Daily visitors along the tideline below the Beach House, we see them walk purposefully to and fro from dawn to dusk checking what the tide’s brought in. Cleaning up carrion, they also search for slugs, insects, worms, fruits and seeds. In spring they are known for taking eggs and small birds. Their diet is 85% carnivorous. Here in the open sweep of Morecambe Bay we feel at home and we think our three crows do too. We’re not sure where they nest, but they invariably emerge from the wooded bank further along the shore, within watchful distance of the rookery in Sea Wood.
On Friday, one of the crows was shot by a marksman* as it flew up from the beach, heading inland. A single shot to the temple; sudden, immediate death as it plunged down into the meadow.
I hold it by the tail and wing tips. Well over half a kilo. Total blackness of eye, talons, beak, feathers, legs. It’s half term and the grandchildren are sleeping over for a few days. On Monday morning we choose a spot near the bank, alongside a young sycamore. Reuben digs the grave, Rosa creates a ceremonial path leading towards it, edged with stones, floored with transverse sticks.
Back at the Beach House we are ready to begin the ceremony. Rosa lays the bird on a flat willow basket, places sea glass, shells and rosemary, then covers him with a new yellow cockling bag for the funeral cortege. It is a drizzly day. We are alone as we process along the beach.
Reuben's iPad drawing
Removing the cover, Rosa gently lies him in the grave, head facing towards the west. We place the grave goods around. Reuben speaks about the nature of the death and how crow would not have suffered as it was so sudden and immediate. Rosa thanks crow for choosing to nest here, becoming part of our daily landscape. Nana reminds us that crows like him have been around on similar shorelines since ancient times. Mezolithic children living in caves and huts had crows living around them. John reads a poem written that morning and our ceremony ends with planting forget-me-not seeds around the grave, in sunshine and partial shade. This part of our land will be known as Crow Country.
Reuben walks to the water's edge and asks the incoming tide to bring strong winds to blow crow's spirit around the trees again.
* The marksman appears in the fields behind the Beach House from time to time with rifle and full combat camouflage gear. He has shooting rights across the farmer's land, to hunt foxes and other vermin. It appears crows are not welcome as they dig up the potatoes.