12 September 2014

Crow Summer 2014: Part Two

Crows in moult: the view from my desk.

Watching the crows this summer, we have learned to distinguish several of them by a combination of size, curve of the beak, amount of feathers hanging down under the neck, bushiness of leg feathers, and so on. We have lost track of Wow, Tak, and Futhark: there are about eight young the same size. They have lost the red in their mouths, and they no longer scream to be fed. I suspect it is Futhark who dive-bombs a sibling and yanks on his tail. The moult is nearly completed, but so many crows replacing all their feathers has made tremendous demands on supplies of protein.

Korax continues to visit. Washcrow and Her continue their late afternoon quiet time. Her is quite shy and continues to be skittish about our presence, but Washcrow visits, making a quiet rattle which I try to imitate, and then we will exchange assorted clicks and rattles for a bit. At least two other crows have followed his lead, and sometimes from the feeder there will be a wonderful, brief, flourish of crow sounds. One makes a series of small sneezy sounds when he sees me, while one makes small coughs. Washcrow will also, when the feeder is inadequately supplied, come near and let out a blast of two caws, demanding food which I immediately provide.

Watching the crows this summer, we have also gained information we would prefer not to know. Crows get sick. They have crippled feet. They have deformities.  They have avian pox with white spots and tumors. One has a blind eye.  The unwell crows are cranky, snap at other crows on the feeder. The healthy crows don't seem to discriminate against the unwell when we are watching. There is ultimately nothing we can do about the unwell.  The number of them is distressing -- do we have an accurate view of the ratio of well to unwell, or do we see more of the unwell because we provide a reliable food supply?

Sometimes we can help them a little. Pierre constructed a feeder so the crows have three different possibilities for standing – on a rounded perch, on the narrower edge of the pan, on a flat plank. The crow with the crippled foot will land on the plank, foot curled, and then press it down on the plank until it opens up to support him. I discovered that the two crows  with poxy faces liked soft bread – the pox makes sores in the mouth. After a week they rejected it, and I saw that one was getting better: the other has disappeared.

The unwell crows are more difficult to photograph.  They stay at the feeder a shorter time, their  movements are jerkier, and I have wondered if they see the lens of the camera as the eye of a predator.

Skin problems on the chin. These seem to be much improved.
This is the crow who makes sneezy noises at me.

Crippled foot.

Avian pox and damaged beak.

Avian pox.  

Tumors of avian pox.  The one on the left foot has become
larger, and the one on the right began since we 
started noticing.  

This crow, a relative of Hork, has the pox tumors
on one foot, and is blind in his left eye.  

To end on a more pleasing note, the young
squirrels of late summer have discovered
the crow feeder.

04 September 2014

Pavane for a Dead Princess: Part Eleven

Possibly Guillaume Dufay.

Cleofe probably never had a pavane –it was a slightly later development of a dance form she knew -- but at least two pieces of music were written for her wedding by two composers whom her father, Malatesta “di Sonnetti” Malatesta employed at his court. Guillaume Dufay, just beginning his career, wrote a motet. Hugo de Lantins wrote a ballata. These were written in 1419 or 1420, before Cleofe left in August for the Morea.

Listen to Vasilissa ergo gaude here or here or here. The performances differ greatly. My own recording, and the performance I heard of Vasilissa one week ago, is by Capella Romana, but I cannot find this one on the internet. However, you can hear it in person with Capella Romana in their extraordinary program of music around the Fall of Constantinople, if you can get to Utrecht for the afternoon of Sunday, 7 September.  Here is my translation of Dufay's motet for Cleofe, and then his Latin.:

Vasilissa, therefore rejoice,
worthy are you of all praise,
Cleofé, glorious from the deeds
of your family Malatesta
princes in Italy,
great and noble.

More glorious from your husband,
for he is nobler than all;
Despot of the Rhômaioi,
whom the whole world reveres;
born in the purple,
sent by God from heaven.

Radiant in youthful bloom
and in beauty,
fecund in your wits,
eloquent in both languages,
more glorious for your virtues
before other human beings.

The ruler has desired your beauty;
now that he is your Lord.
* * * * * *

Vasilissa, ergo gaude,
quia es digna omni laude,
Cleophe, clara gestis
a tuis de Malatestis,
in Italia principibus
magnis et nobilibus

Ex tuo viro clarior,
quia cunctis est nobilior:
Romeorum est despotus,
quem colit mundus totus;
in porphyro est genitus,
a deo missus celitus.

