Friday, 15 April 2016

Lost: Blinking carrion crow

All week (National Gardening Week here in the UK) there has been a lonely carrion crow wandering around the garden, looking quite lost. By its behaviour of pecking at things (as if to test if edible) I might have guessed it to be a juvenile but it isn’t showing the yellow or red gape to support that. I should have considered that before asking Dave Culley on twitter last night. Thanks Dave! Btw Dave is currently filming a Tawny owl nest box with chicks in his garden and posting updates on his twitter page - fantastic to see, Dave :-)

The carrion crow is a pretty clever bird so it’s odd to see it just hanging around appearing to have no strong focus in where it is going or exactly where the food is. Back and forth it has walked along the edges of the border around my small, rock pool pond before going off road and through the plants. A stop for a good look around, a brief drink from the ground sited bird bath and the route is repeated once more.





Not knowing much about this crow, it was interesting to read that it can be quite solitary. I guess they are quite different from their fellow corvids, the Jackdaws who do hunt in groups. In my garden, the Woodpigeons appear to be observing this new intruder of the borders – after all it’s their role to clumsily flatten newly emerging shoots and young plants!

When uploading my photos (taken yesterday, through a window) two captures showed something odd with this bird’s eye. On zooming in, to the image below, it looked like this bird had a cataract over its eye. Mmm... but the other images looked okay... could it be blinking then?




A quick internet search picked up a much stronger example of this on iSpot. It appears my photo did capture the carrion crow blinking – well that’s a first in all my years’ gardenwatching! A commenter to the iSpot image explains:

”It looks like you've caught this Crow while it was blinking. Birds have a third eyelid, called the nictitating membrane, which closes horizontally across the eye. This is usually transparent, but can appear opaque in photographs.”
Wall-Eyed Crow on iSpot, May 2010


That opaque appearance is very clear in the iSpot capture. Even creepier looking though, an image captured in my garden yesterday shows this third eyelid half closed! The shaky beak suggests the crow was moving at the time… towards sultanas perhaps?




A selection of sultanas, unsalted peanuts and dried mealworms have been scattered on ground rocks a few times this week. I had wondered if I’d seen this crow with a peanut that had been dropped on a lawn edge earlier this week.

Today, it was clear that was exactly what it had found. It also found the sultanas (all that was left when I was watching today) and was seen eating them from in-between its toes just as a blue tit would do a sunflower heart.




So, this week has seen another garden first with a regular carrion crow making itself at home in the garden. On one side, it has been interesting watching this lonesome bird, but the reality of nature is that its presence in gardens isn’t exactly good for other birds at this time.

As well as being a scavenger of dead animals and road kill, when in gardens, the carrion crow will not only feed on the fruit, nuts, insects, snails and worms available there. The carrion crow will also raid garden nests of smaller birds for eggs and chicks!

So, although we have been feeling sorry for our ‘no mates’ carrion crow this week, it’s time to bid it farewell. My plan, to get it moving on, is to cease ground feeding for a few days as we’d like our resident garden species to have a safe and successful breeding season :-D



This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in April 2016.

7 comments:

Lisa Greenbow said...

Interesting bird. I too enjoy the raucous sounding crows when they visit. I saw them take a baby Mockingbird last year. This made me very sad. I hope they stay away this summer. I have caught birds blinking before with the camera. It gives an odd look to the bird.

Angie said...

If you had deliberately planned such a shot you would be sitting there for a month of Sundays and would never have caught it. Great pictures but can see why you are keen not to encourage it to stay - good luck on getting the crow to flit to a new home Shirley.

Pauline said...

Super photos of your crow but I think you are wise not to encourage it. We now have a jackdaw family raising their young in an old oak tree, the noise at 4am isn't welcome!

Midmarsh John said...

Surprisingly I have seen the 'blind eye' effect on several of my shots over the years. Most often with House Sparrows, maybe they blink more frequently. Like you I first though there was something wrong with the eye.

Sue Garrett said...

Like John I have often spotted the same thing in a lot of my bird shots often it really spoils what would've been a really good photograph. I wonder why the crow is sticking around has it a problem or is it just being lazy do you think and taking advantage of the easy food.

SeagullSuzie said...

Hi Shirl, I see crows regularly on the beach and there are often fights between them-real wrestling matches too. I love your photos of these wonderful and often overlooked birds.

Shirley said...

Hello again to you all, thanks for popping by and leaving your comments :-)

Lisa, yes, it really does give an odd look that blinking. I can easily imagine how sad you’d have been with the mockingbird chick. This crow finally left the garden but I do believe it could still be in the area so it may come back. I’ve reduced the ground feeding so hopefully that will make my garden less attractive for it to return.

Angie, absolutely, you can’t plan shots like that. That’s half the fun of uploading images, you often get more than you expect. Thanks, for now this crow is gone – at least I haven’t seen it. Perhaps it comes to bathe in my pond but I can’t see that area from any windows.

Pauline, thank-you, I had fun capturing these images. Oh dear, I never thought of them nesting in a garden but I don’t have mature trees. You have my sympathies on your early, noisy neighbours!

John, ah, perhaps in the past I have captured this blink before and thought it a bad shot not realising what was going on. I look more closely now. Thanks for the thumbs up, I’ll keep an eye on House sparrow shots now ;-)

Sue, ah, I never thought of your spin Sue. I can imagine it very frustrating having got everything right in a photo capture and a blinking eye spoils it. I don’t know what was going on with that crow – it certainly took the food well enough until I stopped filling up ground feeders. Then, it had to work to find food and made a real mess in my paths!

Suzie, Ah, I bet crows frequent many beaches. We saw hooded crows doing exactly that in the Ullapool area. Thanks, I have found that its only in taking photos of birds like this that I appreciate their beauty. I definitely see more when I use my camera :-)