Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Dearth of Ravens and a NEW plan

The lack of raven song is getting to me.  I haven't heard a raven in the neighborhood for several weeks.  The ravens do not like the murder of crows that hang around here.  I do have one crow buddy.  For some reason he recognizes me and when I go outside he will call at me.  I respond with non salted peanuts in the shell.  If he is quick he can beat the blue jays to the peanuts.  The crow calls his buddies before he will approach the nuts.  Crows are really very careful and I suppose they have to be as many people do not like them, but I like them.  The saucy birds.
So lack of ravens has caused me to have a NEW PLAN for raven company.  A friend has a home up in the Mayacamas Mountains where I used to live.  He has said that I can park a trailer up there and have a hidey hole for raven encounters.  There already is a pair of beautiful ravens around his property.  I often see them when I am visiting.  So this plan would allow me some mountain time and some raven time, such a deal!  Now all I have to do is find a trailer that we can manuever down his driveway.  The last time I was up there with a long vehicle it was a real interesting experience.  It was a limo to take a bunch of us to an event in the valley.  The driver got it sideways on the driveway and it took all his skill to get it out of there!  So I am thinking that the fellow that moved us off of Mt. Veeder would be the person to get to move the trailer once I find one.  We could not believe his skill with a BIG moving van on our steep, limited turnaround driveway.
So now I am scanning the FOR SALE section of the Napa paper for a smallish trailer that I can afford.  This could be the start of a whole new adventure in ravens.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Stealth Ravens are at it again

I went out this morning to put peanuts in the platform feeder and the two raw chicken eggs were missing.  The stealth ravens got them!  It is very hard to see this pair as there is no convenient branch for them to sit on just outside my window like there was on Mt. Veeder.  I guess I will have to put up something like an arbor for them to perch on so that we can make each others acquaintance.  I have not heard any raven sounds around here since I got back from London.  Due to this dearth of lovely raven sounds, I had to go up to Mt. Veeder to hear their calls.  This week while up there to help a friend with his wood supply, we heard the scream of the piliated woodpecker.  That bad boy can certainly make very weird and LOUD noise.  Our help with the wood these days consists of pushing the wench button while our friend does all the chain saw work off the side of the road and then attaches the logs to the chain and wench. We can't fool around with wood like we used to, sorry to say, but we are very good with the button!!
On a lighter and more fun note- Halloween required a very raven outfit.  I got the most fabulous raven witch hat from a catalog.  It was very fancy, with black roses, black tule vail, black ribbons, swaths of black netting down the back, black feathers and a black raven sitting on the brim.  What raven maven could resist such a creation.  I added a pink rose to the hat brim as my garment to go over my black dress was a fun print of pink and black witches, sorcerers and black birds on a white background.  It was totally fun to wear that outfit!  It was a totally Raven Halloween for me!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Ravens at Home in the Mt. Veeder range

Upon returning from England I needed a Mt. Veeder Raven fix.  So up I went to visit my friends up on the mountain.  At my cat sitter's home the raven pair were in rare form.  They were squawking, flying around, diving and making lots of racket.  Loved every minute of it!  Then I traveled further up the road to visit my former next door neighbors.  Bold and Shy were flying around putting on a display while we sat on the deck drinking good Napa Valley wine.  Then another pair of ravens joined in the fray and all four birds were flying and making lots of racket.  A great number of ravens suddenly appeared as darkness began to fall on the mountain.  They appeared to be heading for the Raven Tree on our former property.  It is a very large coast redwood tree, very tall with thick foliage.  Once the ravens fly into the tree and quiet down for the night, one cannot tell there is a bird anywhere around the area.  There is much flying to and fro as they select the tree and get settled for the night.  It is quite a sight as birds fly into the area from all directions.  I don't think that Bold and Shy join this pack of juvenile birds for the night but I could be wrong.  They may want to share in the reconnaissance information that the juveniles have collected during their daily flights around the area.  It is thought that the birds congregate at night for protection and to share information about food locations.  I wish I could speak RAVEN and find out!
We went to a Halloween party on Friday night and I wore a spectacular Raven Witch Hat.  Oh it was great with black roses, one pink rose, lots of netting, veil, black feather and of course a fake raven!  I am thinking of wearing it everywhere= and why not?

Friday, October 14, 2011

What are the RAVENS doing at the Tower of London?

