Sunday, February 20, 2011

Crow Story

I posted a severely cropped portion of a chance shot I made this morning on Facebook.  I think it got more feedback than anything else I’ve ever thrown up there.


This is the “improved” version, since the crow in the original was just too fuzzy to use for anything else.  I only had about two seconds to try to focus, and at that distance, autofocus wasn’t trustworthy.  I missed, too, by a few feet.

If there was a common thread to the comments that followed, it was centered around an affinity for them, their intelligence, etc.  I don’t discount any of those… I was just a little late to the party.

When I lived in the Laurelhurst neighborhood in Portland, I got rather annoyed with them and their flocks (probably multiple murders) that could number well above 50, sometimes a cloud that neared 100.  They made enough noise to make conversation almost impossible.

And sometimes (often after very late work nights) some of them would gather on the roof above my bedroom and fight, tumbling and thumping just feet above my head. 

But then I moved to Astoria. 

There are a lot of crows here, but they don’t tend to gather in huge airborne riots.  Sure, they can be noisy, but usually in just twos and threes. 

One might accompany you on a walk down the riverfront, leapfrogging you as you approach, flying up from a perch as you get within a few feet, circling behind you and then lighting 50 feet or so further on, repeating the process again and again.

Many of them congregate in the mudflats left at low tide in the lagoon across the street from my house.  They’ll pick up freshwater clams and perch on the utility pole next to my driveway and then launch them onto the street to crack the shells.

The street is fairly clear right now, but there are times when the bits of clamshells line the curb.

And then I met this one:


I was near the Hammond boat basin looking for shots of transiting ships, pilot boats, etc., when he (or she) lit in the parking lot about 30 feet away.  I heard the usual throaty rasps, cackles and caws and then turned my attention back to the river.

Then I heard a “meow”, and I snapped my head around to find the bird eyeing me, a little closer than it had been before.  It then emitted a more common guttural chuckle and gave me a “who, me?” look and stayed silent.  I turned back to the river.

After another minute or so, another “meow”.

And it was a little closer.  So I started talking to it.  I really don’t remember what I said, but it was in a conversational tone, trying to coax it closer.  But it had reached its limit and stayed there. 

I shot some more of the river and then turned back to the crow.  Still there.  I actually asked permission to take its picture.  Not that I was expecting an answer, but I somehow wanted to warn it that I was going to be aiming my harmless cannon in its direction.  It didn’t seem to mind.  Was pretty darned nonchalant, actually…


… scratching its cheek as I adjusted exposure.

I’d played out the possibilities of that position and wanted to walk over to the nearby beach.  I warned the bird that I was getting up, and it hovered away to a nearby tree.  I thought I’d seen the end of it.

But, as I turned my attention to small details in the sand, I heard the rustle of feathers behind me.  I turned slowly to find the crow perched twenty feet away in the sand, watching me.

We chatted as I explored, and it hopped along at about the same distance.  It wasn’t silent, but it wasn’t loud, either.  No huge caws and graaaaks… just clicks and softer noises.

Eventually I walked back to the car.  It was time to go, but the crow was still keeping the same orbit around me.  I wanted to try to make a deeper connection, but I had no idea how.

The clatter of opening the hatch didn’t bother it a bit by then.  I rummaged around and found a very stale Clif Bar.  It was all that I had.  I broke off several small pieces and tossed them carefully in the direction of the crow. 

It eyed the offerings and then me several times, but didn’t move.

“No?  I don’t blame you, really, but it’s all that I have right now.” I said.

It lifted off and lit in the same tree as before, and I packed up and drove off.

A few weeks later, I woke to what sounded like a child imitating a cat.  My bedroom window was open, and the sound came through loud and clear.  “Meow”

I put my glasses on and looked out.  We hadn’t had stray cats in the neighborhood in months, as the raccoons seemed to have scared them all away.  No cat.  No kids.  Just a crow sitting in the cedar tree across the street.


Seraffyn said...

He sounds like a charming and crafy fellow! I so love crows and ravens.

NWWanderer said...

I clicked on your comment without a clear response in my mind and found that the word verification shown was "rooker." Now, how's that for a coincidence?

Seraffyn said...

Ha! My comment required no response, but it looks like you were given one. :)

Corinne said...

What a lovely story. It gets better with every telling. I'll be listening for meow's in a different way now.