A Murder of Crows — Lieutenant Island Tragedy

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A Murder of Crows

Each September and October, a homicidal gang of crows loiters in the pitch pine trees of Lieutenant Island on Outer Cape Cod.  This murder of crows lurks in the branches, cawing ominously as they wait impatiently for tiny diamondback terrapin hatchlings to tunnel to the surface from nests where they have been incubating in safety for the past three months.  Once movement in the sand is spotted, caws rise to an ear-splitting, felonious volume and the murder of crows swoops down for the kill.  They gobble hatchlings like crispy potato chips, crowing to each other, “Bet you can’t eat just one!”

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 Felonious Crow Plans Next Assault

Without protection, baby turtles have no chance.  Even when enclosed in chicken wire cages to exclude predators, hatchling instincts tempt them into trouble.  They are programmed to scramble fast and furious for the closest vegetative cover to hide in the safety of camouflage and concealment of the salt marsh for the next three years.  So, hatchlings often scurry to the edge of the cage and poke their heads through the wire.  Nasty crows most obliging help relieve them of whatever body parts extrude from the cage or fall within pecking reach of their murderous beaks.


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A Murder of Crows Haunts Turtle Point

As I approached Turtle Point for nest checks this week, a murder of crows circled the skies spying for tasty snacks.  Walking along upper Marsh Road, I spotted one stealthy suspect in the middle of the dirt road, swaggering back and forth, and pecking furiously at the ground.  Caught “in flagrante delicto,” the crow abandoned its prey to flee an extremely agitated turtle researcher sprinting in its direction with eyes of fire and a scientific caliper poised to fly like a boomerang.

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Tiny Terrapin Hatchling Attacked by Crow

The once inch, quarter ounce terrapin hatchling had tucked its body as deeply into its shell as it could.  Still, its tail protruded and the crow had nearly severed the tail from the body.  See closeup below.

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Hatchling Tail Nearly Severed by Attacking Crow

By and large, I get my revenge by ensuring that most hatchlings avoid this fate and the murder of crows goes hungry and frustrated.  But when babies crawl out of unprotected nests, these black-winged gangsters are free to launch their felonious assaults.  But be aware, dastardly crow, there’s a turtle researcher in your future and he caws more raucously and he attacks more ferociously than any murder of crows.

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