Maternal Love, Paternal Love

It’s finally raining, and the poor chicks are not getting any food. That’s because their mother is sitting firmly on top of them, keeping them warm and dry. She’s crouched low in the nest, feathers fluffed up, look of resignation in her eyes, leaves dripping water from above, chicklets doubtless yelping for food below.

It’s really quite enchanting to watch her feed them. When she flies away to look for food, there’s not a peep from the nest. Then, when she comes back, you can actually see her cheeks bulging with food that she’s not allowing herself to swallow.

When she alights near the nest, the chicklets pop up, the tallest one visible, the other two still hidden by the untidy bowl of twigs. She deposits some of the food inside the nest and stuffs little bits down the three gaping gullets in turn. When her cheeks have emptied out, she picks up some of the stuff she had deposited and does another round of stuffing. Sometimes she sits on them for a while after this, other times she leaves again, to gather more food.

Yesterday and even this morning, the father was visible, being helpful, but with the advent of the rain he’s disappeared. This is the time for him to be maximum helpful, if you ask me, bringing crisp, warm, crunchy stuff for wife and kids, but no; doubtless he’s sitting in some cozy, covered nook, chatting with the other guys and drinking and smoking too, perhaps, while the missus keeps the kids safe and dry.

Having said all that, I must admit that I can’t actually distinguish between the two with any degree of certainty. It could be that they have been taking it in turn to brood and to feed and to provide rain-proofing. I think the woman has a few specks of white on her breast and that she is the less aggressive of the two. When I was photographing the chicks yesterday, I think it was the mother who went and complained to the father, and I think it was he who flew right up to the window, demanding, indignantly, to know what exactly I thought I was up to… but that could be an entirely mistaken assumption based on human gender stereotyping.

Anyway, assuming that the less aggressive bird, who sits in the nest most of the time is the woman, it is her mate who isn’t too fond of me. On the rare occasion that he approaches the nest, if he catches a glimpse of me hovering behind the curtains, he squawks and hops around in a highly irritated manner. She is much more accustomed to me, and only flies off reluctantly if I happen to be talking too loudly or moving too fast. He, on the other hand, hasn’t seen enough of me to like me yet, I suppose – of course, if he had seen enough of me, he couldn’t help but like me… heh heh…

I hadn’t been able to get a shot of the two parents together, far less the entire family, so I finally rigged up my camera to the laptop, put my camera on the tripod, hid myself behind the opposite curtain, where they weren’t used to looking for me, and waited. Sure enough, both of them hopped towards the nest and both of them were feeding the chicks! I clicked away with the remote shooting facility on the laptop and they were unaware for the space of about a dozen shots. Then the male – suspicious as always – decided to investigate the peculiar clicking sound coming from the strange black object (my camera, that is, not my head) and came and sat on the window sill in a rather threatening manner. I suppose protecting his family from strange clicking objects is as much his idea of filial devotion as keeping them dry is hers. Sigh. I took the hint and disassembled my gear, but I was not too displeased with the results.

Any which way, it is quite an experience o observe the family life of crows at close quarters, though I still wish they were somewhat prettier creatures.


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