The city of Lawrence, MA lies in the heart of the Merrimack Valley near the border of southern New Hampshire. It is located in Essex County, along the Merrimack River, and is about twenty-five miles north of Boston. Lawrence enjoys a rich history as a city of immigrants, and has a large number of massive old brick textile mill buildings.

For decades, the city has hosted a significant winter crow roost. The winter crow roost consists of mostly American Crows, along with a much smaller number of Fish Crows. Typically, an hour before sunset, the crows gather in smaller pre-roost groupings. These pre-roost (staging) locations may change on any given night. The crows then converge after sunset time, into the final roost location. Some Crows may start as anchors in the final roost just before sunset, and then most other Crows join after sunset.  They will fly in over the following 60 minutes, until vocalizations subside, and the roost quiets down completely for the night. For many years, the final roost location had been along the south side of the Merrimack River, by the New Balance building complex. Over the last seven winter seasons, from October 2017 until mid-winter 2024, the final roost location has changed many times. The size of the winter roost typically grows from an initial group of a couple of hundred Crows, as early as September, to almost 15,000 crows by early February.

Craig has been tracking this roost, off and on, since 2010. Craig created the Crow Patrol during the 2017-2018 Winter Crow Roost season along with help from a number of local birders. Craig got the ball rolling with an expanded awareness of the local Winter Crow Roost along the Merrimack River in Lawrence, MA. Over that first winter season, the initial team spent over 160 combined observation nights. During the following winter seasons, Craig has made about 80 observation nights observing, monitoring, documenting, and photographing the amazing crows. Craig matched this pace over the last four years, with a constant eye on streaming, staging, and roosting behaviors and patterns. Craig has invited others come out to see the Crows in small and large groups over the past winter winters. The Crow Patrol is promoting wider community involvement among birding, conservation, environmental, and educational groups as well as expanding a series of citizen science projects with grade school, high school, and college students. The “2019 Recap” report (see link to PDF on home page) provides a comprehensive overview of our activities and a look at future plans. All are welcome to join us and become members of the Crow Patrol! Don’t forget to subscribe to the new “Crow Patrol” podcast, and check back for very regular updates!

The overnight roost is an amazing sight to see and you are invited to take a closer look, through this blog, to learn more and enjoy this awesome avian experience!

Bird Observer Article
MassWildlife Article
2019 Recap Report
Photography Guide
Get Directions to Roost
Local Restaurants

The 2022 Crow Patrol

Craig Gibson is a well known bird and conservation photographer. His ongoing focus is on expanding awareness about the Winter Crow Roost in Lawrence, MA, the extended Merrimack Valley area, and Eastern Massachusetts. Craig designed and launched the blog and continues to oversee all editorial content. He has also been the lead on initiating and coordinating a range of activities and events with local arts, education, and community groups as well as working with a growing number of conservation and environmental organizations. He wrote and published a comprehensive 14 page report to recap the 2018-2019 winter season, a roost photography guide, and a roost counting guide. Overall, his efforts have raised much greater awareness of the Winter Crow Roost, and he has been a catalyst for a range of new community science initiatives.

In the fall 2017, after tracking the roost since 2010, Craig worked together in close collaboration with other local birders to form the Crow Patrol in the Lawrence area. Over the past seven winter seasons, he has personally documented more than 425 observation nights, while monitoring, documenting, and photographing the overnight staging and roosting of American and Fish Crows. Craig has made over 350 Crow Roost specific postings to eBird, an especially important data portal for open access citizen science projects around the globe. As an active birding videographer, Craig was invited in January 2024 to participate in video upload privileges for his eBird account.

Craig worked closely with staff and leadership at the Essex Art Center in Lawrence, MA to create the “Celebrating the Winter Crow Roost” art exhibit in 2019. The exhibit was a big success with record turnouts and lots of media coverage. The EAC hosted the exhibit for a second year in 2020, with an expanded group of participating artists. He worked closely with staff at El Taller Cafe and Bookstore in Lawrence, MA for a Crow-themed art exhibit that opened in February 2020 and received great acclaim. In an effort to help other bird and wildlife photographers, he wrote and published the “Winter Crow Roost Photography Guide” in late 2020.

In November 2019, Hunt’s Photo and Video, hosted one of their photo walks. Hunt’s Photo Walks are hands-on workshops that immerse participants in different aspects of photography, both technically and aesthetically. This photography workshop, “The Crows of Lawrence” provided participants with background on this winter crow roost, and ways to capture unique and special images around sunset and civil twilight as the Crows converge into the overnight communal winter roost. The Sunday afternoon outing was a big success with Craig serving as one of the co-leaders for the workshop. In an effort to inspire other photographers, Craig authored, designed, and published the photography guide to help educate and mentor both beginner and advanced level photographers out in the field.

