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FRED FIRST: To Know a Crow

With more time, we’d have known each other better

I will miss my birds.

Always present, April to October, some assortment of tree swallows and bluebirds squabble in the yard beyond the long porch facing the mountains. These two species have competed for the bird boxes on metal poles around the yard since Day One here (June 11, 2020. )

As much as I love to watch the sweeping curves and pirouettes of the swallows and admire the parental busy-ness of the bluebirds, MY BIRDS are the crows with whom I have developed an intentional relationship the past two years.


In 2022, crows were not my friends. They learned to know and avoid me, because I was the human that hollered at them when the gathered in the apple tree. I flipped marbles at them with my slingshot. They carried away so many apples I was afraid not one would survive to full size.

Then in the spring of 2023, I decided the apples were less important than getting to know crows–and in particular the five that always showed up together in the pasture or far edges of the yard.

It took a while for them to get over their alarm at my presence on the porch.

Last year I was thrilled to get them to come regularly for various “treats” I put in the yard at the very edge of the pasture fifty feet from the house.

Gradually I moved the treats closer to the porch–especially the apple core I have for lunch each day, cut into bits and scattered in the yard, then on the steps, and now, on the porch and porch rail.


It is no secret to the crows watching from the pines, 300 yards away as I go through the mid-day ritual of scattering smaller bits of apple in the grass near the porch steps. The juiciest and biggest pieces require more boldness, more risk. Only two of the five are regulars at that distance.

Several times, they have already arrived on the porch steps by the time I get back in the house.

And so I see my birds daily now. I watch them pack their cheeks like a chipmunk before they fly off not very far now to chew and swallow and come right back for another gobble.

If I forget them, or have the nerve to NOT have an apple for lunch, they march up and down in protest. Sunflower seeds will placate them in a pinch.


And so now in just two months, the place will be under new management, and I doubt the new owners will have special feelings for MY BIRDS, who will continue to come for a time, then rewild to the distant woods where they nest.

But even without my contributions, they will still have all the apples they can carry off, as our one apple tree becomes loaded with fruit that matures two months after we’re gone.

But every crow I see in Missouri will remind me of MY BIRDS in the spring and summer of 2024, and the theatre package of earth and sky that they were part of. The world has been a better place for their having been our neighbors.

The tree swallows do not share my affection for crows. Or rabbits for that matter. But their repeated near misses do little to ruffle feathers or fur.– Fred First is an author, naturalist, photographer watching Nature under siege since the first Earth Day. Cautiously hopeful. Writing to think it through. Thanks for joining me. Subscribe to My Substack HERE

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