Worthless Creatures

Crossed paths with the crow clobberer, on my walk, this afternoon. I was sitting on the fence, looking through my iPod for some good listening, when someone brushed by, too close for comfort. I looked up, and clocked Dolgonosov’s speckly bald head bobbing off down Moberly Road. I tried to get a picture of it, but a dogwalker was watching. Embarrassed, I raised my lens a little higher, and snapped the trees. One doesn’t like to be caught, ehh, photographing the backs of people’s heads. That sort of thing comes off creepy.

In other bald-related news, remember the worthless crapbawky? — the wee sparrow with no feathers on her neck? Well, I noticed her today, looking crappier than ever:

Every time I see this bird, it looks a little crappier.

Every time I see this bird, it looks a little crappier.

When I first spotted the crapbawky, last year, I thought she must be diseased. But she kept coming back, and with a nice complement of little ones, to boot. She never showed any signs of illness or distress, beyond the great manky bald spot. The same is true, this year: she’s a frequent visitor, lively and energetic, and once again, a proud mother. It occurred to me that another bird might be overgrooming her. Her feather loss has always been confined to the back of her neck, the tops of her wings, the fluffy bit between her shoulderblades — areas she probably can’t reach, on her own. But I never had any direct evidence to support that conclusion, till this morning. As the poor crapbawky helped herself to breakfast, another bird sat down beside her, and began nipping her tail. As I watched, that bird worked a feather loose, and spat it onto the ground. What the devil? I thought feather-picking was the exclusive province of stressed, miserable domestic birds — parrots, in particular. Why is a wild bird denuding its mate? And why is the crapbawky allowing it? Does she not notice? I can’t see how that would be possible: she’s got great bare patches all over her back, and down the sides of her tail!

It strikes me that this picking behaviour could have decidedly unfortunate consequences, if it continues to spread. What if the picking bird decides to work his way through her flight feathers? The crapbawky could end up…a crapwalky. (Groan.) Ah, well; not much can be done, I suppose.

The trees I photographed, instead of Mr. Dolgonosov.

The trees I photographed, instead of Mr. Dolgonosov.

Crows and gulls; gulls and crows

I’ve recently become aware of the charming (but quite unflattering) term “robin stroker,” via the bird forum. A robin stroker’s someone who takes a casual, sentimental interest in birds, particularly those found in the garden. He might set out food, build nestboxes, even bring fallen fledglings indoors, in a kind-hearted but misguided attempt to save them from, well, whatever might happen to a confused little bird, waiting on the ground for its parents. Robin strokers stand accused of putting their own pleasure in birds ahead of science, scholarship, and even safety.

I mention this because a couple of hours ago, just before dusk, I spotted — no, not a robin stroker! — nothing so benign. I seem to have discovered, and in my own garden, no less, the robin stroker’s malicious cousin: the crow clobberer.

Don't clobber this!  I mean, look at it!  It's soft!  It's puffy!  It's beautiful (well, as beautiful as a plain black bird can be)!  It deserves to live!

Don’t clobber this! I mean, look at it! It’s soft! It’s puffy! It’s beautiful (well, as beautiful as a plain black bird can be)! It deserves to live!

One might remember my neighbour, Ilya Nikolayich Dolgonosov — I’ve mentioned him, a few times. (That’s not his real name. We’ve never been introduced, so I assigned it to him, arbitrarily.) Anyway, Mr. Dolgonosov is a horrid, crotchety, cantankerous, bald-pated, sunken-cheeked, bulbous-nosed swine. His hobbies include shouting at the landlord for allowing geese on the lawn, beating bushes with sparrows nesting in them, and shaking his fist at me, when I’m out on my balcony. Oh, and throwing things at crows. (!!!)