Junvenili estate
polles et formositate
ingenio multum fecunda
et utraque lingua facunda
ac clarior es virtutibus
prae aliis hominibus.

Concupivit rex decorem tuum
quoniam ipse est dominus tuus.

Text from Capella Romana: 
The Fall of Constantinople

I find the use of vasilissa fascinating – it suggests that the marriage arrangements included information as to her title. In the four letters that survive in Cleofe's hand, she uses the title only once, after the birth of her daughter Helen, when she is desperately depressed. I like the motet's suggestion that she knew Greek, and I particularly like the comment about her fertile wits. (Compositions in honor of brides never make a point of intelligence.)  Her family and friends commented on her cleverness, as did Bessarion. The last lines are ironic, given what we know about her husband's six-year refusal of a sexual relationship.

Hugo de Lantins' ballata for Cleofe seems not to have ever been recorded. I would appreciate being corrected on this. Here is my translation of Hugo, and then his version. Hugo was Franco-Flemish, working in a Pesaro where they used a variant of the Venetian dialect. Spelling was quite flexible in 1419  or so.

Across how many regions, does the sun so moving
turn and view with absolute confidence,
and see, O Sparta, none so happy as you.

You were the home of Queen Helen,
who through everything she did
drained the strength of all who ever wrote.

Now you possess something more divine,
Madonna Cleofe,
born of the Malatesta, as you well know.

These are the glories and powers
you have added to the empire of Constantinople
with its many lords, so great and noble

Tra quante regione el sol si mobele
Gira e reguarda cum intiera fede
Quanti ti, Sparta, beata non vede.

To fosti albergo di Elena regina,
Che per tanto che fe
Stancho le force de che scripse may

Ora possedi cosa piu divina
Madona Cleophe
De Malatesti, mata come say.
Quest'en le lode e le possance c'hay
Gionto a l'impero de Constantinopele
Cum tanta baronia si grande e nobele.

Text from Wikipedia.

It is not, I think, as interesting as the first, but it does show that he knows of Helen of Sparta, and he knows that Mistra is at Sparta. Both songs suggest that her family line is more than adequate to be matched with the imperial family of Constantinople.

Dufay also wrote a short composition for Cleofe's brother, Pandolfo, to celebrate his restoration of the cathedral of St. Andrew when he was Archbishop of Patras. You can hear Apostolo glorioso here. It is called an “isorhythmic motet” and is written for five voices. This will also be in the Utrecht concert.

Glorious Apostle, chosen by God
to preach to the Greek people
His incarnation, for it was blind to it,
and (who) did so without any blame,
and chosest Patras for thy resting-place
and for thy tomb this holy cave;
I pray thee, pray that I may find myself with thee,
by thy mercies, in the sight of God.

With thy teaching thou didn't convert to Christ the
whole country, and with the passion and death that
thou borest here on the cross above the olive tree.
Now it hath slipped into error and is made evil;
wherefore win grace for it again by prayer so strong
that they may recognize the true and living God.

Apostoloso glorioso, da Dio electo
A evangelegiare al populo greco
La sua incarnacion, ché v'era ceco,
Et cusí festi senza alcu suspecto,
Et elegisti Patrasso per tuo lecto,
Et per sepulcro questo sancto specco:
Prego te, preghi me retrove teco,
Per li tuoi merci, nel devin conspecto.

Cum tua doctrina convertisti a Cristo
Tuto el paese, et cum la passione et morte
Che qui portasti in croce in su lo olivo,
Mo' è prolasso in errore et facto tristo,
Si che rempetraglie gracia sí forte
Che recognoscano Dio vero et vivo.

Andrea Christi famulus.

Text and translation, Capella Romana.  The second

 The second section is not politically correct, but Pandolfo's appointment, and Cleofe's marriage, had been arranged by Pope Martin V as part of his effort to bring about Church Union.  This piece was certainly heard in Patras, and was probably written in Venetian-Italian rather than Latin as that would have been the main language heard in Patras other than Greek.

A page of Dufay's music. The West had not yet agreed
on the number of lines to a staff.

