Your Lying Eyes

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16 August 2007

West Nile Virus - Looking on the Bright Side

When I was a kid growing up in the same town I live in now, the avian creatures that shared our backyards were robins, cardinals, blue jays and sparrows. Occasionally, a crow would announce itself with his "Caw-Caw" trumpet and perch on a power line. When I returned to this same town as an adult homeowner, I found that crows were everywhere, often rousing whole neighborhoods awake with their awful cacophony. And not a robin or blue jay ever to be found, though the occasional cardinal would make a much celebrated appearance.

But then in 1999, West Nile virus arrived on our shores, apparently striking first in the NY Metro area. Ominously, crow carcasses were being found strewn about Central Park, and these were soon linked to the new fatal disease. As it turned out, West Nile is not particularly deadly. I am convinced my daughter had it that year when she became so sick that I had to retrieve her mid-week from camp and rush her to the doctor. But it has been very deadly for crows, and recently scientists have discovered why.

News reports continue to report West Nile as a scourge in our midst. But here in my small corner of the earth, the robins and blue jays and cardinals are back the way I remember them - constant companions in our gardens. Crows are nowhere to be found or - more importantly - heard. I know that people do die from West Nile, and anyone who's lost a loved one to it will find cold comfort in the pleasure I take in the re-balancing of my local airborne fauna. But I thought I might give one, small contrarian cheer for West Nile virus.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's my understanding that crows are particularly attracted to large pin oak trees. That could have been part of your problem.

August 19, 2007 9:25 AM  

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