6:45am. Sunrise was still 45 minutes away. "I hear crows," said my husband.
I looked out the window, trying to see black birds in a dark sky. I could hear it was a large flock just in front of our house, but I couldn't see them.
Then they turned. I swear there were 300 crows. The flock turned back on itself twice. In the dark it looked like a black flapping ball. And they were loud.
This was the vanguard flock, the first to leave the roost, the noisiest, and the one that looks as if it can't make up its mind where to go. This indecision is probably true.
The vanguard is made up of the cocky, the brave and the adventurous, some of whom are wise enough to know where there's a lot of food. The wise ones want to get an early start at the good feeding grounds without a lot of competition. The cocky follow them closely. The flock wheels in the air while they all figure out where the lead birds are going and who's in the lead.
They flew southwest. A pause.
Ten minutes later the sky is lighter and a noisy flock of a hundred crows flew over. And then another.
Our house is in the flyway today. If I'd been on my game this morning I could have been up and outdoors counting crows, trying to estimate the size of the winter roost. But it's Saturday and I have too much to do.