Monday, January 04, 2016

Seven Crows

We were puttering around beside the big shed as the barely-warm January sun got tangled up in the treetops. Somewhere off to the south, down in the valley by the bottomlands, there was a fierce cry, the single piercing alarm note of a crow. It repeated over and over again as it drew closer, setting off the turkeys in a mad dash, and continued as the bird finally came into sight, winging fiercely over the garden. It wheeled overhead, and suddenly its call was joined by another voice, then another, and when it had finally settled down into the top of the poplar tree above the graveyard, seven crows were perched throughout the tree, bobbing and calling raucously.

We watched them for a moment, puzzled by this mysterious and cacophonous summoning. Then, to our amazement and to the furious rage of the crows, a hawk—bigger than any hawk I can recall seeing around here—took off from the weeds at the base of the poplar, and alighted in its lowest branch, directly below the murderous bunch. At this, the crows erupted, swirling and diving in a roiling cloud of angry voices. The hawk appeared almost bemused, certainly not particularly disturbed by the display. It adjusted its stance, fluffed out its feathers, spread its tail wide, then hopped to another branch before dropping back down to the ground. The crows dispersed in an angry boiling mass, circling about to cast malevolent glances backwards at their enemy of legend.

The hawk is big, no doubt. It poked about briefly the general vicinity of the graveyard and the pines. By its size, I’d guess it’s a hen, and I hope it’s the hen from a year and a half ago, or perhaps one of her eyasses, come back to nest in the ancestral aerie. There’s still a lot of it left in the big pine tree, certainly enough to make the nucleus of a new nest for a pair.

The big hawk’s appearance a couple of days ago has spooked the chickens for sure; they’ve spent much of their days since cowering inside their house, only dodging out for food or water ever so briefly then ducking back into safety. I feel their pain, and would be more than happy to keep them locked inside if necessary, but they have cover and better wits than some of their predecessors, and have the turkeys around to keep a sharp eye on the sky on their behalf. They can deal with it. I think it would be more than a fair trade if we can watch a nesting pair raise and fledge a second batch of little hawks in our backyard.

No comments: