I have always loved crows. There is nothing delicate about them, nothing melodic or dainty. They are big rambunctious bruisers, adaptable and ready to feed on anything. Two crows are omnipresent outside the Kentucky Fried Chicken at the top of my road, and have brought up a whole brood on chips and the remains of Bargain Buckets. On Friday morning, a pair of crows were perched alongside the southbound platform at East Finchley station, eyeing up a dead rat between the tube lines and trying to decide how long it was until the next train.
Coldfall Wood has a large population of crows – I once counted thirty quartering the playing fields, stopping occasionally to hammer the frozen ground with their chisel-shaped beaks.
As usual, I was walking with my camera, wondering what the story would be for this week’s blog. Because there is always a story, I just have to recognise it. Maybe it was the wren, picking his way through the coppiced wood?
And then my camera battery started flashing red, and I decided that I would give up and head home. I crossed the bridge over the Everglades winter pond, and something made me look through the trees to where the stream tumbles through and over the tree roots.
It seemed like a ritual, something that the birds did regularly for reasons that went beyond just keeping their plumage clean, and I felt as if I shouldn’t be seeing it. There are some things that are not ours to look at, and sometimes creatures just have to be left alone.
The inequality of our relationship with other animals is clear – we use them more or less as we feel fit. But it is difficult to look into the bold stare of a crow and not recognise that there is ‘someone’ there. And where does it lead us, this recognition? If it makes me feel a little uncomfortable, a little guilty, inclined to put my camera away and leave the birds to complete their bath in peace, surely that’s no bad thing.