Until it runs up on a few Orcas
Until it runs up on a few Orcas
Pierce street @ Ashland ave, St. Paul
Had the crow experience of a lifetime this morning. Will try to recount it in the fullest detail possible.
Last night I didn’t sleep well. For a week or two I’ve been without much coffee but during the day yesterday had a few cups – normally these many cells process that caffeine quickly but it seems likely that was why I tossed and turned. At 4:41 a.m. I gingerly crawled out of bed to meditate – felt pretty distracted, with lots of intrusive thoughts – and then at 5:00 kept hearing crows. Sounding close but not necessarily outside of the house – at least 2 or 3 of them.
After a while they broke my attempt at a meditative trance and I had to go see them. Grabbed my bag of snacks (corn) and went out onto Selby. Thought I was hearing them a block west and ventured out – expecting to see them in the tall roost-spot past Pierce on the north side of the street. No luck. Turned left down Pierce and quickly realized there were about 3 or 4 crows a block in past Augustine’s. Walked up the street- their cacophony was remarkable and chattery almost to the point of annoyance. The thick, lush green trees – and dark-ish sky, perhaps on a 2.9/10 brightness setting – made it hard to see the little avian monkeys. Their caws were in bursts of three or four and extremely consistent. As I approached I made a few ‘kawwwhhh, kawwhhh’ noises and shook my keys. Then I walked directly beneath the trees, over a manhole cover next to a basketball hoop (east side of the street). I grabbed handfuls of corn and poured them onto the manhole cover. They clicked and clacked and rained their clattery sound onto the ground and to my surprise the crows were rather responsive. It seemed clear as I did this handful after handful – at least 5 or 6 of them – that the birds were watching, and one rearranged itself (seemingly to get a better view).
I continued to alert them with noise and the 4-or-so crows quickly became 10. The most I could count (as they were moving) was 10, but I believe a few were in my periphery. Continued south to the middle-end of the block and laid down a few noticeable ‘lines’ of corn – perhaps 12-18 inches long, 3 or 4 inches thick, and just about 1 layer of corn tall or heightwise. Yellow enough to be bright and visible but not voluminous enough to deplete my entire supply. I laid out one or two of these on the ground and another on a blue recycling can – the crows were extremely loud at this point, and many more were flying in (primarily from the west end of Pierce, above the trees).
Wow – it was exciting. Always I am hoping that they are comfortable or at least unalarmed by my presence, which is to some obvious extent intrusive and loud, and if they are not unalarmed or comfortable my second hope is that they will comfortably leave. Or fly away. What sucks is the possibility that crows needing rest, or really just trying to roost in one spot, or that are otherwise unwilling to take off and fly away from me, are irritated by my presence. So this morning as they screamed and gathered I kept wondering if I was bothering them – scaring them – enraging them – etc. But as they were summoning one another (within a matter of 5 minutes there were 2 dozen large birds) and screaming together over my head, which has certainly never happened in the absence of food before, I must think there was some positive reward response associated with their screams. (Later tomorrow I’ll get back over there to see if they snacked on any of it – do crows even eat corn? Don’t ask me!)
Waving my keys on my carabiner (this is a sort of Pavlovian stimulus that I introduce when I feed the crows anywhere) I walked south into the intersection of Pierce and Hague. Wave wave wave keys, drop drop drop some food, caw caw caw, sing sing sing. A common and monotonous attempt at engagement – and, for my neighbors, probably a sickening morning regularity. There were so many crows (or corvids? Ravens? Hm.) above me that I didn’t know what to do or think. Just black mass after black mass, dipping and swooping like planes, but never getting close or suggesting outward aggression. Unless I am completely ignorant to their own aggressive strategies. Together they could have shredded my scalp (or worse) and instead they simply screamed like an avian chorus and made me super duper happy. I kept laying out seeds and lovingly cooing “hello, babies!!!”
Walked back northward after a while. Those few moments with a zillion birds around me felt like a zillion years. Really admired the big fat one that was atop the roof on the NE intersection of Pierce & Hague. It was short, squat, and had the same inward neck-thrust (head upwards, body fat) as a few ravens on youtube – at least, that was what my memory suggested. For some reason this one bird (on a roof instead of trees or in the air) caught my attention as I was walking through the crowstorm back towards Selby. I walked past Selby and onto Dayton a bit, seeing yet another fatty (maybe the same one from the roof) doing the inward-neck-thrust-guttural-call from atop a tree. NE end of Dayton & Pierce. Hm.
Went home. Scattered corn around the house as I arrived – also put a few round masses of the yellow stuff onto the roof. Then crawled back into bed with a cute girl as the crows kept hollering outside.
Out on the railroad tracks. Left home with a mug of coffee, still rather sleepy (especially in the eyes and face) – walked to the tracks by Marshall & Fry. Am sitting on one rail facing the sun – the entire length of tracks here along the highway are sort of sunken into the landscape; the highway behind me being perhaps 10-15 feet higher, & the block/street/backyards in front of me being up by 30 feet (?). In front of me the sun is just now scaling over & past the rooftops & trees over the top of the mini-hill/valley thing. It was quite remarkable a few moments ago to see the highway side of the mini-valley (behind me) illuminated while the tracks & street-side (in front of me) were dark. In the time I’ve been writing this the sun has risen enough to directly light the page of this journal – but if I tip it even slightly towards me the page is again a darker blueish. Unlike the living room at home this spot offers a wide & expansive outdoor scene to sit in- at least extending in 2 directions. The massive steel tendons cast thru the middle (indeed, the only reason this urban boulevard and associated mini-valley even exist) are obtrusive and the chunky rocks beneath them are as well.
Like the living room at home the sonic environment is barraged and beaten by the roar of hungry vehicles. That screaming gnashing engine sound. The sun is now past the branches – wondering if the paper will need sunscreen. Heh. A few sights while walking here – the graffiti over the Marshall/Snelling bridge is ever-evolving. I enjoyed the bright easter-green of a large piece on the northern side – some white scribblings by another atop it. The same green speckled & splattered all over the tracks a few yards up. I couldn’t decide which of the rusted wires or steady chunks of glass or jagged corpses of old spraypaint cans seemed the most ominous. Paused on the bridge to drink some coffee – cars on either side down on street & it felt best to sip in private. Kept walking.
The body of a rabbit – recently deceased. Was sipping on coffee & taking a big gulp when I noticed it. Super dead. Like…wayyyyy dead. A bit bloodied on its hips – but not really mangled or bitten or whatever. Train incident? My wonderings were unsatisfied – kept walking. A bit further on: a perfectly formed fetus of some kind – 3, maybe 5 inches long. Shiny, grey, more pig-looking than rabbit. Or squirrel. Abdomen ripped open, perhaps snacked on but not entirely ‘gutted’ (heh). Lots of birds along the way – pigeons, a few mystery characters, one corvid. My energy level picked up some 20 minutes into my walk – sitting here now I am a bit sleepy again. The slightest suggestion of a shortage in sustenance signals my senses – maybe it’s food time soon. I’ll walk back. My butt is pleasantly cold from sitting on the track.