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Saturday, August 11, 2012



                        They go unnoticed overhead
                        Above the supermarket malls and cities
                        Suburban fields and meadows
                        Airborne gangs dressed in black feather jackets
                        Fearless wise guys with a raucous comment
                        For the goings on below.

                                    Published:  Pulsar Poetry (UK) 2011

One of the first things you notice after being retired is that you have time to notice things. Not as much time as I thought there would be, but time enough. I have begun to observe crows these last five years, and they have observed me. They know my car, black Volvo wagon, sometimes follow it a block or two before I pull into my driveway, then wait my roof to see if I’ve brought junk food leftovers. French fries are prized and also pasta. They’re such interesting birds. Some people are against them. They rob nests when they can find them, eat the young. I watch them walk along the fence in my back yard, scanning the evergreens for nests. Not nice, but then we all kill something. I remember a Buddhist monk’s remark: “We are all food, and the eaters of food.”

I’m sitting on the front porch Monday morning, watching crows, a murder of them—eight. A family. This is their home neighborhood, they own it. It’s their turf, their air space. I am quid-pro-crow and put a feeder at the edge of my front yard for them. They fascinate me, so damn smart and cautious—wary. After a few years of being fed the older ones now to dare to stand their ground as close as ten or twelve feet off, watching my every move and poised for quick escape - a burst of flight. But man is not their most important enemy. Some crows get are killed by owls and hawks. Crows mass and chase the owls away in the daytime, twenty, maybe thirty birds or more behind them. Later on the owl returns. The night is his. A sleeping crow’s plucked deftly from its branch.

I’ve put some scraps out in the feeder. Some sardines gone bad, still in their can, half of a baked potato and left over cat food.  There is usually one crow that hangs around, a watch crow—keeps an eye on a feeder I made while it's perched on top a lamp post just across the street. Don’t know if crows will eat potatoes, if they don’t the gulls will take it. Seagulls found my feeder a few years ago. Their habitat’s the beach on Puget Sound, a quarter  mile away. In the summer they don’t come around my neighborhood, but crows spend some time at the beach amidst the gulls. I guess they find marine-like snacks, and  junk food—leftovers, half eaten hot dogs, French fries in the sand.  

In wintertime, around Thanksgiving, gulls begin to come inland to plunder. They're a larger bird, but few in number, interesting in themselves if to a lesser extent. They fly in patterns, geometric grids--high altitude, neat as a checker board and usually just one. When  spotting something it calls to others of its kind, a raucous screech, and they will soon arrive, attack my feeder. But the watch-crow on the lamp post has an eye on things and calls out to its mates. Air war begins—fighters and bombers. Crows harass, give chase, but no real threat. Sometimes a band of crows can drive a gull or two away, but not that far away. They will give chase if a big gull has found a snack too big to swallow quickly. Sometimes a gull in hasty a flight will drop its snack. Land war begins. I've taken movies. Soon a U-tube will appear.

Late evenings a long jet black scarf-like trail of crows appear from somewhere in the south. Hundreds head someplace north, not far from the University of Washington. A pleasant, peaceful, soothing sort of thing to watch. Day's end.

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