Thursday, February 11, 2016
Once again, this winter as in others, Crow has been sending me field reports from his annual flight of phantsy. This time I got another crudely wrought picture post card with a story he hopes we'll all find fascinating. Here's his letter:
My very dear susan and good friends,
I wonder if you're aware that my relatives are excellent arborists? Yes, it's true. Over the course of history crows and other corvids have planted thousands of acres of trees - namely, nut bearing trees like walnuts, oaks and beeches but they've managed to plant a fair number of berry bushes as well. You see trees, intelligent and sensitive as they are (being the highest form of plant life on the planet), have a singular problem - the fact they can't move. Birds, on the other hand, can move great distances.
Corvids roam large territories to scavenge seeds, fruit, and even meat, storing as many morsels as possible to eat later but they don't have one giant trove filled with loot the way squirrels do. Instead, they hide each treat in a separate place. While they remember a lot they can't remember everything (much like humans). Each year, a certain percentage of the birds' cached seeds goes uneaten. Because the birds like to hide food just an inch or two under the soil, these seeds have a chance to take root and grow into trees.
Over the course of time, this arrangement has become mutually beneficial. Many large-seeded trees have co-evolved with corvids, developing seeds that contain enough nutrition that the birds fill up faster and aren't so likely to eat them on the spot. Even better, many corvids prefer to cache their seeds in recently burned or disturbed landscapes, which are the most in need of reforestation.
For instance, for 150 years on two islands in California’s Channel Islands National Park oak and pine forests had been ravaged by imported, non-native livestock. But when the animals were taken back to the mainland in the 1980s, the local island jays (who can bury up to 6000 seeds a year) managed to double the size of the oak and pine forests in just a few decades.
By planting seeds and nuts, my friends lay the groundwork for entire ecosystems. Many plants thrive in the shade offered by trees like oaks and pines, and animals flock to the area as well. Finally, forest floors are excellent carbon sinks. It turns out that corvids are, in fact, guardians of the forest. But you already knew that, didn't you?
I hope you found this entertaining as well as educational (these things always go best together, don't you think?).
I'll be home soon. Please leave me some fruitcake.
Ever yr affec friend
ps: Crows also like to have fun for no reason:
Quote of the week:
Humanity has already achieved, technically, the total success all Utopians ever dreamed of; our problems now are entirely due to wrong thinking. We are in the tragic-comic predicament of two crazed men dying of thirst, fighting over a teaspoon of water in the middle of a rainstorm. We cannot see the rainstorm because we are hypnotized by emergency-reflexes fixated on the teaspoon.
Robert Anton Wilson