Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Crows Are Back n Town, And This Time They're Organized

It is early December and the crows are back in town.

They pass through our neighborhood here in Wethersfield, CT each year around this time on their way southward from northern New England in their search for a warmer place to spend the winter season. Since their arrival the temperature has been between forty and sixty degrees – evidently comfortable enough for them to chill here for a while. Eventually they will leave.

 In previous visits they would stalk our yard in groups of ten or more looting the acorns that our squirrels thought they had securely hidden in the front lawn. This year they are hanging around the sunflower seed feeders that we set out for the local bird population and (truth be told) for the tree rodents as well. The crows are too large to dine directly at the dangling eateries so they scavenge the ground beneath them for cast offs and partially eaten shards.

They also have taken an interest in our one certified, honest-to-God squirrel feeder. It is located on the trunk of one of our oak trees, screwed into the bark about five feet off the ground and takes the form of a downsized picnic table (complete with seats). A screw extends upwards from the tabletop onto which I twist one of the corncobs that I purchase, by the bagful, at my local nursery. The squirrels then scramble up (or down) the oak and sit Buddha-like on one of the side benches gnawing away at the yellow kernels.

Being somewhat wasteful eaters the tree-rats scatter a good portion of the uncooked vegetable onto the ground around them. The crows apparently have caught on to this additional source of free food and gather like worshipful supplicants under the maize altar awaiting alms.

Or at least they did for the first couple of weeks. Then the other day Mars and I noticed that one of the large black Corvus Corvidae had placed itself atop the pinewood eatery and was pecking methodically and (we assumed) greedily at the rapidly diminishing cob. But upon further observation we both concluded that what we were witnessing was not (totally) avarice but rather altruism, or at least joint action, as the pecking crow seemed to be deliberately tossing kernels to its fellow ebony avians below. In fact in the short time that we watched this lesson in cooperation we actually didn’t see it keep anything for itself. And, after a few minutes, another corvine cohort took its place and the former philanthrope became a willing beneficiary.

Unfortunately this excellent example of cooperation and/or charity has not caught on with our other feathered and furred mendicants – all of who seem to approach eating as if they are in a true state of nature rather than a gustatory Garden of Eden.

 It’s a sad, sad world when the best role models turn out to be a gang of hit-and-run, black-clad jackdaw intruders instead of the colorful, cuddly yard-pets for whom we provide room and board in exchange for entertainment and edification.

And so it goes.

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