One afternoon I was sitting by my window, watching the local group of crows to see what time they would leave for the night. I had recently become fascinated with this afternoon routine. Every day, a large alder and the trees surrounding it would slowly fill with crows as dusk approached. At the peak of this gathering, the tree held easily over a hundred crows. Some crows sat huddled together, some sat on neighboring trees and rooftops, but all seemed to be waiting for some invisible prompt to take off. Then, seemingly out of nowhere the entire flock would take to the sky and abandon the tree until the next morning. I have been researching roosting behavior, but still do not know what “prompt” the birds are waiting for to leave. Why did they leave at 4:46 rather than 4:45 or 4:47? Is there a crow or group of crows that take off initially and the others just follow? Observing crows leaves me with more questions than it does answers.
I was also admiring the beauty of the crows. It was a beautifully dramatic afternoon and the setting sun cast a golden light on everything, contrasted against a darkening sky to the East. Crows lined the branches of the tree, their black feathers illuminated by the golden light of the sun. Some crows appeared to be very bonded and sat in pairs, bodies touching. Others sat a comfortable distance from their neighbors but they were all fairly close together. I had been learning about the complex social structures of crows and to witness part of it on such a regular basis was very inspiring.
I picked up my guitar and began strumming around, providing a musical background to the scene outside of my window. Then I felt inspired and began to sing. The lyrics came to me so naturally as I observed the group of crows. I started to write a song from the perspective of one of those crows – of course a human such as myself cannot know what it is like to be a crow. Instead I imagined such perspective based on my research, the things about crows I learned in class, and my own observations. I tried to personalize the song somewhat to this specific group of crows, as they have grown near and dear to me over the time I have been observing them. This is reflected in lines such as “together we’ll fly out West”, which is the direction they head consistently each afternoon when they take off. Then there are lines that apply to crow behavior in a more broad context, such as “We may split up along the way but I guarantee you it’s okay… We’ll all make it just the same and in the morning reunite again” which refers to the way crows often split up on the way to the roost and within the roost, and then reunite in the morning.
Without warning, the flock of crows took to the sky and headed West for the night, just as I was singing about it. If you call a group of crows a murder, then you could say that my latest song was inspired by a murder. However most people would refer to a group of crows as a flock. Either way, this group of birds continues to inspire me and I am excited to share the song when it is finished.