Winter’s Coming–the Crows are Gathering

Once again it has been unseasonably warm this week. I certainly will never complain about that. Winter is too long for me to complain about an extra week of warmth (or two–or several–or maybe let it never begin, which would also be fine with me!)

But there are unmistakable signs in nature that it will indeed be coming once again. First, one of my favorite little birds, the juncos, have arrived. I have loved these little dark gray birds since childhood, when they were called “slate colored” juncos. Now I think they are called “dark-eyed” juncos, but don’t quote me. I haven’t checked in a year or two so it may have changed again. Bird names, like plant names, do seem to undergo a surprising number of revisions.

And then there are the crows. All summer, crows hang out in little groups of twos or threes. But this time of year they coalesce into much larger groups (technically called “a murder,” which is even odder, but you can’t make this up!) and form what is known as the winter roost.

In the last few years, the winter roost has been fairly near to my office so I have had the pleasure of seeing large groups of crows flying in, congregating from all over, and then beginning to settle down for the evening at the winter roost. It’s quite a sight.

It’s estimated that the Hartford winter roost, technically located in West Hartford, might have nearly 20,000 birds. Once you see that many crows–or even a small portion of them–coming together for the evening, it’s a sight that you don’t forget easily.

And then of course, there’s the sound! A couple of crows calling back and forth to one another can make quite a ruckus. Thousands of crows calling out is literally a cacophony!

Fortunately, most of this roost is off the street and not near to any cars or homes. The crows do make “intermediate” stops on their way. I have seen hundreds of them on the grass outside my office and in the nearby trees. They didn’t appear to be eating; they just seemed to be gathering and waiting. Some just perched in the trees; others walked on the grass–it was difficult to decide what they were doing. Waiting for more crows to arrive seemed to be as close as I could figure out–but what do I know?

Maybe they stopped by to tell me not to get too complacent–winter would be coming after all!

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