It was a Florida warm day in which, in the mid-afternoon, I sat by a friend’s pool in the city of Palm Harbor. The sky was blue and cloudless, probably in deep contrast to the threatening storms of the north.

Suddenly, overhead, there were crows, a wide trail of them straggling, probably, over a mile or more, for just when I thought I might have seen the crow that was bringing up the rear there came another disordered fleet of them, now and then a few circling away from the main body for some reason known only to God, nature and the birds involved. But ultimately, they, too, joined the movement left to right, high, so very high overhead.

I know less than I ought to as a mortal long on this planet about the habits of birds, crows included. I like crows. They are said to be very smart. One or two at a Florida bird sanctuary actually talk, like their cousins the myna birds. My obvious thought, it being winter, was that this black airborne armada was heading south, some of them squabbling that familiar crow’s caw as they went. Why? Who knows?  Calling ( cawing) each to each as they go their jubilation at escaping the cold of northern climes..

Were they migrating? I suppose that should have been obvious. (I read later today that crows are known for a partial migration. I don’t know if that means all of them go somewhere farther south than their normal habitat or that only certain species  make the whole flight far, far down the Continent. I know for certain that many stay north all winter. I’ve heard and seen them. I must admire the stubborn resilience and regional loyalty of anyone — human or avian — who chooses to endure a northern winter. But, of course, with birds it’s doubtless dictated by some unalterable natural instinct; with us crazy mortals, it’s a choice.)

At any rate, I decided to pull out my iPhone and punch up the compass app. I’m no Boy Scout and I slept through my Army compass course. But any idiot could see the needle lying sideways and pointing toward the “S”. Those crows were flying south alright — farther south than where I sat in the middle of Florida’s west coast. I kept waiting for the last bird to fly over, but they kept coming…so I never saw that last bird. Perhaps the great long sky-bound procession is so long that the last bird is still somewhere over Deleware tonight.

But, then, I did eventually take my eyes off the sky and when I looked up again at some point, I found only blue. No crows.

Why were they folks getting such a late start south? I’ll be clicking on Audubon Society after I’m finished here.

Welcome, crows! I’ve decided both of us should, eventually, go north again. Back to your tangles of pine and oak limbs, me to that rabble of human dwellings below. Why? I’m not sure. Instinct, perhaps.

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