On Sunday afternoon, in the midst of many football games, the newly launched Spicket River Brewery hosted the first annual “Welcome Back Crows” event to celebrate the return of both American and Fish Crows to the City of Lawrence, MA.  Each year, Lawrence plays host to an amazing avian spectacle known as a winter crow roost. Last winter, members of the Crow Patrol estimated over 25,000 Crows converged on Lawrence each night for an overnight communal roost gathering of Crows. Some Crows are local, but most are migrants from up to 500 miles away, well into Canada. Recent research suggest these Crows may migrate as far as from the St. Lawrence River area and beyond into Quebec province. The celebration gathering at Spicket River was organized by the Merrimack River Watershed Council, Groundwork Lawrence, the Crow Patrol, and others.  The brewery experienced a nice turnout with many attendees wanting to know more about the winter crow roost phenomenon.  Here is a photo of the brewery as the afternoon action got started!

On any given afternoon, the arriving flight patterns and staging locations for these local Crows may change, without notice. With that in mind, I made a short scouting trip around the local area, and found a small number of Crows starting to stage on the rooftop of Lawrence General Hospital.  They were also perching on the trees around the lower hospital entrance and rear parking lots.  In addition, more Crows were found staging at Lawrence Municipal Airport and on the wooded downslope from the Airport to the Wastewater Treatment Facility on Charles St. Here’s an image from the hospital about 30 minutes prior to sunset time.

With help from Lara Mataac, super volunteer with the Merrimack River Watershed Council, and Lesly Melendez, Deputy Director with Groundwork Lawrence, we placed several oversized info boards around the outer room at the Spicket River Brewery. These info boards provided background on the lives of the Crows as well as info about winter crow roosts and why they happen. Right after 4PM, Lesley Melendez, provided a warm welcome and an overview of the planned pilot program for high school students taking place this winter through Groundwork Lawrence.  The Winter Crow Roost research project will involve helping students to learn more about Crows, engage in field work and learn how to monitor and record observations, and also how to use drones for avian biology survey and census efforts.

After Matt Morin, Education and Training Manager at Groundwork Lawrence, and a group of enthusiastic Green Team high school students headed off to search for the Crows around the hospital. Matt was equipped with a backpack full of camera gear. Thankfully the Crows were still staging and gathering around the hospital in trees and on the roof. Ten about 20 minutes after sunset time, one of the attendees stormed back inside, urgently alerting us to the large numbers of Crows that were streaming by overhead, and heading in a westerly direction.  The snow was gently falling and it was quite a show!

The Spicket River Brewery Food Truck was parked out front all afternoon and supplied both the Welcome Back Crows attendees and other patrons with a fresh supply of tasty goodies, including barbecue spare ribs and hot waffle cut fries! Here are four attendees at the event. Jay, Susan, Sandy, and Mark.  They stayed for quite a while taking time to talk about the Crows, and how they have been tracking the crows for years.  They also took time to enjoy some cold IPA Ales and watched the AFC leading Patriots (9-1) stomp all over the Philadelphia Eagles!

Once all the festivities for the “Welcome Back Crows” event had finished, had a nice opportunity to search for roosting Crows. One of the great challenges, is to find the Crows after dark, when they have moved to different locations, and when there was no ability to observe them streaming into staging locations, or into the final overnight roost. Made stops in most likely locations, with no luck. Dana and Bob were with us, and departed in search of the overnight roost, and had no luck finding the Crows. Using new night vision optics, and scanning the trees along the Merrimack slowly and carefully, was finally able to pinpoint a tight formation of Crows, in trees on the south side of the Merrimack River, on the east side of the Casey Bridge and the CubeSmart building!  Photo below provide a look at roosting Crows perched in the trees along the edge of the Merrimack River

Welcome Back Crows – Sunday Nov. 17 starting at 2:30PM at Spicket River Brewery!

List of photo equipment used for this outing:

Canon EOS 80D; Lens: EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS   

ATN BinoX 4K 4-16x Day and Night Smart HD Binoculars

Blog post and photos by Craig Gibson, 2019 Crow Patrol, Lawrence, MA