Saturday, June 6, 2009

In Lieu of Trees


In a land with no must make do.

And, apparently, ravens are extremely good at exactly that! This pair of Common Ravens staked out an interesting piece of real estate and set up house keeping lickety-split.


Now, birds are great adapters, I know. They spare no effort nor creativity as they attempt to cope with human encroachment on their territories. If you doubt that, check out this amazing Osprey nest from the archives of Pure Florida, a terrific, mostly-nature, purely-Florida blog.

However, these ravens are not victims of territory infringement or over-crowding. They could go anywhere, hundreds of miles in any direction, and be away from "civilization" if they really wanted to. I imagine (perhaps naively) that they come here and live in this village, claiming the telephone poles, rooftops, heating vents, and even satellite dishes completely by choice. I'm sure dumpsters are a big draw in and of themselves, but I find myself wondering if they might hang out in a village because they actually like being around people (and their pets). Not in a friendly, up close and personal sort of way, but from a distance, out of curiosity and an innate propensity for pestering.

Some of the kids around here call these birds "crows." I grew up surrounded by cornfields in the South. I know what crows are and these are not crows. Not only are they much larger than crows, but their vocalizations are completely different. I found a great sound file on (one of my favorite resources) along with a nice map of their habitat which ranges across most of North America year-round. There are a couple of sounds that I've heard ravens produce that are not on the website recording and they're difficult to describe...something akin to the clicks and whistles of R2D2 in Star Wars. I couldn't find a free copy of that, so you'll just have to use your memory (or imagination).

Ravens have personality. I can't even count how many times a raven or two has followed my dog and me on our walks across the tundra or along the river. Are they opportunistic? Absolutely! Maybe they follow us in the hope that we'll scare up lemmings or other such potential food, but when I mimic their vocalizations, they always talk back. I don't imagine it to be amiable conversation. It's more like talking to a crotchety old geezer who shouts unsolicited advice from his porch.

My first experience with ravens ocurred back when I was still a newbie in this village. Two were on the roof of my house, waging war, their enormous claws clicking loudly against the tin. I hurried outside to reprimand whatever naughty child must be throwing rocks on the roof and found the enormous dueling-twosome instead. They looked like shiny black knights locked in mortal combat.

But these two, on the other hand, have something different in mind.


Ah, spring!


Jackie said...

Hi Kimberlee,
This post reminded me of something I meant to tell you about...I was awakened several days ago by a oddly familiar bird sound. Remember the mystery bird of last summer? The call with the strange echoing sound at the end, whose owner was so illusive that we NEVER found him out. Did you know I search for it several times after you left? No's identity remains a mystery.

Kimberlee said...

Hey, Jackie. Good news! I'm fairly certain the mystery bird was a Thrush, but I can't remember, off the top of my head, which variety it was. I bought some CDs while in Nova Scotia last summer that teach (or at least help) you to identify birds by their vocalizations. I kept hearing the same bird throughout Nova Scotia while I was on the bike. I wish we got them (Thrushes) up here, but they seem to be partial to trees. I don't think telephone poles would do it for them. :)

Clare said...

Love Ravens, they are my constant companions here, and who could not love a bird that plays.

Bryan said...

I love the ravens as well, although we usually have to drive up into the mountains to get to see them much here.

Kimberlee said...

Clare & Bryan,
I couldn't agree more. I get a real kick out of the ravens here. They're comical and downright tough old birds! We had a pair this year that remained in the village for almost the whole winter. I don't know how they did it...heat vents, I guess.


Oldie but goody-
Birds of a Feather

On a more serious note-
Difference between a Raven and a Crow


Kimberlee said...

Thanks for the links. The joke was cute and the other article was really interesting. It appears that I picked up on the key characteristics for distinguishing between ravens and crows, though I may have been mistaken in doing so. :)