Thursday, February 11, 2016

cultivating Crow

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


Sean Jeating said...

Eight o'clock seems a fine time for a morning stroll to watch tree planters in the woods.

Ol'Buzzard said...

Birds and animals live as a part of nature. Humans are an invasive species. Poor Crow. He always puts a positive spin on things despite the evidence to the contrary. Though wise in most respects, he still holds out hope for the human race: more hope than logic.
the Ol'Buzzard

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Susan,

A nice turn of words and your post evokes in me, memories of a song I have sung many times and would like to dedicate to Cow in all his finery which is as follows:

I think that I shall never see
A poem as lovely as at tree

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth sweet loving breast

A tree that lifts its leafy arms to pray
And looks at GOD all day

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair

Upon whose bosom snow has laid
Who infinitely lives with train

Poems are made by fools like me
But only God can make a tree.

Joyce Kilmer. 1886–1918

Best wishes

susan said...

The early bird catches the worm, or in Crow's case, the hazelnut croissant.

susan said...

It seems our species is an aberration to all that went before and may come after. Crow does understand but has compassion for those who wish our race had taken another path. Where there's life there's hope is one of his mottoes.

susan said...

Hi Lindsay,
Words of deep wisdom I remember from childhood too. I think there were many people over the longer course of human history who lived in harmony with nature's plan. All we can do is bear witness and do our best to live as simply as possible while things take their course. You are one of those people who give Crow and I hope for the future.
All the best

Halle said...

Susan, you managed to hit two out of three of my reasons for doing anything: I've learned something and had fun!
All the Best as always.

Should Fish More said...

I've thought more about ravens than crows, nothing personal to Mr. Crow. I've lived around ravens most of my life, and find as I pass 70 they seem to have a world view similar to mine. They seem to see life with wry amusement, and make short, caustic comments. However, their propensity to frolic outside in sub-zero temps have long since left my repertoire.
I was recently out on Catalina Island, off the coast of LA. They have transplanted bison from Yellowstone Park there, for reasons I can't fathom. Many changes to the island's ecology have been tried there, and none have done well.

L'Adelaide said...

Hello dear Susan, This is exactly true, Crow. Wise birds are those Corvids. It explains the black walnuts and oak saplings we see each year. We get so many young oak trees, they grow too crowded and never is there time enough to thin them out since it takes more than a pair of pruners! We were just discussing our spate of trees yesterday. It is nice to know I will be seeing them instead of snow covered pines, i might add. did you know utah valley just had the worst inversion in years, the first the kids, oh my... goodness, it was a good decision to stop the madness.

as you might have guessed, but for the occasional post i manage to gather from many years ago posts i am reusing since i can't figure out why not, i have not been spending time online. i have not done anything much except recover from the recent craziness that i admit i brought upon myself... i think? anyway i am doing much better now and am communicating again as well as eating. ;)

i love your crow up there. always so regal. i wonder how many seeds and pods he gathers each year or does he have a host of offerings from the lesser beings? He is one giant bird compared to his brothers below him. i haven't painted in ages it seems... you have managed to charge me with a little enthusiasm to pick up my paints again. much love to you, oh, and these too ❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤

susan said...

I'm very glad to hear it, Halle!

susan said...

Hi Mike. Yes, ravens and crows seem very similar in their attitudes toward humans. My frolicking in the snow days are also long past.

I wonder why someone decided to take buffalo to Catalina?

susan said...

Hey Linda, How neat that the mystery of where your oak and walnut saplings come from has been solved. Corvids are much more suited to the environment than we would appear to be.

Okay, so it appears you're no longer in the process of selling and moving. I'll write to you soon but in the meanwhile send you all the best wishes at my command. I'm sure spring will be beautiful for you.

Crow was pleased to hear your compliment. :)

marja-leena said...

Hello Susan, belated greetings from rainy Vancouver! Crow and so many of his kind are part of a natural world that is in agony over the madness done by mankind. I do hope some balance can be and will be brought back for all living beings including our trees! In the meantime, thanks alway for the lovely stories and drawings which you share here so generously.

(I must get back to my drawing board too, lazy me!)

susan said...

Hi Marja-Leena, Yes, we must hope that eventually humankind can find a way to return to balance with nature. I guess it's easier for those who never lost their way.
I haven't been too artistically productive myself this past while. All we can do is try to keep up, eh?

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Love the drawing - keep up the good work

clairesgarden said...

everybody should plant trees. I once spent an amazing day planting up a piece of waste ground with saplings. there were about 20 people there and I think we each did 100. ... but being a group follower.. I have no idea where we were so I am unable to check up on it now... ah well.

Lisa Golden said...

The interconnection is wonderful. Please thank Crow for teaching me something to ponder as I watch the birds at the feeder. The Bluejays have been very busy there lately.

susan said...

Thank you. I'll keep trying :)

susan said...

I'm sure they're out there somewhere being grateful to you, Claire.

susan said...

It is pretty amazing, isn't it? Yeah, we've had some very active jays around here too, Lisa.