It was a perfect Sunday in May, sun-splashed and temps in the 70's, the kind of day we've waited for all winter, and all the chilly April days . Today, spring was in full bloom. A gentle breeze carried the perfume of lilacs and lily-of -the- valley, the sounds of lawn mowers and the smell of fresh-cut grass.
My friend came over, and I brought out the summer folding chairs. We sat outside and watched the crows flying back and forth, from the maple tree across the alley to the elm tree in my next-door neighbor's yard.
Crows had returned to the area in the spring of 2015, after the devastating losses from West Nile Virus. You can read my post about it here. They decided to stay, and last summer I watched a flight lesson with the young crows. You can read about it here. All winter, their calls punctuated the snow-colored sky. Now, this spring, they were back again.
It looked like they had built a nest in the elm tree, very high up, and almost hidden by the leaves. There was a single crow perching on a nearby branch, silently watching.
According to Crows.net, crows are among the first birds to begin nest-building in the spring. The nesting season varies with location and weather conditions. Could the cool spring have delayed their nesting? They had been quite noisy the past few days. Suddenly, they were silent--
During the first few days of nesting, the female may be quite noisy, vocalizing short somewhat raucous calls frequently, often several times a minute for long periods of time. Later on, after eggs are laid, the mating pair becomes much quieter and more secretive, so as to not give away the nest location to potential predators. If suddenly the crow noises in your neighborhood diminish dramatically and if crows come silently to your feeding station, without the usual discussion over whether its safe to dine, then you can be relatively certain that there are eggs or young birds in the nest.
A crow's nest is an amazing piece of work. They will break off sticks, and weave them together. In cities, they will use whatever they can find. In Tokyo, for example, the crows steal wire hangers for their nests. The nest pictured above is from Wikimedia; the photo was taken in Moscow. This remarkable crow nest uses twigs and electrical wires!
The nest in my neighbor's tree is an impressive assemblage of sticks. Looking up from the vantage point in my back yard, it looks almost like part of the tree. From the alley, looking East, it is clearly visible, a direct line from the large maple tree. It is definitely some kind of nest--but is it a real nest or a decoy? Crows will often build a fake nest, or a decoy, to protect the actual nest from predators.
I think now it is a decoy, as I have not observed any crows using it. The guardian crow, or sentinel, stays on a branch nearby. This may be a decoy nest, but I will keep watching. I know they will be watching, too.
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