Monday, August 21, 2006

...And the Ravens Shall Inherit the Earth

MONDAY August 21 2006

A friend and I have figure it out: after we humans destroy the world and each other, the Ravens shall inherit the earth. They are clever, funny, fun-loving, daring, noisy but not homicidal, and just plain beautiful. One of my two most favorite photos is a raven sitting 3 feet away from a bald eagle in a bare tree in a snow storm, cawing right in the eagle’s face. My other favorite photo of all time is a close-up of an eagle, wings in a V-shape, feet and talons extended downward as he swoops toward some prey – and right above and copying him is a raven, same position.

I once saw 2 birds flying companionably together – what? I did a double take – it was a red-tailed hawk and a raven - and watched them. I expected the raven to be harassing the hawk, which he did, but with what looked to be minimal, obligatory enthusiasm. He made a half-hearted dive at the hawk, who barely had to alter her course; the raven made another lackadaisical lunge at the hawk, then flew alongside her. Then after one more lazy, well-missed swipe the raven continued his turn 180* and casually flew away east in the opposite direction, apparently having lost interest, but in no particular hurry to go anywhere fast. The raven had flapped about 50 yards away, already off in his own little world, when suddenly the hawk banked a sharp U-turn and zoomed east after the oblivious raven with obvious intent: to get him!, With hawk claws extended forward to grab those black feathers, a split-second before contact the raven tumbled downward, the hawk just missing him. The raven flapped onward east, now with a little more haste; and the hawk turned 180* to flap back west in the direction she’d come from, revenge completed – but suddenly she banked back again 180* toward the casually fleeing raven and swooped after him again! 60 miles an hour, claws extended, and the startled raven again tumbled away at the last second. The hawk then turned back 180* to the west and flew on, back on her original mission, and after a few beats the raven banked around 180*, picked up speed west after the hawk, caught up with her, and they appeared to fly companionably then, into the sunset, as far as my eyes could follow them.

I once watched groups of ravens in the Grand Canyon, playing, tumbling, twisting, diving, in the air currents. I’ve seen pictures of them playing in the snow – ‘bathing’ in it, flying to the top of a slope and sliding down over and over. Tell me they aren’t having fun.

I have 2 stuffed animal ravens, and a couple of times I’ve put them out in the open where ravens are flying about. They always come to investigate, calling their companions in also, either flying above or landing, often within a few feet. One raven in Death Valley walked right up, within a foot, of the smaller one I put on the ground.

Saturday evening after the endurance ride, just as it was about dark, I was driving home, passing the Hunewill Ranch, when – holy cow! I hit the brakes (luckily, nobody behind me!). There must have been 200 or 300 ravens, maybe 400, on the power poles and lines, as far as my eye could see in the dimming light. The last couple of weeks, morning and evening I’ve seen a group of 10 flying around my house, and I’ve heard of raven gathering to roost – but this was astonishing! Do they do this every night? Why? How do they decide where and when to congregate? (I hadn’t been by the Hunewill Ranch this particular time of night). Where can they all possibly go during the days? Bernd Heinrich has written some good books on the behavior of ravens.

Tonight near dark I jumped in my car with the 2 great gray owl girls I work with and we returned to the scene of the ravens – they were there again! Maybe only a hundred or 150, but they were there, on the same lines and poles. I think this will require more research this week!

So, since ravens are so smart and they will inherit the earth, I plan to come back as a raven in another life.

And, by the way, I ride every endurance ride with my little stuffed animal raven. He rides in a little pack attached to my saddle. He’s now completed 2200 miles!

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