Conditions: clear skies, wind from the NW at 9MPH, temp at 23F and wind chill at 13F: sunset time 4:41PM

On Sunday morning, Jan. 11, 2020, a notice was posted on Massbird and the Arlington Birds list about plans for the next Crow Patrol field adventure taking place on Monday afternoon, Jan. 20, 2019. The plan was to gather just around 4:15PM, near the extended roost area, just before sunset time (4:41PM), to watch the Crows in final staging mode, and then enjoy watching and listening to them converge into the overnight communal roost! Well what a night we all had together out in the cold along the edge of the Merrimack River!

Right away, reservations came pouring in and we were oversubscribed….always a good sign! In order to handle the group, ensure parking, and provide access to the viewing area, it made sense to limit the group to 20 attendees.  At the last minute we had a handful of cancellations due to normal life issues, so we ended up with 15 participants, which worked out very well. We made our way from the parking area down to the edge of the river, with beautiful views downriver and to the east.  This image shows the view just at the time of sunset, and as the first Crows started to assemble in tree tops on the north side of the Merrimack River.

The group was good enough to pause for a moment, in the cold, for a group photo before the action started.  It seemed best to set up the photo with the river behind us. We were joined a bit later by Terry Date from the Eagle Tribune.

It was a wonderful group with a great spirit! A terrific sense of adventure flowed with great energy and you can see the smiles radiating as our adventure got underway. From right to left: Ray Brown, Prof. Christian Rutz, Tracy Fischer, David Dargie, Susan Moses, Jim Housley, Cynthia Brown, Paul Dunphy, John Price Harrod IV, Mark Vogt, Robert Halenda, Lynn DiNuccio, Ruth Marrion, and Craig Gibson.

We were blessed with clear skies and a dazzling show by those wonderful Crows…WOW! It was nice to see the early assemblage of Crows downriver, followed by a number of do-si-do dance like moves back and forth over the river, as the crows swirled and moved around in a multitude of ways, as they continued the late staging process.

As they clustered in greater numbers, on the north side of the river, they started to leapfrog towards the overnight roost.  It was fascinating to watch the leapfrog movements, as well as the frequent flight bursts and other aerial flight maneuvers….quite a show!

Many thanks to Ray Brown from Talkin’ Birds for joining us for the outing, along with Terry Date from the Eagle Tribune. In addition, a delight to welcome Prof. Christian Rutz, biology professor, renowned crow researcher, and Rhodes Scholar currently on the faculty at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland!  Due to unexpected schedule changes at the Brewery, we were able to change course, and visit the Essex Art Center, and view the overall exhibit, but especially in the Elizabeth Beland gallery with the 20 Crow themed photographs. Kudos to the exhibit photographers with us tonight: Paul Dunphy, Jim Housley, and Lynn DiNuccio.

Lastly, many thanks to Prof. Christian Rutz for sharing a very informative talk about his research and his observations from tonight about the behavior and action of the Crows coming into the overnight roost. The Q&A session provided a nice opportunity to pose questions and receive thoughtful replies.

He shared some feedback by email this afternoon: “What a spectacle! This was by far the biggest — and most dramatic — accumulation of crows I have ever seen. What I thought was particularly interesting was the movement of birds between roosting trees. The trees closest to the bridge seemed to be the preferred roosts — perhaps because light from the street lamps affords extra safety — yet the crows initially settled in more distant trees, and only gradually “leap-frogged” into these prime spots. This is a fascinating puzzle — why would they not rush to occupy the best trees?”

For all in attendance, it was an opportunity to witness an amazing and remarkable avian phenomenon. It is truly a spectacle of nature unlike any other, and a pure joy to watch and behold. Tonight was a reminder about taking in more WOW moments on the journey in life, and to do soin the company of nice people, like the group we had tonight!

Here’s a bit of feedback from attendees:

THE BEST PART OF THE OUTING WAS: seeing the sheer numbers of crows filling the sky over the river; enjoyable to meet others with similar curiosities; the enthusiasm of all involved; the great enthusiasm of the group; sharing the wonders of life on a subject with like minded people; seeing the amazement in faces and voices with the magical meanders of crow flight; seeing an uncommon phenomenon right in my backyard; sharing the experience with others; and getting a different perspective from the edge of the river.

CHRISTIAN’S TALK WAS: fascinating, informative, and presented in an easily understood way;fascinating to get a small glimpse into the differences in some birds; informative to learn of the worldwide crow populations; inspiring for learning about Crows; very enlightening, he is very knowledgeable; in that it raised many more good questions; informative and a reminder how much we do not know about crows; informative and fascinating.

TWO WORDS TO DESCRIBE LAST NIGHT: chillingly thrilling; cold and magical;  fun and energizing; cold and inspirational; spectacular and fascinating; “crow-tastic”;  interesting and brrrrrrrr!

For those with an interest, we’re going out again Sunday, Feb. 2 at 4:45PM, space is limited…..sign up today by email at

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Crows: very social, smart, and family-centered