The Evolution Of Coastal Crows


The Evolution Of Coastal Crows

“Look there!” says Sinéad as we walk along the grass above the shoreline,
“I’ve never seen that before”
The crows were sharing the beach the with the seagulls
We stopped to watch them learning from their web footed cousins
How to feed from the sands and pools
It occurred to me that there had been a truce in the Great War
Between the sea and the farmer’s fields
“It’s like the Christmas day football game in no man’s land”

The next summer heading down to the sea we are met by a large crow
Wings spread, above the narrow path to the beach
Gliding on the thermals. . . but not quite gracefully
None of its characteristically clumsy flapping of untidy wings
Nor in descending circles as crows are wont to do
But a concentrated and valiant attempt at hovering
Stationary on the updraft from the seaward breeze
“They’re copying the gulls, I wonder what they’re up to?” Sinéad muses
“Maybe they’re evolving?” say I
“I wonder is it a two way tutorial?”
And we watch until the lesson is over

One more summer and the birds return in abundance
“These birds are getting stranger every year”
She exclaims, pointing beyond the dunes
We sit and watch gangs of gulls and crows assimilate
Joined through play, In a game of avian tag
The wily crows, tease their chasers
Retreating to their safe base on the telephone lines
Where they know the gulls can’t land

The days grow longer and we stroll out again along the grassy bank
Passing abnormally close by a single strutting grey beaked crow
Cawing to itself with its croaking throaty rattle
So preoccupied with its mission it pays us no attention
A large gull cries from behind us and we look up into the empty sky
There are no seabirds in sight, and we mirror our bemused frowns
And turn back in confused unison towards the only bird near
Amazed when with the mimic skill of a Lyre bird
The crow twice makes the distinctive cry of a large gull
For once we are lost for words

“Do you think perhaps he is in love with a gull?” quips Sinéad
When later that same crow sits atop a telephone pole
Practicing the cry, calling to the sea
“Wouldn’t that be sweet if it worked out?”
“There’s hope for us yet then” say I

©Copyrighted by Colin Ryan (2014)