Dec 15 2008
I’ve been frustrated by the lack of crows lately. Every winter for the past four years thousands of crows used to fly over my house at dusk and dawn. This winter after one spectacular showing on November 18th they’ve been absent from the area.
This doesn’t mean there are no crows in Pittsburgh. Far from it. They’ve just moved the roost. But where?
Yesterday I decided to find out. I’d heard about a large flock of crows on South Side and my friend Karen saw hundreds in the Strip District a week ago. Armed with two clues, my first move was to check out the South Side so I went up to Billy Buck Hill for a wide view of the Mon Valley, Downtown and Oakland. There wasn’t much crow movement but every flock was headed for the far side of the Hill District. By 4:15pm it was obvious I was in the wrong place. I should be on Polish Hill.
As I drove out Bigelow Boulevard I found a huge flock gathering in the trees above the road. What smart crows! This site is inaccessible, there are no buildings, and foot traffic is impossible because the Boulevard has high speed traffic without sidewalks. After a lot of maneuvering I managed to turn around and pull into Frank Curto Park. From there I could see thousands of crows flying in from the North Side. Behind me thousands more piled in from the East End. The numbers kept building. There was no end in sight.
Frank Curto Park is a creepy place, only accessible by car on a narrow one-way lane. I didn’t want to be there at dusk so after another time-consuming maneuver I parked on Polish Hill near the West Penn Rec. Center.
By then the distant hillside from Bigelow to the railroad tracks was covered in crows. More were still arriving and they began to do The Wave, rising up in dense shouting circles that reminded me of snow geese at Middle Creek. Night was falling fast but I could see the waves were not returning to the hillside. Each flock landed closer to the valley.
I crossed the 28th Street Bridge and I found them again, this time on the roof of Liberty Commons. As I pulled into the parking lot I wasn’t alone. Another car followed me trying to take pictures of flying crows. I jumped when the other car honked but the crows did not. Birds continued to collect on the roof.
By now the sky was so dark I couldn’t see more than a hundred yards. If the crows made a move I wouldn’t be able to follow. Besides, I felt confident I’d found the roost. Then silently, in the dark, the crows streamed off the roof until all of them were gone.
(photo by Chuck Tague)