No. I’m not writing a post about virtual birds that are programmed to be angry. This is about an actual bird that was really angry.
When Oregano and I arrived at our cottage on Lowell Point in Seward, Alaska, we heard the cawing of crows from high up in the trees just off the beach. Not the most pleasant sound as a welcome, but we just accepted it as part of the background noise and began unloading the luggage from the trunk of the car.
I stayed inside unpacking and Oregano went back out to the car. I could hear the crow squawking loudly again. Seconds later, I heard Oregano’s feet pounding against the wood deck before he burst through the door.
“Holy shit! That bird just dive bombed me at the trunk of the car!” he said slightly out of breath from the exertion of running with a suitcase.
“Really? Dive bombed you? Are you sure he wasn’t just flying to those shrubs near the car? I saw some berries on them. Maybe the bird was just trying to get something to eat.” I offered by way of an explanation.
“No. I’m pretty sure that bird had it out for me,” he said. “There’s still more stuff in the car. I have to go back out there,” he said as he steeled himself for another trip to the car and another potential bird bombardment.
A few minutes later, I heard the squawking again followed by the sound of Oregano running along the deck.
“That bird buzzed my head. I’m sure he was trying to get me!”
No sooner had the words left his mouth than we could hear the bird walking on the corrugated plastic roofing over the deck. It sounded like the bird was pacing back and forth waiting for us to exit.
“That is one angry bird.” I said. “We need to unpack. Hopefully, he’ll lose interest in us and fly off to find another victim.”
The noise coming from the roof stopped. We thought the coast was clear until we looked out the window. The pacing had stopped because the crow was now sitting on a ghost tree just outside our window. He was staring at us with his beady black eyes.
“Is it just me or do you get the feeling that he’s just waiting for us to come outside?” I asked Oregano.
Always optimistic, Oregano said, “Maybe that’s his usual perch and we’re reading too much into this.”
Thinking the bird would fly off eventually, I busied myself in the cottage reading through information about the area.
When I lifted my eyes from my reading material, the crow was still there. The tide was going out exposing a huge expanse of beach. I wanted to go beach combing. With all the confidence of a creature higher up on the food chain, I opened the door to the cottage and strode right past the crow on my way to the beach. That crow watched me like a hawk, but didn’t fly at me.
For a long time, I wandered aimlessly on the beach with my head down searching for interesting rocks and shells. When I finally looked up I saw that the crow had followed me down the beach and he brought his friends for back-up. With the spooky fog and the ghost trees, I felt like I had been dropped onto the set of a Hitchcock movie. A half mile away from the safety of our cottage, I no longer walked with the same confident swagger. The only way back to the cottage was right past the tree with the crows in it. As far as I was concerned, that was not an option.
I decided to keep walking farther down the beach collecting rocks hoping that the birds would eventually fly off on their own before the tide came back in and the beach disappeared. The next time I turned around, the birds were gone. I walked briskly back towards the cottage with my eyes to the sky. As I approached the stairs leading from the beach up to our cottage, I heard the squawking begin again. I high-tailed it up the stairs, onto the deck and burst through the door.
Oregano looked up at me, “I see the crow is still out there on patrol.”
“Yeah, and this time he had a posse.” I said trying to catch my breath.
Later that afternoon we wanted to get ice from the main cabin located across the road. That meant venturing outside and into the crow’s domain. Oregano picked up the ice bucket and opened the door. As he stepped out, I grabbed my umbrella and tried to hand it to him.
“It’s not raining.” He was confused as to why I was offering him an umbrella.
“The umbrella’s not for the rain; it’s to protect you from the crow. Maybe with the disguise of the umbrella, the bird won’t realize you’re a human and won’t perceive you as a threat,” I suggested.
“Do you really think the bird is that stupid?” Oregano asked. He was unsure of what I considered to be unassailable logic.
“The expression bird-brained had to come from somewhere. Other animals use camouflage to effectively protect themselves,” I said with my arm still extended holding the umbrella.
“They do, but I’ve never seen plaid used as camouflage in nature,” he argued, but took the umbrella from me anyway and headed out the door.
Ten minutes later, he calmly walked back onto the deck carrying the filled ice bucket.
“What do you know? Your theory worked. The crow didn’t dive bomb me this time,” he said sounding surprised. “The manager told me the crows have a nest in the tree adjacent to our cabin. They’re just trying to protect their nest.”
“That explains the crow’s behavior. Did the manager have any helpful hints on how to be outside without the fear of being pecked to death?” I asked.
“No, but he thought your umbrella was a good idea,” he said while chuckling.
We realized that for the duration of our stay, the only way we were going to peacefully co-exist with the crow was with our trusty umbrella.
When the tide came back in and the beach disappeared, we sat safely in our cabin enjoying the view. We were admiring the peaceful beauty in front of us when we heard sounds of squawking birds and screeching humans.
“Sounds like the crow found someone else to bully,” I said as we both stepped onto the deck to see what was causing the commotion. The people in the next cabin had arrived and the crow was none too pleased about it. He was going after them with even more enthusiasm than he had when he came after us. We saw a man carrying a suitcase while his wife walked behind him yelling and wildly waving a stick in the air. It was like she was whacking at an invisible piñata.
“The crow has a nest with babies in the tree right between our cabins,” I shouted to them to be heard over the loud cawing. “Holding an umbrella over our heads seemed to distract the bird. Would you like to borrow our umbrella?” I offered.
They declined and opted to continue using the long stick method. They very quickly learned that twirling the stick above their heads like a helicopter rotor was an effective deterrent. It looked ridiculous, but it got the job done.
When the tide was out again the next morning, I stepped onto our deck, popped open the umbrella and headed right past the crow perched in the ghost tree. From the beach, I called back to Oregano. “When we were preparing for this trip, I learned that more people are killed by moose than by bears. I read up on moose evasion techniques and how to be bear aware. Of all the potentially dangerous animals we might encounter in Alaska, who knew the most threatening one would be a crow?”