28 August 2014

Another missing woman - the second wife of Theodoros I

Picture from unidentified source. Help requested.

This entry is based on a fascinating article by Angeliki Tzavara and Thierry Ganchou which can be downloaded and read  here.  Although it was published in 1999-2000, I have only just seen it through the magic of the Academia website, and as far as I can tell from 6 years of Morea research, it has been quite thoroughly ignored. Tzavara and Ganchou found a document in the Venetian archives which clearly identifies a second wife for Theodoros I of Mistra.  That the sole source is Venetian is another reminder of Byzantine misogyny in the imperial family. It may be remembered that Manuel's daughters have gone completely missing, as has his wife's mother, some of his grandchildren and others.

Theodoros is known to have been married to Bartolomea Acciaiuoli, daughter of Nerio Acciaiuoli of Corinth and Athens.  It will be recalled that Chalkokondyles said she was one of the most beautiful women of the age. She may have been, but there is no reason to rely completely on Chalkokondyles, as he also said that Nerio left Corinth to Theodoros.  Nerio did not.  At Nerio's death in 1394 he forgave the 5000 ducats Theodoros owed him, but left essentially everything to his other daughter Francesca who was married to Carlo Tocco.  Carlo Tocco took possession of Corinth. Theodoros went to war for Corinth, and eventually gained possession.  Nothing is known of what happened to Bartolomea, but she probably died after 1396.

Theodoros died of gout in June 1407.  Manuel II went to Mistra immediately and created his young son Theodoros Despot.  Manuel and his brother had him in Mistra already, so there would be no doubt about the inheritance.  Manuel's long funeral hagiography for Theodoros never mentions any marriages or children.

The second wife appears in a Venetian document of 1412, five years after Theodoros died.  In it, a judge on Rhodes appoints a procurator to act on her behalf to collect money owed her there.  This is how she is described: "illustrissima principissa et domina domina Caterina Palaiologina, relicta bone memorie serenissimi principis et domini domini Th. despotis Amoree . . . (by the) most illustrious princess and lady, Lady Caterina Palaiologina, widow of the prince and lord, Lord Theodoros, Despot of the Morea of good memory."  That is all we have, but the combined Rhodian and Venetian legal systems were not likely to have invented an imperial wife.

21 August 2014

On vacation: Oedipus


by Muriel Rukeyser

"Long afterward, Oedipus, old and blinded, walked the roads. He smelled a familiar smell. It was the Sphinx. Oedipus said, "I want to ask you one question. Why didn't I recognize my mother?" "You gave the wrong answer," said the Sphinx. "But that was what made everything possible," said Oedipus. "No," she said. "When I asked, What walks on four legs in the morning, two at noon, and three in the evening, you answered, Man. You didn't say anything about woman." "When you say Man," said Oedipus, "you include women too. Everyone knows that." She said, "That’s what you think.""

15 August 2014

On vacation: August 15

Domenikos Theotokopoulos, Coronation of the Virgin. ca. 1605.
Athens, Alexander S. Onassis Foundation Collection.

07 August 2014

The Τατα

These are souls in Abraham's bosom, but it is the closest image I can find for τατα.

Τατα is so variously and inconsistently accented in the sources that I will not attempt any accents.  There are comparatively few sources for the word, and once you eliminate those where 
-τατα  might be part of a missing word, I have only found six incidents in the TLG that seem to be what I want.

What I wanted originally was the sense of τατα intended when Sphrantzes says his father was τατα to young Thomas Palaiologos and his uncle was τατα to Constantine.  

Doukas tells a story in which Mehmed calls for Halil Pasha in the middle of the night. Halil thought this could only be fatal, and made his farewells to his wife and children. He went to Mehmed. "Lala," Mehmed says, and Doukas explains that this means the same as τατα, which he over-glosses as παιδαγωγέ.  "Lala," says Mehmed, "I want you to give me The City." It is not often you catch Mehmed making a joke, but here he is acting the child, asking for a present.

It makes me think -- with no justification -- of the time when Sphrantzes asked Manuel II for a present.  When Sphrantzes' father died, Manuel put Sphranzes in charge of his wardrobe. Sphrantzes once asked Manuel for a particular antique chest.  (And this is where I imagine him impulsively calling Manuel, "Τατα.") Manuel's first response was that he had the chest from his father, the emperor John, and he planned to give it to his son, the emperor John.  But he gave it to Sphrantzes.  Nothing in Sphrantzes' narrative allows me to insert Τατα into the story.

