Crow with mouth full of nest material checking to be sure no one sees him building

Crow Stick Wizard

Last week we talked about sticks and nest-building.  On Friday this week, I spent a day with no office mates.  They were either working offsite or took the day off.  I took advantage of no one being about in the great room upstairs, when I saw crow action outside.

The big open area has two walls of glass windows looking out into the tree tops. There I saw Mr Crow dig in the tree for nest sticks.  He found one and then proceeded to Houdini it out of the maple tree’s maze of branches.   I had grabbed my camera and caught all this on video.   It is a delightful sequence that shows our urban crow family using his brain power to raise his family.

Tubb Lake Adventure

My quest today was to go to SeaTac Park and watch for Crows building nests.  I got distracted by trying to get to Tubb Lake.  This is more a small pond surrounded by bog.   It is one of the last true bogs left in the Seattle area and I got fascinated by it when I went blackberry picking last year.

I scored lots of blackberries but got the bejesus scared out of myself by running into homeless people trash.   I split so fast, I was huffing & puffing when I got to the main trail and road.

Today, I started out circling the forest/brambles that hide this little lake.  I went to the east side thinking I might see it from the high point there.  Alas, that wasn’t possible because the brush was so thick.   So, what did I do?  I went down the trail to see if I could get closer.

Here is a slide show of what I found.  Most of it isn’t pretty nor was it really safe.  I had my mace in hand most of the time.  Even took the safety off at one point.  Never saw anyone though but I am sure these poor souls were there.

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Lets end on a light note here.   Saw this little bunny and he scampered into the brush.  Can you see him?  Also,this gives you an idea of how dense it is around a bog.

See the Bunny?

See the Bunny?

The Stick Dance

Building Material always in demand

Building Material always in demand

Crows do a little dance with sticks this time of year. They gather them up and fly around like crazy birds. For the uneducated this seems like a strange toy to be carrying around. The truth of the matter is, they are building nests.

Watching out my work window this week, the resident family performed the Stick Dance. They tried several of the pine trees with different sticks. One of them would fly into the tree top with the carefully picked stick in his/her beak. Then they will flounce around in the boughs doing a test of their sturdiness. I think of us humans testing furniture at the store before we buy. Crows like to make sure the tree will suit his family too.

Don’t be fooled into thinking you have found their nest.  They try several trees and will build decoy nests even.

Keep your eyes peeled for the crow stick dance this next couple of weeks.  If you are lucky you will learn the location of your crows family’s nursery.

Nest building materials found in a maple tree

Nest building materials found in a maple tree

Murder in the Flock

This blog is proud to be included in the Pacific Northwest Nature Blog Scavenger Hunt. Visit and join the fun at http://www.metrofieldguide.com/2015-pnw-nature-blog-scavenger-hunt.

I have given myself over to the serendipity of nature.  While following crow families I have seen the really good with triplet baby crows frolicking in the trees on their first outing.  On the other side of the spectrum I have seen crows attack each other.

I am sad today to tell you about a Crow murder I witnessed.  I don’t mean a flock of crows called a murder.  I am serious, this was an attack on another crow that ended in his death. Are crows like humans I ask?  Do they kill to protect their family and home?  Do they attack because someone tried to steal their lover?  It appears that nature mirrors our human lives or do we mirror nature?

Several times in the past years I have found the results of these attacks, but never have I watched in paralyzing astonishment as it actually happened.  Here is how it went down.

I was talking on the phone and looking out my office window around 8 am Friday the 13th. Out of nowhere there they were tussling on the ground across the street. I could see them through the trees, two crows attacking another crow. The poor guy was down on his back. That is a bad thing for a crow. He laid there with his feet up in the air while the two took turns on him. Sound familiar to humans?

I figure that he was a goner but then he surprised me and got up.  They tried to get him back down but he flew off. This flight was low and desperate.  It crossed a four lane busy street and I watched as a car seemed to nearly hit him. He dived into the gutter.

Scene of the crime

Scene of the crime

I ended my phone conversation to go check on him.  I got down to the street and there was no crow in the gutter.  I was relieved he had survived and escaped.

As the day went on I continue to watch my local crow family fly from tree to tree like they had for several weeks.  This is the nesting dance that I have seen them do every year where they try to find just the right place to raise a family. (here is a link to a post I did recently on this nesting search – http://wp.me/p1d1cX-11q)

Several times a crow would go down to the place in the gutter that the poor offender had landed in.  They also gathered in the trees above the area cawing down.  This made me curious about what happened to the poor fellow.

When I left work many hours later, I decided to go look again at the spot.  And that is when I discovered him.  He had passed away in the ivy covered median next to the road. There he was with his feathers all perfect but his life was gone.

Victim beside the road

Victim beside the road

Murdered Crow

Murdered Crow

This instance reminded me of another crow death.  In 2012 outside our office window a drama unfolded but I didn’t see the actual act that time.

That Thursday around the lunch hour a big crow fight broke out up on the sidewalk next to the building.  Friday morning a dead crow was found in the bushes where the fight had happened the day before. What we found was a very healthy well fed crow who had been pecked to death.  Our crow remover turned him over and we think he might even be a raven due to the size of his beak.  I am not sure if that is true but it is possible.

Crow or Raven?   The intruder paid with his life.

Crow or Raven? The intruder paid with his life.

