Some days you lug your camera and long lens over hill and dale” just in case” of ravens. — and never see a single one.
Some days you know they’re there by the distant calls (which can sound a tiny bit like laughter at your expense.)
Some days you wake up at dawn in your hotel room to hear a single raven call right outside your window. You fall out of bed and fumble in the dark to find your eye glasses and then the camera. Stumbling over luggage in the direction of the sound, you see The Raven Of The Lake striding majestically by and manage to take a few frames so you know later that you didn’t imagine it.
Some days you take a photo of a raven when 75% asleep through a dewy bug-screened window and you kind of love it for the magical dream feeling.
It’s a busy Easter weekend with not much time for blog posting, so I’m going to let the ravens do most of the work.
Even as it’s starting to look ever so slightly spring-like down here in Vancouver, it’s still a winter wonderland up on the nearby mountains. As it’s a winter wonderland that sometimes contains ravens, so we try to get out there at least once a week.
The Raven Soap Opera is a short video I filmed when we were up on Seymour a couple of weeks ago. It was Spring Break, a sunny day, and the ski hill was packed when we got back to the ski lift area/parking lot from our early morning expedition.
You can hear the excited buzz of human voices in the background, and that high pitch of human energy was mirrored in a large group of ravens socializing nearby.
A raven pair — first just strolling casually along as one of them (Walking Raven Right) makes a quiet but emphatic call — then hopping along with increasing urgency as they near a bigger group of birds congregating on a snow pile ahead …
Now this is where the action really begins. You may need to pause and rewind a few times to catch every little bit of the action.
Our couple reaches the larger group and you can see Walking Raven Right has already decided to make an impressive entrance.
Raven at bottom right with a ball of ice in beak (Ice Ball Raven) can see which way the wind blows and makes a tactful retreat with prize.
WRR gives a haughty head toss upon arrival, immediately singling out one of the group for a thorough verbal dressing down. This raven takes a respectful step back, but not without getting the last word in (Last Word Raven.)
Things calm down momentarily until yet another raven who’d been minding their own business in the background decides it’s time for their moment of glory and dives at Ice Ball Raven.
And that was it — just a few seconds of raven social interaction.
I love these moments because I know they’re just the very tip of the raven iceberg.
It’s tantalizing, wondering about the hours and hours of Ibsen-like drama and dialogue I’m missing when I’m not up on the mountain.
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.