Bonus Raven

Not having made it up the mountains this week, I wasn’t expecting to hear that heart- lifting and immediately recognizable raven call.

And yet, wandering out to the alley with the recycling and no expectations — there it was. Unmistakable. And loud.

It was so loud because it was on the Hydro pole right beside me! Dropped recycling and pelted back to the house for the camera, just in time to catch a quick shot of a crow (undoubtedly Marvin or Mavis) dive bombing the visitor.

The raven flew off to the most unlikely of destinations — the construction site where they’re building the artificial turf sports facility for the private school at the end of the street. Naturally, I followed.

The upcoming video isn’t as pastorally playful as the one I took a couple of weeks ago of them enjoying fun in the mountain snow, but I think it’s just as interesting a display of how a raven brain ticks. Our resourceful corvid friend had a bundle of something in his/her beak. I couldn’t really tell what it was, but it seemed precious. Perhaps bones. Watch how carefully that treasure is cached under whatever material is available — in this case, great lumps of grey road crush.

My favourite part is the ultra-casual “nothing to see here” saunter away afterwards.

Adding extra excitement, the flag person for the construction site yelled at me and told me I wasn’t allowed to take photos! Huh? Not wanting to get into the dubious legality of that statement, I just pointed out the raven and continued filming. Luckily for all concerned, they decided to just let the crazy corvid lady alone.

After a short site inspection, taking in the piles of gravel and some of the heavy machinery, the raven tried out the acoustics. Even before all the extra concrete was poured for the sports facility, this area was occasionally appreciated by visiting ravens for its echo chamber qualities. (See: Special Days, 2018) Yesterday’s calls , shown in the following video, reminded the crows to renew their official protests.

After a brief stop in nearby tree and being re-mobbed by crows (mostly likely Marvin and Mavis again) our visitor decided to move on.

I often wonder if the ravens we sometimes we see in our neighbourhood have just popped down from the local mountains. Vancouver seems very close from there, all spread out below, and not too many powerful wing flaps away for a raven with an urge for some urban excitement. Anyway, it makes me happy to know that, even if we don’t see them every day, they’re close.

I’m always, always straining my ears for that call.



For more ravens in the city, see:

On raven intelligence studies:



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Vancouver’s Urban Ravens



One evening I was leaving Granville Island after a day at the market. Daydreaming as I wandered back to where I’d parked, it took me a few moments to realize that I was experiencing an audio disconnect. My ears were hearing ancient forest soundtrack, but I was actually under the mighty iron girders of the Granville Street Bridge. What was causing me to feel momentarily off-kilter was the unmistakable and haunting call of a raven — presently answered by a second. I caught a glimpse of them retreating to a high perch under the bridge.

That was a couple of years ago and since then I’ve caught fleeting glimpses of this pair. Once, one of them flew right over my shoulder. I was between her and a dumpster and it was dark, so maybe she didn’t even see me. Quite a wind from those wings!

Last weekend I was bike riding with my husband near our home in East Vancouver. This time I knew the sound I heard was a raven, but with a twist. It sounded different from a raven in the way that a baby crow sounds different from an adult crow; a plaintive quality to the cry. We peered in the direction of the sound and way, way up, on the roof of an almost finished office building we saw a pair of black silhouettes, much bigger than the usual crows. From their posture it was clear that one was a baby and the other a parent. Excitement!

It's the classic "feed me" pose.

It’s the classic “feed me” pose.

There was even more delight when we cycled back that way later and found that parent and baby had come to ground level. And I had my camera! With the long lens! I spent a happy 15 minutes photographing them. Neither baby nor parent seemed very perturbed by my presence. Perhaps they are more confident than the frantic swooping crows. Just the thought of being dive-bombed by a raven is pretty hair-raising.

Just hangin' with mom (or dad) on the dumpster.

Just hangin’ with mom (or dad) on the dumpster.

Like the baby crows, the fledgling raven has pink at the side of the mouth.

Like the baby crows, the fledgling raven has pink at the side of the mouth.

We returned to the same area a few days ago to see if we could see any sign of the raven family. It was crow migration time and the spot was right on the crow flight path. We concluded that hanging out there at such a time would mean a world of aggravation for the ravens so they had probably wisely relocated, at least for that time of the evening.

The building that was a perch for the ravens a few days earlier is a popular stopping point for crows on their evening migration to Still Creek.

The building that was a perch for the ravens a few days earlier is a popular stopping point for crows on their evening migration to Still Creek.

More urban raven watching today – this time back on Granville Island. I had dropped my daughter off at the market where she was going to be minding my table of art and jewellery for the day. I headed to Opus Framing for some supplies and noticed the ravens making repeated trips between the cement plant and the bridge. Luckily, I had my camera with me again,  so I was able to get some shots of them making their gliding trips.

A raven soars effortlessly over the Granville Island cement plant.

A raven soars effortlessly over the Granville Island cement plant.

Then (bonus) one of them landed right in front of me to pick up some food someone had dropped.

Just hanging out with the tourists and traffic.

Just hanging out with the tourists and traffic.

Raven remembers he has somewhere else to be

Raven remembers he has somewhere else to be

No getting caught in traffic for ravens!

No getting caught in traffic for ravens!

I did some research on “ravens in the city” online. I found this National Post story about the bird watching community being “abuzz” at finding nesting ravens in that city.

So I guess we should be pretty abuzz here too. A bit of bad news for crows and smaller birds that will be part of the raven food chain, but still, so very cool.