Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Roosting Crow Numbers Are Awe Inspiring
December 22, 2018
By Steve Grinley

     American Crows are social, family oriented birds, one of the smartest and clever of our American birds. You might find them during the winter months gathering in large communal overnight roosts in any number of cities and towns across the region. In recent years there has been a large roost on Cape Ann, and another even larger roost in Lawrence along the Merrimack River. The Crows begin to roost in October and continue through the winter until early April when they disperse to their breeding grounds.

     Dana and Bob Fox have been monitoring the local roost in Lawrence for the past couple of years, a roost that easily numbers in the thousands of birds. Dana writes: “Imagine, after well over 115 nights observing the Lawrence, MA winter Crow Roost (90+ [nights] last winter and already 25+ this winter), we still are being taught more by these crows.

     “I can hardly believe what I am writing, but Thursday night (the 13th) was the most spectacular night of all watching the Lawrence MA Winter Crow roost, hands up. We went out there an hour before sunset 3:11 pm with Nancy Soulette and Gwyn Loud of Lincoln and were joined there by David Lipsky of Concord, NH. Bob was prepared to count them and I was going to lead our guests to the best viewing spot – the top of the parking garage, so I thought. Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday nights that had been the spot of choice to see the show.

     “But Thursday night and last night the show venue had moved. As we stood at the beginning of the lot, (the top of the lot since it drops down as soon as you enter the parking lot) and looked down the river, crows were starting to arrive from the west along the river, from the southwest over New Balance and some from the southeast. They mainly began to congregate along the river in the tall trees in front of the Ferris Hill – downstream beyond the first large mill building to the east of the Duck Bridge. A new staging area.

     “Bob stayed in the parking lot counting and we all went out onto the bridge looking east. As it got closer to sunset, the river of birds began to stream in from the east, wave upon wave of hundreds of birds. Then waves of birds from the west. The trees were filled with black bobbles. They were so noisy.

     “What a wonderful viewing spot that night. You need binoculars and you need to keep scanning the sky to the east over the airport. The light began to fade. Suddenly, a helicopter (that had just left the hospital on the hill above the crows) noisily flew out towards the treetops where the crows were.

     “Thousands of crows rose up peppering the sky- their caws were so loud. Some circled and flew to the roost on the western side of the bridge – right up over us. Some settled back into the trees. From that point we kept turning and watching them settle into the thin line of leafless trees along the river to the west and then looking back at what became an endless stream of birds flying towards us and then over us and the bridge into the roost. I have never seen so many birds. We were breathless with excitement and awe!

     “We all they went over to the other side of the bridge and watched the crows in the roost from there. They were partially lit by the lights of the New Balance factory and looked like a leafless Christmas tree adorned with thousands of black bobbles.

     “As they say, “you should have been there with us”. None of us will ever forget the spectacle I believe. By the way, when Bob got home, he added up his numbers and thought there were 25,000+ birds – yes, 25,000! We all felt there were more.

     “These birds continue to carry on their nightly ritual. They will never, it seems, fail to excite me. The spectacle is there for you to watch too!”

     Dana and Bob are always happy to have visitors join them on their evening crow watches. They are excited to share the spectacle with others. If you wish to experience the show and join them, just send Dana an email at danafox@comcast.net

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
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