We knew that we had a Raven’s nest in our yard because it was quiet.
First, a back track. My Mom lived on the beach for several years and became a self taught Dolphin Caller. I don’t think I would have believed that she could really do it if I hadn’t seen it for myself a hundred times. No call, no dolphins. A call, between 5 and 7 minutes later they’d show up. She said that you just ball up your joyous feelings of welcome and do a directional mental call sweeping across the waters where the dolphins lived. She even had a little dance she would do as she called out “Up Dolphins!!!”
When we moved to the Northwest, the native types told us that the Raven was very important in the Northwest. And by native types, I mean white people that worked at Microsoft and had lived here more than 2 years. They said the real natives describe the Ravens as tricksters who would take anybody that needed it down a peg or two. Yet, they also returned the sun to the sky when an evil chief had stolen it. We also saw a few “Northern Exposures” on the topic. So you can see we were experts.
Then I started thanking any Ravens that I saw for sunny days. If you have lived in Seattle in the winter this won’t seem as weird as it sounds to, say, a Floridian. Thinking that the Ravens, if they wanted to, could bring us a sunny day was very welcome. At least somebody could do something about the weather and I could at least be nice to that person. Once it was so nice outside that we decided to take a meeting outdoors and somebody threw a rock at a Raven that was scolding us to make him go away. It was raining hard by the end of the meeting.
And they are not actually black. If you are lucky enough to find a Raven feather it’s beyond amazing to see it become sky blue or Douglas Fir green or Lotus Elan white.
So I became a raven lover. Being a raven lover, I put my joyous feelings of welcome asking the ravens to come to our yard to play. Although I didn’t do a dance, I created a glowing ball and pictured it rolling around the park. I retracted the whole glowy ball thing less than a week later and sent them an apology because my nerves just couldn’t handle the constant noise. It’s not like a robin or a red bird that has enough repetition and melody that you can tune it out at will. Ravens have conversations, arguments, flirtations, everything, the whole gamut of communication.
You are probably thinking I’m nuts. But scientists back me up. Studies show that in some ways ravens surpass the great apes, especially for memory. Except that, of all the intelligent species, Ravens have something fundamentally different. Ravens do not come from a family, pack, or group where the many is more important than the individual. Yes, Ravens flock, but members of that flock are just as likely to follow each other home so they can steal food as they are fly to each other’s rescue. It’s a much looser arrangement than apes have.
We know that the ravens flock because in the fall and spring *The Great Flock* flies around the park a few times. It is so loud that it can wake you out of a pretty deep sleep, even if you have the TV on and windows shut. It kind of rumbles, but not in a low frequency way. But it is something you experience more than hear. Somehow you feel it in the middle of your lungs. There are at least 500 birds, probably more. If just a part of *The Great Flock* flies towards you, you know that Hitchcock didn’t begin to capture the experience. I think that there are very few things that can remind humans that they are not necessarily at the top of the food chain. Being in the water with even a small shark. Or at the zoo looking a Tiger in the eye. And being anywhere near *The Great Flock*.
There are also times when we just see *The Flock* and not *The Great Flock*. *The Flock* doesn’t make you think of Hitchcock, but if you slow down and watch and listen you can tell they are up to something. Sometimes it’s fun, sometimes it’s food. Once it was romance and once you hear that call, you will always know immediately when they are up to that. It’s in this situation that you really get a feel for the fundamental difference that a non-cohesive family/pack makes. This is not a wolf pack or Father Knows Best. Maybe it’s more like a junior high school cafeteria.
But back to our nest. Suddenly a few years ago we had Ravens in are yard all the time, but they never made a sound. I would see them silently glide by, pausing on a branch to scan and then doing a silent glide to a new lookout. I have never found the nest, and maybe they change it every year, but since the glowy ball thing, every spring we have a nest in our yard. I thought them especially clever to find a way to hang out with me and yet not rub my nerves raw.
So back to this morning. I was working at the computer on about my second cup of Sunday Morning Coffee. Suddenly our Ravens were screaming. You could hear the fear and the anger and the hatred and the aggression. You could feel their panic. I felt pretty silly but I grabbed the dogs and went outside to check it out. I was yelling, “These Ravens are under our protection” but again I felt silly.
I heard one of their panicked calls from a tree I’ve never spotted them at before and I must have stood there trying to soothe them for about 3 minutes until I saw the Raccoon just below them. There, at least 30 to 40 feet from the ground, was the cutest little raccoon sitting on the branches with her paws out like a poodle begging. Oh yeah, she was that cute AND an egg sucking monster.
I called Mike and then I tried to throw sticks at the Raccoon while Ahken tried to catch them and he must have thought this was a very stupid game. But every once in a while the Raccoon would go up another few feet. The Ravens had backed off once I had come close to the tree although I could hear them still making their panicked calls in the distance.
Mike pointed out that we had effectively treed the Raccoon and now she couldn’t come down if she wanted and that the tree she was on wasn’t near enough to the others for an escape by branches. So I told the Ravens they had to take the battle up once again and started walking back to the house.
I felt horrible because the Raccoon had made 6 or so feet of progress whilst I had kept the Raven parents away. Even though I tried to make things better, I shouldn’t have interfered. The Ravens could have probably taken care of it themselves if I had given them the opportunity. That I had made a bad situation worse and that baby birds would die because of it and that’s pretty low.
Then I stepped through the threshold into the house.
You know in classical music when the soloist is done and suddenly the orchestra arrives? One beat they are not there, but on the next beat the whole symphony comes in. And even though you knew the song and you knew that the whole symphony was there, when they show up it and play that first note, it takes your breath away.
When I stepped through the threshold our solo had finished and *The Flock* had arrived. The cry they made came from every direction. There were no notes of panic or even anger. It was a call of supreme confidence. It must have been like this as a toddler when Mommy showed up and truly made things all better with a single swipe of her hand.
In 30 seconds it was quiet.
In one minute the small birds were singing again, which meant *The Flock* was long gone.
We’ve had the occasional caw from the ravens this morning, but mostly they are back to their silent glides. I wonder what the Ravens think about this whole thing. Humans have to be neutral to them, not prey and not a predator. I’d bet they never expected two humans and two wolves to answer their panicked calls. I wonder if that makes them feel powerful or scared?
Although I can’t know for sure, I think Mike and I bought some time for *The Flock* to show up. I’m happy that I lived up to my glowing sphere of welcome. When my Ravens called for help, I stepped up.
I wonder if *The Flock* has the human concept “You owe me”. Next November, it would be very, very, very nice to have the Ravens owe me one. Actually, it’s not why I did it and I really don’t think that my Ravens owe me anything. But then weird things happen in the Seattlites brain come November.