Behind the Veil
City crows, I thought, with the notion that our Goose Creek crows spook at the slightest hint of human activity. From two hundred yards into the pasture they will take flight when I crack the front door open. But these City Birds are used to commotion and noise–maybe even follow it, since where there’s city life, there might be the scraps of a tossed hamburger. Or road kill.
I reached reflexively for my camera, even at the time thinking “common crows: not much of a picture.”
And yet, I’m rarely this close for so long, so I trained the lens on the nearest one of three, and hoped I’d see something image-worthy. But the one I focused on wouldn’t even face me. All I could shoot was bird booty, and I was about to put the camera back in the bag and go check out a book.
Then, this bird turned his head over his shoulder and looked directly at me, with some apparent disdain, I might add.
And as if to say “I ain’t puttin’ on a show here, bubba” he fanned out his primaries like a cape, spread his tail feathers, and disappeared from view behind a screen of blue-black. And the show was over. And this was the show!
What wonderful control for each individual feather had this common blackbird–moving each independently as he preened feather by feather. I’d never before thought of feathers as anything but passive, and yet here was a dexterity of control not unlike the way I move my own fingers just so, mind over matter.
But then, it should come as no great surprise that to perform the aerobatic maneuvers we see in our distant crows against the sky takes precise adjustment second by second in the spread, pitch and camber of individual feathers. But this was the first time I’d really watched it happen in this crow so uncommonly close out my window, perfectly at rest, and disappearing briefly from view behind a living fan of feathers.