I know this because the first wave of migrant crows came by my house in a gang today, hooting like teenagers, chasing around the neighborhood, celebrating the fresh clean cool dry air of autumn.
I got a ziploc full of roasted salted peanuts in the shell and went outside to hoot back. Here they came, three, four, fivesixseveneight, parking in the top of the towering elm tree across the street. I tossed down some peanuts, laughing at them, making kiss-me crow noises (a kind of low whiny-baby grizzle).
They weren’t interested in the peanuts. They wanted to play copycat. We cawed back and forth at each other. They were too excited to do it one at a time, so if two cawed at once, in different pitches, I copied one, then the other.
This lasted until one of them, perched higher than the others, spotted something in the distance and took off bat-outa-hell, yelling. The rest followed.
Believe it or not this made my day. Nothing can go too wrong after the crows stop by to say, “Hi, we’re back, yay autumn!”
As I write this I can hear them out there, a few blocks away, yodeling like kids visiting a favorite playground after long absence.
How do you know when it’s the first day of autumn?