Riding my bike through the dark, quiet streets is one of the small pleasures of my winter commute. My headlight illuminates a narrow band, which occupies my conscious mind, and renders everything outside the light nonexistent. Because so few cars are on the road, I feel as if I am traveling in outer space.
Once I pass through the silent residential neighborhoods, I cross a half mile long bridge over the river and roll into the canyons created by downtown’s office towers. Tall trees line each side of the street, dwarfing the streetlights. It is normally as quiet as my home street, but on a winter day, just a few weeks ago something was different.
There was a raucous orchestra of cawing and barking above me. At first, the noise in the darkness was disorienting. With sounds bouncing off windows and parked cars, it was difficult to tell where it was coming from. When I looked down and noticed the street was covered with what looked like white splatters of paint,I knew what was happening.
The crows had returned. Hundreds or thousands gather and roost along a few blocks of downtown each evening in the winter. Nobody knows how they choose their spot, but once they pick it, there’s no moving them. Last year they chose the bus mall where they covered the shelters, trash cans, sidewalk, and bus tops with droppings. At first it was funny, but as the weeks wore on, hiding from them as I boarded the bus became a chore.
This year they chose one of the main routes into downtown. Cars got bombed. People got noticed. They complained- the city should do something about this menace! But what? Send in the police? Hire some hawks? The crows partied on.
Now that the longer days of spring have arrived, the birds dispersed to find mates and stake out breeding territories. Despite the poop, I miss them. Their raw enthusiasm, flying antics, and passion for life invigorated me each morning. As I travel through inner space this spring, I’ll just rely on the sun to get me going.