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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Talking Crows

The silhouette of a crow on the Methodist Campgrounds.

On Friday, February 17th, the Vineyard Gazette reported that there are 1500 commuters between Martha's Vineyard and the Cape.  That got my attention.  It was for that reason, and that reason alone, that I corralled my friend to go sit at the East Chop Lighthouse last week.  According to the paper, there is a mysterious flight of crows from the Vineyard to the Cape every morning.  The reverse occurs in the afternoon between 4:00 and 4:30 pm..  I picked up my friend from work at 3:50 p.m. and spent the four minutes it took to drive from the hospital where she works to the the Lighthouse explaining the phenomenon.  The evening migration of the crows to the Vineyard is thought to occur because the crows  feel safe on the Island. There are few predators to threaten them.  On the other hand, the food supply off-Island is nearly inexhaustible.  So long as humans eat, there are remainders for crows.  This migration typically takes place between October and March.  The crows have established a nesting place at the Tradewinds Airport property.
Living on the Methodist Campgrounds, I have often noticed congregations of crows -- loud, aggressive and overbearing.  Certainly nothing like the summer residents that are in residence three months out of the year.  The crows raucous caws have woken me on numerous early mornings.  The speculation explaining the crow's behavior made perfect sense to me. As I reflected, I realized that, though I heard the crows in the early morning. on mid-day walks through the Tabernacle into town, the crows are either absent or mute.  I was betting on seeing their return at 4p.m..

The clock ticked on the dashboard of my friend's car until finally, it was four o'clock.  We barely noticed.  My friend and I sat in her car at the Lighthouse engaged in a conversation with all of the vigor of oxygen-starved divers.  It had been about six months since we last saw each other.  As if that wasn't enough of a conversation-starter, we have a long and rich history; she was married to my husband's cousin who died at sea.  I have known her for at least thirty years and our paths have frequently woven together.  Simultaneously, mid-conversation, we cast our eyes skyward and paused.  There were no crows.  We resumed our discussion with windows slightly unrolled.  In case they flew over, we would be sure to hear the crows.  Another glance at the clock.  Then another.  Still no crows.  Doubt started to drift in.  Justification for the late arrival.  The days were about 40 minutes longer that when the article was written according to our calculation.  In my imagination, I had pictured a scene directly out of Alfred Hitchcock's, The Birds.  I was disappointed that there were no aerial visitors in view. Simply none at all.  My friend and I spend the time exchanging words, words were what flew that afternoon. Colorful, high flying words.
AT 4:45p.m., it was I that called it quits.  Enough.  The crows were not coming.  We started the engine and continued the drive toward the East Chop Beach Club. Just as we made the right turn around the curve where the Beach Club holds court, there, in the sky! There were twelve crows winging their way, as a crow flies, toward Tradewinds Airport.


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