Contemplations in Four Parts
I normally moved Spirit to his outdoor living quarters during the first week of April. In the
spring of 1992, we were hit with an April snowstorm that dropped a four inch covering of light, puffy, snow. We
call it “robin snow” because the robins have returned at that time of the year. I made snowballs and gave them to
Spirit. He would peck at the snowballs and move them around with his beak. On one occasion, he placed a snowball in
his basin, moving it through the water until it broke into several pieces. Spirit played with that snowball until
only a thin covering of slush remained over the surface of the water in his basin.
The following spring (1993), several crows and a pair of ravens tended the general area where
Spirit lived. One of the crows, probably a female, seemed very interested in Spirit, and frequented a nearby tree
where she could watch his pen. She often cawed, but he never replied, seeming to prefer a silent, guarded attitude
Later that summer, the crows behaved less cautiously towards me. I gave them scraps of bread which
I was unable to use or had bought especially for them. I began feeding the crows the previous winter during a very
severe cold snap. At one point I was feeding four crows, a pair of ravens, a seagull, numerous blue jays, and a
crowd of other smaller birds.
In a letter, Elizabeth Turner of Victoria County, Nova Scotia, writes that she, too, feeds crows.
My husband made a feeding tray and placed it on a post in front
of the kitchen window - it attracts many varieties of birds, especially crows. As soon as daybreak we
are awakened by caw-a-caw. I save scraps of food and mix them with flour to form dumplings. Then I place them
on the tray, and usually one crow is on duty in the highest tree, watching me and the tray.
As soon as the food is placed, the crow gives a shout, and soon a flock appears. They
gorge themselves until filled -- then carry away the balance, which I assume is cached for future use. This
goes on all year, everyday.... They are very clean and tidy, and carry away anything they can't eat like bones
-- often those are seen at the base of trees further back in the woods.
I have second thoughts about feeding birds, as it could make them dependent on humans. But it is
certainly good to assist birds during severe cold periods, in the depths of winter, or in other emergency
situations. Even so, I must confess to breaking my principles, because, like Elizabeth Turner, I thoroughly enjoy
their close companionship on a year round basis. Lately, I’ve been feeding a variety of birds, including crows,
ravens, chickadees, and jays.
Often, this close companionship can result in interesting experiences. For example, one afternoon
in late April, 1993, I happened to look out my window at the right moment to see a huge raven sitting on an apple
tree to the rear of my cabin. It was probably one of the ravens that had been frequenting the area for the several
years. Suddenly, to my surprise, the raven flew from the tree and landed near Spirit's pen. It hopped directly to
the pen, and peered at Spirit through the wire siding. There was certainly no hostility
involved in the raven's behaviour. Rather, it appeared to be curious as much as anything, and flew off only
after noticing my movement in the cabin window. Spirit, for his part, took everything in stride. He simply remained
in a sitting position, and watched the raven. This was a memorable experience because it was the first time that
another bird had expressed such curiosity about Spirit.