Just got back from London town.  It seems everyone in town is 30 years old or less.  We kept looking for people of a certain age, like ours, but no luck.  Well the real reason to go to London was to visit the RAVENS at the Tower of London.  So off we went.  We got to the Tower on a Friday morning at 9 AM, first in line we were.  So off to the Jewel House to ogle the crown jewels.  With that task completed- it was RAVENS I wanted to see.  There were several ravens sitting on park benches and on the grass.  I sat on one of the benches and had a talk with Mr. Raven.  I was close enough to see how his wing was clipped.  All of the feathers of one section of the wing, like a whole row, had been clipped down to the nub- ouch!!  I saw one of the clipped ravens try to fly- it could only flutter.  This made me very sad.  There were crows around the grounds and they were flying here and there.  I felt sorry for the ravens.  The Tower ravens have a much lower toned croak than Bold and Shy of Mt. Veeder.  It was interesting to listen to them.
It was very hot at the Tower.  London was having a HEAT wave.  I went to find a shady spot to rest.  There was a big cage located where I sat.  It contained 4 young ravens.  They were very hot and were panting. There was a small plastic pool of water in the cage.  They were getting a drink and splashing about and trying to stay out of the sun.
As I was cooling my heels, a fully dressed Beefeater came to stand near me.  He was looking for a cool place to rest also.  Their Beefeater uniforms are very beautiful but not suited to a heat wave.  I asked him about the ravens in the cage.  He told me that the raven chicks come from aviaries in Cornwall and Scotland to be raised at the Tower.  He said the breeding program at the Tower was not going very well and so they import the raven chicks.  They used to have a Raven Breeder at the Tower who was very successful.  Unfortunately he was killed by a dog that was brought into the Tower grounds.  The dog was brought to the Tower to search the grounds before a visit by the Queen.  How unfortunate was that, sort of goes along with other events at the Tower.  The Beefeater told me that they have 3 Raven Masters at the Tower.  I said that I would like that job.  He said he jolly would NOT like that job as the masters get bit.  Well- it is no wonder they get bit if they are the ones doing the wing clipping!  So I saw the ravens but it was not necessarily a wonderful experience.
Next we went out to Hampton Court Palace to see the digs of Henry VIII.  Walking the old hallways, one could almost hear the horses coming in the gate and footsteps on the cobble stones.  Of course my RAVEN detector was on and working.  I saw a lovely pair of ravens being harrassed by a murder of crows.  Really those crows are so pesky!  There is plenty of garden for all the birds at Hampton Court, why bother the ravens?  It is a beautiful garden and I saw many different birds poking around in the shrubs.  I would have liked to spend more time in the gardens but we were very tired and retreated to our hotel room in London.
Soon enough we left London and went to Kent to spend a few days with an old friend from Napa High School. She has lived in England all of her adult life.  As usual I was looking for Ravens along the one lane country roads.  I never saw a raven but did see many black and white magpies.  So all was not lost in Kent, a most beautiful, green and lovely place.
When we arrived home from England at 1 AM in the morning- what did I see?  A Welcome Home sign at the door AND a new doormat with a CROW on it!!  Wonderful!  What a nice surprise from my very good buddy, Dick.  I am going to take my black sharpie and modify that beak and it will soon be a RAVEN!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Where is the Stealth Raven?

The Stealth Raven is around and about!  I have been putting out 2 raw chicken eggs into the platform feeder each day if the previous 2 eggs have disappeared.  Some days it is obvious that the crows have had an egg snack.  They peck at the eggs and leave egg shells all around the feeder.  Other days the eggs have clean disappeared ala the Stealth Raven.  To see the Stealth Raven in action I have to be looking out the window at the moment when the raven flies in to pick up an egg.  This is a problem.  Up on Mt. Veeder the house had floor to ceiling windows everywhere so it was easy to monitor the action in the great outdoors.  Here the windows are of normal size and configuration- how I miss those big windows on the world.  So now I have to come up with a new plan for sighting the Stealth Raven.  This could take considerable thought.  How about a motion activated alarm that would ring on my Kindle? on an ipod? on my watch? Oh the possibilities are endless.
Last week we went out to Bodega Head at Bodega Bay- you know- the sight of the Alfred Hitchcock movie "The Birds".  I never saw the movie because it gave black birds such a bad name for YEARS.  I would not support such a movie.  Anyway I went out there to enjoy the view of the Pacific Ocean and to visit the resident raven pair.  I took along some bread and crackers.  It was difficult to feed these ravens because the darn seagulls are faster at the draw and get the food first.  So I would wait for the ravens to fly by the open back end of my van and then I would throw out the food.  I saw one raven do a 180 degree turn in midair to grab the food I had thrown out.  Wow that was quite the maneuver!
We are going to the Scottish Games this weekend at the Pleasanton Fair Grounds.  There is a man there who walks around with a raven puppet/doll on his head.  This raven is dressed up like a Scottish King- with crown, kilt, the whole kit.  It is so neat.  I want one.  I am going to look for this man and take his picture for future reference.  This could be my next project.  I just finished my Raven Tote Bag.  It turned out quite well if I do say so myself.  When my daughter comes up to visit I am going to have her take a picture and show me how to add it to this blog.  I have to get with the 21st century I suppose.  I am hoping to hear a raven call today- how I love that sound!

Monday, August 15, 2011


This morning I awoke to the sound of raven song.  I got up and looked outside.  A raven was sitting on top of the tallest tree around here- a very tall redwood tree.  He was calling for all he was worth.  Then I heard the sound of a juvenile raven making alot of racket.  Oh it was so wonderful to hear the raven fuss, oh I meant song!  I immediately went outside and put 2 eggs in the platform feeder.  When I got back inside I looked out the window- what??? one the eggs was already gone.  A raven must have been watching for me.  That egg disappeared in the time it took me to come inside, close the door and look out the window.  I say I have a stealth raven in residence.  I like the idea of a stealth raven.  I then watched the platform feeder periodically to see if the other egg would disappear but alas my crow bunch arrived and made short order of the egg.  It is difficult here with both ravens and crows in residence.  I like them both but they do not like each other.  Raven does not come around if there is a murder of crows in residence.  I don't blame raven.  The crows are a feisty bunch.  Last night there was such a bunch of crows in the tray feeder that they were jumping up and down to get a spot.  A one point I got worried.  It looked like the crows were tossing something black around in the air.  Was it a dead crow- yikes.  No it was just a battle for position power. 

