A Thousand Crows (Photos & Video)

Late in the year, the crows come to Lake Hodges – an event that I’ve been witnessing for the past few years. I don’t know where the birds come from, but at twilight, hundreds or perhaps even a thousand of them roost in the willows and other trees that seam the ravines of more or less ephemeral creeks which feed the lake intermittently during our rainy season. The sheer amount of crows is astonishing, and fun to see and hear. This year it seems, they prefer to gather in a small wooded area of willows and sycamores, where Felicita Creek enters the lake – in previous years they were also just east of I-15 in the woodlands closer to the Sikes Adobe, and the nameless creek a little further south that I call the “Green Valley” creek, coming from Poway and the Blue Sky Ecological Reserve (at least as far as I’m able to retrace it). Who knows how the crows decide on the area. :-)

Despite the mixture of dead vegetation, autumnal willows and pale reeds and grasses, I found the scenery visually quite appealing, especially in the soft last light of the day. You can see the sheer amount of birds here, and this is just some of them of course – the photo captures perhaps one fifth or less of the width of this area, which is entirely full of crows:

The photos do not quite capture the dynamic of course – there’s constant movement as the crows fly around and change their position. The photos were made past sunset and at an exposure time of 1.3 seconds (and at ISO 1600, I should add) – the flying birds simply vanish. This next photo is zoomed in a little more (as much as I can zoom with my 70-300mm lens).

During an earlier evening walk I also made a video as the crows passed overhead, on their way into the trees. As they fly some of them briefly chase each other, maybe just for fun, who knows? I’m especially fond of the first few seconds of video, where you can hear the swooshing of their wings as they cut through the air like black feathery blades. This is just a few of them, of course:

In between the crows’ caw-caw, you can hear the shrill sounds of the grebes in the video – the true “soundtrack” of Lake Hodges. When I first moved here I found it almost a bit spooky, especially during twilight, but over the years I’ve grown quite fond of the sound. The distant high-pitched shrieking over the water has a very ethereal quality and when I pause for a few minutes on some rocks by the water to listen, it’s always a little bit like getting disconnected from reality, and it evokes memories of listening to the hauntingly melancholic song of the Eurasian curlew in the moors of Austria…

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