Conditions: mostly cloudy, wind from SW at 5MPH, temp at 42F and sunset time at 5:09PM.
Out on Crow Patrol with members of the Green Team from Groundwork Lawrence. The GWL Green Team is a year-round program for 40 Lawrence high school aged students each year to help learn about and lead local environmental and healthy community initiatives, grow food, conduct research, raise awareness, challenge their peers to do community service, and participate in hands-on improvement projects throughout the City of Lawrence. The Green Team members will be working on an 8 week Crow Patrol project to observe and monitor the local winter crow roost population. They have been trained in how to use eBird and have completed the new Cornell Lab Bird Academy course on the Hidden Life of Crows. The program coordinator, Yevette Garcia is a doing a great job getting the Green Team memebrs out to the best viewing locations. The students will have conference calls with leading experts including Prof. Kevin McGowan at Cornell and others. Tonight, we met and observed the Crows starting at just after 5PM, at Incinerator Road and then moved to the south side of the Merrimack River for better viewing of final staging locations and the delayed convergence into the overnight communal roost.
The Crows were streaming in and moving downriver. Their flight path was just above the tree line and as we started just after 5PM, the numbers and flight action started to increase. We talked a bit and decided that viewing the overall action, both final staging and roosting might be better from the south side, and off we went! The photo below, 24 minutes after sunset time shows the flight action as the Crows were now moving upriver and getting ready to converge into the overnight roost. Many of the Crows settled into trees, in dense concentrations, on both the north side of the River, and west of our viewing location. Both about 300 meters away.
At this point darkness was setting in and we continued to observe the Crows vocalizing and gathering in bigger numbers. Some of them were swirling around in flight. It seemed like they may have wanted to enter the roost, but had some type of hesitation. the pattern was off versus prior nights and we wondered if our presence may have caused a delay for them to enter the roost. The photo below shows part of a growing swarm on the north side of the river while looking NNE from our location, with Crows in flight as well as many still perched in trees behind.
We observed a lot of swirling flight action with the Crows out over the river, moving in both directions. Based on my prior observations, they seemed hesitant to enter the roost location and were moving around in some type of a stall pattern. Finally, as it got darker, and visibility dropped off, they began to converge, with loud vocalizations into the roost about 45 minutes after sunset time. The photo below, taken almost 60 minutes after sunset time, shows the Crows well settled into the trees along the north side of the river in the regular overnight roost location. This is another long exposure image with streaking car headlights and the river flowing by gently below!
A few minutes later, it was time to depart for the night. After packing up the gear, made my way onto the Rt. 495 Bridge and headed north. While driving over the bridge, was able to quickly capture this image looking ENE at the tree tops along the north side of the river. This image was taken at 63 minutes after sunset time, and it provides yet another view of the overnight roost from an elevated perspective with ample ambient lighting in the background.
Finally, made one last image while moving along the Marston St. off ramp and looking back at the Crows in trees at the top of the river bank and along the off ramp!
Photo gear used for this outing:
Canon EOS 80D; Lens: Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
Canon 1DX MK II; Lens: Canon EF Telephoto Zoom 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM
ATN BinoX 4K 4-16x Day and Night Smart HD Binoculars with photo and video
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Blog post and photos by Craig Gibson, 2020 Crow Patrol, Lawrence, MA