Although my last post was about how miserable the local crows are as they go through their annual moult, don’t feel too bad for them — this season is also their most social and joyful.
Several things come together in the the crow world to make fall time the best time:
- Parent crows are mightily relieved that their fledglings are (mostly) independent
- Fledgling crows, like teenagers everywhere, are busting to get out there, meet their peers and show off a little
- Crows, even the still-moulting ones, look fabulous in the golden fall light and glowing autumn leaves
- There are feasting opportunities/excuses for crow parties all over town
Crow Fest in our neighbourhood begins with …
The Hazelnut Happening
Around the autumn equinox a couple of local hazelnut trees become ripe, and many crows seem to have this date carefully noted in their social calendar. Hundreds of them, and dozens of intrepid squirrels, show up for the event every year.
A few years back a human bravely tried to harvest their share of nuts, wisely wearing a bicycle helmet as protection from the competition. This year, even more wisely, they seem to have left it all for the wildlife.
Normally the crows fly over our neighbourhood at dusk, headed to the roost a few miles east of here with only a few distant caws to mark their passing.
But it’s reliable as clockwork — the very day the hazelnuts are ready, our normally sedate area becomes an evening Crowstock venue, complete with rousing musical accompaniment.
The cawing is accompanied by the random percussion of nuts hitting the tarmac as crows drop them to break the shells.
There are other seasonal delicacies on the menu too …
While the raucous crow chaos is the big story here, as with all big events, it’s made up of so many small and personal sub-plots.
I love to pick out small groups or individuals in the crowd and watch them for awhile, trying to parse out the individual stories.
In the seemingly undistinguishable line of crows on the wires, you can often detect a family group — parents and fledglings, or just couples taking a quiet moment in the midst of it all.
The other night I spotted a personal acquaintance on the wires.
I’ve been worried about the Wings as they’ve not been in their usual spot for most of the summer. As if to confirm this was indeed her Wingship, she came down and landed by my feet …
The party rages on, but still full of individual little crow vignettes.
One young, ambitious and agile crow takes a moment to show off the Cirque du Soleil skill set they’ve been working on.
Another independently-minded crow in the crowd decides to add a distinctive yip to the chorus of cawing.
A quiet young crow whiles away the time by catching and playing with one of their own recently moulted underfeathers before it floats away on the evening air …
And so the nightly Hazelnut Happening hurtles on for a few days until, finally, the nuts are devoured and relative quietness returns to the ‘hood.
Don’t worry though — the fall festivities are far from over. It’s just time to move on to the Dogwood Disco up the street.
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