I’m walking with a friend and our two boys at the pond near the San Rafael Civic Center. It is midday, baking hot, and we are standing in the middle of a huge, paved lot plastered in feathers and bird poop. There are hundreds of birds, all of them in the water trying to keep cool – Canadian geese, mallard ducks, and several kinds of gulls. Many of them are clustered around our boys who are throwing bread into the black water.
We’re also at the edge of a construction site. A few yards away to the north there is a front loader digging up the asphalt. A cement mixer is pouring concrete, and there is a busy farmer’s market on the other side of the pond. The urban noise is unbelievable – people, machinery, traffic. I can’t hear myself think.
We’re huddling under the shade of a scrappy looking tree, when something inside (a quiet, insistent voice) calls me to look up to see a lone crow on a dead branch, about 25 feet up. Immediately I know that he is in trouble. I look more closely, and see that his leg is wrapped up in what looks like fishing wire. He struggles to fly, and I see that he is tied to the tree by this wire. He’s trapped. He puts everything he can into biting this wire from his leg, and I can see that eventually he will bite through his own leg in order to free himself.
I call the Marin Humane Society, who tell me they will send someone out and that I don’t need to wait for them to arrive. So I leave, and get about 200 yards away, when suddenly the crow calls, and all his family and friends fly in from all directions, causing such a ruckus, that I feel compelled to go back and help. I’m wired to respond to crow calls.
The rescue operation is impressive. One of the Marin Humane officers climbs into the tree, and cuts the branch down, while the other officer catches the crow on the branch. At one point in the rescue, before the branch is cut, the crow gives another piercing distress call, and every single crow within earshot flies directly to this tree, and calls in response. It moves me to tears to see this family of crows come together.
This story comes straight out of a practice of deep bird language. Without that connection and awareness, I wouldn’t even have noticed that crow. He spoke to me, and I responded. I’m grateful for that connection, because it meant that the crow was able to fly free once again, to go back to his kind and tell the story that there are humans who respect, love and appreciate them. That some of us know we have a lot to learn from the crow nation, and are willing to listen.