A Warm Week of Crows and Insects

As the waxing moon rises, crows swirl above the Mary Schenley Memorial Fountain at Frick Fine Arts, 8 November 2021

13 November 2021

It’s been a warm week in November for crows and insects with lows above freezing and highs in the mid to upper 60s.

Since I last reported on Pittsburgh’s winter crows they’ve changed their flight path and staging areas. Prior to 2 November they staged near the border of North Oakland and Shadyside but that evening they refused to fly over my neighborhood and haven’t done so since. I imagine they wore out their welcome and were encouraged to leave.

Frustrated that I could not see them from home I searched by car late Monday afternoon. There were no crows staging in the Upper Hill, Polish Hill, the Strip District, or near Trees Hall though I found a few hundred at Oak Hill west of Carlow. As I drove back from the Strip District I found a steady stream of crows flying toward the Cathedral of Learning — from where? — carefully avoiding the airspace above North Oakland and west Shadyside.

I chased them down to Frick Fine Arts where thousands were pouring in from every direction. They swirled in the trees near the Mary Schenley Memorial Fountain and perched on the roof of Posvar Hall. In the top photo the fountain’s female statue appears to be holding up her arm to ward off the crows but in fact she is plucking a lyre and singing A Song to Nature for Pan, the reclining male figure, frozen in bronze since 1918.

Of course the crows would love to roost near the fountain. It has everything they’re looking for. Mature trees, night lights and the white noise of splashing water. But there are too many of them. Those who can’t find a spot fly over Central Oakland in the dark, scrambling for a place to sleep.

Mary Schenley Memorial Fountain at dusk, 8 November 2021

Meanwhile the week’s warmth brought out a last hurrah of insects including a Virginian tiger moth (Spilosoma virginica) or yellow woolly bear in Volant, PA …

Yellow woolly bear caterpillar, Volant, PA, 10 November 2021 (photo by Kate St. John)

… and a leaf-footed bug outside my window, probably a magnolia leaf-footed bug (Leptoglossus fulvicornis). Last year’s leaf-footed visitor was eight days earlier in November. I think I know why they show up.

Leaf-footed bug outside my window, 11 Nov 2021 (photo by Kate St. John)

Leaf-footed bugs overwinter in leaf litter and are undoubtedly rousted out of their haven when the leaf blowers show up. Shortly before this bug appeared on our window, the 4-man leaf-blower crew at Ascension Church was in the final noisy throes of blowing and vacuuming a huge pile of leaves. I imagine the bug took refuge on our window while he figured out a new safe place to sleep away the winter.

He has something in common with the crows.

(photos by Kate St. John)

2 thoughts on “A Warm Week of Crows and Insects

  1. At this time of year, every evening on my commute from the North Side to Greenfield I see a steady stream of crows flying from the south, crossing the river and the Parkway and heading towards Oakland. On Friday in addition to the usual overhead stream, I saw a large group of crows (maybe 200?) congregating on the flat, grassy ground in one of the undeveloped parts of Hazelwood Green, between 2nd Avenue and Blair Street. I wonder what they were doing there!

  2. I saw a whole gang of crows (maybe 100 or more) at the building on the corner of Bates and Blvd of the Allies just about a week ago. I assume the building is vacant, but the crows seemed eerily still and quiet.

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