earlier this year, i observed two crows* busy in the tree outside my window. over the ensuing weeks they constructed a large, sturdy nest, high up in the tree (apparently a "false acacia"). then, as the tree began to sprout leaves and buds, the two birds shared the task of sitting on the nest, taking turns to fly off for food. a few more weeks passed and the activity changed: both birds were flying back and forth a lot, and instead of sitting on the nest, they perched on the sides, heads down in the nest. feeding a baby or two, we guessed, and sure enough soon we observed two little heads appearing above the edge of the nest, necks craning and mouths open as their parents came with food.
but in the middle of last night, a terrible noise of desperate shreiking birds shattered the stillness. it went on for quite some time, and it was clear that there was some kind of battle going on. we feared for the little crow family. in the morning, we looked to the nest, and could see nothing - no little heads, no parents coming and going. all was suspiciously quiet.
then came a single parent bird. it flew to a much lower branch of the tree and sat there quietly for several minutes, as if listening, or waiting for something. then it moved a little higher, closer to the nest, and again waited. gradually, cautiously, it came closer and closer to the nest until finally it stood on the edge of the nest and looked in. no little heads poked out. the parent crow stood there for a long time, silently looking into the nest. occasionally it looked around, as if confused. after a while it flew to the next tree and sat on a branch close to our balcony, where we have never seen it sit before. later it sat again in the lower branches of the tree with the nest, looking despondent - devasted, even, if a crow can look devastated. the babies have clearly been killed. i don't know what predators there might be here - friends have suggested a cat, although we almost never see cats out in the street here, or a marder (german name for marten - have never seen one, but apparently they are all around). there are a lot of small white feathers in the grass below the tree.
we are in mourning for the baby crows.
but also this morning, at the same time as we were waking up and anxiously looking for the crows, we got the news that our friend raquel gave birth to her second daughter at 5am this morning. joy at the same time as sorrow; life and death together. nature doing what it does ...
* a friend said that they are more likely to be jackdaws than crows; i have only briefly researched the differences, but i think these are crows since jackdaws have a smaller beak.