Each morning I put black oil sunflower seeds in the platform feeder tray for the song birds.  Crow food must be in limited supply right now because the crows have been camping out in the tray and eating all the seeds.  Usually these are left for the small song birds.  So I then I fill up the tray again.  The 25 lb bags of seed have gone from $7.98 to $17.98!! It must be the freight charge to get them to the store or bad weather in the midwest or something.  So this year when the volunteer sunflower plants have come up from spilled seed, I watered them and let them grow.  I now have a healthy patch of big, bright sunny sunflowers.  I never have grown them before and I like them.  So all is well today in the Napa Valley.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


This morning when I got up, I looked outside and there were 2 ravens on the platform feeder.  They took up the whole feeder while sitting on it.  I realized how big those ravens really are when compared with my crow buddies.  The ravens took flight when I went to look at them out the back door.  One landed in a big tree in the next yard.  I was admiring him and his BIG size.  I went outside and put 2 hardboiled eggs into the platform feeder and then I went away to play with Andy the old cat.  The next time I looked, the 2 eggs were gone.  I am so glad that the ravens got them.  No sign of any egg shells in the feeder or on the ground which means the ravens picked them up and flew off with them!  The crows cannot pick up a chicken egg.  They eat them by pecking at them and then leave the shells all around the feeder or in the feeder.  An hour later I heard a fledgling crow out back making alot of racket.  He wanted a treat.  I went and put some rather old cheese out in the feeder and baby crow (very large) was very happy with that treat.
I just finished constructing a RAVEN BAG.  It is a tote bad fashioned after a crow bag pattern by Elinor Peace Bailey.  I converted it to a raven by changing the beak.  It is so fine a creation even if I do say so myself.  Elinor says that your life will not be dull if you dress funny!!  Either you have it or you don't!  Well I certainly have it with regards to toting around a raven tote bag!  Here is to funny dressing!

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Good Year for Ravens

I have had several reports from friends around the Napa Valley that it has been a good year for raven babies.  Usually my pair on Mt. Veeder had 2 babies per year.  This year I am hearing that raven pairs have raised 4 babies- wow!  A lot of raven racket.  By the end of July the babies will be pests for their parents.  The parents are now teaching the babies to feed on their own BUT that does not mean that the young ones have stopped begging and yelling for food NOW!  The crow babies around my house are doing the same thing.  They still want to be fed.  So much easier than getting it yourself!  I wonder why this is such a good year for ravens.  We had alot of rain this year and the weather has been very cool.  That is the only thing that I can point to but why would that affect ravens?  The mysteries of Nature.
Two days ago I was working in my garden when a raven flew right over my head and croaked.  Alas there was no egg in the feeder because the crows had demolished them for breakfast.  So I ran in the house and replaced the eggs and then stayed inside to see if the raven would visit the feeder.  No raven came, so I went back out to finish my planting.  Then I heard them, two ravens flying overhead.  I hadn't waited long enough- boo hoo.  They flew away.  BUT- the ravens definitely know where the eggs are!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Yesterday evening at 6:30 PM we attended the Emerson String Quartet concert that was part of the Annual Napa Valley Festival Del Sole.  It was held at the Castello di Amoroso outside of Calistoga.  The castle is a reconstruction of a medieval castle from the mind of Daryl Sattui.  It is quite wonderful in design and appearance. The concert was held in an enclosed courtyard within the castle walls.  The stage was setup against the facade of the chapel wall.  From our seats we could look over the cross on the top of the chapel and see the sky and the towering conifers beyond.  The sky was a robin egg blue with fluffy white clouds.  It was quite lovely.  But HARK- what did I see- RAVEN gliding slowly back and forth in the sky.  WOW- that gave me something to watch during the sad/macabre Bartok music being played.  A linnet (house finch) was sitting on the top of the cross and singing it's heart out during the Bartok recital.  Ha- it didn't like the music either!  I could also hear the raven calls echoing across the valley- sublime.

As night drew in the ravens began to fly into a large conifer that was located directly behind the castle.  They had selected this tree for their night time roost.  I counted 20 ravens coming in for the night.  It was a lovely sight.  Once the ravens were settled, the music improved to a happier Franz Schubert.  All in all it was a lovely visit to the castle and it's raven neighbors.

This morning there was such corvid racket.  A baby crow was sitting in the platform feeder begging for a peanut.  I had put peanuts out first thing this morning.  The baby is of course as big as the parent and there it is begging and squawking like a maniac.  Hilarious.  I put eggs in the platform feeder later in the day as the RAVEN seems to come by in the late afternoon.  The crows will peck and eat the eggs if I put them out in the morning.  So now I have a schedule, the birds have trained me- crows in the morning, ravens in the afteroon.  My life is run by the birds, not, my life is for the birds- a big difference there!

