Thursday
Jun122014

Hooded Crow in Oslo

Black-headed GullThe black-headed gull I passed on the way to my hotel in Oslo looked spooked by its own shadow. So too was I as it was 9:30 at night—not a time when shadows lurk. But here in the north, the sun doesn’t look like it’s going to set anytime soon.

I arrived in Oslo this morning from the States. The first bird I saw (besides a pigeon—they don’t count) was a Hooded Crow. A few years ago a Hooded Crow—a decidedly European bird—appeared near a dumpster on Staten Island. There was enough excitement that I picked up and drove down to pay it a visit. Like many twitching events this one was a bit of a disappointment. The bird was mobbed by big lenses and crowds. The setting was potentially beautiful—the beach was right there—but overlooked in favor of focusing on the dumpster that the crow hoped might provide a meal. After I saw that one lone bird I wondered a lot about it. How had it arrived on our shores? Seems doubtful it flew. So perhaps it was trapped in a container ship and spent a week at sea. No wonder it had attached itself to the dumpster.

Hooded CrowTo see the Hooded Crow where it belongs is another experience. First, they are everywhere. There is no celebrity status to this bird. Second, little kids like to chase them around the parks of Oslo. This means that they are near tame, or at least not particularly afraid of little kids or American women with cameras eager to take a photo. They hop away in their insouciant crow-like manner.

One of the many great pleasures of travel—besides the light at the tops of gleaming modern buildings, the water thrashed by the almost Arctic wind, the blond children jumping with glee into the cold water, the tall sailing ships in harbor—are the new birds. Every bird is new, a rarity, a treasure.

I walked the city today, through the park by the Imperial Palace (complete with guards), where Chaffinch greeted me. At the waterfront, there are many gulls—Herring, Black-backed, Black-headed. There are the numerous Pied wagtails that hop between tables as I share a dinner of moules frites with David Freese, a photographer who will be a part of the expedition I am about to embark on with the Arctic Circle, an organization that brings together a range of artists, photographers, writers and scientists to journey on a ship north from Spitsbergen. To call this an expedition might be the wrong word, but as I travel I am trying to imagine myself back about 120 years to when Fridtjof Nansen made his journey north, toward the pole, toward a northwest passage. . Like with the Hooded Crow, I spend a lot of time thinking about how Nansen got where he did. Nansen had intriguing ideas on how he was going to get north—by freezing his ship into the ice, and allowing the ocean currents to pull the ship north. (did this work? No)

But really, what I am asking is, how do any of us end up where we do?  How is it that I am here in Oslo hoping the sun dips just a little further so that I can sleep? How did I get so lucky as to be heading toward a ship and ice and who knows what adventures? 

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Reader Comments (1)

Love that bird even without a dumpster in sight

June 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

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