Nature
9:09 am
Tue December 21, 2010

Poor Will's Almanack: December 21 – 27, 2010

Poor Will’s Almanack for the third week of early winter, the fourth week of the natural year

Among the most consistent morning companions to early risers are the crows. They leave their roosts and call about 15 to 20 minutes before sunrise throughout the year, and are especially welcome between September and January when most other birds have either stopped singing or have left for the South.

Although crows are not as precise in the timing of their vocalizations as cardinals and mourning doves, they do provide a relatively predictable clock for the year. In something of the same way that bells on churches or public buildings announce the passage of the hours, the crows call out the passage of the year.

When the weather is coldest, the crows usually awaken between 7:30 and 8:00 a.m. As the sun begins to come up earlier, however, they follow a more rigorous timetable, are almost always up by 7:15 on Groundhog Day, close to 6:00 a.m. by spring equinox, 5:00 a.m. by summer solstice. Once July begins, their calls measure the shortening days all the way through autumn equinox and the winter solstice.

All this being said, it is, I believe, not so important to know exactly when they call than it is to hear what they have to say: that we are not really as alone as we might think, and that the world is still well kept, as Henry David Thoreau once said, her undertakings secure.

Next week on Poor Will's Almanack: notes for the Transition Week to Early Winter. In the meantime, of course, listen to the crows.

Poor Will's Almanack for 2011 ---- a full year of Bill Felker's ruminations, along with astronomical information, notes on gardening, farming and the progress of the year --- is now available. More information can be found at poorwillsalmanack.com

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