Thursday, July 7, 2011


It finally happened!  One year to the day exactly!  Chuck saw a raven fly into our little back yard, pick up the egg in the platform feeder and fly off with it.  It was so unexpected and I was so mad that I didn't see it.  As soon as he told me, I ran out and replaced the egg in the platform feeder.  Three days later I saw a big black bird gliding over the roof top as I was working in the frontyard.  However I could not see the bird very clearly.  I ran to the back yard to see if the egg was gone.  Sure enough the egg was gone!!!  Still I had not seen the bird with the egg.  BUT- just now as I was waking from a nap, I SAW IT!  A bird black bird was sitting on the top of the new arbor in the backyard.  It flew over to the platform feeder, adjusted the egg in its beak and took flight!!!  WOW WOW- I saw it with my own eggs, I mean eyes!!!  Soon after a couple of crows came around and were making all kinds of racket- they do not like the ravens in their territory.  After all they are the king of peanuts and of all they observe.  The next step is now to make friends with the raven.  I don't know if this will be possible because of my band of crows that hang out in our court.  The one pair of crows is here every morning for their peanut fix.  As soon as I put out the peanuts the two crows begin to crow and alert their friends that peanuts are out!  They seem to share as long as there are enough to go around.  The baby crows are still with them.  I can tell by the sound of their calls and their very skittish behavior.  A grown bird will approach a peanut straight on and pick it up.  The babies- jump forward and back, forward and back just like the baby ravens used to do up on Mt. Veeder.  It is comical to watch!!
Oh I am so happy- a raven of my own!!!  Now I must go and replace the egg in the feeder.  A friend of mine up on the mountain has a dozen eggs for me.  I must go tomorrow and pick them up as Mr. Raven has found me and all is right with life in the valley. 
It appears that all is all right for a number of people in the valley as we saw seven hot air ballons over the house the other morn.  Such a pretty sight.  Still that couldn't beat the time up on Mt. Veeder when I saw a hot air balloon coming up my driveway.  It was a couple of hotdoggers fooling around in a hot air balloon.  They were about 20 feet off the ground.  When they got to the part of the driveway that swung left they had to really put the gas to the unit or they would have run into the forest which was straight ahead.  What a sight- what a thrill!!  You just never know what one can see in a day.  Ravens, balloons, oh my!!!!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Good Raven Week

Today was a good raven week.  I went up to visit friends on Mt. Veeder and got to see the resident raven pair.  What beauties they are.  They are so much bigger than my friendly crow pair that visit me each morning for their peanut fix.  While working in the yard this week I heard raven noises overhead and looked up to the sky.  A really nice looking raven was flying over my head.  He was headed for the open space across the road from my court. 
The yard construction is almost complete and then I can get my platform feeder back in full "operation attract raven".  Something got the egg I put out the other day- didn't see who got it.  I wonder if a hawk would go after an egg?  I saw a very large red tail hawk sitting in a tree in my front yard.  What a sight that was.  It is so great to see all the variety of bird life.  The cute little woodpecker and the white breasted nuthatch visit the suet block everyday.  A nervous little titmouse comes and gets a seed and darts away and then comes back for another black oil sunflower seed.  It is wonderful to watch.  The chesnut backed chickadees are frequent visitors to the seed feeders.  They are very bold.  I can be standing right next to them trying to fill the feeder and they DO NOT move.  It is remarkable that such a small bird is so fearless.  We are hoping to have grosbeaks visit us this summer.  They have arrived up on Mt. Veeder for their breeding season. We did see a single female at our feeder here in the valley last year.  I hope she remembers where we live and brings her friends and babies this year. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

GUEST POST: "Are you smarter than a 9th grader"

This post is an entry by my daughter.  She is a high school math teacher.

The picture below is of two baby ravens that were living right outside of my 2nd story classroom window.  They became celebrities on campus - due to their loud, obnoxious and increasingly frequent squawks for food!  Their striking good looks and large size created a lot of attention too.  The students thought it was hilarious that these two large babies would sit at home, whine and wait for their parents to bring them their meals, while they entertained themselves all day at home.  Hmmm.....sound familiar!?!?!? 

These raven parents smartly set up their home about 5 feet from the window of the only teacher on campus who has a mother obsessed with ravens.  A coincidence?  I think not!   They are smart birds!  Speaking of smart birds..... this was my first year teaching at a public high school.  I had been teaching high level math courses at private schools for the past 7 years.  I was welcomed into the fold by being handed the lowest level classes filled with behavior problems....without a doubt, these two beauties were the most attentive and well behaved students "in" my class!  They get A's!   

