Our stalwart crew – Gwen, Stephen Crowbert, Zen, and Snafu – were happy to see the end of winter. Zen took it upon himself to engage in an off-season molt, giving him a decidedly uncharming moth-eaten look. Snafu, not to be outdone, decided to molt too. He is managing to keep his good looks, but the process has put him in a foul (ha-ha) mood. He won’t come for food and even bit me once with no provocation. He did manage to pull himself together for Migratory Bird Day and fulfill his obligation to dazzle the crowds at the Wildlife Rescue League table at the local nature center.
Getting Gwen and Stephen set up for nesting was a technical failure. Last year, they managed to figure out how to unplug the camera. Even duct tape didn’t deter them, so this year, we decided to encase the wire in plastic tubing. First that required removing the heat lamp, which they had managed to pull the protective wiring off of AND remove the lightbulb. Crow-proof tubing had to be specially-ordered and Super Hub finally got everything set up at the final hour, only for me to discover that they had thrown some kind of corvid hex on the camera itself which I could not get to sync up with the wifi. So we’re flying blind this year on nesting progress, unfortunately.
Gwen has done a pretty good job of teaching me how to build a nest. Everything went swimmingly for the stick stage but somewhere along the line in the vine-collecting process, I managed to stick my face into poison-something, resulting in a delightful bright-red rash all over one half of my face that reached its peak just as I was heading off to a business trip to Oklahoma. Yes, you can put enough concealer on your face to fool yourself into thinking that it looks okay, although others are probably just too polite to say anything.
Sometime after my return from Tulsa, Gwen presumably produced some eggs because she disappeared into the inner sanctum and Stephen started dive-bombing me when I brought food rather than yelling at me from a safe distance. Given that crows have an 18-day incubation period, everything was under control for my planned trip to Germany to visit Super Son, who is studying there for the semester.
The Corvid gods were not done with me, however, decreeing an abrupt end to the Snoozy Season just as I was packing my bags.
Five days before my departure, they deposited five baby crows on my doorstep. An entire nest. I fear the world’s worst birdnapping ever, since no crow parent would abandon five healthy feathered nestlings. But they were too little to send back, especially since I couldn’t be certain exactly where they were found or what catastrophe might have prompted both parents to vanish.
What’s better than five baby crows? Why, six, of course. The next day brought another baby crow – this one unable to stand – and a nestling grackle. I put them in separate bowls in a cage, whereupon the grackle decided to fledge and take up housekeeping on the crow’s back.
What does one feed six crows and a grackle? The short answer is “everything available.” You just can’t stop the buffet or they will Die. Of. Hunger. Right in front of your eyes. They will just waste away into nothing. You know this because they tell you. With all of the urgency and drama of a heroine dying of consumption in an opera, they will explain that they are on death’s door, never to rise again unless some crumb of sustenance can be put into their parched beaks.
I managed to charm another rehabber into crow-sitting so I could escape to Germany for a week. Less than 24 hours after my return, all six were returned to sender. But not before 1) I received a call about a starling while standing in line at passport control at Dulles Airport; and 2) getting two more bird-napped fledges after lunch. I placed an emergency order to Amazon for bird leg-bands numbered 1-100. At the rate things are going, I’ll be through all of them by July 4.
Baby Season is upon us!