We have a dead tree in our backyard that is completely stripped of its bark, so basically it looks like a piece of vertical driftwood rising 40 feet in the air. To look at it, you’d think it had no purpose, but nothing could be further from the truth. Its stark beauty fascinates me, especially against a moonlit night sky.
We call it the crow tree because this is where our 30 to 40 crows gather every day for their breakfast and afternoon snacks. Over the years, their preening beaks and sharp claws have shaved away what little bark there was, so now all that’s left is white, smooth wood.
The curved branches are outstretched like welcoming arms and at least five crows can roost quite happily on each one. There are 10 floors in all, but near the top, the branches have only enough room for a single occupant. The Sentinel, as we call him, always sits at the very top, like a Christmas star. It’s his job to let the others know when John rounds the corner with his bucket of goodies. When the Sentinel starts squawking, you can watch the crows glide in from the four corners of their estate.
It’s only after Hubby comes back into the house that the crows nestle into the tree branches and this is where their complicated ballet recital starts. The food is left on top of the cover of my dad’s old trailer, so it really does resemble an outdoor dining room table. One of the lower branches is only a few feet away from the feast. This is the most prized spot on the tree and I’ve noticed that only the big boys get to sit here. Or maybe it’s just my feverish imagination because, let’s face it, crows look alike, so who can say for sure?
Some sort of secret signal is then given and all of the crows descend on the trailer at once to peck away for about three seconds, before instantly rising into the tree branches again. What spooked them? Nothing I can see. They do this at least 60 times in the five minutes it takes to polish up all the grub. Flutter, rise. Flutter, fall. Those who can’t find space on the branches hover back down to the ground. Some rebellious types skip the yo-yoing performance and walk with a haughty attitude under the birdfeeders and peck away at the odd sunflower seed.
I honestly think if we ever got rid of this tree, we wouldn’t have this daily ritual. Maybe a few crows, but not this entire community, who have learned they can gather safely within these branches while they have their morning meal.
You’d think a dead thing would have no purpose, but our crow tree is a daily reminder that even when you think something is over, it doesn’t have to be. I’m positive that when this tree was young and beautiful, it never got nearly the number of visitors that it does now.
This gives me hope for some reason.
If we were to ever sell this property, I can guarantee the crow tree would be the first thing people would notice and shake their heads at. “Who wants an old dead tree in the backyard? Cut it down!”
Luckily, we have a loyal committee of squawky feathered neighbours who could show up in an instant and put on a very animated rendition of Alfred Hitchcock’s movie The Birds.
And that, as they say, would be that.