field notes (06/19/2017) [*50th entry*]

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.

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field notes (4/23/2017)

First woke around 11:27am to what sounded like corvids. A LOT of corvids. My rotating fan was quite loud & my mind quickly reconnected the alleged crow cacophony with its original input signal-the sound of the fan. I lay facedown still half asleep, & was sad to only have imagined it. The thought of so many crows (the sound, rather) is what had jolted me out of sleep and out of bed, & I tried to forcibly allow myself to calm those adrenals atop my kidneys & return to unconsciousness. But then I was certain I was hearing them, & my heart exploded with urgency, & my skin prickled with excitement. I flew rapidly towards the foot of my bed to turn off the fan. And with the loudest and most opaque of signals now silent, rather than battering my eardrums with white noise, I could hear a quiet & clear symphony – at LEAST ten crows, yelling at each other.

It was a rather redeeming moment. Life right now feels quite tertiary in that none of the outward effort, energy, or regular and committed karmic seeds have had any form of positive or improved/bettered effect on my current standing. It seems there are valuable traits I exude sometimes…but it doesn’t often matter. Positive traits seem to matter for others but not for me- At least not right now. Frequently (almost daily) friends offer feedback that my attentiveness or time or support is of utmost and foundational importance to their well being. For a while that was nice to hear. But..planting personal values or watering my unnoticed and withered bits is hard work. And it feels like that work yields no sustenance in the form of recognition…In my own selfish and needy way it just feels like unpaid labor. There is always cognition: other humans do talk to me, & my family especially puts in forethought or attention in to their actions. Friends do sometimes think or engage with my thoughts or engagements without being prompted. But in my last relationship (especially) and in my current friendships whiny ol’ me feels like a farmer trying to run the show on his own & all without eating. No fruit for the farmer until the harvest? Or something. It’s sorta like I’m tilling the dirt and planting and watering but nothing is coming up in my own field – the neighbor’s field, sure. But no fruit in mine. And yes – the field is healthy, the table already has food on it (literally and figuratively). Life is okay. But in terms of income, interpersonal connection…it’s lonely to feel un-re-cognized. Super lonely. Especially while all of the people who are really important to me are quite literally spreading their wings to fly far away across the globe for their own well-earned adventures in self-discovery.
All’s to say even if the crows only come for the seed (BIRD seeds in the literal sense…ha) it is so immediately rewarding. It is so rewarding to coax these midnight missiles to my home, and to know that there is mutual benefit in their being here.

Having turned off the fan I could, in my sleepy & unclothed state, leap towards the window and peek outside without immediate concern of my phalanges being visible from the street. My attic window renders my lower bits nonviewable from the street, so in the interest of time I sent my hand on a life-or-death race to the venetian blinds of the west window. Aggressively sticking my hand between a pair of them, & opening a crevice to look outside, I didnt see much – but at that INSTANT the loud conversation just outside escalated to a collection of rhythmic screams. Their voices sometimes lined up in their pitter-pattering, forming the same illusory depth as the perceived connections in a large applause. Within half a second I could see through my hasty window-crack & saw they were not on the roof. The screaming of the birds startled me the half-second prior & I thus had no issue rapidly drawing the blinds in an attempt to get a glimpse of the source of my autonomic excitement.

And wow, did I see quite the something. Across the street no less than 12 or 15 crows (tried to count amidst my erotic panic) were desperately and forcefully exiting the tree, almost as if I had thrown a stone right towards them. They were banking up & around as to fly south away from the area, & I knew immediately at this moment – not 6 seconds after being asleep & horizontal – that I had scared them off. That seems to happen often. The elation and sorrow both were embodied. At no time recently, or ever, had such a clear response to my bird-feeding been sitting there. Apparent. Those birds are beautiful. But as far as me, I am a bit off-putting to them & I feel quite bad for rendering their moment an interrupted one. Next time, for their benefit (but also for the benefit of my behavioral/interspecies voyeurism) I will remember my mini-mantra:

FLIGHT > SIGHT

In essence this is a reminder that the real intent is to feed & sustain them; to contribute to their unhunger, to make this bit of life’s locality more sustaining and relaxing for them. To see or pester or talk to them is in itself (for the time being) outwardly aggressive & only serves my own enjoyment of the associated autonomic response. Yes, those corvids do stir me quite deeply, and I must remember that to stir them back is likely not at all enjoyable for them. As such they rapidly flew south towards Hague or perhaps Laurel. I lowered the blinds and blushed.