Crows are not exactly on most people’s lists of favourite birds. In fact. most people I know would rank them with the vultures and other unloved, unappreciated and feared feathered creatures. I respect them for their independence, ability to get through life without too many drinking buddies to hang out with, and their sense of order. The first time I encountered them in such fierce company was in India and I had 12 years to observe them up close and very personal! For some inexplicable reason they loved our garden and terrace, and took great pleasure in terrorising the bejeezers out of our geese and cat, taunting the neighbour’s dog mercilessly, and bullying all the cheerful little chipmunks.
When a murder of crows gathers in a single tree at sunset to report on the state of the nation, it is the stuff of horror movies. I don’t get to witness it very often here in Germany, but it was a regular thing in Delhi and I very much preferred to keep my distance. Inevitably, I always felt as though I had been drawn into a Stephen King scene or was a silent witness to a Quentin Tarrantino movie in the making, expecting an explosion, a smoking gun, and a lot of blood to follow. Over time, however, I realised that crows are more of the bird police, keeping everyone else in tow and reporting or announcing when there is danger lurking around. The crows around my neighbourhood go absolutely bonkers when a fox or a racoon is on the prowl. It’s no wonder that they have so few friends, since they are constantly on duty and permanently high strung.
I never really thought of crows as family members or life partners for someone else. They just don’t seem like the marrying type, considering their job and the obnoxious hours they keep. They are the flapping definition of social distancing, don’t hoard supplies, but have a nasty temper. Generous, affectionate, helpful and comforting are not words I would ever associate with crows. Until now.
Much to my surprise, I looked out the window on Saturday morning while having breakfast with the kitties, and lo and behold, we spotted a new nest being built up in the tree tops. There are no secrets to hide when the trees are still bare, devoid of leaves and still sporting their winter wardrobe, so you get to witness every detail and dirty little secret that goes on among the branches. Much to the entire building’s delight we realised that we had new neighbours who had moved in and were furiously building their new home. I was positively green with envy because gosh dang it, they have the best view ever! They are pretty much at par with the human fourth floor of our building, so the view is quite spectacular, and even though they will be on parental leave soon, they can still keep an eye on things on water, in the air and on the ground. A strategically perfect place.
I have watched many birds build nests in my lifetime, and none so intricate as the African birds who built strange little upside-down cocoons. But I felt as though I had been given a front row seat to a brand new reality TV show, and watched with fascination as both Mr. and Mrs. Crow flew back and forth with twigs and leaves to assemble their new home. The intricate engineering is one thing, but also the care they take to place and thread each item with such love and mindfulness is a lesson for us all.
It is impossible to tell them apart but they do take turns in fussing about and fixing the nest with each addition. Teamwork at its finest, and neither the wind nor the rain slowed them down. When the sun went down, however, they eventually called it a day and tucked their weary little heads under their wings.
Sunday morning the cats and I eagerly peered out again to check on the progress. Much to my amusement the entire building is also watching the Nest-flix series unfolding in our backyard! If you ever want to know the meaning of Up at the crack of dawn, all you have to do is watch birds hellbent on finishing their nest. The progress was impressive and both Mr. & Mrs. Crow seemed satisfied with their creation so far.
Ah but today there were a few loud disagreements in the lovenest. Someone did not appreciate the collector’s item the other brought home. It didn’t seem to match the other stuff… wings were flapped, beaks were snapped, and squawks were squawked, much to the amusement of all the riverside inhabitants. Mr. & Mrs. Mallard, and Mr. & Mrs. Heron chuckled with sarcasm as they swam and flew by respectively. Mr. Swan tried to offer some advice but Mr. Crow flew off in a huff.