See, I’ve noticed the garden crows being twitchier than usual, lately. I thought maybe the old crows had gone, and the shy ones were new. But today, I noticed a familiar white spot under one of their chins, which identified it as a common visitor. It used to pop round every morning, along with its mate. They’d stick their faces in my window, and bawk for their breakfasts; then, adequately fed, they’d sit on the railing and preen at leisure. But lately, they’ve taken to stopping by when I’m not in (I catch them at the feeder, when I come in from my walks). Or they show up while I’m here, but won’t eat till I look the other way. (I can still see them in the mirror. I see them hop down immediately, when my head is turned.) Even the injured crow, and its little ones, have been a bit on the nervous side — and I think Dolgonosov’s to blame. I’m almost certain of it! This evening, I was at my computer, when I was disturbed by a terrific cawing. I hurried to the window, just in time to catch old turnip-nose flinging clods of earth at a crow, which was stumbling all over itself, in its desperate attempts to get airborne. I shouted “Oi!”. Dolgonosov looked up, and the crow got away. I ducked down quickly, not wanting him to get a good look at me. I’m afraid I might encounter him on one of my walks, that he might come over and bother me with crow-clobberer apologia. Or throw a clump of dirt at me. He could mistake me for a crow, in my fuzzy black coat.

At any rate, I think he might’ve put the crows off human beings, in general. How loathsome he is! If he ever walks directly beneath my balcony, I’m going to drop an egg on his bald head.

This crow stood on the fence and squawked and squawked and SQUAWKED, for nearly ten minutes.  It didn't calm down till I came out on the balcony, and topped up the feeder.  (There was already food there.  I'm not sure what was wrong.  But the crow wouldn't fly over, or stop screaming, till it saw the seedbag.)

This crow stood on the fence and squawked and squawked and SQUAWKED, for nearly ten minutes. It didn’t calm down till I came out on the balcony, and topped up the feeder. (There was already food there. I’m not sure what was wrong. But the crow wouldn’t fly over, or stop screaming, till it saw the seedbag.)

I suppose one might be asking oneself, at this point, if I’m a robin stroker. I do, after all, always post pictures of garden birds. And I feed them. I don’t know about stroking one; that seems a bit unpleasant. Birds are greasy, and have parasites. They carry salmonella. Sometimes, they even have flies between their feathers, which can buzz out and bite you. Still, one might say I am — I only read about the wide world beyond the garden, and study up on exciting birds, knowing I’ll never get to see one. I creep around the neighbourhood in my ridiculous crow-coat, admiring sparrows and ducks as though they were something special. I even protect birds from predators, to an extent — well, from Mr. Dolgonosov. I wouldn’t get between a bird of prey and its dinner. But a human predator, come on — that’s not fair. Human beings aren’t natural predators of garden birds. We don’t need to eat them. I don’t think it’s robin stroking to shout at a crow clobberer!

I would be a serious birder, if I could. I’d love nothing more than to venture beyond my little patch. I dream of trips to Peru, Siberia, Spain, the entire African continent; if I could spot a shoebill stork in its natural environment, I’d be delighted. Even Queen Elizabeth Park would be nice. I heard they’ve got ravens. I like ravens. But I haven’t got any money, and I can’t walk very far…so here I sit, stroking robins. (Hee-hee; that sounds dirty.)

Oh! Speaking of garden birds, I think the gulls may be closing in on SUCCESS, with their little breeding project! For the last couple of weeks, all I’ve seen of the female is the top of her head. She barely leaves her nest. She sticks her beak up, every so often, and screams for her mate, so I know she’s there, but she’s playing it very safe. She won’t leave her eggs unattended. Most of the time, the male’s right there, standing guard. He goes between the nest, the marina, and my feeder, and that’s about it. Oh, I hope EVERY LAST ONE of her eggs hatches, and the minigulls don’t stop shrieking for WEEKS! The nest is RIGHT above Dolgonosov’s apartment, high enough that he can’t throw anything up there, but near enough that every brawk and scream will sail in his open window, and ruin his mornings. (They’ll ruin mine, too, of course, but it’ll be worth it. So very, very worth it. Stupid Mr. Dolgonosov.)

Proof of Having Been Outdoors

A tree trunk!

A tree trunk!

(It was raining, today. I stayed mostly underneath things. This tree trunk is underneath the overhang in front of my building, and I STILL got wet.)