Every evening, one hour before sunset, the crow migration begins. From my living room chair, perched on the sixth floor, I watch. In groups of ten to twenty the birds fly past my window en route to their nesting grounds in Bothell, north of Seattle. They fly to the wetlands on the University of Washington campus. Other groups make their nightly pilgrimage from the Skaget Valley south to Bothell. They choose this place because the branches of the willow trees make noise when owls land on them, allowing them a safe night’s rest.
Last summer I made the pilgrimage to Bothell at dusk to take in this phenomenon. Scientists estimate that ten thousand crows congregate here. Take it from me. At least ten thousand. See the video below to get a sense of it. The sky became opaque and the air carried raucous, deafening cries. It takes a spirit of adventure to immerse oneself in the midst of them. Shortly after dark, as if a conductor had given a signal, all noise and movement ceased. Peace prevailed in the willow trees down in the wetland. The next morning I watched groups of ten to twenty crows fly by my window, on their return trip to their day jobs.
How do they know? What tells them when and where? Is it in their genetic code? Why is it such a community venture? I don’t know. Scientists have some answers. PBS has an amazing documentary about experiments with crows by University of Washington scientists. I have come to respect and treasure these highly intelligent tool makers and profilers. But what I want to ponder here is the spiritual truths and practices crows can teach us:
The crows teach me the truth about our spiritual genetic codes. Instinct is the essence and intuition its vehicle of expression. Our souls instinctively tend toward what is good, and intuition discerns the route and destination. We are most god-like when we are faithful to intuition.
“Birds of a feather flock together,” they say. Another spiritual truth is that we are not alone. Community protects and nourishes us and calls us to act justly. I imagine ten thousand persons united in the pursuit of goodness. What a goodly cacaphony they would raise!
EYES ON THE CONDUCTOR
The crow migration reminds me to listen to the conductor. We all carry the potential for intuition, but it does not develop on its own. The crows instinctively know when it’s time to go to the willow trees. Our instinctual intuition is an insturment that has to be well-tuned by practices of silence, stillness and listening. These habits ready us to see when the conductor lifts the baton. The whole process creates a sacred symphony of the Spirit which reverberates in the soul of the universe.
Crows at UW Bothell
6 thoughts on “Eyes on the Conductor”
Crows are wonderful. I do confess to thinking about Hitchcock ‘s “The Birds ” momentarily as they surrounded me!
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Beautiful! So many lessons to be learned from watching the birds! Thanks. But I don’t see any video attached, and I would love to see it. Please send it if you can. Paula
Sorry, Paula. It’s obvious and working on this end. At the end of the post there should be a screen to click on. Perhaps you don’t have Adobe Flashplayer installed. Go to youtube.com and search for crows at University of Washington. I will research where Tacoma crows 🙂 nest and let you know so you can go see them.
This reminds me of the corella cockatoos that came in to roost at night when we lived in northern New South Wales. The noise they made as they came in to land was incredibly raucous, they left crows for dead, and then just at daybreak off they’d fly making just as much din. They looked beautiful when the sun was on them, but the noise was absolutely deafening. Crows I used to love in Australia, here in North Cyprus they’re hooded crows and they are more solitary. Don’t make so much noise as Aussie crows either!
Thank you for the story! That noise would bother me for sure. I would love to see Australia sometime. I’ve always romanticised it. I imagine that life in Cyprus is quite intriguing.
I hope this new week and month is very good to you!
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