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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Harold the Crow

by Jamie Lutton

I have not written a post for a while; I have been working on a book, and also very busy in my business. But I have been feeding the crows every morning, and sometimes middle of the day, as they visit my shop and caw at me.

Today, though,  a crow and I got a bit closer to each other. I will call this crow 'Harold', as it may be the same crow an acquaintance told me about.

I was getting my coffee, and he landed on the top of an electrical box near the coffee cart I go to. I knew he was a pretty brave crow, as someone walked by between us, and the crow ignored him I had some dog biscuits with me, and  I slowly extended my left hand up, with a biscuit in it. He extended his neck, and gently took the biscuit out of my hand, stuffed it all the way down his throat so it made a bulge in his neck, then flew away.

The man at the coffee cart went 'wow' and said I was like Saint Francis. He went on to talk about St. Francis for a moment; that the birds trusted him, and would fly down and land on him, that is how they know he was a saint. It is interesting that people have a memory of St. Francis, and not of other Catholic saints. Perhaps it is because we all look up at the birds with a wistful eye, wishing we could be their friends, but the birds (mostly) are having none of it.

This is not the first time I have encountered this crow. Last Tuesday,  I saw him perched on a yellow fire hydrant, and he was so still, that  I slowly turned toward him, and extended my left hand, and gave him a biscuit. He gets a bit closer than other crows do, so right off he stands out. Also, he is still, and stares back at me, not with his head down, crouching, and turning away like most crows do when they are close to me. That is a pose of submission. This crow is upright, and not afraid of me. Looks me in the eye.

There is other bird news to report - I have observed someone else feeding birds, who takes the matter further than I would think to do.   I may have reported this man before on this blog, a man who feeds the seagulls at dusk.  Well, he is still doing this, and quite frequently.

I have run into him the most when I duck down an ally to feed crows, and I see him going though the trash bins, looking for food scraps. He bags them up, in plastic bags, and put them in a black suitcase he has with him, the type that has wheels. It is a smallish suitcase, the type with wheels at the far end and a pull out handle.  He is very intent on his work, but I stopped and asked him how he was, a few days ago.  He talked to me about the seagulls, that he had been feeding him for 12 years, every day except Thursday and Friday. He pointed at the building across from the alley, and there were about 18 seagulls perched up there, watching him. He pointed at the four gulls at the end, saying those followed him home.

My practical streak came out. I asked him if he had a hepatitis shot, and noted that he wore a hat. He said that he had, and laughed about the hat, saying it was a good idea.

When he feeds the crows, behind a local restaurant, at dusk, the thunder of the gulls is so loud you can  hear them two blocks away.  The dying light catches the grey-white of their wings, as they settle and rise over the scene. You don't realize just how loud gulls can get, till you hear hundreds cry out all at the same time.

Up close, they thunder like the sea, a crowd of hundreds of gulls, rising and landing, many dozens on the ground, and many more in the air. They bring the sea to Capitol Hill on their wings.

The man fetches out the rotten food he has wrapped in plastic bags earlier in the day, and tosses it into the air. He spins as he does this, so the food does not go in the same direction twice. Gulls fly close, snatching the food out of the air, crying and wheeling in the air.  He does this till he has no food left, then the gulls fly off, crying as they go, a great cacophony of grey and white  in the growing dusk.

I won't identify the restaurant, as I don't want some public health official decide to hunt this man down and stop him, writing him  a ticket or locking him up for violating some law.

The crows are in their tree-beds by the time this man comes out to feed the gulls. The gulls stay up later than the crows; they must have different visual abilities. They are up earlier and go to bed later than the crows, you can observe this if you are up at dawn. 

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