The Crow and the Squirrel

I hear the ravens calling in the tall trees near the creek next door but I still do not have them coming to my yard on a regular basis- so sad for me. BUT- I have Mr. Crow who spends most of the day hanging around my yard, up in the trees and sitting on my newly installed arbor in the backyard.  He calls first thing in the morning and I go out and give him some peanuts.  This is when the fun starts.  The squirrels also want the peanuts.  Up on Mt. Veeder the ravens would get the peanuts before the squirrels could get them.  Here the squirrels are faster than the crows.  Mr. Crow was on the ground just getting ready to grab the perfect peanut when the squirrel charged him and Mr. Crow backed away and the squirrel got the peanut.  A squirrel is about the same size as a crow.  A raven is three times as big as a crow so he has no fear of a squirrel.  Many times I watched the ravens play tricks with the squirrels.  When the squirrel's back was turned, the raven would sneak up and pull the squirrel's tail.  It was hilarious to watch.  The TRICKSTER for sure.  I am getting pretty mad at those squirrels.  They have destroyed several of my bird feeders.  They actually knocked one down and dragged it off somewhere.  I still have not found it.  I have now invested in some supposedly squirrel proof feeders.  Tell it to the squirrels.  The baffles on poles seem to work the best to keep the squirrels off the feeders.  They get enough peanuts every morning so I am not feeling sorry for the squirrels. 
My backyard is currently under construction.  We have had all the grass removed and have had paths and rock lined flower beds installed.  Grass is such a waste of water in the dry summer climate that we have here in Napa.  Although so far it has rained so much in May and June that I am astounded.  We will eventually have drip irrigation to the plants as the long months of no rain will return soon.  As a result my platform feeder with eggs keeps being moved around.  Soon it will have a permanent spot and I will go back to the egg and raven watch.  Meanwhile I can hear the ravens in the neighborhood and hopefully I will have a raven friend before long.

The painting is by Kathy Denett of Mt. Veeder, Napa.  I bought it for my new garden shed.  Must decorate those walls.  Larry and Bob- aren't they cute?  Perched in the vineyards high above the Napa Valley on Mt. Veeder at the Wing Canyon Vineyards/Winery- very good wine too I might add.  Try some, you will like it!!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Library Raven

I can't believe it.  I went downtown Napa to the library today to return two books.  I drove into the drive through drop off and what do I see???  A big raven sitting by the slot where the books are returned!!!  The bird was right outside my window looking in at me.  It was weird, strange and wonderful! He then took flight and I got a good view of his beautiful tail.  I have often seen a pair of ravens flying over the downtown area.  There is alot of food left around down there so that must attract them.  I wish they would come to my little yard- I would feed them really good!  I am anxious for my backyard to be completed so that I can get my bird feeding stations back in order.  The grass has been removed, the walking paths are in, the sprinklers are going in, the top soil is here- all is going.  No more thirsty grass in a California garden.  The strange thing is- it has been raining for days and hailing- in May!!  I remember my school days in Napa in May.  It was always so darn HOT!  Today is English weather and we had the fire on last night to warm our tootsies.  What is with THAT??  Ah well- soon enough I will be back to my program of attracting a raven or two.  I know they are out there, I see them flying high above. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Looking for Ravens in all the Right Places

At the present time my backyard is all torn up. This means the platform feeder containing the eggs for potential raven visitors is all torn up!  We are having the grass ripped out.  The front yard was ripped out last summer and has since been planted with drought tolerant plants and native wildflowers.  After living in the forest for the last 16 years, I got used to no lawn and no lawn MOWING!  Lawns are beautiful but are water hogs.  Lawns had to go.  The backyard will soon be a series of paths with raised beds here and there.  There will also be a fairy dell under the branching oak tree.  What could be better?  I have not been able to put eggs out for the ravens since all this upheaval started.  This necessitated serious action!  I had to go out into the countryside and look for ravens and hear some raven calls!
We made several trips to Sonoma County in the last week.  The hills are so green, the vineyards look great and the roses this year are spectacular.  During these trips I look for ravens and I am often rewarded with seeing pairs of ravens soaring, gliding, rolling and generally having a good time in the sky.  I do love to hear their calls, which are music to my ears.  Yesterday my daughter and I took a walk in the open space near our home.  It was a great day.  We walked to the top of the hill and had a great view of Napa valley from our vantage point.  I saw a lone raven soaring and gliding.  I called to him, RAVEN, he turned and flew toward us and then a red winged black bird started chasing after him.  The raven flew away with the small black bird trailing after him.  I was sad to see him go.  The black bird was probably protecting his nest and such is nature.
 The crow pair are still here.  I put out peanuts for them every morning and they know me.  They watch for me to come out each morning and then they start crowing.  If they could I am sure they would crow- PEANUTS!  They are having a lot of competition for the peanuts from the bad squirrels. I call them bad as they are breaking up all my clay pots and glass ornaments in the yard.  I am getting pretty mad at those rodents!!!  They also bury items in my potted plants and then walnut trees start to spout.  Chuck finally found a squirrel proof birdfeeder.  I delight in seeing those squirrels try to figure out how to get into the feeder.  They are VERY persistent.  So while I don't have a resident pair of ravens right now, I do have entertainment of the nature kind!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Who is getting the eggs?

I have been putting whole raw chicken eggs out in my platform feeder and they have been disappearing.  I know it is not the crows as they can not pick up an egg of that size.  It is not the squirrels because we have the platform set up so that they cannot get into the tray- although they try.  The squirrels are so much fun to watch as they shimmy up the pole only to be thwarted by the squirrel baffle attached to the pole.  I have yet to see what is carrying off the eggs.  A RAVEN perhaps- I sure hope so!  I hear raven when I am working in the yard.  There are many fences around here, therefore I cannot follow the sound to the source.  Time will tell.  If it is a raven, I will catch him at egg trolling eventually.