In order to gain a broader view of this avian spectacle, to better understand overall overnight roost dynamics, and to deepen a knowledge on counting and documenting methodologies, Craig has been visiting a growing number of Crow Roosts in the northeast as time allows. He has visited the following roosts in the United States: Lancaster, PA; Springfield, MA; Worcester, MA; Fitchburg, MA; Manchester,NH; Martha’s Vineyard, MA; Hartford, CT; Auburn, NY;  Troy, NY; Poughkeepsie, NY, Norfolk, VA, Stuart, FL, and Econlockhatchee, FL. In Canada, he has visited a number of the largest known roosts in North America: St. Jean sur la Richelieu, Quebec; Granby, Quebec; Ottawa, Ontario; Woodstock, Ontario; and Chatham-Kent, Ontario. As a result of these visits, he has completed extensive interviews and research on a practical Crow counting guide, which has been recently published.

In the spring of 2021, Craig, along with Crow Patrol member, Will Bicks, participated in the annual Northeast Natural History Conference, held in conjunction with the annual meeting for the Wilson Ornithological Society, and the Association of Field Ornithologists. Their submission for the 2021 NENHC Video Festival was awarded first place in the observational footage category. In August 2021, Craig and Will presented a talk for one of the Round Table Discussions for the 2021 joint virtual meeting of the American Ornithological Society and the Society of Canadian Ornithologists. In November, Craig and Will presented another talk on using drones for wildlife conservation efforts for the 2021 annual meeting of The Wildlife Society, an international association for wildlife biologists involved in wildlife stewardship through science and education.

Craig is a member of many birding clubs and ornithological groups, including the American Ornithological Society (AOS), Association of Field Ornithologists (AFO), Wilson Ornithological Society (WOS), Raptor Research Foundation (RRF) and the Florida Ornithological Society. He is also a member of the North American Nature Photographers Association (NANPA). He serves as a member of the Ethics Committee for the AFO, and also as the designated Ethics Committee liaison to the WOS, to help collaborate on the development of standardized ethical practices among the WOS, the Association of Field Ornithologists, and the American Ornithological Society. Craig was elected to membership in the Nuttall Ornithological Club in 2018, and then to the governing Council as the new Treasurer in Dec. 2020. In December 2023, he completed a three year term in this role. He is an active member in The Wildlife Society (TWS) and participates in the TWS Drone Working Group to further collaborate on the safe and ethical use of drones for wildlife conservation and avian census research.

As an FAA certified Part 107 remote pilot, with advanced training in night operations through The Regional Training Center in Los Angeles, and aerial cinematography training with Skip Fredricks in San Diego, he is also an active member of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems (AUVSI). He has an AUVSI Level One TOP certification through Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and has attended the annual FAA/AUVSI Drone Symposiums in Orlando, FL (2022) and Baltimore, MD (2023). In June 2023, Craig completed the “Introduction to Drones in Ecology” course through the Center for Wildlife Studies in Freeport, ME. He was a member of the organizing committee for the inaugural Wildlife Conservation Drones and Technologies Summit held at the Reveille Peak Ranch outside of Austin, Texas in October 2023. The Summit had over 125 wildlife conservation professionals from 30+ countries.

After the 2023 AUVSI/FAA Drone Symposium, Craig initiated plans with AUVSI strategic planning staff members to organize and plan a new three session pilot webinar series to promote using small drones for a range of wildlife conservation projects. In collaboration with AUVSI staff, they developed a new series titled: “Advancing Wildlife Conservation with sUAS Technology”. Craig recruited speakers for the three sessions to address the following topics: establishing and managing a growing sUAS program, cutting edge capabilities of drone sensors along with data collection and analysis, and practical applications in the field for real world scenarios. Building upon the success of the 2023 Wildlife Conservation Drone Summit in Texas, this new three session webinar series has been crafted to engage, educate, and connect wildlife professionals and others around the world, who are currently using drones or are intrigued by the potential of sUAS in a range of wildlife conservation projects and activities.

Craig’s American Crow photos and articles have appeared in Bird Observer magazine bi-monthly birding journal; a number of Mass Audubon Society publications, the local Eagle Tribune newspaper, the Cornell Lab Bird Academy’s online course, “Anything but Common: the Hidden Life of the American Crow,” Muse, an award winning magazine for students; a feature article in MassWildlife Magazine, a feature article in Bird Observer, as well as in a new Peterson’s Reference Guide book on bird behavior published in Sept. 2020 by well-known author and naturalist John Kricher. Craig was profiled in a major article in the Eagle Tribune, Newburyport News, on WBZ Radio, Canadian Wildlife Magazine, and in a front page story in the Boston Globe. He has been interviewed by Ray Brown on the syndicated Talkin’ Birds weekly radio show, and is also a frequent speaker and presenter to conservation and community groups on the Winter Crow Roost phenomenon.