Friday, March 17, 2017

A Murder of Crows

In the distance, just over the hill, I can hear the incessant caw-caws of crows, evidently upset about something. I leave the old gravel road-bed and follow a deer path through scrub-pines and eventually find my way to the clearing where thick woods gives way to an overgrown pasture. I can hear the fabric of my shirt-tail ripping as I pull free of briars that are  waist-high around the field's edge. The crows continue to voice their concern, and as I reach the top of a terrace, I see them, ten or more. I stand still for a moment so as not to alert them of my presence, but I figure that whatever it is they're bothered by is more concerning to them than an out of shape, bushy bearded, lug of a man like myself. I sidle up the hill toward the tree line, and that's when I see the object of their grievances.

About thirty feet up in an oak limb, sits a hawk. He is as still as a statue, and he appears unconcerned about the verbal abuse and continuous dive-bombing from the gang of crows. The only movement he makes is adjusting his grip on the limb with his claws. He stares out at the field as if he's trying to think of something else, and his passivity seems to be pissing off the crows more by the minute.

The crows are not the only ones surprised by the sudden change of plans, and I stand there with my jaw hanging as he takes flight out over the field and then circles back right into the angry mob as if he's stirring the pot. The hawk turns and rolls and flies towards me, and two of the crows go with him. It's the oldest trick in the book. I want to tell the crows that this is a trap, that he wants you to follow him, but I snap out of it and remember who I am pulling for here.

Now, I've seen hawks being attacked by crows before, and I know that if a crow screws up and gets under the hawk, he's a goner. The dog-fight continues high above the overgrown pasture and then the hawk leads them into the tree tops again, like he's trying to lose them. When they come out of the woods they fly directly overhead, and I turn to watch the battle before they go out of sight again. But when I turn, I see the most incredible move on the hawks part, as he rolls up and snatches the lead crow with his talons like picking an apple from a tree, and after flying a little further, opens his claws and drops the lifeless bird like a pair of dirty socks rolled together.

Without his comrade, the other crow pretends that he is running out of gas and cruises behind the hawk like an honorary escort before falling back and returning to where he came from. I can hear crows cawing through the woods, and I imagine soon they'll gather for a funeral whenever the coast is clear.

The hawk has landed somewhere on the treeline down in the creek bottom, not far from the old gravel road-bed, where I'll soon be walking, on my way back to the house.

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