My crow pair appear to have a nest in the live oak tree next door.  The one crow sits as a sentinal in an adjoining oak tree.  I can watch him from my bedroom window.  He has many of the same habits as his big cousin.  The crow likes to bang on a branch with his beak and then CROW.  This bird flies into the adjoining dense oak tree periodically to deliver food.  The other garden birds have vacated the area.  My feeders are empty of visitors.  I wonder if it is because of the crow's nest nearby?  It has not deterred the blue jays however.  They come for their morning peanuts without fail.

The other evening we went to the Audubon Society meeting because the program was on "Crows and Ravens".  Right up my alley.  The speaker was very interesting, an eco psychologist.  I had never heard of this discipline.  She investigates the relationship between nature and humans.  Her talk included tales and myths surrounding ravens such as Odin's birds.  Odin, the great Norseman, had 2 ravens who traveled the world and reported back to him each day.  I would like a pair of ravens like that.  The speaker also had a lovely voice.  She sang us two songs.  One was the Power of Raven- Good Wish, a blessing.  The other was an old Scottish Song- "Two Corbies".  It was all enjoyable.  I got to show off my heavy shirt from Cabella's on which I had hand embroidered a large regal raven on the back.  All in all it was a great evening with bird loving friends.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Crows of Maple Cottage

I have decided to call my abode Maple Cottage due to the very large red Japanese maples in the front of the house and a lovely green Japanese maple in the backyard.  Every house needs a name that evokes it's spirit.  So there it is.  A pair of crows has taken up residence at Maple Cottage.  They are in the trees in the front yard when I arise in the morning.  They are waiting for their peanut treat.  The blue jays and the crows share the peanuts that I put out every morning.  The pair of crows often alight on the platform feeder and eat the egg or seeds.  They are not big enough to pick up an egg and fly off with it like the ravens can do.  So when the egg disappeared completely, I think the raven got it.  I really HOPE the raven got it.  The platform feeder has a baffle on it so that mammals cannot get up into the tray.  So I don't think a squirrel, raccoon, possum or rat got the egg.  I have only seen squirrels around here.  We are so close to Redwood Creek that I would expect other mammals to be about the place but I have not seen any.  We have least 5 gray squirrels running around our yard and in the redwood trees.  They are very acrobatic and amusing.  I especially like it when they bang their paw up and down when they are angry- like when there is a paucity of peanuts on the ground.  Very demanding little fellows.  I just got the Ultimate Squirrel Proof Birdfeeder.  We will see if the claim is true.  The squirrels are very ingenious fellows when it comes to birdfeeders.  My last one disappeared.  They knocked it down and dragged it off somewhere.
So for now I have a pair of picky crows, high flying ravens and BAD squirrels.  Life is good in the flatlands.

Friday, March 25, 2011


Yesterday in the late afternoon I was sitting by the window minding my own business and knitting.  It had been raining hard all day and was overcast.  There was a break in the rain and then it happened- a BIG BLACK BIRD landed in the platform feeder!  I couldn't believe my eyes.  I have had that feeder out there for months, always with an egg and black oil sunflower seeds in the tray.  This is the first time I have attracted a big black bird.  I was so excited!  After the bird flew away I went out to look- the egg was gone!  Oh happy day!  I have to say I am not sure if it was a raven.  I have some hope that it was a raven as I have noticed a pair of ravens flying over the house almost every day.  We must be on their flight pattern to various food sources.  I did not hear any vocalizations from the big black bird in the feeder tray and I could not get a good look at his beak.  I could not tell for sure if it was a raven or his cousin crow.  So I did what any sane? person would do, I ran outside and put another egg in the tray.  I sat down inside and waited.  By this time dusk was falling and the overcast sky made it very dark.  Hark- here came two big black birds who landed in the tray.  They pecked and ate the egg.  It was so dark I could not make out any features, so I am not sure if it was raven. 
I have been feeding a pair of crows with peanuts every morning.  They really like them  The blue jays always try to get the nuts before the crows can decide to come down and get one.  It is so entertaining to watch.  Those two crows know me now.  They must keep watch on the house as one or both show up when I go out to weed or take the garbage out.  It is fun to have bird friends. 
The gold finches are getting their breeding plumage.  I keep their thistle sock full and it is frequently covered with golden finches.  I wish the thistle seed wasn't so dear.  It is costing me a fortune!
So goes life on the valley floor.  It is has been too cold and rainy to walk over to the close by Alston Park.   Alston Park is a big open area with a creek, walking paths, oak trees, hills and a dog park.  The park is adjacent to vineyards.  There are ravens over there which I enjoy seeing and hearing.  This maybe the home territory for the ravens that fly over my house.  Once the weather improves I will once again take my daily walk to the park.
This evening we are going up to Mt. Veeder to visit our former next door neighbors.  I am taking a care package for my raven pair- Bold and Shy.  If it is still light I may get to see them.  I stand in the street and yell RAVENS and if they are in hearing distance, they still show up.  I miss them very much.

