Sometimes it seems like cheating for a self-described “urban nature enthusiast” to follow the urge to get out of the city — to leave the daily crow-banter behind for a few hours and talk to the ravens.
But, every so often, a bit of raven chat is just what’s needed, so off we go.
Quite often, hours of hiking yield zero in the way of raven communication — only the whoosh of wing-displaced air as they sail indifferently by.
Of late, I’ve been trying my hand (or epiglottis) at raven calling.
My dream: those aloof fly-by ravens will be so intrigued by my eloquent commentary, my fluent greetings, my show-stopping non sequiturs, they’ll do a mid-air U-turn to get to know this fascinating earth-bound conversationalist.
Results, predictably, have been mixed.
But yesterday, on our hike up on Black Mountain, I heard a raven fly over, performed my “come-hither” squawk and, a few minutes later, two ravens landed near us.
Buoyed by my possible success, I attempted a more close-up conversation.
Below are some of the looks I got in response to my conversational gambits.
Curious, bemused …
A mix of horror and astonishment …
Concern. Is the poor thing hurt?
Another observable reaction to my vocalizations was claw biting. I’m unclear as to whether this was a form of anxious nail-biting (what is she trying to do to us?) or just boredom (when will she stop?) … or none of the above.
There were some responses from the ravens but there clearly remains a vast gulf of incomprehension between us. Much more practice is needed.
More hiking. More squawking.
You may wonder what my walking companions get up to while I’m trying out my raven phraseology.
Geordie puts himself into a state of doggy self-hypnosis until this boring phase is over and we can get going again.
Phillip, fittingly, takes the time to keep up with his Duolingo Spanish commitments on his phone. Where, I ask, is the Duolingo Raven module?
Which leads me to wonder: is anyone out there studying what different raven calls mean?
I know that a group in the UK were studying this topic a few years ago as they asked me to submit some of my videos to help with their research, but I’ve never been able to find out what their conclusions were. I’ve been corresponding with a bird rescue volunteer on Vancouver Island who’s trying to compile a guide for volunteers on raven calls but can’t find any comprehensive information either.
Does anyone know if there is, anywhere, a study on the types of raven calls and what they might mean?
Duolingo, are you listening?
For more posts on the wonder of raven calls: