Walking the dog this afternoon through still treacherously icy-slushy streets, my attention was drawn up. A huge blue jay was squawking and jumping from limb to limb at the top of a tall tree. I paused to see what the fuss was about, and watched as the jay tried again and again to break into a squirrel's nest up there. No sign of the squirrel, and eventually the bird flew off, cranky and still screeching. Jays are in the corvidae family, related to crows, and the incident reminded me of something that happened a few years ago.
I rose before dawn, as usual, to get ready for school, but stopped by the window at the top of the stairs, my attention drawn by a huge racket on the lawn below. In the gray morning light, a crow and a squirrel were in a stand off, both screaming. The crow's voice was a deep and resonate aaw aaw aaw and the squirrel was a lot more buzzy and nasal, anh anh anh. They circled each other on the ground beneath a tall oak tree, and as I stared, absorbed in the drama, I noticed something dark about the size of a pine cone between them.
When the thing squirmed feebly, the crow leapt forward slashing its beak at it, but the squirrel, too, dashed toward the tiny creature and picked it up by the nape of its neck-- it was her baby, fallen from the knot of dry leaves that was her nest 40 feet above. The crow stretched its wings and flew in fury at the squirrel, but she anticipated, and dodging its talons, raced to the tree trunk.
With what must have been super-species strength, she climbed steadily, but without that customary squirrel speed, carrying her young one. The crow was not to be deprived so easily; it dove again and again at her, still calling loudly, and two other crows flew to see what the ruckus was all about. One landed in the branch that she had to use to enter the nest, but she did not pause. She barreled into the black bird, knocking it back, and darted to safety, leaving the crows circling and shrieking in rage and frustration.