Spanish Bird Language

The crows here in Northern Spain sound more throaty than the Northwest Crows I’m used to. But walking toward Gernika today I heard a crow call that was almost flutey. It caught my attention as different. It was sitting on a wire. Looking up I saw the sillouette of a hawk about the size of a Red Tail but with a distinct v in its tail. It seemed to be in a hunting pattern, flying back and forth with a sense of deliberacy (is that a word?) over a recently hayed field. A couple more crows picked up a chorus and flew up to perch in a high tree. They seemed to be keeping the usual crow eye on the bird of prey and letting everyone else know about it, too. I suppose the hawk must have been hoping for a young field mouse not privy to the language of the crows yet . . . . .

That’s my story anyway. It occurs to me that a story like that is really just the oral tradition’s version of an hypothesis. Something to share, compare opinions about, see if happens again, argue over, see if it is predictable. I doubt it could ever be proveable, but in story form it is memorable, and that allows for a kind of cumulative testing over time. Plus it is just kind of fun.

One of our families’ pastimes while hiking through this varied landscape is to give the animals we encounter thoughts and voices and stories. Mostly we do this with domestic animals because that is what we see. It is entertaining and sometimes leads to some really good laughs. Two days ago we encountered several groups of sheep. The first group was in a forested area and each sheep was bedded down with its own tree having a good shady chew. Later, in a pasture, there was a group of sheep that stayed completely jammed up against each other. When the leader moved everyone moved as a mob. This became a topic of a political discussion about the “one sheep, one tree” sheep versus the “one herd, one leader” sheep. Agro-politics.

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