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A murder in my neighbourhood

There’s been a murder in my neighbourhood! A murder of CROWS.

I love them, but I understand that some people in the neighbourhood are a little freaked out. Thousands of anything can be a little intimidating, and crows do have a bit of a reputation. It probably doesn’t help that a multitude of crows is called a murder. Or that Alfred Hitchcock immortalized them in all their eye-pecking glory in The Birds. Or that they’ve got strong connections with the occult, or that they tend to congregate in cemeteries and eat dead things. But these are just some of the things I love about them. (Long-term readers might recall I’ve blogged about crows before – here and here and here and here. )

GC and I have been on a mission lately to witness and document the Carlington Crow Phenomenon. We’ve been going over there early in the mornings and late in the evenings, hoping to find the perfect time to film the murder.

A Murder in the Murder?

A Murder in the Murder?

Friday morning we got there around 7:00, but we were too late; they were already gone. The only evidence that they’d even been there was one dead crow and an impressive amount of crow poop on the freshly fallen snow. (Crow poop, by the way, looks like nicotine stains.)

On Saturday morning we were over there by 6:30. The field was already empty and a lot of the crows had flown away. (They fly south-west from the Farm to elsewhere at dawn.) But there were still quite a few crows in the trees, and it was worth getting up early for the sound alone.

Today we were there by 6:10. Our usual spot was oddly silent. A handful of crows flew overhead in a south-westerly direction, so we headed north-east to see where they were coming from. We found the whole raucous murder in the trees at the Research Branch Building on Carling Avenue, across from the Civic Hospital.

Here’s my one-minute Blair Crow Project video. Make sure your speakers are on.

If you want to check things out for yourself – and this is definitely worth getting up early for – they congregate on the edge of the Experimental Farm from dusk til dawn each day. See the map for two specific locations.

Where to find Ottawa's murder of crows

Where to find Ottawa's murder of crows

In completely unrelated news, there will be an Ottawa Bloggers’ Breakfast (brunch) on March 7th. If you’re an Ottawa area blogger and would like to join us, please send an email, with a link to your blog, to:

16 comments to A murder in my neighbourhood

  • Manon

    Very Hitchcock-esque indeed — what attracts them to this particular spot?

  • I’m not sure. I’ve heard corn attracts them to the fields just off The Driveway (or NCC Scenic Road, as it’s called on the Google map). But I don’t know what drew them to the Research Branch building. But now that I think about it, there’s been a rumour floating around Ottawa for years that Agriculture Canada is trying to genetically engineer some sort of cannibas super-seeds over there in those labs…)

  • Julia

    Very cool! I’m impressed you got up so early too. Do you think they get up at a certain time or is it linked to the sun? I’d be willing to bike over to see them when it gets warmer but not if it’s at 4:30 am in the Summer!

  • Deb

    I think that poor crow just got trampled in the rush to get out of town. It’s a wonder there aren’t more deaths…they need air traffic controllers.

  • Nat

    I went and shot some photos of the murder. I find dusk works better say around 5:30 or 6. The forest near Fisher has trees just filled with the birds. They seem to be more active that time of day too.

  • Arden

    Very cool, and somewhat creepy! Last year when my nanny was petsitting in Alta Vista we drove past some massive murders (it sounds so wrong to say that) not far from the Hospitals on Smyth.

    I think some of my friends’ parents managed to steal pot from the Experimental farm back in the 60s. Don’t know how much truth there is to the story, but there’s definitely a lot of cannabis related rumours surrounding the farm!

    I like the layout, though it took me a minute to realized that I was indeed on the right site!

    P.S. I LOVE the crows drawn onto the map!

  • Susan! One day, come to Pleasant Park Woods, here in Alta Vista, just before the sun sets. Crows perch on every branch and twig of every maple tree (I “think” they are maple trees, ’cause they turn glorious gold in the fall). That’s where we Henrywalk in the afternoons. On lucky afternoons, there’s this moment when, who knows why, all of them crows race away together. It’s … ohhh,you put a word to it, now that you have so many. Also, listen, there is this book you might want to “borrow from the library.” It’s called In the Company of Crows and Ravens, by John M. Marzluff and Tony Angell. Haven’t got to it yet, but soon. Look at what it says in the jacket: “(la la la la). To a surprising extent, to know the crow is to know ourselves.”
    Wow, eh? Thanks for the Bloggers Breakfast news!

  • Some scientists would dispute that a group of crows is called a “murder”.. that seems to be more of a term used in poetry or plays. Scientists may just use the boring term of “group” 😉

    Nice new theme, by the way!

  • XUP

    I’m lucky enough to have been enveloped by our murder of crows several times between home and work. The often congregate in the trees surrounding the RA centre on Riverside and I’ve even seen them several times in the back field and parking lot of our workplace at the corner of Heron and Riverside. The sound is phenonmenal,as you say. And the spindly winter trees, each branch thick with crows is mind-boggling. I’ve really never seen anything like it. It’s an exciting start to the day when it happens. (Once in Halifax, I pissed of a crow by saying something rude to him and he followed me for blocks, squawking and swooping and buzzing me the whole way. It was scary)

  • I love crows too – and Stephen often featured a crow in his art. Your short video is cool

  • I’ve always been fond of crows; their cleverness is very appealing. There used to be crows in my neighbourhood (east Toronto) but I haven’t seen a single one in at least a couple of years. I was afraid they’d all been killed off by West Nile virus, but going by this post of yours, it would appear they all moved to your neck of the woods!

  • We often have on in my area east of the city (Navan)

    There is a small flock of about a dozen that have found my 7 feeders – so they visit every morning & evening

    It is a little noisy sometimes in the back yard!

  • […] meteor shower. After all, he had cheerfully gotten up at the crack of dawn all those mornings to go crow chasing with […]

  • Vince

    If you’re looking for more, they congregate in the parking lot and adjacent trees at the Ottawa Hospital General Campus. They start flying in around 4pm and leave by dawn, but only do so during winter months… strange.

  • Joe

    I have news for you, if you think they go to the General Hospital, think again.
    They are camping out at Blair and Innes now.
    Hundreds of them.
    They are coming to my feeders now, they never did that before.
    My impression is, there are so many of them they are starting to starve.

  • Thanks Joe. I’ve been watching them every afternoon lately heading south east in a steady stream, and I’ve been thinking it’s time to follow them to see where they’re going. I’ll check out Blair and Innes. (Are they just spending the evenings and nights there, or are they staying round the clock?)