Saturday, September 20, 2008

It's crow season again!

When I say that, I don't mean it in a Daffy Duck/Bugs Bunny "rabbit season! duck season!" kind of way. What I do mean is that we've reached the time of year when the various crow clans around our city start gathering together in the evenings and roost together overnight in a massive flock, a "murder".

For several years I've observed them flocking to one location in particular as dusk approaches. Occasionally they gather in other spots within a mile of that 'headquarters'. These locations vary over time - I've seen them abandon two locations due to human interference (ie: clear-cutting of trees). I've not stayed around to see if they roost at HQ or move onward to another area, but I hope to find out this season.

As you can see I am quite interested in crows (and ravens) (and birds in general) and that led me to an interesting discovery. Crow calling. I ran across crow calls in the hunting department of Bass Pro (I do NOT hunt), and decided to purchase one. I wondered if it would really work to get their attention and bring them near so I could get a better look at them.

Successful? Oh Yes. I'd say my crow caller has about an 80% success rate of bringing crows in when I use it, if not better. The first time I tried it out in the mountains (where we often hear crows cawing), we were swarmed by a small stormtrooper-like squadron that circled the treetops for a couple minutes and made such a huge racket!

Sometimes when I call crows, they answer back but keep their distance and don't fly in closer to investigate. They usually seem to respond most strongly to caws in bursts of 5, 7 and 9, as opposed to lesser numbered or even numbered caws. Oddly enough, this is similar with my own bird (a cockatiel) - he responds best to and prefers to mimic sequences of 5 or 7 finger-taps upon his cage bottom or a table top (he hammers back like a woodpecker).

This video was taken last weekend in the mountains. Sorry for the Blair Witch-like visual, you can't see much but the sound is OK :-) We were in an area which crows frequent, and we heard them cawing in the distance. I got out my caller and sent out a sequence of 7 calls. Within about 30 seconds two came to investigate us. As usual, we stood still and watched as the crows circled above the trees. A third did a single fly-by and left. The two who stayed were very vocal, and we heard others probably about a mile away but they did not come. One mostly perched in a treetop while the other circled around. I gave 5 caws, then 4 caws (they responded well to both), then after about a minute they headed onward.

The most crows that have ever flown in after a call has been about 10, which can be rather unsettling when they get into full clamor. They always leave within a few minutes of locating us.

Crow quotes:
"Crow is an omen of change. Crow lives in the void and has no sense of time. The Ancient Chiefs tell us that Crow sees simultaneously the three fates - past, present and future. Crow merges light and darkness, seeing both inner and outer reality."