Tuesday, January 8, 2019

The conversation of the crows: the crow clock

A magazine to which I am subscribed ran an article on the times when different species of birds in central Europe begin singing each morning. I’ve never seen data like that for our local birds. For  years I’ve been recording now and then the early morning bird choruses, so I’ve got some raw material of my own which might be useful in working out something like that for my backyard birds. Even with recordings it won’t be easy because in addition to the their widely recognized songs, birds produce other less readily recognized sounds.
Right now I’m focused on the calls of one particular species of bird, the local crow. The local crows have had roosts nearby for at least a half century. Human construction development has caused them to move several times, but they seem to have remained in the same general area. The enormous crow flocks we had before West Nile disease nearly eliminated the local crows, jays and starlings are a thing of the past. There was a time when hundreds, maybe thousands, of crows gathered late every day in the woods in back of the house before they flew off en masse to their roost. And once the crows were gone, the patient, knowledgeable bird watcher can wait for the next act: with the crows gone, any accipiters lurking in the woods launch themselves off to their roost.  
Although the local crow population is currently small, they are still noisy. And that noise is what interests me now. About a month ago I began to notice that the crows were arriving in our neighborhood at about 7:30 A.M. As time passed, they arrived a bit earlier. Right now, they are arriving just a bit past 7 A.M. I’ve written “arriving” but actually what I’m noticing is the time I hear them for the first time. For all I know they have been sitting out there in the trees earlier than that.  What’s certain is that those first morning crow noises are getting earlier and earlier. Sunrise now is not until 7:27 A.M., so they obviously are not waiting for the sun to rise. And after a brief arrival chat, they quiet down and I don't hear them. 
By the way, when I hear these early morning crows, I'm still deeply snuggled down into my cocoon in bed. I guess they know the truth in the old adage “the early bird catches the worm”! Maybe, but  I don't want to be the  early outdoor bird watcher who catches pneumonia!  

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