Stalked by a Murder of Crows

by Jamie Lutton

Hello, faithful reader(s). Over the last month or so, I have discovered why people in general do not feed crows. Not that I have stopped, but there are a few problems with the habit.

They find out where you live. A few mornings ago, I was buzzed on my balcony, near my elevator, by a cheerful fellow, who cawed at me. He flew right in front of my face, as I looked at the view. When I went outside, he and his friends greeted me enthusiastically and cawed at me till I gave them dog biscuits.

This particular group of about eight eats the trash left outside a group home for mental patients two blocks from my apartment. They get fairly close to me, perching on NO PARKING WEST OF HERE signs, looking down at me, and shifting from one foot to another on the telephone wires overhead. If I keep walking, they buzz over my head, flying in great graceful loops, forlornly, trying to get my attention. I usually toss them a few dog treats, maybe twice, then I keep walking. A few of them follow me, and caw at me for more, flying over the street and landing in front of me as I walk away from them. I usually toss a extra biscuit or two. They peel off after a block, I think, for a reason. The crows on the next block are territorial.

Near where I get my coffee, across the street from an outdoor coffee drive through hut, for years a woman has put down pounds and pounds of feed for birds at dawn. This attracts pigeons, gulls, and of course crows. The crows wait now until I walk by. This group is a tiny bit more aggressive, and there are more of them. Usually 50 or so. They sit very quietly, all in a tight group, on the top of a nearby building, and the telephone wires, watching me. They send down an ambassador to greet me, landing on the sidewalk in front of me, or he flies by my head. Sometimes two or three of them. The rest of them rest, and wait. If I throw out a couple of treats, they all launch themselves off of the wall, in a great flurry, to get them. My innate sense of fairness makes me throw out a big handful, then, so they can all get some. I hurry away, as a black cloud spins and flies over the treats, landing and taking off.

I go inside my shop. I set up the register, and putter about for a while, then take the signboard out to the sidewalk. I look up. About 20 of them have followed me to work. They nonchalantly fly back and forth from tree, to wire, to top of post, in front of me, almost flirting, to get my attention. Knowing better, I go inside and get more treats anyway. I toss maybe four or five out, and then 40 of them suddenly appear from all directions to descend on the treats, so I have to toss out more. As I retreat inside, I see my obese orange shop cat is staring with terror and fascination at the birds swooping in; very still, very bewildered looking.

I go inside to work for the day. For the rest of the day, I see a few crows hanging about, peering in the window now and then. The shop cats peer back out at them, going from window to window.

I can avoid dealing with the crows, mostly, if I walk down the main street, Broadway, as the crows are shy around people. I will get a few bolder ones following me in the trees, but mostly the really big group will not bother me.

If I knew I was going to get this popular, I might not have started this. I wonder what summer is going to be like. But the crows had been flirting with me for years. The group that eats trash near my apartment have been flying down and hopping near my feet, or flying overhead for years and years. I succumbed to the temptation to give them what they wanted; to make them happy.

How anyone can resist them I don't know; everyone has once fed a crow perhaps, and then found that he or she was too popular with them for comfort. I do think they dive around my head to amuse me; it does not frighten or alarm me a bit. They are just trying to get my attention, and they fly so beautifully. It is rather like that I have many new friends, now. I now know how St. Francis must have felt.

It has been raining a lot in November and December here.  They call it the Pineapple express, locally.  The crows are not impressed by this, but they still fly in very rainy weather. I see them, on my way to work. They are all bedraggled, with their feathers here and there, when the rain is really pelting down, but they are still flying about.

I go out, too. I usually do not carry an umbrella, and I often forget my hat. I get to work with my longish hair soaked, so I have to use a paper towel to dry off.  But I do not like umbrellas, there is some sort of trick to carrying them so you don't poke other people that I have never mastered. Possibly it is because I am so short. So, I usually do not bother.

The crows are on their usual patrol near my house and near the coffee stand, and near my workplace, begging for dog treats.  They will grip the telephone wires in the heaviest downpour, shifting from one foot to another, staring out across the city, and glancing down at me, as if to say, well? well? get on with it. I throw out treats that skitter into puddles, which fazes them not a bit, as they eat them right away, then. I had observed them dipping the dog treats before, in water, to soften them up.  As I said, they are all bedraggled, feathers poking up and sideways in the heavy downpour, but still patrolling looking for food and for my flick of my wrist, that  signals that I have thrown more treats out.

Today was unsettling. No crows. The sun was out, and it was unseasonably warm for December. I saw only two crows, and they wanted no business with me. They were flying east, both of them towards the rising sun.  I saw no other crows this morning. I assume that they were flying east, to greet the sun, as it came up to dry out their wet world. I suddenly had a fierce desire to rise up with them, to greet the December sun, so beautiful after so many wet days.

 I wondered about crow religion; if they worshiped the sun, and met in secret places, after wet, miserable days like the ones we just had.


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