Monday, December 20, 2010

Day 81: First Snow!

Bussey Brook Meadow, Arnold Arboretum, Jamaica Plain, MA 8:00am-8:35am
cool, breezy, misty overcast

It's snowing as I type this, and not just random bits that melt: my deck has a nice thick dusting. One day before the Winter Solstice, Mother Nature is right on schedule, and the fall period of A Bird a Day has reached its end-mark.

Luckily I was able to get a good bird recording this morning before the snow started to fall - quite a drama, in fact.

Disclaimer: my interpretation may have been subconsciously influenced by the charming and anthropomorphizing narrative in the documentary Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill which I watched yesterday.

This is what happened: I noticed several noisy black crows congregating on a tree in the meadows, and went over to investigate. Crows have been relatively sparse of late, so this was a bit unusual.

They've also been on my mind because some friends and I were wondering what happens to birds when they die (yes, all wild animals must die in the wild, but there are so many birds!), and we speculated that crows are among the predators who would take care of bird carcasses.

When I got to the scene, I realized the crows were cawwing furiously at a sedentary red-tailed hawk perched resolutely on a tree branch. They seemed to be taunting it.

At one point the hawk flew towards the crows to a slightly higher branch, and they backed off a tiny bit, but not much. What was going on? Was the hawk sick or injured, and the crows poised for attack?

Then, a heroic moment. From the distance, the salvation "aaaww"s of a partner hawk, as a second red-tail swooped over to the tree, causing the crows to scatter. It was a beautiful and dramatic scene to witness: the partner coming to the rescue.

The crows, while scattered, did not go far, and began to creep closer. This drama left me breathless because it was so inconclusive - just a minute later, the first hawk took off with four crows in hot pursuit. The second hawk waited for a few seconds, then followed the chase.

They flew too far for me to catch up, so I cannot tell you what happened in the end. Both hawks were healthy enough to fly further than my eye could follow (several hundred yards, and past the train station), so I am not sure what emboldened the crows to get so aggressive.

Here is a clip of the moment of rescue:

A good dramatic ending to the fall episode of this project! Stay tuned for winter installments and the spring explosion..


At January 27, 2011 at 6:34 PM , Blogger Hodge said...

Actually it's quite common for crows in pairs or groups to harass a hawk. The behavior is called "mobbing". Other birds will do this also. It's most often seen when birds have nestlings (they take a slight gamble on getting eaten themselves in order to keep their chicks from being eaten), so it's a little unusual to see in December.


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