10 January 2014

Crows Congregate in January at Carthage

During the frigid time of early morning on Monday, January 6th, well before the sun was anywhere near the eastern horizon, a bunch of crows gathered in the northern side of the Carthage neighborhood of midtown Omaha. Clock time was a few minutes before 5:30 a.m.

A bunch of these expressive black birds gathered at a flat and empty lot during pre-sunrise on a morning when temperatures were sub-zero, and even more chilling because of the northwest wind. There was a tinge of snow on the shorn turf.

Why they congregated is not known. Any suppositions would be based upon some sort of biased interpretation. One perspective — by Mr. Walt the observer — was that it was too cold for the birds to roost among the trees, so they instead sat upon the ground.

This is one point of view, from a man up early but with only a tiny bit of bird-related knowledge. But due to community communication, this event was given further consideration and discussion by the men in the north Carthage neighborhood. And we were a bunch of older guys, who talked together, and who thought about and discussed this one event as to get a better understanding of what happened.

A rational for the pre-dawn gathering might be because of something other than weather conditions. There may have been some decision for the flock to make? Had some misbehavior occurred, and which the birds had to deal with?

Among the flock, perhaps a few of the older and wiser birds with experience spanning at least a crow generation, made sure the flock gathered in an appropriate manner at a place where the entire clan was comfortable in their presence.

Crow court is a recognized activity for these birds — as indicated in the chronicles of Nebraska ornithology — so the morning's gathering may well have been such an event. Why else would these birds be so active two hours before sunrise?

In this neighborhood, the crows are also expressive a long time after sunset so the pre-dawn gathering was something unusual. A regular roost site is a couple of miles to the south at the cemetery at 50th and Leavenworth Street. Corvids are seemingly always active about the Carthage neighborhood. Numbers vary from one or two and then into flock counts with many crows flying along.

This latest gathering is not the first instance when American crows gathered at this grassy lot along Hamilton street. A similar congregation of crows at this same particular place occurred January 18, 2004. This occurrence — based upon a birdly perspective — seemed to have an intent associated with a group activity. Some birds walked or stood around. A small group in the middle of the gathering were associated with just a few others amidst the entire flock. Some of the birds were very vocal, but the sound was nothing that it could have been if all of the birds were expressive.

It seems obvious that the relatively open expanse of this urban lot suits the birds for them to gather and do their crow thing.

Obviously any decisions or outcome of any "deliberations" are not known, since only the crows know their decisions.

Further Nocturnal Activity

On the evening of January 8th, at 6:50 p.m., the raucous calls of many crows were vividly heard in the same, immediate area. The noise meant a stop in my walk, and soon the flock was seen wheeling about above 49th and Hamilton streets.

There were about 200 crows. Why they were flying about nearly two hours after sunset is, once again, not known? This area seems to be a place where they linger and flock during the dark of the night, and early morning.

Apparently there is a roost in the area, according to word of men who know, and also live in the neighborhood, based on this day's outing.

The crow place was discovered on the evening of January 9th, as more than 200 — with a count of ca. 220 — of these prominent black birds as seen etched in profile against a grey sky, while they were perched atop the upper branches of four deciduous trees by the corner 49th Avenue and Caldwell Street. It was a scene to enjoy in its nuance for this winter season. Especially interesting were the varied calls by members of the congregation. There were different tones and expressions which had to be nothing more than crow conversation.

During many years of watching, this is the first year known for a crow roost in Carthage. These grand birds are regularly about, but usually spend the night elsewhere, including, notably, at the cemetery at 50th and Leavenworth streets, as noted in past years.

The dark setting made it nearly impossible to get a suitable photograph, though there were some pics taken, especially including a broad perspective that provided enough illustrative light.

While walking along the sidewalks, or streets where there is no places for pedestrians, the antics of the crows, calling, with flying from one tree to another brought forth a singular chord of thought. There will be crows at Carthage many years after their primary fan of 2014 is long gone...

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