Saturday, 4:30pm: I'm driving down Fifth Avenue on my way home from Armstrong County when I see a constant stream of crows flying high on their way to Oakland. They're heading for the roost but where, exactly, would that be?
"Aha!" I thought. "I'll follow them."
This was easier said than done. Crows don't pause for stop lights and their flight path was not aligned with any one street. For about a mile I drove from stop light to stop light cursing the traffic signals and rapidly losing sight of the crows. Lost them! Then I remembered that my friend Karen told me a huge flock of crows gathered at the corner of Bigelow Boulevard and Craig Street nearly every evening last week. Why not try there?
I didn't see another crow until I arrived opposite the Marriott Residence Inn on Bigelow Boulevard. Talk about birds! Thousands of robins, crows and starlings filled the sky. The robins made beeline flights across the street into the trees. Crows arrived in a steady stream from the north and gathered on the hilltop.
The starlings were the best. They popped off the Residence Inn in great "balls of birds" like the picture above. On and on, they flew in undulating circles getting ready to settle for the night. Just when I thought they'd stop, a Coopers hawk zipped by and chased several birds in the half-light. The crows didn't care - they had already begun to move down to rooftops on Melwood Street - but the robins went nuts and two flocks of starlings made another pass in very tight ball formations. Around and around they flew. The Coop made a couple more attempts but struck out every time.
Eventually it was too dark to see so I went home, congratulating myself that I'd found the roost.
Well, not exactly.
The robins and starlings may be there but last night the crows were not. Karen found them above Polish Hill and moving down to the Strip District.
Nothing is quite so humbling as being fooled by thousands of crows.
p.s. Don't miss the starling show on Bigelow Boulevard or at the Birmingham Bridge at dusk. Wow!
(photo of a swarm of European starlings by Vasily A. Ilyinsky from Shutterstock)