It’s hard not to feel derided by the ravens and crows infesting the spruce forest that edges the Mendenhall River. The mere presence of Aki and me seems to put them in a foul mood. I experience emotions not felt since visiting a neighbor bar when in college. (Image me in school sweatshirt and jeans walking past a table of shipyard workers in machine-oil-stained overalls). The corvid choir takes me further back to the time of high school dances with their rigid hieratical order. The other birds along the river reinforce my feelings.A sole, immature bald eagle was exiled on our side of the river when Aki and I first broke out of the forest. Across the way, on a bar exposed by a minus four low tide, the big men and women on campus—a gang of mature bald eagles—reigned. Gulls, crows and ravens kept a respectful distance.
We learned the crows’ true social status when a single gull drove them off the bar, across the river, and into the trees where they now hurl insults at my little dog and me. As is the case of the high school dance status, in the bird world size does not guarantee dominance.
I’ve seen a sole arctic tern drive off a mature bald eagle and a raven do the same. I’ve watched a crow harass a raven into leaving a tasty morsel of food. Today, the Mendenhall River crows, having been embarrassed by a diminutive gull, are putting us in our low place.