A Raven has a very different world view of the above pictures…..for us, thesimplistic description would be: it looks like the tops of trees, some scattered clouds, clouds and the sky – nothing to write home about. For a Raven, it’s a giant unending playground and home of Raven Flight School. Raven Flight School will forever be one of my cherished memories – I’ll try to give it the tribute it deserves……….
I feel fortunate that my life has been decorated by some amazing Raven stories. I suppose anyone else that knows Ravens wouldn’t be in a panic as we enter the autumn to think that this family of Raven’s could be migrating south. You’d already know the answer to that. Not I, admitted city chick on a farm, I always have a life size lesson to learn in short order. Autumn always brings change; I don’t feel ready to lose my Raven friends just yet. Thank God as I understand it now, they may not migrate south; I wasn’t ready to lose more “family”.
Sometimes, I’m just a little slow. I could see that these two big black birds were larger than crows. Because I have an original fear of birds (perhaps another blog session) and have overcome it for the most part (perhaps part 2 of the prior said blog session that could emerge), birds will forever be an anomaly. As a result, they show up. My mother LOVED birds. I have learned through time to love, adore and admire birds. This was not my first choice. As an acquired taste, it has become a ridiculously fun hobby – I’m addicted like a convert.
These alleged large crows late last winter were rather loud. And, who do you call and complain about this particular type of rowdy neighbor? I started suspecting they weren’t crows and they were so to themselves being industrious on the other side of the pasture. They’d fly over me with this almost little rattling flute sound – that’s when I suspected late fall, early winter that they were not crows, they were in fact Ravens.
Well, bird lover or not, Ravens have been a totem for me. Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest (and living everywhere but here until recently), I am well aware of the Raven mythology of basically jumpstarting civilization by stealing the “light”. One could say – Ravens are EnLIGHTENING. Ted Andrews suggests: expect magic with them around in his famous book Animal Speak. I have a Tlingit Tribe Raven carving right above the picture window facing their (my raven friend’s nest).
There is that oodaling sound they make that sets them apart from anything else. If swiftness had a sound attached, the Raven wing motion would be just that – up close there is almost like a little soundtrack that embodies their flight. Seven flying over at once is quite impressive as though someone were cutting through a swath of fabric. These were not crows. And because this particular family is so ‘colorful’ with personality and quibbling, who couldn’t notice?
I noticed things like chicken wings in the horses water troughs……..partial loaves of French bread on my mounting block in the round pen…………..on occasion as I led horses across the pasture for turn out, I noticed broken eggs. These Ravens actually would taunt my dogs, and they would fly low to get the dogs close, barking emphatically, and then the Ravens would whip up into the sky.
With all the loudness, I assumed two things, either: 1. others were raiding the nests and that’s why I was finding shells in the pasture, or 2. there was some bizarre sexual nest take over like these Ravens were channeling a ‘70’s swinger film like “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice”! I mean this was so LOUD. Really, what else could it be?
Admittedly, I had feelings (maybe even judgment) about the nest takeover by predators and/or the idea that this was a group of Raven swingers. At that point, I had no idea that Ravens are lifelong partners; I just suspected that this was somehow the survival of the fittest.
I also didn’t realize how FAST a newborn is a fledgling. Additionally – I didn’t know how long they hang on to the original family, how long they live and how family oriented they are.
My biggest discovery was how WRONG I was on my suspicion and it was nothing more than a suspicion at that point. As a result of minimal research, I discovered both of my ideas were just that – crazy ideas. Baby Ravens, fledglings are huge rather quickly…….so some of the screaming and the wild nest antics were simply some fledglings thinking they needed to start out on a flying spree and some parents cawing “You’re not old enough” with the staccato cadence of a strict Raven parent. On my end of the pasture, this all sounded like mayhem.
Flight school began whether the parents, me, the dogs, the horses or the kittens were ready for it….it was a loud daily raucous experience. The first few weeks of flight school may be a little like living next door to a family with kids that are in a rock band or something – it is no small thing.
And then the visual……breathtaking and dramatic – believe it or not, I sat on the edge of your seat or the porch. Imagine the nest is very high up in a very tall tree. And my vantage point is from on top of a hill that is proportionate in height to view this as if I’m part of command center in flight school. The scary part is I’m really not – so we hold our breath from branch to branch.
