A blog focused on nature, science, environmental topics, and happenings at the Pocono Environmental Education Center (PEEC).

A Naif in the Forest by Darrell Berger

Wing Tips to Hiking Boots: Musings of a New, Full-Time Poconos Resident

This photo was taken during last winter’s late storm that dumped over a foot of snow on our part of the forest, and knocked out electrical power for nine days. About an hour before the seventy mile-per-hour winds began, seven crows visited our bird feeder. Here are two of them.

In the years we have been out here, we had never had any crows at our bird feeders, though we have seen them near the road several times. Neither have we seen them since. Without being terribly superstitious, I admit that seeing them gather at our window just as the storm was gathering, seemed a bit ominous, foreboding.

That is, I think they were crows. I believe ravens are much bigger. There is also a variety called Fish Crows, found near fresh water. These are a bit smaller than regular crows and have a slightly more complicated call. I welcome readers to render verdicts as to crow specificity.

In this case, regardless of size and sound, these visitors were indeed harbingers of disaster and, to say the least, sudden tumult and change. This has long been the meaning given to unexpected appearances of crows or ravens. They are said to foretell, if not death, then at least difficult transitions. At best they take on the persona of trickster, bringer of surprises of “the joke is on you” variety. The old cartoon characters Heckle and Jeckle continued that tradition. Though they were officially magpies, they always seemed like crows to me.

The most enduring example of this symbolism is the raven in the library of Edgar Allen Poe as he contemplates the death of his beloved. Mr. Poe, however, was of such a determinedly morose disposition, he might have beheld a kitten playing with a ball of yarn and proclaimed, “Nevermore!”

I will watch my bird feeders carefully this year. Will crows again appear? What will be the circumstances of their arriving? What follows on the wings of their visit? If it’s another two feet of snow and nine days without power, I’m bringing in a scarecrow next winter!


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