The winter portion of the atlas project is largely focused on compiling lists of species for each block and on using timed one-hour surveys to provide a standardized measure of the number of individuals of each species. We do, however, also have some more specialized protocols to ensure that we capture key aspects of the state’s birdlife that might otherwise be missed. Sites where large numbers of birds gather to roost are of particular interest, and one of our goals is document such locations (see the protocol here). In the article, below, Greg Hanisek describes how he recently found a huge crow roost in Waterbury:
Many in Waterbury have been amazed, looked on with interest or at least taken note of the huge winter crow roost that has been present in the downtown area for decades.
Many American crows, at times 10,000 or more, spend the night during the cold months packed together in deciduous trees, mostly along the Naugatuck River roughly between West Main Street and East Aurora Street,
The crows fly in just before dark and leave around dawn, spreading out over a wide area to spend the day searching for food. Groups from the roost can be seen as far west as Woodbury and Roxbury foraging in fields.
I’m most aware of the birds that go west, because living in Bunker Hill I have for years seen a portion of these birds passing over my neighborhood, and sometimes my house, on their eastbound trip to the trees along the river.
Sometimes they stage in trees at the highest parts of Bunker Hill, just blocks west of me, before making the final push to the roost.
For several years the main roost has been centered on East Aurora and Route 73, but last winter the birds moved in mid-winter and I never found their primary location. When they were absent there again this winter I decided I had to find them, for inclusion in the Connecticut Bird Alas now under way.
After a couple of unsuccessful attempts I put my mind to it this week. I set myself up on the east side of the river about 5 p.m. near the Colonial Plaza. Between 5:05 and 5:10 crows began streaming in from the east, fairly high and just north of my position. Soon the arrivals shifted to very heavy lines of birds coming upriver from the south.
The total from 5:05 to 5:25 was 6300 (counted by a combination of 100s and number of birds per minute). I had expected to see where they dropped into roost, but they all headed farther west than I’d expected. They disappeared over the brow of Bunker Hill.
I knew this was at best half the roost, so the next night I searched Bunker Hill for the birds from the west.
When some birds from the east passed over my neighborhood, I made a guess where I had to go to find the roost. A hunch paid off when I drove to Western Hill Golf Course and saw flocks from the west passing over the clubhouse and plunging into the Western Woods, a big forested block between the golf course and the residential neighborhood.
Counting the same way as before, I logged another 3900, putting the total at more than 10,000 (with possibly more yet to be discovered arriving from the north).
I couldn’t see them after they entered the woodland, but there was no doubt that was roost.
The din was unmistakable.