Country diary: curiosity and the crows

The Guardian-3 months before

I wasn’t alone. Above the distant hill of Mam Tor I could see several paragliders hanging beneath their canopies, carving arcs through the air. Closer by were two white gliders over the airfield above Great Hucklow, their long narrow wings glittering in the sun. And right next to me, matching my pace and at head height on the other side of a limestone wall, were two crows, dipping and lifting around and across each other, a sort of aerial harmonising that I sped alongside.

<...a> The intelligence of crows is as well known as their malevolent reputation. The latter springs from the bird’s uncanny ability to thrive off the labour and wealth of one species: ours. The former is altogether more shadowy. Bird brains have a radically different architecture to those of mammals, but that doesn’t stop a crow pulling off some amazing cerebral tricks. We know they can count. We know they have complex vocalisations and are great at solving problems. We know they gather around the corpse of a fallen comrade, in part to learn unfamiliar risks, but also perhaps through a sense of loss. Just that morning, I had read of new discoveries in crow psychology that implied a form of sensory consciousness.

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