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The harbour seal in the back alley and other hallucinations

March 20, 2015
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This rust pattern arguably resembles a dog or a leopard but I vote for “brown fur seal”.

I saw a seal in a Fairview back alley yesterday — do you believe me? At first I thought it was a harbour seal but I’m coming around to the idea that it much more resembles a brown fur seal, the kind used to make anti-sealing posters.

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You would think that I see enough real animals without having to imagine them but that’s one of the problems with having a fertile imagination: everything you see plants a suggestion and many of those plants flourish.

A bird in the hand is better than birds on the brain

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Not only do I see furry seals in the back alleys but also birds — admittedly, most of the birds are real but not all of them.

Last week I saw a pair of what I initially took to be pigeons lazily perched atop one of B.C. Hydro’s wooden utility structures in the alley on the east side of South Granville Street.

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What with all the other avian layabouts in the area, I didn’t think much of these two pigeons — until I saw that they were still sitting there the next day.

They are sitting there still. In fact, they are unnaturally still, given that they look so wired.

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A closer look at the real lazy street birds of South Granville

Lazy birds are a very common sight around the South Granville area. When crows aren’t dumpster diving and when pigeons aren’t panhandling for crumbs, both of these city bird species tend to sit around on their duffs doing as little as possible.

And why should they fly? Once they get to South Granville, All the food they could want is within easy walking distance.

For the most part, the only things that will drive pigeons and crows into the air (grudgingly) are immediate threats and the need to cross busy streets and even then they have about a 9.1 metre (30 feet) ceiling, preferring to fly no higher than the overhead utility poles and wires.

Admittedly, pigeons may indulge in a bit of mid-day flocking (I think they like to watch themselves in the windows of the highrises) and seagulls still retain enough wildness that they bolt for the sky at the slightest disturbance.

The most sustained flying you’ll see out of crows is in the morning and evening rush hour commute they make each day from East Vancouver to Fairview and back again.

Is it a “murder” or a “union” of crows?

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Crows engaging in the never-ending beak versus talon Zip-Lock bag debate.

While they’re at “work” however, crows can be remarkably loathe to fly. They can even be seen to run across two-lane side streets — even with on-coming traffic (and of course they jaywalk).

One possible explanation for the lazy behaviour exhibited by pigeons, crows and even seagulls is their pathetic diet.

Flying is hard, energy-intensive, work and these scavengers get little more than empty calories from all the junk food leavings they consume.

After a day spent in the Fairview neighbourhood eating cold french fries and such out of the garbage, it’s a wonder to me that crows even have the necessary oomph to make the flight back to East Vancouver and the trees they roost in overnight.

And I similarly have to question whether Filet-O-Fish out of the dumpster provide seagulls with anywhere near as much nutrition as raw fish out of the sea.

For whatever reason, whether it be lack of need or lack of energy, I would argue that bit-by-bit these three bird species (especially pigeons) are on their way to becoming flightless.

Any day now, I expect to see crows taking advantage of transit — either on the buses or in them (and of course they won’t pay). Click the images to enlarge them.

From → Fairview

2 Comments
  1. Sim Salabim permalink

    The crows don’t do their nightly migration to their roosting site near Deer Lake in Burnaby in one slog either. They stop off in the big trees south of the Lougheed between Gilmore and Willingdon for an evening chinwag first and then proceed to the tallest trees in Bby to set up their layered hierarchy of sleeping spots. The highest status ones get the top (cleanest) branches. It is also postulated that teenager crows take off and party late by themselves away from the older relatives

    • I make fun of crows but they really are remarkable and fascinating birds — so ridiculously intelligent. I’ve watched crows problem-solve packaged food about same the way I would if I was similarly limb and opposable-thumb-challenged.

      I should probably be more geographically precise when referring to points east of Fairview. I’m inclined to refer to everything east of Cambie Street as “east Vancouver”

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