Farm Ireland

Tuesday 23 January 2018

Opinion: How the clever crows foiled my plans to shoot them

(Stock Photo)
(Stock Photo)
Ann Fitzgerald

Ann Fitzgerald

One morning last week, when I pulled the curtains on our landing, my eyes popped at the vast number of crows before me.

There are two pairs of railings at the front of the house, flanking the avenue and the farm entrance, 100m or so long, and there was hardly an empty perch on either.

The reason for the crows' presence? Our 50-acre field of winter barley across the road.

It was like a railway terminal. One bunch would take off and veer left, another straight ahead etc. You get the gist. As some were departing, others were landing.

A few were waddling about, a wing swept across their front, as if with a bellyache.

One was flapping, trying to take off. Crows usually jump into flight but, like an overloaded jumbo jet, he couldn't get going.

Another crow looking on cackled: caw, caw, caw. Then, whether it was because he was laughing so hard or was so full that he overbalanced, next thing he was on the ground himself.

The first crow had given up. Or so I thought. Then I realised he was shuffling purposefully up the avenue.

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He turned. He started running and flapping. A few anxious moments later, he was airborne.

I ran for my camera. As I eased open the window for a clearer shot, the crows began to fly away. By the time I got a good view, they had scattered.

So I came with up with a plan to shoot them; in photographic terms rather than suppression ones. More of the latter, later.

Going to bed that night, I made sure the window was wide open and the camera ready. Next morning, at the same time as the day before, I slowly eased the curtains apart.

My eyes nearly popped again. There wasn't a crow to be seen. It was a corvian version of the Mary Celeste.

I know crows are supposed to be intelligent, but seriously? Someone must have tipped them off.

Sadly, they did return, though the scene was never as dramatic as that first morning.

So where have all the crows come from?

There has always been a rookery near the house and a new rookery has recently sprouted up in trees near the yard.

What we don't know is if they have migrated from elsewhere or, as has been suggested, increasingly mild winters mean better survival rates.

But, wherever they've come from, we'd just wish them gone. I'm always going on about biodiversity - but these are the polar opposite to endangered - and costing us money.

Hawks will kill crows but there are not enough of the former around to keep a check on numbers; and crows' aforementioned intelligence mean there is limited success with the likes of plastic hawks or scarecrows.

Speaking of such things, I want to give out a shout for the Durrow Scarecrow Festival, from July 30th-August 7th. It's a real fun event.

Another traditional way of scaring off crows is to throw stones at them and I came across a colourful story about how 'Stone the crows' became an expression of surprise. Maybe it's a folktale, maybe not.

In Western Australia in the late 1800s, a young boy was sent out to throw stones at crows. As he was about to throw one particular stone, he noticed it was too heavy for its size. On inspection, it contained a large proportion of gold.

I didn't know it, but gold is very heavy, almost three times the density of iron. Stone the crows was on its way to meaning Well, how about that!

One sure way to reduce crow numbers would be if someone liked to eat them.

Being carnivores, their meat is quite tough.

But, in Lithunia, fried crow-meat is a traditional delicacy that is popular with young men, as it is supposed to enhance sexual potency.

Just to say to anyone who wants to try this out.

Indo Farming