In an effort to keep up with the onslaught of crow news, one of the first things I did as a newly minted graduate student was setup a daily Google news alert to the key term “crow”. Although most of it is news about the Australian football team the Adeliade Crows, or futile efforts on behalf of desperate business districts to rid themselves of problem roosts, every once and a while some big new study will have also made the daily report. While this is more of what I was expecting when I signed up for the alert, it’s not what I’ve found to be the most important part. I’ve realized that new studies will always find their way to my desk-that’s the benefit of being a graduate student in a particular field. No, what’s been the most savory part of this endeavor are the small, obscure observations from local and international sources. It’s there that I’m reminded of the details that make these animals so special to me, and inspired this harried journey to try and study them in academia.
Take this recent article out of an Indian newspaper, The Hindu. While the notes about protective crow parents are relatively banal, it’s her story about her crow visitors that struck me, particularly the last two lines of the piece. “They do not like anything white, plain and stale. If it finds the food delicious, it calls out for others in the community.” I found myself saying these lines over and over again both because I love their poetic feeling, and because I find myself in them as well.
When I started graduate school I knew that there were certain pieces of my life it wasn’t worth giving up, even if accommodating them would take considerable effort. One of these things was cooking. My husband and I love to cook, it’s an expression of passion both as individuals and as partners and something we make happen every night, even if it means eating at 9:30. Even during my field season when he was away on the road, and I was working 14 hour days I would come home and prepare a meal from scratch. Food is something I feel privileged to use as a form of love and expression, and nothing beats a comforting meal after a long day of discovery or failure (or more often the case, both). And sharing that passion is a primary way my partner and I connect with our friends and family, we love cooking for others and it’s something I give up during the summer field season in exchange for all day crow watching.
With summer fast approaching, I’m confident this quote will float around my head as I watch crows pick at their peanuts in the dwindling hours of daylight and I’ll be reminded of exactly why I’m out there: to better understand an animal who’s avian biology is so different from ours, but whose behavior is strikingly similar. For don’t we all crave the joy of pleasurable food in the company of others?