Friday, December 23, 2011

December 23: Crows at Play

Early this morning as snow was falling the crows in my yard seemed pretty wound up. Perhaps they too were dreaming of a white Christmas. Three or four of them were flying from tree to tree, chasing each other, hopping around on the ground, landing on one branch together and then dispersing, and otherwise just messing around.

Apparently they're trying to make the most of the snow, because they're still at it five hours later. First I observed them walking around, checking things out along river's edge. Then they flew across to my neighbor's big flat floodplain of a lawn, where three of them tugged at a fallen branch in the snow. Another seemed to be engaged in digging up leaves from under the snow. That one then got distracted by a squirrel, which it alternately chased and was chased by for a few minutes. Meanwhile, two of the initial branch pullers had moved on to rolling in the snow side-by-side. They sort of barreled their bodies into the two inches of snow, practically touching each other, then scooped up snow with wide open beaks. At one point it looked like they were feeding it to each other. (Awww.) They rolled around next to each other for a while, literally stretched out in the patch of snow, sometimes preening or play-attacking each other.

Anyone who doubts animals' capacity for play has clearly never watched a flock of crows in freshly fallen snow. Or a dog wrangling with a new squeaky Christmas toy, or an otter sliding down a snowy hillside. Rather than debate the emotional life of animals, why not just enjoy their obvious enjoyment?

It's not for my sake
the crows play in the fresh snow,
yet I'm here smiling.

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