Friday, March 4, 2011

New Crow Friends

My new crow friends, a nice black pair, come every morning and sit on the telephone wire.  The wire is just about even with the railing of the second floor of this home.  They have become very brave.  I put the food bits on the railing and then they hop right over to check out the days offerings.  I wonder why these crows are so friendly and fearless.  The crows around my home in Napa are very fearful.  It takes alot of checking out and peering and poking around before a Napa crow will come down and get a peanut from my driveway.  Something  in Napa must have scared them.  I saw a program on crows recently that showed that crows recognize faces.  In fact the next generation will recognize a mean face if it was recognized by the parents.  That is really fascinating.  Do humans do that??? 
We are here in Shell Beach for a few more days.  So I will enjoy the friendly crows and clean out the refrigerator at the same time.  They have liked left over chicken, pretzels, pecans and croutons.  Perhaps in time the Napa crows will get to know me and not be afraid.  I am also hoping that the Napa raven remembers me.  The raven came to my redwood tree twice before I left for Shell Beach.  Wouldn't you know that the raven would show up just as I was leaving for vacation????  I will get right back on the egg in the platform feeder patrol as soon as I return to Napa.  It has been a lovely sojourn here on the Central Coast of California.  A little of everything, sunny days, rainy days, very high surf, shopping, dining by the ocean and visits from friends.  All in all, everything a vacation should be.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Wild Weather and Ruffled Crows

The weather has turned wild at Shell Beach, snow is expected in the surrounding high areas and the crows are ruffled.  I have been feeding a pair of crows each day about 10:00 AM each day.  They were right on time this morning.  It is funny how they can tell time- do they have a pocket watch?? I looked out and they were hanging on the telephone wires and their feathers were blowing every which way.  It is really blowing hard out there.  I have to be careful when I feed the crows as there are many ravenous seagulls about.  They will fly down and steal the food away from the crows just like that.  This morning the gulls were not around so I put two pieces of meat out for the crows.  The brave one came right down to the railing and got a piece.  Then the shy one came down and got the other piece of meat.   Right after that the seagulls showed up so I could not feed the crows anymore food.  However- I do believe they will be back tomorrow morning at 10:00 AM unless it is raining very hard.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Birds in Shell Beach

Since the weather in Napa was dreary and too much like winter, we decided to rent Casa Serena in Shell Beach, CA once again for a month.  The only downside to this trip was the fact that Raven had started to come around for peanuts and a look at us at our Napa home.  But Raven never forgets a favorite food so I believe he will be back when we return home and the peanuts appear once again!
Shell Beach is a lovely little village on the Central Coast of California near Pismo Beach- a varied mix of beach bungalows and mansions.  There is a very Tudor style mansion near our abode that hangs over the sea and the daffodils are blooming all around the house.  It looks likea  manor house in England.   No one is ever home.  It is lovely to have such a place but a shame not to have time to visit it.  Ah well- I peer in the gates every evening as we walk the 2 blocks to watch the sunsets with the neighbors and their dogs.  The house has several follies in the yard- a windmill, a tower for Rapunzle, and an oriental tea house- quite the place. 

Every evening I go down to where the rocks are exposed at the edge of the Pacific ocean.  I am looking for black oyster catchers.  I think these are the cutest birds with their bright red bills.  They hunt and peck on the rocks looking for sea worms and other tasty things to eat.  They are usually found in pairs and make alot of noise if disturbed.  They walk around the seagulls that are sitting on the rocks as they peck along.  They are black like ravens so maybe that is why I like them.
Most evenings we have a pair of peregrine falcons that come and perch on two century plants that are across the street from Casa Serena.  There are many song birds around here so I think the falcons come to look for a before bed snack.  I have never seen peregrine falcons up close, so this is special.  I have my spotting scope trained on them in the evenings.
Another bird is found here that I have  not seen before- a ring neck white dove.  I looked in my bird book and it says located around Los Angeles.  We are a couple hundred miles north from there, so maybe their range is expanding.
We have been putting nuts, cheerios, and bread crumbs out on the deck railing that is in the front of the house and faces the ocean.  Yesterday a very curious crow came and sat on the telephone wire that is close to the deck railing.  He scooted along the wire so that he could get a good look at Chuck and at the food. Chuck talked to him and crow was taking it all in.  Another crow came to join the first one.  The second one was brave and went over to the rail and got some food.  The first one was very shy and the second very bold- seems that is the way with birds and humans.
Last night it was somewhat stormy and a pair of black crowned night herons came and sat in a tree across from our balcony.  They were quite beautiful and I love the little white feather that extends from their head down their back.  I think they were there for protection from the wind.
Today is a lovely day so out we go to walk the dunes. I am sure I will see some sea birds that are new to me.  Life is wonderful with so many of nature's wonders to observe.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Raven in the Redwood Tree

This morning Chuck saw a raven sitting in the top of the redwood tree in the front yard. This is FIRST time we have seen a raven come down near our house!  Yippee!  There is hope.  I had put out some peanuts this morning for the blue jays.  Perhaps the raven saw the nuts in the driveway.  I immediately ran out and put a fresh egg in the platform feeder and some more peanuts too.  On Friday I am going up to Mt. Veeder to visit the ravens up there.  I have been storing up chicken parts in the freezer, so I have treats to take with me.  I will throw in some peanuts as well.  Ravens really like peanuts.  It is so funny to watch the jays inspect the peanuts.  They do just what the ravens do.  They pick up each one and shake it, then they pick the one that they like best.  Can't be too picky when it comes to peanuts.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ravens in the Neighborhood

