What a delicious sound!
It is not merely crow calling to crow,
for it speaks to me too.
-Henry David Thoreau
I like crows. Unlike that guy down the street who refers to them “air rats,” I think crows are cool.
I like ravens better, of course, because they’re bigger, scruffier, wilder, and in Fairbanks they like to pose for my photos at the dump and on top of Mickie D’s golden arches. As E.A. Poe knew, they also lend themselves to being tossed into a poem. And we can’t forget, especially those of us living in the Pacific Northwest, Raven brought light to our world (although some say it was actually Crow), and light is good in a dark and gloomy place where it rains most of the time, although not lately and, dang, it’s green and beautiful here right now! Behold a raven!
Out walking this morning, trying to diminish my hippopotamine bulk before trekking across the Pyrenees in Spain next year, I apparently came across the Cornwall Park Crow Convention. The woods were acackling with caws and squawks, and black missles darted through the flickering sunlight and shadows. Decorated with glistening ebony plumage, the towering cedars looked like corvidologists’ Christmas trees and made me giggle. In keeping with the avian spirit around me, I cawed a bit, thinking how perfectly I mimicked their basic sound. But apparently not, as the crows became so deathly silent that I decided to move on.
As I neared the bridge that crosses Squalicum Creek, I thought of a line from Lyanda Lynn Haupt’s amazing book, The Urban Bestiary. “…observing and learning to understand the crows among us is an ideal way to deepen our sense of place in the urban landscape.” What have I learned from crows, I wondered?
- In my own backyard I’ve been dive-bombed so many times I now know to walk outside under an umbrella during nesting season. Heck, I would dive-bomb anyone who threatened my children or grandchildren, too.
- Crows love to wash their food in our front yard granite basin and drink from our backyard birdbath, which means they’re not as dirty as people assume. I like clean food, too, though not particularly rotting meat out of garbage cans, and I never leave bones lying around. Okay, crows are a bit messy.
- We both like bread, but they prefer theirs with furry blue mold growing on it.
- Whenever we have a party out on the deck, the crows who live in our solitary Douglas-fir go insane and try to freak us out by shrieking so loud that we want to throw stones at them. We don’t have any stones, but sometimes we cave in and toss them some scraps. Crows are food snobs and will refuse to eat a veggie burger if chicken is present. Once fed, they seem to settle down. Note: I have mixed feelings whenever we feed crows from our plates. Are we making them dependent on handouts? Will they ever reach their full corvid potential being “treated” this way?
- Crows know how to save for a rainy day (every day, except not in a long, long time around here) by hiding food scraps in our rain gutters. I have fantasies about hiding chocolate in my writing cottage. But I gave up sugar, so we probably don’t have that in common anymore. Or do we? Shhhh!
On the bridge, I looked down at the small pond fed by the creek and there were two crows looking up at me as if to say, “Freeze, it’s one of those awful humans. Just stand still and pose for it.”
I took their picture. It was weird. The one on the right had an almost human face, one I’d seen before, a relative actually, from New Zealand, but I’m not naming names.
- Crows have unique faces. Some of them look human. I do, too.
They started gazing at their reflections in the water and whispering something like, “Pretend you recognize yourself in the water. Keep the human amused and maybe it’ll toss one of those power bars our way.”
“I do recognize myself, silly! Haven’t you read the research?”
- Crows can recognize their own image in a mirror.
The one on the left started scooping water from the creek, but the one on the right looked perturbed.
“Hey, save some for me!”
“It’s a creek, dude. Start ladeling! Is it still taking photos?”
- Crows scoop water, they don’t suck or sip.
The one on the left was clearly a lush who was slowly turning into a feathered water balloon. The one on the right squawked, “Ciao! Ciao!” or something like that, then flew up into the nearest cedar.
- Crows speak Italian.
I tried to take one more photo, but my battery was dead, so I headed up the hill toward home, my place in the urban landscape, confident that I’d learned enough about crows for one walk. Next time, I’ll bring a couple of power bars.
Quote from: http://blogthoreau.blogspot.com/2006/01/thoreaus-journal-12-jan-1855.html
Maybe I have to change my mind about Crows after reading your Blog.
We dont have Crows in NZ, (Even if someone from NZ has a face similar!!!!) My first encounter was at the Tower in London, big scary birds…. Where Sacha lived in Brisbane there was a huge “colony” of them and of course they were awake and speaking “italian” at 4.30 in the morning..
But I am still pleased we dont have them!!!!
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Margaret, if you think crows are big, you should see ravens. They’re easily twice the size of their smaller cousins. Seeing crows at the Tower of London would be scary. They’re both associated with death. When you come to Bellingham, we will introduce you to our neighborhood crows. You might enjoy chatting with them (in Italian, of course).
They are far more like cockatoos (which you have in “neighboring” Australia) — intelligent, inquisitive, protective, funny. “Ours” know Mitchell and I — we toss out seed for all the birds and they know us because we caw and sing to them!
Fun! I like learning about birds and other animals that we take for granted- like deer and geese. Your trip to Spain sounds great!
Thanks, Lisa. We have a lot of Canadian Geese here, of course, and dear roam around even in our neighborhood.
Have you thought about doing el Camino? It’s quite a commitment, but everyone I know who has completed even part of it says they would do it again.
love the humanity and humanizing–as well as the education provided, which is essentially a manual on the nature of seeing and being in the company of ‘nature’—that thing, that thing, which, which…always provides–and your take on crows no exception–as what it provides for us is a way into the consciousness of all that surrounds us each and everyday, which stokes the fires of personal illumination and integration–fostering an intimacy and connection that can only be deemed sacred. Thank you for this.
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Well, jd, you certainly made my day with your comment. I should hang it on the wall above my writing desk to remind me to keep my standards high! Truly, though, I’m dazzled by the creatures I fine everywhere, including a few humans. Good to be baptized by your sweat yesterday, sir. 😉
Kindred spirits: I love crows (Ravens more) and birds in general… and dream of doing El Camino one day! I love that you’re finally doing it!! Brava!
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Thanks, Dawn. Yep, we’re doing it next year, taking my Mom’s ashes along for the trek, walking and hiking each day. I hope your dream will of walking the Camino with come true. Some people bike it, btw. 🙂
Wow, what a meaningful way to spread your mama’s ashes! Beautiful, Susan. xox
I love the way you wrote about this, comparing them to you. Personalized them for folks. Of course, with us, you are preaching to the crowd!
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