You remember it, Hitchcock’s experimental movie introducing Tippi Hedren (with whom Alfred was infatuated) with Rod Taylor…and a whole bunch of birds. Tippi was great. The birds were scary and a bit gory and I was leery of large flocks of birds for a couple of weeks.
Scroll ahead a bunch of years, and we run into a special on, not just birds, but crows. Now there are several creatures other than man on this planet that in some ways, challenge man’s hierarchy on this planet. Porpoises, chimps and apes, parrots, octopi (or octopussies if you prefer), whales…and crows. As a point of fact, they’ve recently discovered that an octopus is the closest thing we can find that approximates an intelligent alien life form. What they can do, will blow your mind, but that’s a story for another day.
For most of us, crows would be an unlikely candidate for this group, but, once again, in recent experiments by research teams, they’ve found that your average adult crow has about as much sense as an eight-year-old child. And there’s a famous test they give to crows that drives home the point. Scenario: One crow. One pitcher of water that’s half full. A pile of rocks. Crow wants water, can’t lift pitcher, sooo…it throws rock after rock into the water to disperse the volume so that the level rises to the top…and crow can drink.
Now, I have some good friends, who are fairly intelligent, but I suspect that if this dilemma was sprung on them while out camping, the crows would drink waaay before some of my human friends would. Dispersing fluid with a secondary mass to raise the level of the fluid in a container? Uhmmmmmm…. And crows are superb parents to their chicks and mourn the death of a relative in their family. And they communicate in what I’m discovering to be a fairly sophisticated language. Haven’t cracked it yet, but the learning curve is pretty steep so far.
Upon moving into Dragonfly, our place down in North Carolina, about the first week we were here, we noticed a murder of crows (yeah, that’s the correct term for a bunch of crows) soon descended into the clearing around our house and started cawing up a storm. Imagines of Tippi Hedren came to mind, but I noticed that they had formed a clearly defined perimeter about 200 feet around the house. Wouldn’t come any closer and they really seemed to have something to say. Frustrating… I also noticed that wherever we’d go in the woods or along the stream on the property, we had an escort of four crows which we soon deduced were two couples.
Their cawing soon modified from frantic, to casual to…for want of a better term, interrogative. Instead of CAW CAW CAW!!! it was morphing into Caw Caw?…Caw?
Long story-short, we began feeding them out at the perimeter line. They’d caw loudly as we approached, then caw differently, then they’d shut up and eat as we turned to leave. Soon the two designated couples began approaching closer and closer each day. By the end of the month, they were out in the frog pond directly in front of the house.
You learn pretty quickly what one of the CAWs means. Fast and frantic, it means they’ve spotted an enemy (usually a hawk, fox, or coyote) and soon there are eight or twelve or more crows going nuts and attacking the predator. It’s pretty effective, by the way.
One evening, our crow buddies were chowing down on the crow seed and not paying a lot of attention. From our perspective up the property, we saw a goshawk take off and begin a low terrain profile strafing run toward the crows. I tried the warning CAW CAW CAW and our crow babies hit the sky instantly. Then they went after the hawk…big time.
It’s anthropomorphizing, to attach too much meaning here, but the crows seemed to trust us a LOT more afterwards.
Latest chapter in learning crow. Researched the web, Googled the best crow call available and did some reading. Got the thing in the mail and practiced in the bathroom so as not to sound too stupid. (It’s harder than you think.)
Next morning we’re out on the deck. Crows were about a quarter-mile away and communicating with each other. I had just put out the crow food. Licked my lips and tried a crow “sentence” in the morning air. First thing: Utter silence and, all the small birds took off. Two seconds later. Insane crowing as the crows began to flock to the house. Yeah it wasn’t scary like THE BIRDS, but it was very weird. A sky full of crows flapping around us and then, chowing down. I have no idea what I’m saying….yet, but I have to say, for $15.95 for the call, I have a new hobby and a new bunch of feathered…friends. At this learning rate, a year or two and things may really get weird.
Also… A week or two ago I mentioned the two couples of crows that follow us around. When you watch carefully, you learn their personalities. The one I mentioned that’s afraid of caterpillars continues to be really scared of them and it appears that they take turns being sentinel or watch-crow. Their technique for fanning out to check out the safety of an area rivals a SEAL team in its thoroughness.
P.S. Last week I mentioned the ordeal we’ve been going through. A few people wrote in,”Oh getting a new hip is a snap!” Uhmmm…not really. The hardest part, ironically, is the week after the surgery. You’d damn well better be a close-knit couple if you handle the therapy yourselves. It’s a no-joke saga and you have to be on top of it minute by minute…24-7 or risk the consequences. Big big, hugs for you folks and your wonderful support! It’s made a difference!