Tis the season for crows mobbing our building at dusk before they all get cozy in their night-time roost. This week we and the crows all admired the crimson sunset.
A little video really shows you the wonder of this crow herd swooping and frolicking in the sunset.
After the stream of crows whipping by they landed in the trees to the south of us.
Everyone got settled in for the last few minutes of daylight before it is nap time over in the wildlife reserve. An empty semi-truck went thru the intersection below and set off a big bang. Then all hell broke loose as they flew up and out. Then they just went back to the trees and went back to their crow business.
Come for a ride with me into the Renton Roost of a thousand or more crows.
This week they came flying into our parking lot across from IKEA. At first it was a few that landed in the trees. They arranged themselves like Christmas ornaments. I snapped a few shots of them perched and flying around between family units.
It was not quite dark yet so they were a gathering storm of crows getting ready to go to the Renton Wildlife Sanctuary. The energy is growing as the crowd grows. More and more birds are flocking into the trees around me.
Then all hell broke loose and I switched to video. It was a sight to behold as they fly in a big swarm. I hope you are as amazed as I at their ability and how a thousand heartbeats can all be in the sky at one time!
I was born many years ago in a cedar tree nest. My family owned a wonderful home and the surrounding area. Plenty of food, places to play and watch for the bad guys. That was our home territory.
When I got older my parents passed down to us the cedar grove. We raised our family there and kept the place safe for our extended murder.
Now I am grandma crow and my favorite time is how we all fly to the valley to see our friends.
Have you ever been to the Renton Valley and seen a horde of crows fly by at dawn or dusk? That is the big roost in motion before we settle down for an evening nap. Many think we are just one big batch of crows. They are so wrong!
During the fall and winter we crow families at an hour or so before dark all fly together to meet our friends. Some we meet on the way, some we meet there and best of all we have plenty of stories to share.
Batgirl who is writing this for me said that the reason she wanted to interview me was because of what she saw last week.
As she waited down in all that pile of human junk to hit the big black band they travel on, she saw a group of crows. They were flying to the south through Renton to the roost. That was when she noticed a small group land on the hotel there. They one by one followed their leader to gather up before they hit the big crowd. Other crows flew on but this family thought it was a good place to make sure the kids were all accounted for.
At dawn we do the same thing. Get up and say good bye to the big murder. Then head home to have breakfast and check on our home turf.
You see we do have our family ways. We stick together and make sure each crow is looked after, even a grandma like me.
This week the crow roost in Renton continued to grow in size. Plus when I arrive to the parking lot when it is barely dawn, I get to see them fly off towards their home territories.
I was rewarded one morning with a parade overhead of the murder who live east on the hill behind Valley General Hospital. There was many of them flying in small family units and talking to each other.
Now when I said talk you must have thought of the crow harsh caw sound. There was some of that too but most of what I heard was more intimate. They were chuckling and cooing to each other. A little crow early morning family chatter.
A couple of weeks ago I heard one of our local crows imitating a chicken. My head must have swiveled off my neck when I heard it. But there was no chicken in sight and the crows were sitting right on my fence making that sound. What is that? a Crow Trickster?
What does all that crow chatter mean? Not sure we really know but here is a link on some interesting analysis done by others.
Best of all, I kind of like this quote by Bernd Heinrich who is a famous Raven Scientist.
He states in “Ravens in Winter” the following, which seems equally true for the American crow as the Common Raven.
“We have hardly begun to decipher the language of the raven. Its dictionary so far contains but a few ‘words’. Perhaps our analysis has been too coarse-grained to catch the meanings. Our research has been something like that of aliens from outer space who make sonograms of human vocalizations under different situations – eating, playing, loving, fighting, etc. Certain differences noted in frequency, intonation, and loudness are correlated with feelings and emotions. But human sounds convey much more, and perhaps ravens’ do, too.”
That puts us in a special place to understand these black “aliens from outer space” and figure out what they are saying. Crows, Ravens and Jays are so smart how do we communicate with these intelligent species? I need to ponder that some more.
This last week has been crow crazy around my office building at dusk. Hundreds of birds flying around, perched in trees, playing tag and making a general racket.
I have written many times about the Renton Roost and the thousands of black feathered souls that come to this part of the valley for their evening get together.
On Thursday, I decided I had to get up and move around. I had done some serious report work on my computer and needed to stretch my legs. In an effort to be useful, I went outside to pickup trash in our parking lot.
Got a garbage bag and circled the property grabbing old fast food wrappers and a few bottles around the bus stop out front. I had a pretty full bag and there was more to be had on the corner. I decided I could not haul off the old signs, truck parts or massive sheets of plastic and went back down the parking lot. There was a black bag down there that was going to be my last piece.
To my distress I found a beautiful crow laid on his belly in repose. I knew then the cawing I had heard earlier in the day was his funeral procession. Several of the crows who stay put in the valley had been rather noisy and I just wrote them off as crows chasing a hawk or each other. Instead they were saying their final good bye to this guy laying here.
At closer look he must have hit his head. It had a bit of gash but nothing that looked too bad. Otherwise he was absolutely perfect in every crow way. His feathers were dark black blue and all laying perfectly. His wings were rested against his sides just like he was sleeping in a way no crow would ever lay.
Then I picked him up and took him to the big dumpster for his final return to the earth. His family and my work family did not need to see him decompose and lose his luster every day that passed.
I have no picture to share, which is not a bad thing. I have a post about a dead baby crow and it is so sad to see it from time to time.
The next few days I have wondered what happened. My best guess is he was startled in all the frolicking around our building and hit the edge head on. A quick way to go but still sad for this crow loving lady.
For you to see what I mean on how this might have happened, here is a video of what the murder was doing this week just a couple blocks down the street. Check out how they are all lined up egging each other on.