Mom (or Dad) takes the first graceful flight from one branch across the pasture to another branch and lands. The branch rises up and down based on the weight and velocity of the landing, the Mom elegantly turns around and screams “okay now – you can do it”. So Fledgling #1 jumps off and scrambles, and SCREAMS the whole time. The wing motion is not in rhythm (like I can judge from the porch) and is a little chaotic and I want to say – “quit screaming and keep your eye on the ball/branch” but this screaming fledgling unbalanced frantic Raven makes it across to a branch about 15 feet below mom and continues screaming for the next 5 minutes.
Because of all of the (e)motion, the branch continues to bounce which unsettles the fledgling even more. Of course I’m about to sedate myself and we have 6 more fledglings to go. The 6 screaming fledglings from the nest don’t seem quite convinced at this point any of this is a good idea. So they all continue just to scream to their long lost sibling across the pasture on the bouncing branch. I mean now, how does anyone get home?
At long last, another screaming fledgling jumps off and it is very reminiscent of the first. Now we have two screaming fledglings on my end of the pasture, branches a bouncing up and down. I haven’t translated enough screaming Raven fledgling enough to know yet whether they thought that was the coolest or the dumbest thing on the planet but we all know performance nerves and fear can have the same drive through the system. Either way it’s loud.
Eventually, and dramatically, they all get to my end of the pasture and back again. This goes on for days – louder than ever. In the early stages of Raven flight school, the usual antics stopped, they were not baiting my dogs, they were not leaving French bread in the round pen and they were not cleaning Kentucky Fried chicken legs off in my horse’s water troughs. They were very concentrated on getting each fledgling from one end of the pasture and back again. This could take all day.
At some point, we worked solely on Left turns. It was remarkable. That lasted a few days and then we worked on Right turns. The tone of Raven screaming was more like, this is fun, you can do it – more encouraging vs. panic. Sometimes the takeoff was rocky. Another fascinating moment – or many moments would be when they hit an unexpected air pocket – it would rock their world and they really had to figure out their rhythm and balance as if it was cheating to hit the airstream!
Now when I watch any bird fly, I watch for cadence, tempo, and rhythm in the same way I watch a performance horse. I can see with in a moment of watching the wings come up and down as to whether it is a teenager or a seasoned professional. I watch it like seeing a young hip looking teenager navigate with high heels on for their first prom. I watch it like seeing a young acne ridden athlete try to come off as cool. I secretly note that one day this will be spectacular flyer and am so grateful to be in on this little secret. The secret being: not all flight for all birds is the same.
Months later as this family of 7 Ravens continues to fly, play and live together, it is amazing to me to watch them all go back to the nest daily. They are all sophisticated; I couldn’t tell the parents from the kids at this point. It is indeed a family.
One thing I adore about Ravens is I am clearly adopted into this family. When I come out of my house in the morning, most days one if not many of them greet me. They love to play games with me now like “oh you have a camera – we’ll hide in the trees for days” when normally they are showing off all day long.
One of the most amazing stories is when the kitties (who are just over a year now) first started going outside, the fledglings were still fledglings. I was mindful as to whether or not the Ravens would be predators to my darlings. We (the parents and I) each had a lot to protect.
Even though a Raven is still in the songbird category and not a raptor, I knew that they preyed on small mammals if need be. Again, unaware of how “family” oriented they were, I was and remain careful. Even though my kitties are 1 year plus now, I have eagles, hawks, coyotes, cougars and bobcats to worry about. I’m not thinking the bears are a threat……
I have always heard about the spectacular aerial performances of mating Ravens. I had never witnessed it. One day however, I heard more than usual crazy cawing. The kittens were out and I on phone sessions with clients – it was a nice day, so I was mainly on the deck but I had stepped inside for a moment.
When I came out, my kitties had run to the deck like they hit home base. I watched as not many feet away, there was an aerial demonstration by 4 of the Ravens as they shooed off a hawk in a demonstrative and dramatic way. I realized we are one big family across the pasture. The horses are in the middle, the dogs are fun to tease, I am their friend and they too protect the cats. That’s when I fell in love.
So the idea of migration was starting to really hit me. I know they would come back to this nest, but, I’m really hooked on them now. I want to see their fledglings and their fledgling’s fledglings’ and so on and so on like a Clairol commercial.
One last little image here, I thought they knew my car but I had a moment that proved me right. It is approximately three miles of paved and unpaved roads to get to my place. When the Ravens were about 3 months old, I was half way to town and I had a 7 Raven salute escort all the way to town.
I learned two things that day: 1. they do know my car and the bonus is – they had fun doing that. 2. the French bread probably did come from the grocery store!
Everyone should be adopted by a family of Ravens – and get to watch flight school!!
Animal Communicator, Author, Speaker & Founder of Communication with all Life University