[Tweeters] Making my days and nights - surprises from nature -10/14/15

Barbara Deihl barbdeihl at comcast.net
Wed Oct 14 23:31:42 PDT 2015

I thought I'd had today's "make my day" experience already, but I was wrong. At 6 p.m., while getting into my car after a trip to ACE Hardware on NE 90th St and Roosevelt Ave., out of the sky came the familiar chittering and "pic" calls of a Merlin ! Hadn't heard any of that since late July. Must have been one of the family that I heard had been in a nesting situation somewhere in that area this past summer. Those sounds never fail to thrill me - what a nice feeling it gave me to hear those calls and to know that, at least one pair, likely related to the first Victory Heights pair, might again, come late winter, thrill some of us with another nesting start-up. Nice...

Once again at home, I had the second thrill from nature - at 8 p.m. an incredibly well-done film, "Soul of the Elephant" started up and I was hooked ! The narration by the couple who had spent much time with African elephants in Botswana, was extremely calming and their story was very sensitively and non-sensationalistically related. Through their observations and powers of deduction, this pair teaches us about the non-ivory riches that elephants can share with us. What a beautiful production - I'll say no more about it, so that you, can get your own impact from it, should you decide to watch it. I think it can be viewed online now on PBS.org. I'll watch it again - so very special... By the way, there are Cattle Egrets and some Egyptian Geese and a kingfisher in it as well as the elephants, lions, hyenas and hippos :-)

A couple more night makers this week were the shrieks of a Barn Owl, on a couple of different nights - in the sky right over my house - hope they caught a few roof rats. What this did was to remind me of the many nights in the past 5 years, that I watched Barn Owls and heard their unique sound effects, over at Magnuson Park (not far from me). That was when nesting took place in the old fire tower, which has been closed off to the owls. However, several pairs of Barnies have been raising broods in a few of the owl boxes that have been put up, so the owls are still around and must have enough rodents to prey upon. I get one or 2 flying/hunting up my way, in fall and winter, usually calling out between 10 p.m. & 3 a.m. As I often tend to be a nightowl myself, it is not unusual for me to hear the shrieks and sometimes even a "kleak" or two. I see that Jeff Gibson heard a Barn Owl (a Bald Eagle, too) in the dark this week, too... :-)

One more fascinating bird experience this past week, was one some neighbors of mine compared to "The Birds", that old Hitchcock thriller. Again, I was in my driveway, this time on Saturday, late afternoon, after the Big Rain, but the wind hadn't quite let up yet. It was around "Go-to-roost" time for the crows. But, instead of the usual fairly quiet, crowflow off to the NE of me, I found that at least hundreds of them were making an incredible racket and swirling up and around the big trees right in my part of the block. "Aha !", thought I, "they are mobbing a raptor, but, upon watching and listening more, I realized that wasn't it. I then noticed that many of them were flying over me or landing, with something in their beaks. A great many of them would land in a madrone tree and seemingly be finding berries or somesuch. Others came by with little cheese crackers or other bread products. Reminded me of the article in the Seattle Times about loud, noisy gatherings that John Marzluff and Kaeli Swift are studying as part of their work figuring out what crows understand about death. They would bait the crows with various snack foods - maybe someone in my neighborhood was calling in crows with Cheezits !

The crows seemed agitated and I thought that maybe the day's storms had disrupted their usual schedules and also made it more difficult to get food, so they were trying to get something in them before the darkness closed in and they would have to go to roost. They were doing this flurrying around conversing with each other, and finding things to eat, for about 45 min., after which they then proceeded, in small groups, to make the usual tracks off to roosts to the north and east (Bothell area). Unlike, in "The Birds", these crows paid neither me or any passersby, any heed - no divebombing or head-strafing.

That night and again on Sunday, I went to my favorite Crow Bible, "In the Company of Crows & Ravens" (by John Marzluff and Tony Angell), and poured over the info and drawings in the chapter on "Social Customs and Culture of Crows". Therein lay some probable answers to my questions about what had been going on with the crows around the Barboretum epicenter ! Communication about food sources at a pre-roost gathering ! That's it, I'll bet !!!

So, these happenings plus my Cedar Waxwing discovery - all in a week that isn't yet over. What lies ahead ? Bed, right now !

Barb Deihl
Matthews Beach Neighborhood - NE Seattle
barbdeihl at comcast.net

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