Crow danced up on the updrafts to perch on the black power line, equidistant between the wooden crosspieces. He was black against the sky, all profile and no definition. It was impossible to tell whether he was looking forward or backward, but he was certainly looking back and forth, jaws agape, an unshelled walnut’s width apart.
With a sharp, pointed snap of the neck, Crow flung the nut from his beak toward the asphalt below. It landed between the white stripes of one of Portland’s many bike lanes. He cackled a warning to the other crows that this was his project, then flitted down to inspect his work. walnuts are tough to crack, and it may take several drops to break open the crisp outer shell. Crow turned it over with his beak and concluded it needed more dropping. His movements were jerky, or so it seemed to my admittedly human eyes. He would look left, then instantly be looking right, the transition too brief for me to track. The nut appeared in Crow’s beak and he pushed up into the air to drop it again.
After a handful of drops, Crow could not contain his excitement. He hopped around his prize, fluttering his wings, poking at it with his beak. Crow used one forked talon to hold the nut steady and thrust his beak into the crack in its side. It was still too small to eat the meat inside, but the nut stayed on Crow’s beak when he raised his head. With several violent shakes, he slammed his nut against the asphalt until it split neatly into two pieces.
Crow cawed again, flapped his wings and spread his tail feathers in victory. In small quarter-inch bites, he nibbled at the soft walnut inside, savoring each morsel until he had hollowed half his walnut shell. The other half he speared on the pointed end of his closed beak, disappearing with him, with Crow, as he flew off to the dark places far away from this shelling ground.