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by Jeff Wilkin

Type A To Z

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Features reporter Jeff Wilkin on pop culture

Quo Vadis, Crow?

Spring weather means spring serenades in my neighborhood.

The concert starts around 4:30 a.m., and generally involves gentle communications between robins, sparrows, mourning doves and cardinals.

I know some welcome singing birds and their services as natural alarm clocks. Not me. When I sleep, I prefer silence like the crypt, the peace of the tomb. Early noise just annoys me, and always puts the squelch on my slumber.

And no damn bird is better than damn noise than the damn crows that are back in my damn neighborhood. I haven’t heard a caw in months, and now the dark-winged loudmouths are back in action. The harsh-voiced sentinels of the skyway are supposed be the smartest birds around, so maybe they spent the winter months inside a Holiday Inn.

A bunch of black hearts were in the air near my Albany stronghold this weekend, swooping and diving, standing on tree branches and generally complaining about their misery and discontent. I generally try to co-exist, and am not currently at war with the winged squawk-boxes. A couple years ago, the crows picked a fight with me.

It was all their fault. An adult crow and his idiot kid were loitering in my back yard, eying little tomato plants with bad intent, to borrow a line from Jethro Tull. They were up to no good, but I surprised the intruders when I walked into the yard to hang some laundry. The big crow beat it. The clumsy adolescent tried to make a getaway but, like a dope, got caught in my fence. Squawk, squawk, squawk. Caw, caw, caw. You would have thought someone was murdering him.

Murder is what I got — about 50 crows appeared in the skies above my house, answering the clarion crow call for assistance. This so-called “murder of crows” thought I had imprisoned their comrade, when t’was the stupid crow — yeah, they’re supposed to be so smart — who had trapped himself in metal mesh.

The city animal officer who eventually showed up to free the delinquent said it was a baby crow, who had not yet learned how to fly. I’ll bet he had mastered the art of pecking tomatoes; it’s probably the first thing they teach in crow elementary school.

Anyway, the animal guy tried to toss the little beak into the air in an effort to get him airborne, but the crow just fluttered a little and landed on my neighbor Dino’s lawn. “Want me to take him with me?” asked the city man, who said the crow would receive food and lodging until he was mature enough to master flight.

What was I going to do with a crow? Keep him as a pet?

“Take him away,” I said to the guy, who packed up the crow and drove away.

Of course, the murder above blamed all this on me. They harped and complained for a few days, and I felt their beady little eyes on me for weeks afterward, as I worked in the yard. Maybe they’ve forgotten by now ... but I doubt it.

When my friend Tom Wedow visits from Rochester, he smokes his Winstons in the front yard and keeps the butts in a small glass jar. I should have emptied it by now, as naturally, a crow got curious and started pecking around Weeds’ ashtray. I would have sworn one of them had half a Winston in his beak as he flew by my bedroom window the other day.

I know, I know — “All creatures, great and small.” Bats are great because they eat mosquitoes. Cats excel because they get rid of mice. I guess crows, because they apparently are not picky eaters, get rid of small animals that meet their ends in town and country. I just wish they’d do it a bit more quietly.

As I watched crows bully other birds in the trees last weekend, I thought it might be kind of funny to see a flock of falcons move into my neck of the woods. I expect it would be fine aerial entertainment to watch a ruthless falcon run down a hapless crow and take him home for supper. But I suppose falcons are not picky eaters either, and would soon make life hard on the cardinals and robins who are as peace-loving as I am.

If the crows really want to improve their public relations with me, they might do a better job harassing squirrels who frolic and dig in my backyard. These are the same mongrels who sprint across my garage roof and have made a ragged mess of the end row of shingles. They have also played havoc in my tomato and marigold patches.

The first crow to volunteer wins my gratitude. I’ll build him a statue, write him a song ... and pay out a small fortune in stale bread on the front lawn.

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April 28, 2010
7:01 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Sorry to disagree with a professional but Google, Wikipedia & the Cornell Lab of Ornithology all agree that it should be "mourning" doves, not "morning" doves in your first paragraph.

April 28, 2010
7:02 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Oops on me too - should have been your "second" paragraph.

April 28, 2010
9:45 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Mr. Grant, thanks for your fine eye! I shall make the correction ..... I would hate to have mourning doves mad at me too!!!!

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