Urban foxes threaten Tower ravens


We don’t seem to have foxes in L.A. (although they have been seen – by myself among others – on the campus of the university at which I work, so that’s not wholly true) but we do have coyotes! In any case none of our ravens are kept with clipped wings in any historical buildings, so if and when they contend with coyotes remains to be seen.

Racoons, possum and skunk, all nocturnal, are the big L.A. urban game now, and of course deer live in all the local mountains – you can see them below the Hollywood sign, for instance, but they don’t actually live all over the city the way the nocturnal three do.

More celebration of the Tower ravens here, with some quite good photos.

West Hollywood Gateway

Southbound on LaBrea, 11:30 a.m., passing the large Target store at the West Hollywood Gateway. Warm weather and clear skies.

Raven appeared 8 m. above the street in a curving, swooping approach to land, settling on the roof ledge of a building on the LA side, across from Target. A second raven joined it almost immediately. They appeared to be interacting, but traffic carried me away too quickly to observe any more.

Soarcling in peace while CA burns

Overlooking a peaceful downtown and West LA from the heights of Runyon (do those hilltops have names?) there was little indication of the fires raging outside Malibu to the west, and outside my own hometown sixty miles to the east. The skies were so clear that I could see Mt. San Bernardino pretty easily – but it was too far away to see the smoke of brushfires as against the smog piling up in LA. Hardly a breeze stirred, but the hot, desert air should have been a clue that Santa Ana winds and fire season were coinciding.

Weather like this is great for birds that soar. I entered RC on the Mulholland side (the top of the canyon), and only when I reached the bottom did any birds appear – a couple dozen buzzards, soaring in a convocation high above the canyon. Shortly after I noticed them, they made a decision, and streamed off in nearly single file to the east. Pretty cool thing to watch. I had by now begun my steep uphill climb, during which I notice a hawk, and later a raven, and then two hawks or buzzards, then four, and two ravens keeping an eye on them. By the time I reached the lookout point above the Outlook sign, most of the birds had disappeared.

Completing my trek back towards the parking on Mullholland, I was not surprised to hear quorks behind me, and turned back to see that the ravens had appeared by the house on the hilltop, quorking contentedly to one another (OK that’s an anthropomorphic imposition – but I do find quorking a contented, happy sound). I couldn’t turn back or I’d be dismally late for work. Hopefully the fires will soon be out, and the rains will soon come, and ravens will begin nesting, so that I can have a go at counting up population. It has become pretty obvious that even a short visit to any portion of the Santa Monica Mountains or Sunset Blvd. will include a raven sighting (more likely that a celebrity sighting, by all appearances), so it is time to start probing more deeply at their life as Angelenos.

In the meantime here is an interesting essay about birds you will not see in these mountains any more.

Do ravens have lobbyists?

I have little doubt ravens find the Endangered Species Act pretty irritating, because it leads to being radio-tagged, followed and experimented on by California biologists eager to save desert tortoises and terns… but the rest of us should take note of this from LA Audubon:


26 Sep 2005


Representative Richard Pombo (R-CA) and other lawmakers are rushing through the House of Representatives a bill that would gut the Endangered Species Act, our nation’s core program aimed at bringing back birds and wildlife from the brink of extinction. Congressman Pombo’s “Extinction Bill” H.R. 3824 is scheduled for a vote on the House floor as early as September 29! Take action today! The ESA is the reason why we still have the Bald Eagle, the California Condor, the gray wolf, the pacific salmon, and many other species that faced certain extinction.

Chickadee communication

Biologists Crack Code of Chickadee Song
By Elise Kleeman
DISCOVER Vol. 26 No. 10 | October 2005 | Biology & Medicine

Who would have guessed that when a chickadee opens its tiny beak, it has a lot to say? Biologists studying the alarm calls of black-capped chickadees found the bird’s songs signal not only the presence but also the size of nearby predators.


Oh I’m packin’ my grip and I’m leavin’ today…

Burbank (OK, not quite the Valley, but to a Woodite, everything beyond the Cahuenga Pass is Over There)

Heavy marine layer and cool. 9 a.m.
Sixth and Dartmouth. A picture perfect residential neighborhood. One raven on the sidewalk, one as sentry on streetlight. A third was observed later when they gathered in a nearby tree. Meeting their realtor? Aside from planting birdy toes in a well-manicured lawn, I couldn’t see a single reason for ground-level foraging. It also blows away my ideas that they don’t act that much like crows even when they’re in a totally human environment.

More on the Valley here.

Ravens keeping on top of the news

Cahuenga and Sunset.
Late morning, sunny and warming.
Waiting for the bus after a visit to Hollywood’s thriving Sunday morning farmer’s market (not to be confused with L.A.’s landmark Farmer’s Market at Fairfax and 3rd), I noticed raven one approach and circle the CNN building, finally settling in the understructure of a big satellite dish. Raven two arrived soon after. So did my bus.

LaBrea and Sunset.
No sooner off the bus than noticed pair of ravens flying low, seemingly southbound, but as I watched, they worked to gain altitude over Sunset Blvd. and then began soarcling back towards the Santa Monicas.

I unloaded the two fat bags of plunder from the farmer’s market – bison and all sorts of fruit and veg – as I write six days later, I still haven’t finished it it all – anyway, I grabbed the camera, hopped in the car and drove back to the CNN building. Just made it too, since they had hopped down onto the big CNN logo and were getting ready to wing it.
They took off over Sunset (and me) and flew over the landmark Hollywood Athletic Club. More or less the same direction chosen by the other pair only minutes earlier.

I am beginning to feel that there’s a pattern of mid-morning visits to sites along Sunset, but of course my observations are limited by my routines. I will have to hang out more frequently on SB in the afternoon for a while. Thanks to the upscale trend in the area, this won’t be so onerous. I just wish my own stretch of Sunset would succumb to the trend!

Wanna rumble?

Dashed out of the apt. this morning with just enough time to get to work. My car was down at the end of the block. High above Hollywood High School’s rooftop tennis courts, a crow sentinel was keeping up a regular caw-caw-caw. Often the crows forage on the sports field on quiet (as in weekend) mornings.

I’d almost reached the car when the crow was answered by ra’ak-ra’ak-ra’ak. I turned around, only to face the forest of Canary Island pine that is my block – planted down both sides of the street in the 1920s, 50, 60 meters high now? – somewhere up there was a familiar voice. Knowing I had to be behind the wheel in mere seconds, I started back down the street, scanning the boughs above. Luckily, the raven was sitting in the one tree whose crown was dead and bare. Still it answered the challenge of the crow caw for caw, and maybe hoping to summon its own reinforcements.

The raven was soon joined by two, three, four and five crows. More were speeding towards the pine. They landed on adjacent branches, not making much noise, but quickly surrounding the larger bird. After only a few seconds more, the raven lifted off and away south towards Sunset Boulevard.