Crow Mow

American Crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos)

Next to an open garbage barrel, nothing in the park draws a crow like a mow. A flock of nearly a hundred of them — the technical name is a murder — descended on the newly mowed meadows in the park and gleaned what they could. The heavy piece of machinery not only decapitates the vegetation, its whirling blades stir up the soil, and its noise and vibration drive things to the surface that normally would stay below. Other creatures also explore the disturbance, but the crows dominate, simply because there are so many of them. And the feast, in turn, promotes their reproduction.

Contrary to folk wisdom, mowing fosters the growth of foxtails (barley), the bane of dogs and their owners later in the season. Where the native vegetation is left to thrive as it will, the barley has little chance of winning the sunshine, breathing room, and soil nutrients that it needs to survive. In areas of the park that are never mowed, there are no foxtails. Where mowers drive, foxtails thrive.

The golf course model still dominates park maintenance philosophy. We want parks to look like lawns, and we’ll spend lots of money on the machines and labor to create this fantasy. Does it matter that decapitated natural meadows offer poor habitat for wildlife at all scales, from microbial to mammal? Is it essential to our enjoyment of the outdoors to walk in a dead environment? Maybe this is just me, but I’d like to see a park with less mowing and more growing.

American Crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos)

P.S. Burrowing Owl Update

Second Owl Feb. 3 2022

The Second Owl — the one usually in plain view in the central circle of the Burrowing Owl Sanctuary — could not be seen this afternoon (Friday 2/4). It returned yesterday after an absence of five days, but was again not visible today. There were some indications yesterday that this bird may have suffered an injury to its left wing, and this might have explained its unusual behavior, as noted in yesterday’s update. Possibly the bird is holed up in a nearby burrow waiting for its wing to heal. There is nothing that humans can do under these circumstances. We can only watch and wait.

The First Owl, meanwhile, continued to perch in its usual spot, a rewarding vision for park visitors who knew where to look for it.

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