Dead Crow found in the bushes after the fight on the sidewalk.  He intruded into their nesting territory.

Dead Crow found in the bushes after the fight on the sidewalk. He intruded into their nesting territory.

Whatever he was, he was dead now.   He must have come back for more because when we left on Thursday night his body wasn’t there.  That makes us think he just didn’t get the hint and returned.   If he was a raven, then the family were even more freaked out about his arrival.   He wouldn’t have hesitated about stealing eggs or babies.

That Friday evening as I left, I turned around and looked back at the building for the pair.   There they were on top of the old TV antenna.   This confirmed it was an intruder that was dead and they were still hanging in the area.  Now several years later this same family is still determined to protect their territory and family.

Nature is not pretty and tidy. You never know what you will be shown; it can be sweet and cute or it can be cold and brutal. It is not just flowers and pretty sunsets.

It also includes creatures trying to make their way in a difficult world just like us humans. It is all about survival in the end.  I ask, what do Crows and Humans have in common?   I believe the answer is…we are very similar because we both love and protect our families no matter what.

Trillium patch - returns year after year

The Hunt for Trilliums

Third year in a row I have gone to my favorite Trillium patches to document their spring sprouting.  Today in the pouring rain I made my pilgrimage to the forest.  My hunt was successful as you can see.

I went back to the prior two posts (see the links below) and from their timing, it appears they bloomed early by a week or two.  Not a surprise since Seattle has had a dry warm winter. Go look at these two posts when you get a moment. I think you will see that the patch pictured as the feature photo above shows how sparse the flowers are this year. That must be from the dryness.  At least I hope that is the case.

http://wp.me/p1d1cX-C6 – the video is of the patch above.  Sure looks a lot thinner from two years ago.

http://wp.me/p1d1cX-NG – this is 2014 and highlights the same patch in the photo gallery below.

They could also be thinner because someone picked them last year.  Trilliums do not like to be picked.  Here is a little quote from Wikipedia on what happens when they are taken home to a vase.  Some states it is illegal.

Picking parts off of a trillium plant can kill it even if the rhizome is left undisturbed. Some species of trillium are listed as threatened or endangered and collecting these species may be illegal. Laws in some jurisdictions may restrict the commercial exploitation of trilliums and prohibit collection without the landowner’s permission. In the US states of Michigan and Minnesota it is illegal to pick trilliums. In New York it is illegal to pick the red trillium.

I also love one of their folk names – Wake Robin.   They and the Robin birds are both creatures that bring us spring.

 

 

Vibrant green Skunk Cabbage

Vibrant Green Spring

Rain came today in Seattle.  Are you surprised?  Does it not rain there all the time?  This spring has been so dry and mild we wondered if it was Seattle.   But it is BACK and the forest is full of green buds and signs of winter fading away.

Huckleberry blossoms

Huckleberry blossoms

Forest is bright with sprouting greens

Forest is bright with sprouting greens

It was so wet today, Fauntleroy Creek was running hard and fast.   Enjoy her babbling voice in this video.

DSCN4647

Madrona Forest’s Crow Family

Spring along Puget Sound is glorious on this Sunday morning.  As I traversed the paths through the forest to the beach the resident family jumped from tree branch to branch along with me.

Crow Watcher of the Madrona forest

Crow Watcher of the Madrona forest

 

Madronas are so lovely.  They have this reddish bark, dark green leaves year round and flowers that turn into red berries.   The crows who own this territory are rich in habitat for visiting, feeding, sleeping and raising their babies.

DSCN4663

Madrona of Puget Sound

A little feather cleaning

A little feather cleaning

Crow shining in the sun of the madrona forest

Crow shining in the sun of the madrona forest

 

 

Crows enjoying the Reservoir

Crow Murder in Volunteer Park

Where ever I go I find crow families in Seattle.  Saturday was no exception when I went to an estate sale on Capital Hill near Volunteer Park.  Once I got my number at the sale, I walked the few blocks to the park.

This is one of the oldest parks in Seattle.  It was bought in 1876 and originally used as a cemetery.  Then about 1887 the graves were moved and a park started to form up.  In 1901 a water reservoir was built to provide the growing city water and in 1906 a water tower was added.  As a little girl we went to this park to visit the Seattle Art Museum, the glass conservatory (which reminds me of the Crystal Palace at the London Great Exhibition of 1851) and climb up the stairs to see the view on top of the water tower.

Water Tower built in 1906 - Seattle Volunteer Park

Water Tower built in 1906 – Seattle Volunteer Park

Some of the 107 stairs to the viewing area on top of the Water Tower

Some of the 107 stairs to the viewing area on top of the Water Tower

My adventure took me right to the water tower and how could I not climb up the stairs to enjoy the view while I wasted time.   There I first saw the local crow murder in a popular tree.

View from the Water Tower includes the Crow Murder

View from the Water Tower includes the Crow Murder

From another angle I captured the iconic Seattle Space Needle.  As you know I am enamored by Worlds Fairs and I couldn’t resist taking a picture of it through the grills.

Space Needle from Volunteer Water Tower

Space Needle from Volunteer Water Tower

After leaving the water tower I walked down to the reservoir and there the crows were basking on the edge and a few of them even bathing in the water.  Enjoy the still photos and small video I took of them frolicking where the humans cannot go.