Sunday, May 4, 2008

Watcher of Little Boxes

I thought I almost killed this crow. I wanted to get a close picture of it, so I grabbed the nearest crow-type food I had handy, some French bread and threw it a piece. It took the bread, tried to gobble it but then it kept it’s beak open for a long time and looked like it was going into convulsions. I thought, "oh my god, I’m killing this bird with my unhealthy, starchy white bread. Can birds choke? What’s the right response to this? Do I press on it’s little belly in a sort of small animal Heimlich manoeuvre? Do I hold it upside down and give it a little shake?” The crow was fine of course and came closer to me so I was able to get a few good pictures. The result is this little painting that I just put in my Etsy shop.

My imagined near crow death experience led me to research all about crows (because that's the kind of nerd I am). I'm fascinated with them. In my effort to cut down my driving, (see this post) I've tried to find ways to appreciate wandering around suburbia on foot. Going on a few 'suburban safari's' was the answer for me and crows happen to be the most fascinating creatures in my little pocket of the world. They are adaptable, clever in getting their way, social and into garbage, in other words... like us.

That same nerdy part of me can't resist mentioning this little gem. According to ornithologist and crow expert Kevin J. McGowan, "Crows do have one endearing characteristic that is apparently not shared by other birds. They will get to know people as individuals. While you can get chickadees to eat out of your hand, any old hand will do, and I suspect that the chickadees do not know you as an individual. Crows will! If you toss them peanuts (I recommend unsalted, in the shell) on a regular basis, they will wait and watch for you. Not just any person, but you. If you do this often enough, they will follow you down the street to get more. I have made a point of getting on the good side of a number of crow families around Ithaca. Some will follow my car down the street, and if I don't notice them and toss them peanuts they will dash across the windshield to let me know they are there. Some of these crows recognize me far from their home territories, way out of context."

After hearing this little tidbit, my 8 yr old daughter really wants to make herself some crow friends. But first I'll have to go get some HEALTHY peanuts.

I'm off to Salt Spring Island later this week. Maybe I'll run into this famous wildlife artist who lives there. In my rebellious youth, I used to think his art was too commercial and I was too cool to stomach it, but I've softened a lot. And I would love to own this painting of his, I think it's stunning.

Since I titled my painting, "Watcher of Little Boxes", I'll leave with Pete Seeger singing Malvina Reynolds song, "Little Boxes". It's all about suburbia.


Angela Rockett said...

Nice painting! It's good to see your work again.

I can't remember where I first saw it, but I love that painting by Bateman as well. I read somewhere that crows and ravens are some of the very few species that increase in population when humans increase in population. They're very smart and highly adaptable, and can eat just about anything.

Strange little factoid about myself, I used to room with, and work with, Pete Seeger's niece when we were in college. And I met her dad, Pete's brother, who happened to be the only sibling who didn't go into music but rather into science. My roommate was a Physics major.

dinahmow said...

Hah! I'm old enough to remember singing that song(and others) in folk groups.

Crows-yep, they have the smarts. All of that clan, which is, no doubt, why they figure so high in many mythologies. Just look at your own North West cultures.
The crows at our former place expected their treats to be hung in the same tree every Sunday when we were done camping for the weekend.

And you know who else is on Saltspring? Nick Bantock!

BlueJude said...

I love crows! Now I gotta get me some peanuts. (: Thanks for sharing and glad you didn't choke the bird! lol

dumpster mouse said...

i simply love your paintings.

i read somewhere that crows in urban japan have learned to drop nuts onto busy crosswalks so that cars will crack the nuts open for them. the crows then fly down to the streetcorner, wait with the other pedestrians until the light changes, then walk out onto the now-safe road to collect their opened prize. isn't that something?

patricia said...

I love your painting. And I didn't know anything about crows, and now I do. I don't know if it was a crow or a raven, but I loved that bird that flew on George Baily's Uncle's shoulder in the the movie 'It's A Wonderful Life'.

Like you, I went through a teenage phase of dissing Bateman, but from my vantage point now, yeah, I think we should cut the guy some slack. He's extremely talented. His career has lasted a very long time. And he's always been a strong supporter of the environment, long before it was cool. And hey – it's the name of our high school now, ain't it?

And Pete Seeger! Have always loved his music. My mom used to sing that song while strumming her acoustic guitar, way back when, when we all lived in little boxes in Burlington, and they all looked the same.

This was a wonderful post, as always.

Hope you have a fabulous time in Salt Springs!

Hayden said...

I'm going to take exception to McGowan's slander of chickadees. My cousin Walter had an extraordinary relationship with the chickadees on his property, while they mostly ignored his wife and others.

Jacqueline Pearce said...

I'm also a nerdy crow watcher (one of my crow posts:

Have you seen Robert Bateman's recent Youtube video in which he destroys one of his favourite paintings? (a powerful environmental statement)