In Characters, 7, Theophrastos speaks of older children teasing their father, a compulsive talker, who, when they want to sleep, say, "Babble something at us, τατα, to make us feel sleepy."    

I've seen τατα translated as "tutor" and "child-minder" and "Dada," but neither of the first quite gets to my understanding, while "Dada" seems about right.  Τατα was a term of affection, and while tutoring may have been part of an imperial assignment, it primarily suggests an intimate relationship more like a foster-father. Dokeianos compared Constantine’s education to that of Achilles by Chiron and Phoenix, and Phoenix's account in Iliad 9 of caring for Achilles includes cutting his meat into bites and dealing with his spit-ups: 
. . . for you would not go with another out to any feast, nor taste any food in your own halls until I had set you on my knees and cut little pieces from the meat, and given you all you wished, and held the wine for you.And many times you soaked the shirt that was on my body with wine you would spit up in the troublesomeness of your childhood."
In the Liddell & Scott lexicon, τατα is referred to τέττα in Homer and explained as a term of affection towards an older male. Homer's sole use is for Diomedes in Iliad 4 speaking to Sthenelos (Sthenelos?) who is an older male.  Aristophanes collects these and other  similar words into a list, "ἄππα, πάππα, μάμμα, μάμμη, μαμμία, τέττα / ἄττα."

Ἄττα is essentially the same word as 
τατα. Achilles uses ἄττα for Phoinix, and Telemachos uses ἄττα for Eumaios, even after he knows who Odysseus actually is. Odysseus had left home by the time he was able to say the word.  The Vita of S. Marina speaks of a hungry child crying  "Τατα, and other such things the way children do." Similarly, Tzetzes, writing about how he always uses the appropriate language for the person to whom he is speaking, says that he uses μάμμα and τατα with small children.

Τατα does not always get the result one might hope.  Ioannes Antiochenos tells a story of Phokas saying, "Bring me my τατα."  The  τατα was brought, and Phokas cut off his head. We will not speculate as to the reason.

One of the loveliest of all saints' lives, that of Philaretos, tells of the dream of his small grandson Niketas, after his death.  Niketas saw his grandfather in the place of Abraham in a world of great joy and light, and woke up crying because he had to leave "the sweet light." "I wanted," he said, to be with my τατα and my πάππου -- my daddy and my grandfather."

30 July 2014

The Cretan bowman

Archer. Detail from Mantegna, St. Sebastian. Louvre. ca. 1475.

From Cyriaco of Ancona, 5 July 1445, Cydonia, Crete.

To Niccolò Zancarolo, son of A., the outstanding Cydonian archer and excellent victor over bowmen. Today, the fifth of July, the favorable, fair and celebrated day of quiver-bearing Delian Diana, he defeated, by his vogorous courage and worth, not only the outstanding Parthian, Scythian and Hyrcanian archers as well as others from foreign parts, but also proved superior to the expert Cydonian bowmen in an athletic contest held on the sand before the city walls, here in Cydonia, once the noblest of the Cretan coastal cities, now the illustrious Venetian colony of Khania . . . under the gaze of the distinguished citizens and colonists.  A unique prize was proposed for the contestant who would be victorious with the flying arrow.  Bending the mighty bow with his arms set apart, propelling the arrow through the pierced air from the string drawn to his ear, he aimed at the center of the target, which was the long distance of a stade* away, and struck it.  To him Cyriac of Ancona, lover of antiquity, gave a silver coin engraved with the image of the sacred head of Pythian Apollo, the quiver-and-bow-bearing god [one one side] and the Rhodian prince Anthaeus [on the other]. He did this to commemorate and honor him.

[Cyriaco gives quotations from Isidore, Pindar, Lucan, Vergil, Ovid, Apuleius on Cretan archers.]

Cyriac of Ancona, lover of Hermes, chose all these brilliant and famous sayings of the ancinet writers and poets to record here as a proof of the ancient worth of all the Cydonian and Cretan archers.  Done this day, the seventh of July, the glorious and venerable day of my protecting deity, Mercury, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Pope Eugene, one thousand and twenty-four years after the foundation of Venice.

