Crows sometimes harass hawks and other raptorsPublished 10:00am Saturday, February 18, 2012
Column: Nature’s World
My neighbor Crandall stops by.
“How are you doing?” I ask.
“Everything is nearly copacetic. I was so busy yesterday that I didn’t have anything to eat other than the four meals at the cafe. I have to watch what I eat. I have that plate in my head from when I got carried away at that buffet. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that I graduated from high school with high honors.”
“You didn’t. You graduated with Hi Honors — Hiram Honors. His father worked at the John Deere shop,” I say.
“Hi was like a lighthouse in the median of a freeway. He was bright enough, but of no use. Speaking of school, I took a class at the college, but was expelled because I couldn’t be quiet.”
“Why couldn’t you stop talking?” I ask.
“Because I was sitting next to a ventriloquist. I was the teacher’s pet. She kept me in a cage at the back of the room. Even without that class, I know enough to keep my keys in one pocket of my pants and my change in the other pocket. That keeps me from tipping over. I keep my wallet in the refrigerator.”
“So you’ll have some cold cash?” I say. “Why do you keep your wallet in the fridge?”
“Because then I know where it is.”
That squirrel is calling again
I met a woman when I spoke at a Lions convention in Mankato who told me of her friend who had left a small cell phone on the deck of her house for a few minutes. When she returned to the deck, the phone was gone. She searched unsuccessfully for the missing communications device. She used her landline to call the cell phone’s number. She could hear the cell phone ringing. It was sounding from a squirrel nest high in a tree.
Q and A
“Why do crows harass red-tailed hawks and other raptors? I’ve seen groups of crows dislodge a hawk from a perch and then chase it through the sky, apparently strafing it. Why?” Crows may be the original angry birds. They particularly dislike the great horned owl, which is a prime predator of crows. Mobbing behavior by crows is common. The crows are reacting to the potential threat a raptor poses as a predator. The mobbing is intended to rid the territory of a raptor. Crows want to clear the area to make their roosting or nesting area safer at night. The mobbing might also teach young crows who their enemies are. Crows depend upon their maneuverability to keep them from harm during mobbing. Occasionally, a mobbed hawk may attack and kill a crow. Crows appear to relish mobbing. Crows are intelligent. They have likely found a way to make the mobbing tax-deductible.
Delbert and Judy Karsjens, of Clarks Grove, ask, “We were wondering what has happened to all the jackrabbits? We go on a lot of two-lane and gravel roads, but don’t see any.” The white-tailed jackrabbit is a prairie hare that is more abundant in wide-open grasslands. Once numerous, both grasslands and jackrabbits have given way to intensive farming. My dogs used to exhaust themselves chasing jackrabbits. They never caught one of the 40 mph travelers. In Minnesota, we have two hare species — the white-tailed jackrabbit and snowshoe hare. Our only rabbit species is the eastern cottontail.
“I set a mousetrap in my garage. I caught a mouse, but something had eaten most of it. Any idea as to what might have done that?” I would suspect it was a shrew. A mouse and a shrew could have been sharing a shelter — your garage. The mouse was there to eat birdseed or any food scraps it could locate. The shrew was there to eat mice.
Karen Wright, of Mankato, asks how honeybees survive the winter. Insects are cold-blooded, so their body temperatures reflect the ambient temperature. If they become too cold, they lose the ability to move their muscles and die. When it gets cold, bees huddle together in the center of the hive, as close together as possible. This coziness is not enough to keep the bees warm. The bees beat their wings. How does that help? Drop to the floor and give me 50 push-ups. I’ll wait. Done? How do you feel? Warm, I’ll bet. Exercise warms the bees, too.
“How do moles breathe underground?” Moles are able to reuse previously inhaled oxygen and this ability allows them to survive in low-oxygen environments such as underground burrows. Moles are resistant to higher levels of carbon dioxide because their blood has an abundance of a unique sort of hemoglobin protein found in their blood cells. It also helps that moles prefer porous soils that allow oxygen in.
I’ve been reading
This from “At Home” by Bill Bryson, “Out of the thirty thousand types of edible plants thought to exist on Earth, just eleven — corn, rice, wheat, potatoes, cassava, sorghum, millet, beans, barley, rye and oats — account for 93 percent of all that humans eat, and every one of them was first cultivated by our Neolithic ancestors. Exactly the same is true of husbandry. The animals we raise for food today are eaten not because they are notably delectable or nutritious or a pleasure to be around, but because they were the ones first domesticated in the Stone Age. We are, in the most fundamental way, Stone Age people ourselves. From a dietary point of view, the Neolithic period is still with us. We may sprinkle our dishes with bay leaves and chopped fennel, but underneath it all is Stone Age food. And when we get sick, it is Stone Age diseases we suffer.”
Thanks for stopping by
“I ran out of gas! I got a flat tire! I didn’t have change for cab fare! I lost my tux at the cleaners! I locked my keys in the car! An old friend came in from out of town! Someone stole my car! There was an earthquake! A terrible flood! Locusts! It wasn’t my fault!” — Jake Blues, The Blues Brothers
“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” — Edith Wharton
Al Batt of Hartland is a member of the Albert Lea Audubon Society. Email him at SnoEowl@aol.com.