Shawnee News-Star Sunday July 29th 2018 Becky Emerson Carlberg It is dry.   Last night a partially full water bucket kept in the kitchen was the object of interest for large black ants.   They had collected around the inner edge and barely moved when the bucket was carried outside.   They all went sailing as the water […]

Shawnee News-Star Sunday July 29th 2018

The Audubon Magazine Cover

Becky Emerson Carlberg

It is dry.   Last night a partially full water bucket kept in the kitchen was the object of interest for large black ants.   They had collected around the inner edge and barely moved when the bucket was carried outside.   They all went sailing as the water was tossed into the pine needles.

The feisty ruby-throated hummingbirds are exhibiting a powerful thirst. They twitter (they really do!) and chatter around the house during the day.   The noisy birds insist I need to change the feeders more frequently.   Nectar levels are now dropping faster and in the heat for a few days the nectar may go to 50-proof.   I know it is too hot and dry in the afternoon when the hummers and squirrels are nowhere to be seen and the cicadas cry for rain.

My head is throbbing.   I have my own pity-party going on right now.   The glare of the sun has driven me indoors to pacify the migraine.   Migraines rob me of several days each month.   It doesn't help to have a strong genetic proclivity.   My mother and her father both suffered migraine headaches.   I can remember entire weekends when mom would retreat to her bedroom to avoid all contact with the outside world.   While digging through my father's military records, I discovered headaches were the cause of several doctor visits and tests.

My elusive triggers include particular foods, skipped meals, too little water or sleep, stress, weather, dust, who knows?   If I only paid closer attention, the day or two before the migraine arrival may hold clues.   Sensitivity to odors, lights, sounds, feeling cold, a desire to eat any sugar within reach, being very sleepy or depressed are all harbingers.   The migraines often come in the night before I can hit my arsenal of aspirin, Ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatories, caffeine products, massager or icy-cold compresses.

Timing is everything before the pain deranges balance, tummy or brings on light-headedness. While writing this article I have plugged the mini-massager into the laptop, attached pads to the backs of my shoulders and am now experiencing thirty minutes of feeling electrical impulses cycle from pounding to jabbing to thumping.   The electrifying massage can be very successful in loosening tight muscles and decreasing pain, usually within an hour. By that point, the migraine has been in control for what seems an eternity.   I have planned my own short obit columns and thought of cool places my ashes would like to go while in the grips of some migraines.   Notice I said cool.

My parents owned an ancient (sorry, vintage) handheld massager. It was primarily used on my mother's head and neck.   Many a time I saw my father attach this vibrating motor to his hand.   He slid his fingers and palm through stretchy metal bands that secured the motor to the top of his hand.   The machine was turned on and he would run his vibrating fingers all over my mother's scalp, neck and shoulders.   It was loud, but my mother didn't mind as her pain receded.

For grins I Googled vintage massagers and discovered Hammacher Schlemmer actually sells new ones similar to that of my parents.  A fifteen-watt motor rotates six ball bearings vertically and laterally that transfers all that power to the fingers. Called the Authentic Barbershop Vibration Massager it 'recreates the classic barbershop experience of shave and haircut followed by an invigorating massage to the scalp, head and shoulders.' Who knew?

My crow next to bird bath

Crow bread is a staple at my house. Numbering up to seven at times, the basic crow family consists of four.   One squawks loudly before coming, with two others usually in tow.   Unbeknownst to them, the smallest crow has already silently descended and gathered all the food it can every morning at 11 am. You could set a clock by the birds' arrival.   They voice their displeasure if no nibbles are present.

The enigmatic crow.   A bird covered in iridescent black shiny feathers with black bill and legs.   Do you have crows?   One Master Gardener has been watching crows dance over her yard and wondered if they ate bugs.   Yes.   They will eat almost anything from other birds, fruits, nuts, insects, eggs to carrion.   My crow family dines on leftovers and relishes small bones and most breads, except tortillas.

Crows are one of the smartest groups of animals alive.   In the Corvid family, the name crow can be applied to 45 different species.   The raven, a large crow, is 'Corvus corax.'   Other than in Baltimore, MD, ravens live in Canada, western and eastern mountain regions in the US.   The smaller American crow is 'Corvus brachyrhynchos' (long name that means short-billed.)  The fish crow, 'Corvus ossifragus', is slightly smaller than the American with a weak nasal call, lives in wetlands and loves eating eggs of water birds.   Both American and Fish crows can be heard and seen in our area.

Our American crows probably know us better than we do.   They recognize our faces, know our pets, and even have figured out our schedules.   The March-April 2016 edition of Audubon magazine published a special section about crows titled 'The Bird Brainiacs.'   Crows have extremely large forebrains, the part of the brain that handles analytical thought and is responsible for their very adaptable behavior.   One researcher called them 'flying monkeys'.   Proportionally speaking, their brain is every bit as large as that of a gorilla. Or some humans' brains. Okay, the human brain is three times larger than the gorilla brain, but size isn't everything.

A nibble of purloined bread

When crows hear or witness other crows in distress, they remember.   They will form a mob, dive-bomb and scold the perpetrator.   Good reason why a gang of crows is called a murder. If crows see a dead crow, they will surround the deceased, loudly caw then fly quietly away.

These birds of long memories share their knowledge with each other, which may be one reason they can better adapt to environmental and habitat changes.   Going it solo is not advantageous. As animal habitats decrease in suburbia land, the Brainiac article suggests backyards be treated seriously as bird refuges.   Replace lawns with native vegetation, mark windows so birds don't fly into them, and keep dead trees for nesting if in a safe spot.   The only wild animals many people see are pigeons and crows.   Building up suburban, community, town and city bird populations provides better chances for all birds to survive an uncertain future.

(Ahh, my massage is finished.   The head feels a bit better).

Crows are clever.   They can solve problems, make future plans, create and use tools.   Evolutionary biologist Russell Gray says 'calling someone 'birdbrained' used to be an insult.'

Consider it a complement.

The Bird Brainiacs article