The weather has been so nice lately, so I have been outside poking around the yard.  Someone ate the egg in the platform feeder!  There were traces of shell left and that is all.  Yesterday I heard a pair of ravens while I was in the yard.  They were talking back and forth, doing their raven thing.  I can hear a raven call immediately if there is one, and it is music to my ears.  I could determine the direction of the sound but it was across the creek and I have no access to the creek.  This is so different than on Mt. Veeder where I could walk acres without any fences or barriers.  Here it is all fences and no access. Denied only for people, not the birds-fortunately for them.  Hearing the ravens gave me a happy feeling because I know there is a raven pair in the neighborhood.  I put out a cooked chicken carcass on the driveway thinking this might lure a raven in, but no luck.  No animal or bird bothered it so that indicates that there are no raccoons around here.  That is surprising because the creek runs through the yard next door.  Everyone that visited our house had to comment on the carcass in the driveway, so I finally gave up and removed it.  I have not given up the raven search however.  Every few days I hear the ravens.  They are here somewhere.  I do have a bird following in my little space in Napa Valley.   Every time I go out into the yard, the blue jays show up.  I look like a big peanut to them.  I oblige them by putting out the nuts.  The crows show up every morning about 8:30 AM looking for said nuts.  If I am not too lazy, I get up and put some out for the crows.  So life in the burbs is OK and there are many birds around.  We have a little tit mouse who comes for black oil sunflower seeds.  What a cute little fellow.  We have many American Goldfinches at the niger seed feeder.  So all is well in the flatlands of Napa Valley.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Ravens of Elk, California

This past weekend we went to a gig with the San Francisco Scottish Fiddlers.  It was held at the Greenwood Pier Inn in the tiny hamlet of Elk, California.  Elk is on the north coast in Mendocino County.  Our location at the Inn was on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  This afforded a great view of a nearby promontory where there lived- what else? a pair of nosy ravens.  Ah yes the ravens would fly by the windows and check us out.  Oh alas and alack, I had no eggs but I did have some delicious oatmeal, walnut and raisen cookies from a bakery in Healdsburg.  I broke up the cookies and put a piece out on the little deck- whap- raven scooped it up.  I loved to see his tail feathers spread open as he prepared to almost land and scoop up the cookie.  I repeated this process until I ran out of cookies.  Only a little piece was left and a Stellar's jay came in and got it.  What fun for me!
Over the promotory there had to be strong thermal winds.  The ravens would hang in the air above the ground for minutes at a time.  They looked like Harriers or Marsh Hawks in this regard.  I had never seen ravens do this behavior.  They also gave great aerial displays, shooting upward and then diving straight down toward the ground.  The pair often flew in tandem- side by side and then one right over the other.  The Blue Angels could get some ideas from this pair.  It was a great sight to see.  I also always appreciate hearing the raven calls as they are sorely lacking at my new house.  It was a great weekend for raven watching and Scottish music.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Where did they go?

Well here it is the New Year in the flatlands.  All is well and the sun is shining.  Chuck was outside and saw two ravens flying overhead.  He came and called to me.  We hurried back out the door nearly getting stuck as we both went through the door at the same time!  Alas and alack, they had flown away.  No stopping for the lonely egg that resides on the platform feeder.  Yesterday I heard a pair of ravens having a conversation but I could not locate them.  My good binoculors got lost in the move so I must get a new pair so I can see the birds.  The spotting scope is too large to haul around for a quick look.  My bird feeder area in front of my sewing window is very busy.  I have a black oil sunflower tube feeder, a suet feeder and a niger sock out there.  A very pretty woodpecker comes to the suet feeder.  I am not sure what kind it is- I was so used to the piliated woodpeckers up on the mountain.  Now I have this pretty little guy.  The gold finches are here eating the niger seeds.  The sunflower seeds attract the chickadees and the red breasted and the white breasted nuthatches.  The nuthatches also go for the suet.  I also saw a tit mouse the other day.
My most enjoyment comes from the scrub jays.  I began by putting peanuts in the shell out on the driveway to attract the ravens or the crows.  The crows came but were too slow and would only get about half of the peanuts because the jays would dive in and pick up the nuts right in front of them.  I never did see a raven come for a nut.  So sad.  So I figured if the jays liked the nuts so much I would see if they would come closer to the house.  I began to put the nuts on the railing of the porch.  Bingo-they came and got the nuts off the railing.  NOW- when I get up in the morning, there is a jay sitting on the railing waiting for breakfast!  How soon they learn who the bird lovers are.  They are so funny- just like the ravens.  They pick up each nut and shake it.  They want to get the BIGGEST and BEST one.  Then they go and hide the nut in the ivy under the redwood trees.  Then they are back for another nut- lickity split.  I wonder if they ever retrieve the hidden nuts?   I will have to watch and see if I can see them retrieve one.  So life goes on with or without a friendly raven- but I have not given up the quest.  I may have to find a pair over in the open space and walk over there most days with a food treat.  I can do that.