Three Crows

Oh, you sciencey-types.  I wander around out there in all that science not knowing what any of it means, being just my plain old superstitious self, and today I was marvelling at the fact that it was just this weekend that I learned that the mysterious calendula I see in all my magic books is just marigolds.  Ha!  Not that I don’t love marigolds.  But you know, calendula in a chain over your door keeps away evil.  Marigolds in a chain over your door looks like a party!

Anyway, the crows.  The crows seem to have an understanding of us.  We were walking up Lloyd and there were three crows in the big tree in the north pasture and they started hollering the minute they saw us.  But here’s what was really interesting.  As we got closer, the crow at the top back of the tree would holler and one of the other crows would take off, make a big circle over our heads, and return to the tree.  Then, in the distance, we heard other crows answer.  Then the back crow hollered again, and the other crow took off, circled over us, the other crows in the distance answered, and it returned to the tree.  And then, the third crow hollered again and one by one, the three crows took off from the tree and flew off in the direction we heard the other calls coming from.

When we got to the top of the hill–yes, the hill of doom–and crossed the road to turn around (hey, we’re making progress, but not that quickly), we heard the crows again.  And then, when we got to the AT&T building and began to cut across back yards, we heard them again.

Sciencey-folks, were they keeping each other apprised of our walk?  It sure seemed like it.

10 thoughts on “Three Crows

  1. the mysterious calendula I see in all my magic books is just marigolds

    You have run into a side-effect of the British love of Latin and Latinate horticultural names. Once the upper classes took up flower gardening there, all the old plant names got tossed out the window and were replaced by formal species designation. Well, except for roses.

    About the crows, I don’t know. They are smarter than most other birds, but I don’t know what their purpose would be in tracking you. Maybe they were doing the scouting for some buzzards, having seen you get all tired out before?

  2. Oh my god! Clearly, that’s it. The crows are waiting for us to fall down dead so they can carry our souls to the afterworld! And then pick at what the buzzards don’t eat of our bodies…

  3. My brother lives out by the shore, near a bird sanctuary, and the buzzards there have taken to walking up on the back porch and knocking on the sliding glass door with their beaks when they see him in the kitchen. I’ll ask him if that was preceded by crows scouting him out.

  4. If you’ve never read Bernd Heinrich’s Ravens in Winter, you should pick up a copy. It’s the single most informative book on corvid behavior (and how to write an interesting academic treatise that’s accessible to the non-specialist) that I’ve ever come across. Heinrich ran experiments demonstrating that young birds actually fly away from a cache of food in the winter and fly off to find other crows. They vocalize to alert everyone to the presence of food rather than hogging it all for itself. That’s sort of peculiar, since you’d predict that the birds would instead try to eat as much as they could and hide the rest for themselves. However, Heinrich argues that corvids have a long memory (for example, if they get ripped off by another bird, they hide things better next time and try to avoid being victimized) and he explains the sharing behavior as a building of goodwill over time. He also notes that the building of community through food-sharing gives the advantage of attracting a bigger pool of mates. Young male corvids have to prove themselves to the ladies, apparently.

    I’m guessing, from your description, that they were reporting on you and then headed off to where all the other crows were eating.

  5. I definitely felt like they were saying “Hey, there’s something right here, under where I’m circling that we might keep an eye on.” It was pretty cool.

  6. Oooo, yeah. I have that on my “books to get out of the library” list. (It used to be my “books to buy” list, but then I had a kid. Sorry, people in the publishing industry and writers everywhere.)

  7. oh pagan one, the Morrigan of Irish fame are corvid women (crows and ravens and jays belong to the corvid family), and they eat carrion–or dead warriors on the battlefield. But as you’re not carrion, despite an .8 mile walk before calling the Butcher, you can assume that they were calling out greetings to you as a sister goddess and letting others know you’re around.
    Ravens co-hunt with wolves, dontcha know. They lead the wolves to the prey, and then wait until after the wolves are sated to have their own meal.
    The world is alive and magic is afoot. When you know who’s talking the world takes on a whole new aspect and you learn you have untold neighbors.

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