Counting Crows

Wikicommons tgreyfox

Here in the Pacific Northwest, ravens can only be found in the forests. In the city, crows take their place in our trees and in our stories. They’ve earned it. Everyone has a crow story.

I once carried a tired puppy down a bike path. Soon I was being followed by several crows. It wasn’t long before there were literally dozens of crows screaming at me. Did they think I was carrying a captured crow? I set the fluffy black pup on the ground. The birds dispersed in under a minute. I still wonder what social repercussions were faced by the crow that sounded the initial alarm. In the nineties, I had friends with amazing long hair. Some of them had actually had crows swoop down and pluck hair from their heads for nesting material. A pair of crows has kept a nest somewhere near my yard for many years now, and I enjoy their company when I garden. I call them Huginn and Muninn, and although I never know which is which, I like to interpret their behavior as making on comment on the story ideas I generate while weeding.

In the summer, the crows have a congress. I can never remember when it’s coming, but it’s easy to tell when it’s arrived. Hundreds of crows congregate on the telephone wires and treetops. The racket they make is terrible, but their glossy black feathers, backlit by the setting sun, make a fantastic sight. One can’t help but think of Hitchcock, and suspect some sort of malice, but the crows are just attending to crow business. In the day time, they spread out as usual and within a week, the evening congregations have ended and you’re a little sad they’ve gone.

Their dawn assemblies are less welcome. When you are woken at 5:30 a.m. on a Sunday by a group of crows croaking in your front yard, you want to murder them. You might even grab the laptop and start a blog post about crows – what can you do when it’s too noisy to sleep at 6 a.m.? Look out your window to count the crows gathered in your yard. Take a few cell phone snaps out your window to show the offenders.



I wonder if it’s the same raccoon that got inside my house when I was Eistnaflug last year? (That’s another story.)

He (or she) seemed unaware of the ruckus it was inspiring. Is that just what life is like for an urban raccoon in the spring? Is it followed by screaming crows everywhere it goes, the birds changing as it moves from one nest-territory to another, but the noise remaining constant?

The raccoon moved around the side of my house to the backyard. It occurred to me that a clever raccoon, if brave enough to challenge a crow couple, could actually locate a nest full eggs by the intensity of the crows’ harassment. Rocky walked up my toppled lilac to the top of the back fence and walked along it towards the neighbors’ Doug fir that overhangs the corner of my yard. My question was about to be answered. I’ve always suspected that tree as the location of the nest.

The raccoon disappeared, hidden by the branches of the Doug fir. The birds flew off. They yard fell silent. Clever birds. Or dumb Gemma. The Doug fir isn’t their home. It’s their property boundary, just as it is mine.


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