From Edward W. Bodnar, Cyriac of Ancona: Later Travels, Letter 23. (2003).

* Stade = 184+ metres, or 605 ft.
Archery distances, Wikipedia.
For a 1440 round, known until 2014 as 'FITA Round', standard indoor distances are 18m and 25m. Outdoor distances range from 30m to 90m for senior Gentlemen archers, and 30m to 70m for Ladies. The juniors have shorter targets to shoot at. In Olympic archery, 70m is the standard range.

23 July 2014

Pavane for a Dead Princess: Part Ten

Text of the 1433 poem to Cleofe, in Marciana Gr Z 533 (coll. 778) f. 48b,
a collection of personal documents put together by Bessarion.  Photo, John Burke.

I have written about this poem in the past, and for a few this entry may be repetitive, but it is an important poem to me and, I think, important historically. When Cleofe Malatesta Palaiologina died in childbirth "the shattering of a precious crystal," said Cheilas, on Good Friday of 1433, her husband Theodoros was devastated. Testimony from his friends -- Gemistos, Bessarion, Pepagomenos -- gives a portrait of a man completely incapacitated by grief. But at some time in that first month of her absence, he constructed a love poem to her, bringing together passion and loss in a structure informed by his own scholarship, and by the new world she had opened to him.

Although, my dearest, we were once united,
being one flesh, the word of God claims
that it is better now to be together in the spirit,
you, living in thought, looking down from Heaven
upon my life, my words, my ways, and thought,
seeing all clearly as it is your right,
I, alas, torn apart, living in pain,
calling out for you with scalding tears,
for me, one thing is left, one good thing, song.

And so, portraying you in this image,
I have put myself beside you in every sense
wishing to be united in a third form of union.
so as to quench the terrible fire of longing
and to empty out the agony from my soul.

But, you who have died but live with God, deservedly,
when in the same tomb necessity brings
my bones together with yours in the fourth way
then, showing me what lies beyond the five senses
unite with me in the fifth and greater way
to share in delight and in the sight of God
my courage lies with you, who possess and indeed
give me, as my fellow-poet, this song.

Cleofe, his fellow-poet, made it possible for him to write. Before he was able to work, he was driven back in his grief to a poem she had showed him, one her father had written when her own mother died in childbirth.  It is written in the tradition of the family friend Petrarch:

The holy lady is dead, who used to hold
my spirit with hers, quiet and content;
Now she lives in heaven, and I in torment
am left, another man from what I was:

     not man, but brute, so that I should have
followed her body, life extinguished,
never to leave the side of her tomb
but burned myself where her heart lies.

     Then perhaps my soul might follow her
in celestial triumph, where all live
eternally by divine power.

    Yet if I with all my force were to be kept
from following her, at least
my body would be buried with her sacred bones

The fifth line -- "non huom ma bruto" -- and its verse described his condition to himself. Pepagomenos may have given him opium to calm him, and the ideas of "brute" and "drug" may have driven his tangles of thought to the Theocritean idyll about the brute, Cyclops, grieving for the loss of a lady:

There is no other drug for love . . . nor salve, nor poultice,
except the Muses, and this is something sweet and gentle
for men, yet it is not easy to discover it.

And this was then the crystal about which his poem grew.   Several things are happening in his poem.  The first, perhaps the least important is that there are two bits of information about imperial lives in Mistra.  For one, he expected to be buried in the same tomb with her at the palace chapel of Ag. Sophia.  For another, he had arranged for a double portrait to be painted over the tomb.

Theodoros may originally have set out to structure the poem on the five senses, a reasonable Byzantine and Renaissance approach, paralleling the senses to five ways in which he and Cleofe might achieve union.  He managed Touch, Sight, and Hearing, before he wisely gave up on Taste and Smell, and realized that he had to go beyond the senses, yet, if this what what he had planned, there is no sense of incompleteness of intent.

He enumerates forms of union, beginning with the union of one flesh, a union of which he had been frighted for the first six years of legal marriage, and a union which had clearly brought him joy.  He tests the idea that God's will for a spiritual union might be better, a second form of union, but the great distance between Cleofe in Heaven and him on earth reduces him to scalding tears -- tears only too familiar to those of us who have survived the loss of a partner.  But the idea of song, of poetry, remains.

