Thursday, December 27, 2012

American Crow, Howard Nelson

American Crow Corvus brachyrynchos
Night time roosts

    In the City of Waterloo and a few surrounding areas there are major night time winter roosts of American Crows and it is a wonderful sight to see countless streams of birds flying into their favourite roosting trees to settle in for the night. Shining a flashlight into one of the trees at night reveals hundreds of birds occupying every branch.
    I recently came across a poem by Howard Nelson, the final stanza of which captures this phenomenon so beautifully.

Around four o'clock or so they begin to drift in.
The couple walking in the cemetery
where the stones flow from other centuries along the hills
notice how the silence gives way
to a few caws, and then more and more coast in
from somewhere, a steady, uneven stream
and a raucous chorus gathers in the trees.
The man sitting in the dentist chair
waiting for the dentist to appear, stares out the window
and sees the crows riding the air
descending onto the trees across the street,
a haunting sight he hadn't expected here.
And someone driving west through town is amazed
at the swirl of the flock across the winter sky,
hundreds, thousands, of black flecks across clouds
stirred with cold blazing light.
Wow, a natural wonder, he thinks,
the most beautiful thing he's ever seen in this city,
or maybe anywhere, and feels
it's a piece of luck to have crows in your city,
something to be grateful for,
to share the wintry earth with crows.

David M. Gascoigne,
David M. Gascoigne,

I'm a life long birder. My interests are birds, nature, reading, books, outdoors, travel, food and wine.


  1. A walk at dusk on the trails in Waterloo Park, or along Seagram Drive, is an truly an unforgettable experience. Alfred Hitchcock had it barely half right: to be sure, being surrounded by an uncountable mass of birds is an experience that runs deep into our psyche, but there is nothing whatsoever to fear. Rather, it is simply exhilarating and awe-inspiring.
    So, sure, take the kids to see the lights in Park. Then, when they have had there fill of that sideshow, take a short walk in the direction of the University of Waterloo and let them experience the thrill of the awesome blackness, the roar of hundreds of 'caws' at once, the rush of thousands wing feathers beating the air. Or better still, go early, around sunset, and watch as wave after wave comes streaming in to join the biggest party the city has ever hosted. It will be an experience both you and they will remember long after the novelty of the twinkling lights has lost its appeal.

    1. Thanks so much for this articulate, well written comment, Virgil. I appreciate it very much. I think you have a touch of the poet yourself!


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