Monday, August 10, 2009

Counting Crows

Those of you who've followed this blog for a while know that I enjoy birds and watching birds. And you might remember that of the birds, perhaps my favorites are the clever members of the corvid species; the crows, jays and ravens.

These guys are the Cantonese of the bird world - smart, aggressive, adaptable and ubiquitous. And now a young woman from Seattle named Lyanda Haupt has written a new book about them and their success in a human-dominated world.

"Crow Planet" is her personal observations of the corvids, and especially the more human-adapted species of corvids such as the American Crow of her home town.

I haven't yet read her work, but the reviewers suggest that she covers some informative and entertaining ground, including her own personal observations of the crows of West Seattle. Her blog, "The Tangled Nest" includes her ruminations on the birds as well as recipes, urban gardening tips and an embarassment of other notions. Lyanda seems to be a very Northwest sort of Hip Urban Mama, full of crunchy granola wisdom and jam cooking hints. The reveiwers also noted that the reach of her prose seems to exceed her grasp, for the same reasons - which is not by any means a reason to avoid her work.

In a lot of ways people are very crow: we tend to be fascinated by cheap and glittery objects, we take what we want rather than just what we need, and we tend to hold our grudges long after they benefit us. So I'd recommend her new book to anyone looking for an insight in both crows, and people.


Ael said...

Crows and ravens are *really* smart.

I watched 3 ravens torment a husky dog up in Aklavik, NWT (on the Mackenzie delta).

The husky had been given an arctic char for supper. One raven would land near char and take a peck out of it. This caused the husky to charge the raven. A second raven would swoop down at the husky, distracting him from the first one (which was trying to get airborne and swallowing a chunk of fish at the same time). In the meantime, the third one was landing, preparing to take a chunk out of the char.

The ravens kept changing positions, each taking their turn at the dog and the char.

After about 10 minutes of this, the poor dog stopped chasing the birds and howled in frustration.

Linda Dove said...

I love books on birds and am always looking out for them. Thanks!

Lisa said...

Ethology tells us a great deal about ourselves, without the often obstructionist overlays of the psychologists.

Oftentimes, it is what it is. We like to attribute that brute and unvarnished reality to the animals, but it fits us rather well, too.

Kind of like, "Me Tarzan, you Jane." It is not always the exalted thing we might imagine.

FDChief said...

Lisa: Pretty much only those who have failed to experience the truth of life and nature romanticize it. Animals live closer to reality than we do, and have little need, or time, for illusions.

I've always thought that those Tarzan-Jane fantasies survive because both men and women are fortunate enough to live with the civilized amenities that enable them to avoid having to live the reality. I suspect that 95% of the men and women would tire of the roles very quickly, and the remaining 5% would be very sick little puppies, indeed.

mike said...

"These guys are the Cantonese of the bird world - smart, aggressive, adaptable and ubiquitous."

More like the pirates or the mafia of the bird world IMHO. This year they again took 80% of our cherries. My sisters-in-law will be gnashing their teeth and when once more there is no cherry brandy for Xmas.

mike said...

But then, maybe less brandy would be a good thing for those dear ladies??

Lisa said...

Actually, to clarify: when I mentioned the Tarzan analogy, I meant that is the brute truth, and not romantic or exalted at all. Men want what they want, and women, too. Perhaps I am a bit cynical at the moment; I hope not.

I just don't think that many people live with or are capable enough of sustaining an exalted relationship to another. It requires so man skills: intent, persistence, kindness, respect, selflessness, idealism . . .

Animals don't seem to fool themselves. We like to imagine ourselves better, but do not always follow through on the promise.

Lisa said...


Sorry to hear about less cherry brandy due to the crow yakuza -- that can never be a good thing:)