I have missed chasing birds on this trip to India. Mostly it’s been about people, in all their human glory, although the partial focus on vultures meant that the reporting about birds actually involved very few live creatures, but rather discussions and strategies for how to make a world where, once again, the skies becomes full. But one thing that a vulture conservationist said has stuck with me. He said that the South Asian vulture crisis has made him not take any bird for granted. (This, of course, could be extended to: take nothing for granted.) I’ve been trying to take his words to heart, directing my camera at the ebony and grey scavengers that remain, the Indian crow, Corvus splendens.
Where I’m staying now, in Pondicherry/Puducherry, the trees are filled with them. I go about my business of writing and they go about their business of roosting, grooming, flying, constantly communicating – something, what? — to each other.
They are abundant. They are raucous. They are a murder.
In the late afternoon, they pair up, sometimes 3-4 pairs sitting in the neem tree, sitting close, wings glancing.
Sometimes something else shows up in the trees, aside from the chipmunks with their incessant chirping, something spectacular.
A flame-backed woodpecker, with this shaky shot showing some of the flame:
But the crows are more common. More abundant. More ordinary. More important to consciously notice. In other places, West Nile virus has wiped out crow populations in a flash. One grad student once told me that her research abruptly ended when her entire study population died. Again, take nothing for granted.
And these corvids, they’re smart. Here’s a fun video, complete with perfect BBC voiceover…
Look around you today. What do you see that you always – and never – see?