He now has a portrait of her, of the two of them together, a third form of union which has not brought the comfort he expected, and he does anticipate an eventual burial with her, a forth form which he knows is beyond their senses.

There is a fifth way to find union, the ultimate union in a shared delight in the presence of God, a Dantean expression of the beatific vision, to which Cleofe must have introduced him in their shared examination of poetry.  It is a rare poet who can bring the Cyclops into the Paradisio, but Theodoros concludes with Cleofe as sharer and Muse -- 
ξυνεργὸς -- in this work of song -- μέλος

The original languages of these poems will be found here.  The translations from the Greek are by Pierre A. MacKay.

16 July 2014

Bessarion on the imperial hangers-on

In Bessarion's letter about arrangements for  Zoe, Andreas, and Manuel Palaiologos, he said that the Pope was providing 300 ducats a month. Two hundred of that was for their servants, food, horses, clothing, and other expenses. The remaining 100 was for the household.

The household was what would have been their court somewhere else -- a few useful people, a few whom they knew and actually liked, and hangers-on to whom there was some familial obligation.  Bessarion was quite stern about this. Their father Thomas had had 300 ducats a month for his household from the Pope, and another 200 from Bessarion and the cardinals, but Bessarion and the Pope had still been quite shocked to learn how large a group Thomas had been supporting out of that. (They had also been amazed at the size of John's household when he came to Italy twenty-plus years earlier on the trip that the Pope was also paying for. ) When Thomas first visited Rome it had been noted that he was accompanied by a suite of 70 people, all on borrowed horses, except for the three that he owned. John, too, had been noted for his lavish household. 

It was not going to be this way for the children.  There was no way Bessarion and his colleagues could come up with the contributions they needed for the authentopoula -- that is the term in the letters for the children -- if people saw the household as a Greek immigrant fraternal welfare association.  Bessarion wanted the administrator to select a few reliable people who could provide the authentopoula with good support, good service, and honor.

He wrote the household administrator in Ancona about financial arrangements on 6 August. That's 305 kilometers on modern roads, 3 hours driving now at best.  Then it was two days in one direction for a fast messenger. The household administrator was to settle the financial arrangements for the people who were to be the authentopoula's court.  It is obvious that a great many people who had planned on sinecures were sorely disappointed. Various people in Ancona sent a stack of letters in reply. On 16 August Bessarion wrote letters in response to these.  Two of these letters survive, very irritated letters.  He says, "The grace of God be with you," four times in two letters but you can hear that he says it between clenched teeth.

The first is to a group of three men, apparently the core of the court, and probably people Bessarion knew.  They had sent along a list of the other members of the court, and how much money each was to have. They reported that there were many complaints. Bessarion approved this list and said that the others  had  to understand that there is no more money.  Period.  They had written him saying they were sure he would fix things. He would write them a general letter and tell them that there was nothing he could fix.  He wanted this clearly understood and he wanted them to quit burdening him.

Bessarion had been physically unwell for several years.  He was burdened with trying to find support for the Pope's crusade in the Morea that was going very badly:  most of the Italian troops and the Venetian commanders had died of plague, they were inadequately supplied, they had lost the control of the country they had a year before, and the Turks had pushed the crusade troops down into a small pocket in the south.  He had been personally supporting a large number of refugees from Constantinople and the Morea and finding jobs for them.  He had no energy left over for whiners who claimed entitlements.

He wrote them that they had accepted the amounts offered, that they had agreed to serve the authentopoula, and that they needed to stop making words about the matter.  The Holy Father was not sending any more money.  God knows he personally would like to be able to help, but -- we have said this many times -- it cannot happen.  He repeats all of this several times. Frustration runs off the page like sweat.

We have no real indication of who some of the members of that household might have been, with the exception of a Demetrios Rallis Kavakes who went with Zoe to her Moscow marriage seven years later. There were certainly other Rallades, first and second cousins, who had accompanied the family when they left the Morea in 1460. For generations the lives of these household hangers-on had been financed by their relationship to the imperial family.  Bessarion knew clearly what they were afraid to admit: the Empire is over.

09 July 2014

Crow summer: 2014

Washcrow and Her, courting, early March.

It's been a very satisfactory year for crows, beginning in March when we were able to follow a courtship. Most crows remain single, and those who do not are usually in their 3rd year when courtship happens. I have no idea how crows are selected for courtship. Pairing is normally for life.

