When the Raven Knocks

My title sounds a bit ominous, like Edgar Allen Poe’s doleful visitor tapping on a window, but have no fear. In my world, when the raven knocks, you should always answer!

As winter drags on down here in the city, only letterbox shaped views of the mountains are available most days, peeking out between the gunmetal clouds.

Those glimpses do serve to remind me that the mountains and the ravens are out there — and that I might get up to see them once a week or so. Many people head south for this gloomy part of the winter, but I’m always drawn to the snow rather than the sand.

Often we get up on the mountain and there’s only a matching letterbox view back out at the city through the same clouds …

… but every time it’s wonderful in some different way.

To hear a raven calling in the snow-hushed forest — that knock, knock, knock call, something between a tapping on hollow bamboo and water dropping into a still pool — that sound alone is worth getting out of bed early and stepping into long johns and winter woollies.

You can see the raven’s chilly morning breath in this video and, if you listen closely, hear a stream merrily running in the background.

We met this suave raven below in the forest on our last trip.  I like to think I “called” him or her. I have been practicing my raven calling, with mixed results. Usually they ignore me, but occasionally they do a U-turn in mid-flight, possibly to come see if something down below is dying and available for lunch.

But, back to the raven and the beautiful call.
Like a trained opera singer, the raven pours all kinds of skill and stamina into that effortless sounding “clock clock clock.”

Head thrown back for best possible vocal projection.

Nictitating membrane of the eye deployed, giving the impression that our performer is blocking out all distraction in order to produce the purest sound.

Throat expanded, presumably to make a hollow space from which to draw that echoing call. Magnificent feathery “cravat” sticking out in all directions.

Wings held out to the side and tail spread out — that horizontal line behind the raven is the tail, held out like a fan.

The virtuoso performance …


For more posts on the wonder of raven calls:

You might also enjoy:  Edgar Allen Poe and the Raven Mix-up



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12 thoughts on “When the Raven Knocks

  1. The raven call is such a unique sound — almost like a wooden temple bell. Your visual record of him/her producing this signature vocal is priceless. Thank you!

  2. I just love your pictures. I live in southern saskatchewan, canada and today is horribly cold temperature is minus 26 F. Lots of crows, ravens, magpies around this winter. I find trying to take pics of these wonderful birds is like the hardest thing. I live out in the rural area, and whenever I see crows etc, I always try to take pics, so far, i am only getting silhouettes of them. Eventually I will figure it out.

    • Thanks so much Edwin. It’s always harder to get close to these birds in rural areas where they are shyer of humans. Also, sometimes silhouettes are my favourite shots, reminding me of Arthur Rackham illustrations. Top tip for capturing details in these dark coloured birds is to over-expose the shot if possible. 😊

      • thanks for the comments on capturing details on the pics. Im currently using a nikon d500 & d780. My goto lens is a sigma 150mm-600mm and a nikon 70mm-300mm. A little bit of patience and hopefully I get the shots I want

  3. Such amazing photography and videography. How is it possible that your writing astounds me so very often?

    I am inspired by your posts and even considered leaving my cozy chair for a hike in the snow…

    I look forward to your next post!

    • Thanks so much Sandra — that’s very kind of you and do enjoy your hike in the snow. Wrap up warm if you’re going out this week though — cold snap coming here in the PNW and in many parts of the Canada and US. I always find I stay warm if I’m moving though and I have mittens with heat pads in to warm up my frozen fingers after stopping to take photos of ravens, ice on trees, Steller’s Jay, the dog and etc!

  4. Love this! I kept a Raven as a boy. Long story butI’m 60 now and learned to and do in fact speak to Ravens. I’m blessed to have them in my life every day. A pair nests here every year. At work there are several dozens on a daily basis and some days ,when the wind is right, they put on a show directly in front of me at eye level…Music in motion. One day Pink Floyd’s Us and Them was playing…It brought me to a standstill and I watched…and listened.. Nothing short of a truly magical experience.

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