Murder in the Sky

This evening I stepped out the back door to feed the animals before tucking them in for the night, and I was met with an amazing sight: dozens upon dozens of crows flying over the back yard, swooping, squawking and following their ancient instincts to flock together before darkness settled the land. I stood watching, the gusts of wind blowing my hair, as the endless line of birds flew into the distance only to be replaced with more birds, coming from away.

This was not the first time I saw this number of crows fly over our property coming on dusk. It seems to be a regular occurrence these days. Two days ago while working at the new fence, my mind completely immersed in hitting the nail on the head and not my finger, I had looked up and saw the sky filled with the black birds.

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I was shooting crows this past weekend.

CrowI’ve been feeding crows for more than a dozen years. They’re interesting creatures, ones who’ll attack eagles in the sky yet race away from starlings as the small birds protect their nests. Crows are clever birds, and can use simple tools to complete tasks. They even have a unique flock name: murder.

When it comes to crows, people either love ‘em or hate ‘em. The haters usually dislike the large black birds because too many times they’ve looked out to find their garbage ripped apart and strewn about by the scavengers. I’ve never been one of those victims and probably never will be since my crows know where their feeding ground is and because I never throw away any type of food in the garbage. If it can’t be fed to the chickens and can’t be composted, I throw it to the crows.

Bologna, wieners, pasta, cake, dried cookies…you name it; they get it. It’s a great way to dispose of food instead of putting it in the garbage. My crows are usually at the feeding ground as soon as they see me approach with my offering. They call in their friends and family to share in the feast.

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Brain Freeze on a Frosty Morning

Diane Lynn Tibert
Frosty mornings reveal a crow’s true colours.

Something caught my attention this morning while filling the bird feeder at the kitchen window; a crow with a grey collar. No, the crow wasn’t carrying a collar; it was wearing it. Let me clarify this further. It wasn’t a collar that could be removed. It was a collar of grey feathers.

 

The crow swooped by the window so quick, a glimpse was all I managed. I cocked my head, stared out at the frosty branch tips of the trees and reviewed my memory files, trying to remember if I had seen such a thing before. No, I hadn’t.

I stretched my neck to see if the strange crow had landed where I throw food for these feathered friends. It hadn’t. No surprise, I hadn’t yet tossed the green bread or left-over pancake outside.

Then, from across the field, the crow with the distinguished grey collar flew in and landed on the large evergreen beside the driveway. I stared at it. I was in awe. I had never seen a crow like that before. The two-inch wide grey feathers flowed neatly into the black feathers and completely encircled its neck.

Another crow flew in and perched on a branch just above Mr. Grey Collar. I leaned toward the window and squinted in the early morning light. That crow had grey feathers, too, except his were covering the entire back of his head. Another crow flew in. You guessed it; he, too, wore grey feathers.

All these grey-feathered crows began the cogs turning in my head. Regardless of what my eyes told my brain, it wouldn’t believe them. My brain wanted more information. So I stared and I watched and I observed, looking this way and that. Then I saw it; the rays of the morning sun sparkled on the grey feathers. Squinting more, I realised the feathers weren’t grey at all. They were frost covered. Given the -20 degree temperature, this was plausible.

After more watching, I realised my latest observations proved my hypothesis correct. Mr. Grey Collar was really Mr. Frosty Neck. I finished filling the bird feeder, hung it and the suet in the trees, then threw out the bread and pancake for the frosty crows.

Receiving a critique from someone is a lot like these frosty crows – sometimes it takes thought and observation to see the truth.

Two friends and I exchange short writing passages weekly. Sometimes when I receive a critique, I express my disapproval by throwing my arms in the air, doing laps around the kitchen and blurting out things. If I really disagree, I close the message and go on to something else, trying to forget about it.

After time has passed, I return to the message, reading it with a more opened mind. Sometimes I’ll agree with the suggestions. Other times I see why the suggestions won’t work. And then there’s that stubborn streak that won’t let me accept a change because I really – for some reason – want it the way I wrote it.

But just like that grey-collared crow, my brain won’t accept my answer. Something keeps needling me every time I read over the passage I refused to change for no good reason. In the end, I usually give in to the original suggestion.

After almost three years of exchanging critiques, I think I’ve finally got this stubborn thing under control . . . almost