Commuting with crows: Cyclists follow thousands of birds at twilight

Carmen Rosen always wondered where the thousands of crows go every night when they fly off together at dusk and decided the best way to find out is to follow them.

It starts with a bike ride and ends with a murder

Carmen Rosen, a Vancouver artist, is one of the organizers of the bike ride. (Jake Costello/CBC )

Carmen Rosen always wondered where the thousands of crows go every night when they fly off together at dusk and decided the best way to find out was to follow them.

The Vancouver bird-loving artist is organizing the annual Crow Roost Twilight Bike Ride this weekend, following the 20,000 birds that fly from around the Lower Mainland every night to roost on the banks of Burnaby's Still Creek.

"They are commuters like so many people in Vancouver are and they go along the same corridor, too, right by the freeway," she told CBC's Jake Costello.

Carmen Rosen preparing her helmet for the ride. (Jake Costello/CBC)

Clouds of birds

The bike group — which in past years has included up to 70 cyclists — makes pick-up stops at a couple of locations around Vancouver before heading along the Central Valley Greenway toward the crows' favourite hang-out spot.

"It's amazing, you just see these big black clouds of the birds arriving and then as they arrive, they are swirling around and it's like they are saying hi to everybody," Rosen said. "It slowly gets a little calmer, but it's very noisy at first."

And to get the full experience of a crow's commute, members of the bike group decorate their helmets as bird beaks to blend in a bit more.

"How can you identify with the crows unless you feel like a crow?" Rosen said. "It's fun, but the other reason is that it's a creative way to learn about birds."

Roughly a dozen people show up for the ride with decorated helmets, but Carmen Rosen hopes to see that increase to half the riders in the future. (Jake Costello/CBC)

Learning about the crows is the key take-away from the ride, which has been held annually for nearly a decade. 

"It's important to become aware of our habitat and to think about our neighbours, the birds, and how they live in this neighbourhood with us," Rosen said.

The annual event, held by the Arts Still Moon Arts Society, sets off on Saturday, March 10 at 5:30 p.m.

Carmen Rosen always wondered where the thousands of crows go every night when they fly off together at dusk and decided the best way to find out is to follow them. 6:11

With files from Jake Costello and The Early Edition.