August 26, 2012
I needed a break. A break from blogging. I’m sure that it corresponded to what felt like a break from writing. (Even though I was still writing, I felt pretty absent from the process.) Also, ironically, I’ve been once again discouraged by the process of trying to get a novel published (ironically because discouragement kept me away from my blog). What I refer to as my second novel (which is technically my fourth novel) hasn’t inspired even a suggestive peep from any of the agents I’ve sent it to. When I find myself so intensely analyzing the relative merits of e-mail versus snail mail submissions, I know that I’m headed for the gauntlet. More about this newest installment of publish or perish at a later time.
Meanwhile, I’m writing a third (technically a fifth) novel that emerged from my fascination with crows. I decided that I really must try to befriend a crow—or rather, get a crow to befriend me. In advance I named my bird buddy Billy. I thought I’d attract Billy to my yard by spilling various foods (though not any of the carrion they’re known to like) on my grass and waiting for the hungry creatures to arrive en masse. But nothing happened while I observed, hidden inside my house, by a window. When I discovered later that the food was gone, I concluded that I’d hosted a small feast for the squirrels.
I kept a journal of my experiment and the various antics that I thought might help attract some crows. But after several days without success, I abandoned—no, I postponed—the project until I could come up with better strategies. Below is the Billy journal. I’ve added an entry narrating today’s non-events. For the first time since April, equipped with a new set of props, I’m back on the Billy trail.
The Billy Journal
Day 1—Saturday, March 31
Around noon, I set out some food for “Billy”, which for now I’m using to refer to crows collectively since I’m nowhere near establishing a relationship with just one crow, my Billy. I put corn, kidney beans, and a broken-up fish stick in a plastic dish. Not only did no crows approach, but no birds of any sort appeared. All was silent. I sat on the front steps, wondering if my presence was inhibiting the crows. But since I sensed no trace of activity at all, I decided that wasn’t the issue. After a half hour, I removed the dish and put it away.
At around six I set it out again. I could hear crows, and eventually began to notice different sounds they were making besides the common “caw, caw”. I was tempted to try to trace their calls but knew that in the long-run, the goal is to attract them to my yard. So I stayed put. After fifteen minutes or so, I went inside. Maybe the first step is just to have them find the food and not have me, a random human, lurking nearby. Of course if I’m not there, I can’t be sure that if the food is taken, it will be crows who take it. There are numerous pesky squirrels around.
Day 2—Sunday, April 1
I slept shockingly late today and so missed my chance for a morning feeding. Ironically, it was a crow’s call that invaded my sleep and brought me to the first level of wakefulness.
I’m already discouraged. I thought the major challenge would be to engage a crow in a relationship, not to entice one to the site. I sense that I’m going to be taking this personally. I mean, it’s not like crows are super popular and have hordes of people trying to earn their favor. And I’m offering food! Do the crows, like my neighbors who have heard me talking to no one (from their point of view), perceive me as not quite right in the head?
No takers again today. I set the food out as the day was nearing dusk and I left the scene. Two or three hours later, the food was still there, untouched. I noticed that I heard no bird sounds for most of the day. I read online that to befriend a crow, one should best start in winter because they’re more desperate for food then.
Day 3—Monday, April 2, 2012
With dwindling hope, I set out the container of food this morning on my way out. I’ve completely abandoned the idea of placing myself in the vicinity since that seems it would be just another deterrent to attracting crows. I did spill a little of the food directly on the ground, wondering if the container was a problem. It reminded me of sprinkling bird seed underneath a new feeder to assist the birds in finding it.
So later I noticed that the loose food was gone. Still later the plastic container was gone, too. I found it under a parked car across the street, empty of the food that had been in it. I suppose this is a positive development, mostly because it has impressed upon me that I’ll have to keep watch. Someone told me that crows are very sensitive to onlookers even when those onlookers are inside a house. I suppose I can disguise myself as a chair or a lamp, but I must see who or what is consuming the food. I don’t especially want to domesticate a squirrel.
Day 4—April 3, 2012
Because I work early on Tuesdays, I could justify canceling the morning feeding. In the afternoon, a friend who has at least a little experience with crows—she raised an abandoned baby crow—brought me a metal crow statue to put outside and attract the crows. She donned a long hooded black coat, black gloves, and wrapped her head in a black scarf, explaining that the crow shouldn’t be able to identify her. (I think she meant as a human associated with the statue.) While she visited, we sat by the front window and she frequently thought a crow was about to approach. But nada. She was worried that her crow might be stolen and so asked that I only put it out when I was attempting to feed some crows. When she left, wearing her usual apparel, she brought the crow back into the house.
I skipped the evening feeding as well. In order to sustain this effort, I think I’ll just do one feeding a day at about the same time for consistency. I saw a solitary crow—or it could have been several different ones—swoop through the air above the neighborhood roves. One landed in a neighbor’s yard, but when a car turned onto the street, the crow flew away. I thought they were bolder fellows than that.
OK, I’m dragging my feet. But since I’ve narrowed my project down to one feeding a day, in the evening, and I’ll be out at that time for the next several days, I’m going to resume on Sunday eve.
Day 1 (after RESET)—August 26, 2012
I feel almost like a professional now. I’ve purchased a crow call. Though I could have chosen an electronic one with a remote and other fancy features, a friend suggested that I shouldn’t spend that much money until I had a sense this would even work. So I got me a simple call that, when blown into, produces a crow-like caw. I haven’t figured out why these calls are marketed for turkey hunters…
I was told that crows like cracked corn. (I was also told that they’ll eat just about anything.) Locating cracked corn was a little sub-adventure in itself. But I finally found some for sale and today poured a little mound of it onto my front lawn. Beside it I set the metal crow statue loaned to me by a friend. Then with great excitement, I stationed myself just inside my front screen door and blasted forth with my crow call. I tried to follow the directions for a come-here call and then the more confusing feeding call. I did each several times, waiting in ambush, paused, then tried them again.
Perhaps I should have persisted for a longer time, but the absolute vacancy of crows—the sight or sound of them—anywhere around led me to give up fairly soon. I noted that it’s usually in the morning when I hear crows; now that I’m so aware of them, their calls penetrate my sleep at dawn. So maybe morning would be a better time than early evening to try to lure them in. I’ll try tomorrow.