Some years ago, a murder of crows came to hang around the university where I work.Â Every night as we left work, they would flock around the trees, noisily preparing to roost, and on gray days, they’d get a little confused and do their flock-roost behavior during daylight hours.
It got to the point where The Management decided to call in “pyrotechnic deterrents”–which is to say, whenever the crows started roosting, someone would set off fireworks, so the crows couldn’t get all cozy, and would go sleep somewhere else.
The crows themselves, yes, a little creepy–I mean, their group name is “murder.”Â Compare this to the collective noun for cats (a clowder, which sounds like clowns and chowder had a baby) or larks (an exaltation, which is just lovely) or even cows (the commonly known herd, which is pretty neutral compared to murder)–but were ultimately fascinating.
(Also, here’s a fun page on collective nouns. I remember referring to it back when the crows first came to campus.)
The crows areÂ back in force this year, to the point where I have spent long moments watching them instead of getting in my car and going home.Â I like being right underneath them, watching how their dark wings look brown against the black of the night sky, especially when lit by low streetlamps.
With crows comes their poop.Â It’s fascinating poop–well, not when it’s wet. But when it’s dry, it looks like an art project: lacy, lazy half-circles of white and gold.Â I don’t know what they eat to get gold poop, but it’s kind of beautiful.
(I only own three or four books on scatology, and only one guidebook on animal poop.Â I don’t think this makes me abnormal. Especially since I do not typically think poop is beautiful, just crow-poop, and only after some drying and weathering.Â Likewise, I just went through my 3000 pictures on Flickr, and only one of them is poop.Â BTW, here it is:
I thought it was buffalo poo at the time, but in retrospect, it’s small for that.Â Maybe moose? I should go check my guidebook.)
Anyway, it’s funny the things that make it into your books.Â In this case, The Princess Curse features:
- their poop
- pyrotechnic deterrents — in the form of some soldiers shooting off arquebuses to disperse the crows
They do like to say: write what you know.
That’ll show them.
When I went to Romania, I did see some crows, but I didn’t get a very good shot of any.Â But I did have some luck with the local pigeons.Â Particularly this picture of a flock of pigeons (a flock! Nothing at all like a murder!), which I pursued all over the Piatsa Mare in Sibiu before snapping this picture:
At first, I was mad at the older gentleman for getting in the middle of my pigeon shot, but there is absolutely no question that he makes the picture.Â This is one of those serendipitous moments…Â Domnule, thank you for ruining my pigeons and instead giving me one of the best pictures I’ve ever taken.
(I just noticed that you can also call a group of crows a storytelling. That’s much nicer than a murder.)