Monday 30 January 2012

Bird dogs?

Our World Tuesday Graphic
Bird dog is not a term commonly used in UK. Dogs used for hunting are generally known as gun dogs, a term which brings to (my) mind a vision of a retriever holding a shot gun. A bird dog, particularly in the Southern USA, is a dog trained to flush, hunt or retrieve game that has been shot.

However, we may have discovered a different type of bird dog. Strictly speaking, it shares few of the physical characteristics of canines but can be trained encouraged to retrieve.
Master of Hounds?
 We usually carry dog biscuits – as rewards or distractions or for training – and the bird dogs have observed this. For many years we have noticed them watching closely, particularly near water, and collecting treats that our own dogs have omitted to pick up.

In recent months a pair of bird dogs has been following us soon after we begin our walk. They have excellent eyesight and keep us in view from a safe distance. They are not domesticated and are wary of humans and dogs but associate them – or, at least, us – with food. It may not be the food that you or I would choose to consume (although as a child I enjoyed the smell and taste of dog biscuits) but the wild bird dogs are less discerning in their habits and will eat almost anything, alive, dead, fresh or decomposing. They are omnivores – one might even call them obligate omnivores – and they look well on their diet, bright-eyed and wearing glossy coats.

Today, the bird dogs, a mating pair – they mate for life – met us early in our walk and followed us up the hill, past three ponds to the big pond at the top. They waited patiently, calling to each other, as we watched a couple of deer, well camouflaged in the sere grasses and leafless saplings of winter.
 Can you see the deer in this photo? In fact, I've just realised there are two.
Any clearer now? There's one dead centre and  
another smaller one bottom right.
In this photo there are three deer, left, right and centre.

Eventually they were rewarded. The dogs plunged into the water, Jenna and Gus chasing the Aqua Kong and Frodo and Bertie retrieving biscuits. When they emerged the bird dogs stood at the edge furthest from us, watching and biding their time. Then they swooped over the water, because of course they’re birds, not dogs, and snatched the biscuits in their beaks, one at a time.
Waiting, maybe admiring their reflections
This one has successfully grabbed a biscuit
Its mate has also succeeded
We dub them bird dogs because they follow us and ‘fetch’ biscuits. We suspect that other people have observed their characteristics and, equally fascinated, have taken to throwing titbits for them to pick up. They followed us at a discreet distance all the way back, almost to the car, sometimes flying up to perch on branches, sometimes waddling along behind us on the track, watching and hoping for more treats. 
Following us back to the car
Striding out
Carrion crows are very intelligent and my admiration for them grows. The following video clips demonstrate their determination and their ability to solve problems. The first clip will not endear them, I’m afraid, but the second is impressive.

I'm linking to Our World Tuesday where you can find out more about other people's worlds.


  1. I wasn't able to watch either of the video's but enjoyed this post very much Janice. I have also enjoyed crows.

  2. Great post. I enjoyed your description of the photos and trying to find the well-camouflaged deer!
    Unfortunately the videos are blocked in Australia.

  3. What a fascinating walk and interesting read.

    Love that dalmatian!

  4. What a fun, interesting and different post for the day!! And, yes, those are definitely "bird dogs"! I love it! I also love your captures! Hope you have a great week!


  5. Great post and I really enjoyed the photos. The deer shots are great, even if they are hidden some. Thanks for sharing, have a great week!

  6. Well hi, Jabblog. I was just taking a look at this blog when I saw your name. The deer in camouflage are remarkable. I don't know if you know that you video clips are not working. I will come back again to see them. I have recently decided that I do like crows, 'tho they can be a nuisance. But they are very intelligent. I might join this group but think I'll wait a week or two to decide since I have just joined Inchies and will have to see how time consuming all this is.

  7. I see the deer and I especially like the last photo of them. It is funny how the birds follow you around. I couldn't watch the videos - it said not available in my area.

  8. Smart birds they are ;-) How funny that they know you're a food source and follow you around.

    Can't watch the videos here ('not available in your area'). Never mind. Not sure if I wanted to watch the first one anyway ;-) I haven't seen the video and yet I feel sorry for the cute swan(?) babies.

  9. What a splendid post. Crows of all sorts are really rather intelligent - maybe we should ask them to form a government – especially the rooks!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Australia

  10. This I found totally fascinating - and was greatly amused by the thought of them admiring their reflections in the water. A really beautiful post,

  11. Can't see the video over here, (I'm being oppressed!) but I do love crows. Such clever birds!


  12. Well, I think I'm glad I couldn't see the first video ("Not available in your area" it says) because I don't want to see them snatch a cygnet from its parents.
    However, I did think the bird-dogging antics were a hoot, Janice. Crows are rather intelligent birds, aren't they? A birder in Eastern Canada often posts photos of a crow he calls Huegy who follows him and his big dog on their walks.
    Your little fellow sure is growing, isn't he? He looks taller than Jenna and Gus, almost as big as Frodo. It took me a minute to recognize him, because you were writing about "a different type of bird dog" so I was looking for a strange dog. You confused me for a second with "they are not domesticated" but it made me think "oh, that's Bertie"!

  13. I am offended ! your videos are "not available in your area" which means mine, I wonder why. I had never heard the expression bird dogs, but it's true that crows are very intelligent.
    I had to laugh when I imagined a gun armed retriever !
    Winter moved in ! today - 5°C and for tomorrow they announced -20°C in the Ardennes !! Crazy ! We will probably get "only" - 10°C maybe when we are all frozen the cold weather moves over to you !
    At least the sky is blue and the sun is shining !!

  14. Beautiful photos Janice. Isn't it wonderful how we find exotic what isn't in our backyards, yet may be commonplace in yours? The deer are a bit like kangaroos I always think - some see them as menaces and pests while others see them as symbols of the countryside.

    Pats all round.

    Isabel x

  15. ps I also have memories of eating dog biscuits as a child - bone shaped, slightly saw-dusty, and very hard to chew!

  16. Thank you all. I must apologise for the fact that some of you (actually seems like most of you) are unable to view the videos - that's the BBC for you!!

  17. I do enjoy watching crows although I have never had any follow me around. Perhaps I need to have a few dog biscuits in my pocket.

    I have tried to view BBC videos before but they have them blocked in this country, too bad.

  18. You can be a guest host in a zoo and present your bird dogs.

  19. Wow! You have really good eyes! I could only see two deer. This was so much fun.

  20. Hi Janice .. yup I saw those clips - they are amazing, as they do learn. There's a worse horrific one - came from Hamburg .. very clever ....

    The birds call when I go out to scatter seed in this weather! They all come squawking down ...

    So they be not stupid! Love your Bird Dogs idea though .. and your pics .. cheers Hilary


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