The photograph above was the only one I was able to get, and you have to take my word that they are courting. Courting usually happened in the mornings, on a power line where the sun would shine into the camera.  Washcrow would move close beside Her and nibble on the back of Her's neck -- properly called "grooming" -- the one part of Her she could not reach for herself.   She never groomed him.  This reminds me of the saying: In every love affair there is one who kisses the cheek, and one who extends the cheek to be kissed.

Grooming continued for several days, and then we would see Her settle down low on the power line, tilt her head sideways, spread out her tail & wiggle her bottom.  The Betty-Boop-gender-stereotyping was almost shocking.  

Why we call him Washcrow.
He has taught several other 
crows to wash food for the young.

We saw them inspect an unused nest, and then saw the occasional stick being transported to the upper reaches of a cedar two houses away.  Then Her disappeared.  The male crow feeds his nesting partner.  When the young hatch, the male and some of their relatives feed her and the infants. About three days after we realized there were young to feed, we first saw Washcrow first visit Ann's peacock-designed birdbath, and carefully soak food before he took it home.  

On 4 June, a Wednesday, we were having coffee in the yard with Aislinn, when there was a thud on the roof of the car and a homely little tailless crow said, "Wow!" He said "Wow!" several times, we said "Wow!" in response, and for the last month he has normally appeared when one of us calls "Wow" Wow is the grandson (granddaughter?) of Korax whom I introduced here last year.

 Wow on his first day out of the nest.

On 5 June, Tak appeared, tagging after Wow.  Tak spoke less frequently, with a lower voice. 

Tak and Wow, 5 June.

Then on 9 June, Sunday, Futhark appeared.  Four-plus weeks later, Futhark is still smaller than the others.  Wow is the most outgoing, Tak the shyest.  Futhark will look at us, cock his/her head, and then make quiet rattling noises, sometimes a sort of cuckoo-sound.  When the others are screaming to be fed, nothing distracts them.  Futhark can be distracted into conversation.  

Futhark, 1 July.  All three still have the distinctive red mouths.

At the time of writing, the three have not yet started taking the initiative in finding food, though they will follow their parents to the feeder, then sit there alternately gobbling mouthfuls of food, and screaming to be fed while their mouths are still full of food.  The parents are admirably dispassionate.  When the young beg for food, they assume the same submissive posture of the female in courtship.

Wow, Tak, and Futhark have made us exceptionally aware of   crow mortality in our neighborhood.  In the past week we have twice found masses of small feathers.  A month ago we found feathers that appeared to have exploded from a central location, their points driven into the ground.  A very young crow had encountered a mesh of power lines and transformers.  The two feathers on the left show the results of electrocution -- the blackening inside and the melted tips.  The two on the right show the results of having been chewed. 

The cooked and the raw.  

Hork, who was with us the past two years, has not been seen since February but Korax shows up several times a day with two young crows of his own. We have fewer crows at the feeder than we did last summer, but they are putting away huge amounts of food, more than on any day in the winter when we would have as many as 15 and 20 crows.  They get primarily cat food and corn meal, with occasional treats of suet, walnuts, bread.  Last year they stole all the blackberries, but this year it has only been the cherries.  Every year they get the cherries.  They seem to know which day we have scheduled to pick, and they get to the tree before we are out of bed.

But about the food-washing.  Because of the food-washing, I have been putting clean water in the birdbath twice a day.  Today -- the day of writing this -- I put clean water in for the first time in three days.  Abruptly, the young have to deal with adult food. It is still sometimes brought to them, but it is no longer softened.  

Futhark, even though he is conspicuously smaller than the other two, can definitely deal with adult food.  In fact, he is showing signs of delinquency.  We have, several times now, seen him fly up to a parent and jerk the food out of the parent's bill, without even pausing to beg.

Wow, Futhark, & Tak, or possibly Tak, Futhark, & Wow. 6 July.
Beaks open on a hot day.

 I thought I had finished writing this entry to post tomorrow, but while we were having our late-afternoon ouzo, Washcrow came as he usually does to keep us company.  This time Her landed beside him and leaned Her head against him.  Washcrow caressed the back of her neck and stroked under her chin.  Then they sat quietly side by side.