Sunday, 19 February 2012

Rainbow Trail

Walk on a rainbow trail; walk on a trail of song, and all about you will be beauty. There is a way out of every dark mist, over a rainbow trail.
- A Navajo Blessing

Double Rainbows at Boya Lake Provincial Park on the Stewart Cassiar Highway in B.C.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Raven Antics

My ravens don't do antics. They don't slide or roll down snow-covered roofs or hills as reported elsewhere in news stories. Instead, they land in the driveway or under the feeders and pig out on sunflower seed. At one time, I counted 24 of the big birds in the driveway. But, I have trained them. When they see me moving at the big living room window or opening the front door, they know to leave. Of course, they're back within minutes. One day, when I was in the back yard putting out seed in the feeders, a group of 18 or so, flew lower in the sky as they passed by, and when they saw me, they continued on to bother the dogs down the road. If the ravens can't eat seed, they'll eat dog food.

They are smart survivors. Leave any garbage out, and within seconds, the black birds have found it. We've all seen instances of pick-ups parked at the grocery store, and ravens tearing open boxes and bags to get at food. Happened to us, but not from our vehicle, but from a boat. My husband and I, with some friends, were boating down the Yukon River from Dawson City to Ft. Yukon when we landed outside of Eagle, Alaska and walked into town. No ravens were around; never gave a thought about the cardboard boxes in the boats that contained groceries. When we returned to the boats, at first we were puzzled at seeing the top of the boxes torn, but, when we discovered a bread bag missing, we knew who the culprits were. The robbers had disappeared to eat their prize.

Ravens are fun to watch. In Whitehorse, there are clay cliffs bordering the town along the river, and ravens are always riding the thermals. In cold temperatures, they fluff out their leg feathers as they walk in the driveway. A raven will also fluff out its neck and throat feathers when annoyed at another raven. I've watched ravens using their big beaks to dig through sea weed or pick up sea urchins. And they are beautiful birds. When the sunlight shines on their feathers, the solid black becomes iridescent purples and blues; the feathers layered in intricate patterns.

I have seen one antic, and not with my driveway ravens. When driving this winter past a parking lot, I spotted two ravens on the ground. One lay sideways; the second one sat close by poking at a black rope or wire that the first raven lay on. When the bird stood up, the wire/rope stayed under its feet. Were its feet caught in the wire/rope?  I stopped and watched. The second raven tugged again at the wire/rope; the first raven lay back down and rolled around while holding onto an end of the wire/rope. The second raven flew away, and the first raven stood up triumphantly holding a stiff wire in its beak. It flew off with its prize.

There is one behavior that ravens do in Watson Lake that I've never seen anywhere else. They ride on vehicles! If someone is parked at the gas station or grocery store, there's a good chance that the raven sitting on the hood of their vehicle will hitch a ride. Like a hood ornament, the bird sits still and faces into the wind as the vehicle travels. After a few hundred yards, the raven flies away.

In the North, the Common Raven will always be part of our lives.