton and started my descent down a steep dirt road which leads to George Dudley Seymour Park.
I love looking down at the stream here which lies at the bottom of a steep ravine. A beam of sunshine cast its warmth upon me as it shone down through the cedars. It felt so good after a long winter that seems to have overstayed its welcome. I encountered a few birds along the trail including a few woodpeckers, a Tufted Titmouse, and three Black-capped Chickadees, and lots of American Crows. At the end of the trail there is an area of open fields. The DEP has posted signs here about the importance of open grassland with a list of birds that need this type of habitat. If only those birds would read these signs and follow the directions but I haven't had much luck with the grassland birds here. I have often see Birds of prey patrolling the skies above these fields including Bald Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks, and on this particular morning there was a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks over the woods crying out with a loud Keyear! Keyear! One of the more interesting areas in the park is this swamp. I remember finding an Eastern Phoebe here in the month of December. There were a few Wood Ducks working their way through here on Sunday along with a substantial flock of Red-winged Blackbirds, and one Belted Kingfisher that was perched on the end of a branch making making the rattling sound that they are known for. Once I passed the swamp, I came to the part of the field that leads to the bank of the Connecticut River.

I've probably visited this park about 10 times but I've never ventured beyond the far corner of the field. We are exposed to words like no and don't so many times in our lives that I wonder what effect it might have on our subconscious when it comes to our decision making. There seems to be an awful lot of information that comes out about what you shouldn't eat like bread (too much carbs!), eggs (too much cholesterol!), coffee ( too much caffeine!) etc.. etc.. .I like the Ben Franklin philosophy-everything in moderation-(unless it's really good). Of course you should take everything I say with a grain of salt-(unless it would put you over your daily allowance of 2400 mg per day ).
I'm glad that I finally decided to look beyond the field because it led me to a nice path that followed along the river and along the back side of the swamp I was talking about. I was taken by surprise when an American Woodcock flew low across my path into the swamp. I haven't seen many of them before. I know that there are certain locations where you can find them but I've never gotten around to it.
It was on my way back that I heard a knocking sound that made me wonder if it was a woodpecker at first. Then I thought maybe it was one of those weird sounds that squirrels make. It turned out to be another American Crow making one of its odd vocalizations. I read that they've even been known to imitate human voices on occasion. You've got to watch out for those crows-they're very sneaky. There were two crows on that branch in the above photo. One took off into the woods, while this one try to fool me into thinking he was taking a nap (actually just scraping its bill).

click to play
The two crows were having a conversation back and forth. I think they were talking about me. Maybe the one in the woods went to check on some goods they had stashed away. I read that there are a lot of variations-(number, intensity, volume etc)- in the caw vocalizations they in different situations. When I was watching some of the crows scatter from the main flock, they seemed to be moving into strategic locations. I'm not sure what their strategy was but they sure seemed to be up to something. I found it interesting to read that young crows don't breed until they are at least two years old. They also have interesting social habits as they sometimes spend time hanging out with members of their extended family but at other times will join large flocks in a different area away from the family. Don't get me wrong, I'd rather be watching lots of colorful migrants at the peak of spring migration but watching the crows provided a little entertainment on a morning when the birding was slow anyway.
Have You ever observed a crow exhibiting interesting behavior?
What do you do when you're out birding and there aren't many birds around?


Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

I saw a crow dipping a stick into the creek at the water's edge at Hasty Brook. Not sure what that was about. Last summer I watched a starling dip it's head down into the water of the creek. Couldn't tell if it was eating something. I guess that's what I do when birds are few- I watch the ones that are there to see what they do. That's actually what I really like to do. Silly, but I also sometimes immagine what they're thinking or saying. Anthropormorphism!!

Jayne said...

I saw my first Phoebe in a while yesterday. I love them. The crows are so very vocal and funny. :c)

Spencer said...

I was interested to see that you use a canon powershot S2 IS. That is what I have!

Birdinggirl said...

I'm glad you asked! I saw a group of crows doing the strangest thing today while driving over the Bourne Bridge. I was on my way back from my parents' house so I was headed off-Cape. Near the end of the bridge they were doing this weird swooping behavior where they would do a free-fall (not a dive- just fall) and then pop back up again. It was all done in the same spot- they never flew away.

Larry said...

Lynne-I remeber seeing a special where crows used sticks as tools.From what I understand some birders are bothered by Anthropormorphism.Not me but I'm just a casual birder.

Jayne-I'm really looking forward to seeing the first phoebe.That's more of a sign of Spring to me than the groundhog seeing its shadow.

Spencer-It's not bad if you can get close and have good lighting.I'd like to find something a little better but I'm not sure what.

BirdingGirl-Interesting account! Thanks for sharing that.

Kim said...

I find crows to be one of the most entertaining birds to observe and never tire of watching them.

Lucky you w/ that kingfisher. I have been going to the bike trail every weekend looking for the one that lived there last year. I love to watch them.

RuthieJ said...

I like watching crows too and have been known to "caw" back at them (they're usually frightened by that and fly away!). I have a family of 3 as regular visitors to my yard this year. One year I observed a juvenile with his parents--they were pecking around on the ground and eating leftover seed. The juvenile would imitate them and he picked up a small pine cone but quickly decided that wasn't edible.

If there aren't lots of birds around, I'm usually looking at the ground for tracks, plants, antler sheds, etc. I can always find something interesting outside!

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Larry, Well here we are a week after this post and I'm reading emailed subsequent comments and it hit me- the funny play on words in your title! I never read it the right way before!

"Probable Caws" with a silhouette of a crow would make a great T-shirt.

Lana Gramlich said...

I used to play hide & seek with a large flock of crows in Canada. They're terribly clever & it took ME a while to learn THEIR sneaky ways! It was great fun & I miss it a lot. The crows in Louisiana don't seem as numerous (& certainly aren't interested in hide & seek.)