Say a little prayer for all the crows and birds that perish every day. We forget they are mortal just like us and live boldly in their short time on earth.
Dusk means it is time to go home from work. I usually pack up around 5:30 performing the ritual of lights out and security code on.
This week the Crows were going home to roost at the same time as I.
There I was on the second floor, turned the lights out and took this little video of their flying, hanging out in the trees and getting ready for bed. Tis a crow buzz in!!
Off close to the north I found this large family sitting in a tree all facing to the southwest and the setting sun. That direction they are all facing is where the video above was taken. The multitude is forming up and sweet crow dreams are coming.
Fall has arrived and it is time for the great Renton Crow Party to start outside my office window. Over the years I have investigated this phenomenon. Here are several of my articles – Murder comes to Roost and Mega Renton Crow Roost
I have to admit I still have more questions than answers even after all these years. To watch them arrive around our building in the fall leaves one in total awe. Some employees have gone running to their cars claiming it is a scene from a movie… aka “The Birds”. Not me, I am transfixed by them and amazed by the aerial performance. Want to see a little sample of this? Go to this post with video – Renton Crow Rendezvous
One of my unanswered questions is whether this is just a fall thing? I suspect that quite a number of crows come to the valley each night all year-long. What we are seeing in the fall and winter is because the dawn and dusk coincides with our work schedule. In the summer and late spring the days are longer so the coming and going of the big flock are not seen by us.
My first suspicion to this was in the summer when I saw small families in the Burien area flying to the southeast each night. This is mostly occurring after the babies have become big enough to fly greater distances. Plus in my neighborhood a guard is left at the home territory. That just means the Renton Roost isn’t as large as in the fall/winter time. This is all just my assumption or theory. Some day I will have the time to confirm this or someone can chime in with additional facts.
Why this place in Renton? As you can see from my prior blog posts I have tried to sort that out. I have resigned myself to the fact that we will not ever really know the answer.
Why do crows mob and roost in large groups? Over the years I have looked at this in several ways. One was to understand this as a bird behavior. Then again it is tempting to add a more human, family, or intelligence aspect of this big gathering. How much I wanted it to be a big party where they get together to share stories, show off children and get to see their distant cousins. Where the reason lies is somewhere in the middle or none of the above. Don’t think we will ever understand this.
Crows and Corvids are a mysterious bunch. I am not surprised that I have questions unanswered. Unexplained behavior is not exclusive to crows but due to their amazing intelligence we are fascinated by them. We humans have built legends around them and in some ways even worshiped them.
Yesterday when we went to leave the office I am sad to report a poor crow soul was found laying in a parking spot.
It had grown completely dark and the usual murder that flocked around our building had been gone for about a half hour. I have to assume this happened right at dusk because one of my co-workers was parked in that spot until about an hour earlier.
I have often been asked and myself wondered if there were mid-flight crashes when a huge flock of birds fly together. This crow probably is a fatality of a crash. From how he looks I am going to assume he was somehow thrown off course and struck the side of the building. See how in the top picture the flock hangs out along the edge? Perhaps he was coming in for a landing and was bumped or diverted to miss another bird. Then he struck the cement wall.
The other cause is a mid flight crash. Wonder if there is another bird injured or laying dead close by? We will never know why but we can see it does happen. Thank goodness it must be very rare and not a common event.
Watching and documenting nature isn’t all flowers and baby crows. It also includes reporting on the sad things like death, injury and misguided cruelty from humans or other birds/animals.
Having followed the Renton Murder for years I have encountered several deaths. They range from babies that do not survive to inter-tribal fights. You can find those articles at these following links:
Tis the time of year for the Crow Roost Spectacular in Renton, WA. Hope you enjoy them streaming thru the trees by our office as they head towards their evening party. This is so amazing over the years I have not gotten tired of their annual roost behavior. The din of their voices and as one coworker told me… you can hear the crow poop falling all around you and our cars.
Drive home at dusk or to work in the dawn hours and looking to the sky a cloud of black bodies rush by. What is that? Is it a flashback to a childhood fear of an Alfred Hitchcock movie? Is it a macabre beginning to Halloween and the Day of the Dead?
No… this is nature’s crow community annual winter gathering. What you say? Crow’s have community? They consciously party like we humans? They have a strategy to survive winter?
Yes is the answer to all of these questions. We as humans are so focused on our own mortality and the unknown that frightens us. That makes us fixate on things in the natural world that we don’t understand. Then we quickly assign our fears and misunderstandings to fill our knowledge gap.
Over the years I have documented a huge crow roost that exists south of Renton, Washington in a natural area that borders Springbrook creek. They mob our office building to make for some excellent video. When you watch the video below you can’t help but be amazed.
If you want to see the rest of that post here is the link.
Moving on to October of 2013 when I wrote an article about Crow roosts and what University of Cornell’s web site had to say about this behavior.
I also started some research with the Renton Museum’s help on why they keep coming back to the same place. (the video and photos in the prior post are in the same area too) Was this a waste dump in the past or was it an agriculture site that they were drawn to for food. This area is just to the east of the now demolished Longacres Racetrack. Did that draw the multitude?
I was surprised when my contact at the museum sent me information on the plating of this area. Here is a small excerpt.
Before Hillman platted it for homes, it does not appear that this land was farmland, which I thought might explain the birds returning. For the most part surrounding parcels were industrial in nature, owned by Puget Sound Power & Light, Seattle Electric, and Renton Cooperative Coal.”
A couple of weeks later I did some more follow-up. This post talks about Hillman and what a crook he was. More important I found information regarding how this area flooded over and over again. If you visit this post you will see some aerial photos showing the devastation that happened in the 40’s around the area.