There’s a brutally rent stump that stands between our deck and the ocean. It used to be a giant, ancient fir tree, but it blew down in a wind storm in the wee hours of March 20 last year.
We were very lucky the tree didn’t land on anything important. My husband liked the stump. He started referring to it as “the monument.” I hated it. I didn’t want to be reminded each day of the beautiful eagle perch that was no more. But within a day or two of losing the tree, starlings took up residence in the stump’s ragged cavity. Their presence took away some of the sting from the tree’s loss.
I know that starlings aren’t the darling of the bird set, but having a front-row seat to their antics these past two years has endeared them to me. I just have to look up from my computer to watch them. The adults are constantly flitting in and out with yummy bugs and other goodies in their beaks. They raise two families a year and each time the wee ones hop out of their nest for the first time, I get embarrassingly excited.
But this morning I didn’t enjoy my front-row seat. The sound of angry, panicked starlings made me look up in time to see a big black crow land on the perch outside the nest cavity. The crow then just reached inside and plucked out a baby chick, as if the starling’s nest were at a fast-food take-out window. I was horrified. The crow flew off with the chirping chick in his beak and an entourage of adult starlings dive-bombing it.
Immediately, I tore out of the house and took off across the deck and down the stairs to the beach where the adult starlings had forced the crow to land. I paid no mind to the smelly seaweed and slippery rocks and ran as fast as I could manage in my slippers toward the flat shale where the crow had landed. The tiny chirps of the crow’s prey tugged at my heart. At a distance, I could see the crow pecking at the helpless chick. The adult starlings never relented with their swooping, but the crow paid no attention, as if these kamikaze birds were mere gnats.
I, however, was a much bigger threat. The crow noticed me. How could it not? I ran full tilt toward it, flailing my arms and yelling obscenities. I clapped my hands and urged Molly to, “Go get ‘em.” (She thought the impromptu run on the beach was great fun and something we should do more often.) The crow took off, and with relief I watched the little starling hop away and flutter its wings. When I was bent over recovering my breath and my sanity, I lost track of the chick.
After I straightened up, I looked around, but couldn’t find the chick. I assumed it had gotten away. I was about halfway back to the deck, when the starling’s racket started up again. I looked out to the beach toward the angry chatter to see that the crow had returned and had resumed pecking. This time I couldn’t hear any tiny chirps and I could only imagine that the poor chick I hadn’t been able to find had become a McMeal.
My heart broke a little bit. I wanted to kill that damn crow. It’s bloody lucky I’m such a crappy shot and haven’t learned to fly. I returned to the house mumbling death threats under my breath. I kept a watchful eye on the stump and within the hour, the starlings were back. They resumed their bug collection and delivery routine and I went back to my computer.
Eventually, I’ll get over it, just like the starlings, but for the time being, I’m going to be good and mad. And I don’t want to hear about how crows need to eat, too or it’s only natural, or that only the fittest survive or some other mother-nature crap. Mother Nature’s a bitch and crows are avem non grata round here for the time being.