I was a witness.

So was my son.

Both of our kids have had a hard time adjusting to the time change, so we've been getting up a little early. Henry and I were walking the dog the other day just before 6.

It rained the night before. It was still pretty dark and gloomy with a low ceiling of clouds.

As we got closer to the harbour, we heard a terrible racket. It was coming from inside a small grove of tall trees by the water.

We were probably 50-meters away before we could discern individual caws. I have never seen/heard so many crows in one place before.

There must have been thousands. The sound of their screams echoed against the wet pavement. Henry was fascinated, but a little afraid.

The funny thing is, I know crows are solitary birds. They're social animals, to be sure. But other than their mate, they really don't like hanging out with other crows. They tend to get violent with those who crowd their territory.

There are exceptions. Crows' hatred of birds of prey (most often ospreys and owls) trumps their solitary nature. Once one is spotted (especially owls, they hate those guys), a crow can send out a "caw to arms" that will bring in all of his or her neighbours to chase and attack the invader.

It can be pretty spectacular. Crows are as vicious as they are intelligent.

I don't think this was the case here. Unless there was a particularly stubborn owl they had happened upon.

The crowd started breaking up about 20-minutes later. Even after it had dwindled to a couple of dozen, we kept our distance.

I really wish I knew what was going on. Thoughts?


Janet & Mark in Ghana said...

You said you and Henry stayed back a bit from the crows. I've always been curious about whether or not crows would hurt people. They've captivated my imagination since I was a kid. They used to fly high above the evergreen trees in our backyard; apparently, Wallace Turnbull, who lived behind my house in Rothesay, N.B, came up with the idea of the variable pitch propeller watching crows circle over the same group of trees. My neighbour's mother always used to tell us to stay away from the crows; they were dangerous, she said, though we never really knew why. I always imagined some kind of Hitchcock scene unfolding on our street! Great blog, by the way, really enjoying it. Saw Kim G. this morning. She was heading off to Maine for the weekend with Janet. Say hi to the family for me. - Mark

Mike said...

Crows tend to mate for life. In the spring and summer they live with their mate and a yearling or two tagging along. In fall and winter crows live together in huge roosts with hundreds of other crows. I've seen the leaves of poplar trees completely blackened against the night sky by roosting crows. You probably saw part of one of these roosts. They can get pretty noisy when they're disturbed. I've also heard stories of crows noisily guarding the body of a dead crow for hours at a time. They usually leave their roosts early in the morning, do whatever it is they do all day, and return just before dark. Take a look at the sky between 4:30 and 5:00 pm this time of year and you'll almost definitely see lines of crows following one path on their way home. Fascinating.