Volume XI, Issue 4 ~ January 30- February 5, 2003

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| Burton on the Bay | Earth Journal | Sky Watch | Tidelog |

Earth Journal

As the Crow Flies
by Steve Carr

Crows rule. They are the absolute kings of Chesapeake Bay — not humans, not those haughty heron we see strutting along the shorelines, not even automobiles.

A family of fish-crows live in a nearby red cedar tree. Every morning they sit atop our backyard fence overlooking the Severn River. I am reminded of old geezers going down to the barber shop to share gossip and to watch the world go by.

Crows don’t miss much. Drop something on the ground and leave it there for 10 minutes, and you’re bound to find a crow sniffing around it. If they find it interesting, they call their friends over for a peek and a peck.

That’s something most of us just take for granted: crow talk, that kaw!kaw!kaw! background music that follows us almost every daylight hour of our lives. If you doubt what I’m saying, go outside right now and listen. Crows are everywhere.

Crows are the ultimate adaptors. You can see them playing together down at Market Place near Annapolis City Dock or roosting throughout the wilds of South County.

All they need is a nice tree; we humans supply the rest. Between our runaway trash and road-kills, the crows barely have to step from their front doors to find food. Because they work together and share the rewards, hunting down the next meal is pretty easy.

I love to watch my neighborhood crows work the area for their next meal. About mid-morning, the sun has warmed the ground to the point where the crows can start playing the air thermals. They glide above the landscape, barely flapping their wings, followed silently by their shadows, running across the ground to catch up.

I’m not sure, but it seems like each crow has a designated area to cover each morning. As if on cue, they leave our fence and fan out in different directions, crying back and forth the whole time as if they are telling each other what they are seeing along the way. As soon as one crow finds some food, its cry changes to urgency, as if yelling, Hey, boys, over here! Proving that these marvelous creatures can communicate with one another, the other crows converge on that place where breakfast is being served.

The one thing you can’t help but notice about crows is their attitude. They couldn’t care less about anything but crow stuff. And they are fearless. Crows will team together to drive away a hawk or eagle. They will kill an approaching snake by attacking its head and tail at the same time. Not even a speeding car will spook a crow. They spend most of their time working the edge of the roads, munching on a freshly killed opossum or opening up a discarded bag from McDonald’s. They don’t panic even though a few tons of steel is barreling down on them at about 50 miles per hour. They calmly eat until the last possible second, then nonchalantly hop-skip away, settling back on their meal just as soon as the danger has passed. As you drive by, they flash you a look of pure disdain. As if to say Don’t bother me boy, I’m busy.

In general, crows get a pretty lousy rap. Most birders look down their noses at crows, the same way they do at vultures. Crows are scavengers that feed on carrion. They’re black and there’s something sort of creepy about them. That crazy drunk guy Edgar Allan Poe gave them a bad name, as did all those ’50s’ horror films that associated crows with vampires and evil tidings.

Interestingly, the American Indian, no matter their location, have uniformly looked at crows as something good, usually as messengers of the gods. A close encounter with such a bird is considered a significant event. In most Indian mythology, crows are considered to be the wise jokesters. That’s pretty cool. In fact, that’s exactly the way I would describe them.

For millennia, crows have freely roamed Chesapeake Bay with style and grace and good humor, their songs echoing past the dawn.

The weather forecast is a winter storm tonight with temperatures dipping into the teens. As the clouds build in the north, the moon illuminates the sentinel tree where my crows sleep silently.

I wonder, what do they dream about?



Copyright 2003 Bay Weekly
Last updated January 30, 2003 @ 3:13am