Saturday, September 16, 2006

Cawthorne Musters the Troops

The years had been good for crows in Craig, Alaska. Food was plentiful and the weather was just as they like it and predators pretty much left them alone. Indeed, things went so well for the crows that when Cawthorne was a year old, the usual age to find his own mate and build his own nest and raise his own babies, there were no nesting places for most of the yearling crows. All of the good crow nesting places were already taken by older, established pairs of crows. For other birds, this might be a disaster. The yearlings would spend a lonely time and the following year, when nesting places came available, they would be disheartened and perhaps not settle down yet again. But, for crows it is a blessing when there are so many yearlings, because crows are very, very clever (almost as clever as ravens) and they have a plan for such a situation. What crows do in these circumstances is, the yearlings stay with their parents an extra year and help raise the next batch of nestlings. With three grown crows (a Mama and a Papa and a yearling) to search, there is more food for the nestlings; with three crows to protect, there is less danger to the nestlings; with an older brother or sister to help, the parents get more rest. And the yearling gets practice in how to raise nestlings, so that he starts out a better parent the following year. So, as you can see, this is a good situation, if you are a crow, as indeed Cawthorne is.

So, Cawthorne stayed with his Mama and Papa that year, and he helped to raise their nestlings. Sometimes Cawthorne searched for food, and flew it back to the nest, and stuffed it as quick as quick into the mouth of a screaming baby. Sometimes Cawthorne stayed guarding the babies while his Mama and Papa searched for food. When Johnnie Smith came near the nest, Cawthorne would cry out "Caw, caw, boy with a sling shot, boy with a sling shot" and all of the other nest guarding crows would hunch down over the nestlings, and all of the food searching crows would lay low until Johnnie was gone. When ravens came to see if there were any unguarded nestlings, Cawthorne would cry out "Caw, caw, Dusky the raven, Dusky the raven" and all of the nest guarding crows would hunch down over the nestlings, and all of the food searching crows would fly back to mob Dusky and chase her away from the nests. Yes, indeed, Cawthorne and the other yearlings were a big help to the parent crows.

One day Cawthorne came back from hunting food for his little sister and brothers to find his Mama hunched down over the nestlings and an eagle flying low over the nest. Cawthorne knew that the eagle wanted baby crow to feed to her baby eagles. Cawthorne wasn't going to let that happen. He dropped the food he had been bringing back and flew high into the sky, calling "Caw, caw, eagle near the nests, eagle near the nests!" In all the surrounding trees, nest guarding crows hunched down over their nestlings.

From all the surrounding trees and near sky food searching crows flew to mob the eagle. They flew at the eagle, harrying her and cawing at her, eight of them at once. "Caw, caw," cried Cawthorne and other crows, "Eagle near the nests, eagle near the nests". More crows came from further and further away. They swarmed at the eagle from below her and above.

The eagle flew into a tall tree and landed on a branch and hunkered down. She knew the crows couldn't hurt her while she was in the tree, but she also knew they were mad and would mob her even more if she tried to fly away too soon. Down she hunkered. Cawthorne and his friends flew around and around her, cawing and cawing. Cawthorne would fly at the eagle and then he would call out for more troops, "Caw, caw" and then he would land and rest for a few minutes. The tree with the eagle was surrounded by flying crows, more and more of them by the minute, until there were over 80 crows, some mobbing the eagle, some resting in the branches, some flying high into the sky and calling for even more crows. Oh, was that eagle sorry she had ever thought about feeding her babies little crow.

When the crows finally let the eagle fly away, she was properly chastened. She would never try for baby crow again (which was why the crows had harried her for so long. It is not enough to stop this attack, if you are a crow, you want to prevent any others.) "Oh," she thought in disgust, "no wonder my mother told me fish are the proper food for little eagles. Fish don't call for help and trap you in a tree." And off she flew to the shore, to catch a herring for her babies.

Cawthorne's Mama and Papa were very proud of him for mustering the troops. They praised him and praised him. His little sister and brothers thanked him for saving them. The other crows told him how smart and handsome he was. And one very cheeky yearling crow, named Cawman, flirted with him outrageously. Cawthorne's Mama looked at Cawman and she thought, "Well, Cawthorne is set for next year. He can find food with the best of them. He can guard the nest well. He knows how to muster the troops. And he has a lovely, cheeky, clever young crow interested in him. Yes, my Cawthorne will do alright."


Anvilcloud said...

Wow! You are amazingly creative and gifted.

Maya's Granny said...

Thank you, kind sir. I witnessed this event in 1995, when I went to visit Craig on business. It was absolutely amazing, to see all of the crows deal with the eagle.

Deja Pseu said...

I second what anvilcloud said. What a fun and interesting story! Not only did you entertain, but you educated as well. I still think you'd make an excellent children's book author.

We have lots of crows in my neighborhood. They seem like very intelligent and social birds.

Mousie said...

Your country is so magic to me !!all these different from my tiny part of France, my sparrows and robins aren't so splendid but I love them...I'll have many stories to tell them now , thanks to you...I'll come back with some fresh bread and jam, if you don't mind putting the kettle on!
See you dear, thank you for the journey

Betty said...

By any chance, do you write children's books? If you don't you certainly should try your hand at it. Children would find this story enchanting. I know I did, since I'm a child at heart.

Maya's Granny said...

Pseu and Betty, I do, as a matter of fact, want to write children's books. I love doing this sort of thing.

Mousie, what kind of jam? I love fresh bread. Robins and sparrows are very nice birds, as well.

Crows are very social and intelligent. I love watching them, as you may have guessed.

mousie said...

the jam ? red tomatoes and a few plums...delicious!!