Fly low carrion crow

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So fly low ye carrion crow
And seize my body for to free my soul
And drop me high into the depths below
For the things I’ve seen no one else should know

And what speak you of a love so bold?
And if song could sing, no word could hold
But I warn you now of an end foretold
And a life long waiting for a death below

    Fly Low Carrion Crow, song by Two Gallants

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It disturbs some of our visitors when their peer out to the garden and spot crows amongst the smaller garden birds. Carrion crows are pretty big birds, and can appear rather menacing. I don’t think the Alfred Hitchcock film did a lot for the popularity of the crows! Or the legend that they harbour the souls of the dead.

It’s said that if you see a group of crows they are rooks, and a solitary rook must be a crow. However this is rather misleading as the carrion crow is also seen in groups, especially here. There are hundreds of crows nearby. Scavenging on the beach, feeding in the farmer’s fields, and over the nature reserve at Seaford Head. Where there is one, there are normally a few others nearby ready to jump on the bandwagon if food is spotted. The sight of a dozen huge crows descending on a tiny garden can be rather un-nerving. Last year when I was typing my results into the RSPB big birdwatch, the computer said “Er No really?, Are you really sure you saw 12 crows and 24 sparrows all the same time.. are you really sure!?” Er yes. Anyway I do try not to encourage the bigger birds too much, the gulls are even worse of course!

However I am rather attached to one crow that is in my garden rather a lot, he doesn’t just wait for the table scraps to be thrown out, but often pecks around picking up the seeds that the sparrows have discarded, and even ventures into the flowerbeds since he spotted me throw the blackbird’s mealworms there. His wing feathers are edged with white which is I believe a sign of poor health, and he seems to get picked on by some of the other crows

Crows are one of the most intelligent birds. Faced with a piece of stale pizza, they will carry it to the drinking water bowl and dunk it in until its soft enough to eat. For birds with impressive sized beaks they actually seem to struggle to eat large morsels and normally have to break it down considerably, unlike the gulls that seem to swallow their own bodyweight in food in about three seconds flat! Occasionally I am left mysterious “gifts” in the drinking water, presumably seaweed or sea creatures that my crows thought needed a bit of a soak prior to eating.

Crows apparently are the only birds that can recognise actual human faces. This does seem to be the case, as they can be surprisingly nervous and skittish birds, but some sometimes let me get very close to them while walking through the fields nearby, giving me a “oh it’s you” look.. “put some more food out will you..”

They have quite complex vocal communications too. Last year there were clearly a number of young birds (looking identical to the adults!) and the only way I knew was that the adults brought them all over to sit on the opposite roof and practice their communication calls. One had a particularly creaky high pitched sounding caw, which was amusing to hear. He must have learnt the right notes in the end.

Last year sometime we also started to get jackdaws in the garden. These small corvids are a bit bolder and pretty cheeky. I’ve lost count of the times they’ve managed to pick up the entire bird feeder and drop it on the ground so they can empty it.

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A splendid rook spotted on holiday

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