As a birdwatcher, have you ever seen a raven? Not as frequently sighted along Buzzards Bay, the raven is at least twice as big as the similar-looking common crow or fish crow, with a different sounding guttural croak, often seen high overhead while nesting in elevated trees or roosting on narrow ledges of rocky cliffs.
Considered a passerine or perching species, ravens have the largest-size brain for their body size of all birds and are known around the world for intelligence high enough to overlap with humans, second only to the porpoise.
The raven mystique dates back to Nordic mythology where two by the name of Hugin and Munin each represented the power of thought and reason. In England, ravens are still kept as guardians of the Tower of London because of the medieval superstition that their presence there assured that this iconic landmark would never fall.
Even in the new world, Native American folklore believed them to be spiritually sacred. Ravens continued to border upon a paranormal relationship with humans more recently in the poem by Edgar Allen Poe in a creative portrayal of a remarkable talking bird, knocking on his door with lyrics of a rhyming mystical ‘Lenore’ that lives on in American literature as a real life person.
Poe’s choice of a raven to play the part of a lovelorn character role may be because they normally mate for life after performing an aerial courtship dance ceremony, with male and female locking talons in flight to spiral down towards Earth and not letting go until the last second.
Being cleverer than most birds, they have a way of getting what they want through cooperation and communication with each other, and, like humans, using tools to pry and extract food from crevasses.
Like crows, the raven is known to mob other predators and steal some of the morsels of a carcass. It is especially known, like seagulls, for dropping clams on rocks to open them up or picking up stones to fly overhead to warn unwanted visitors of its nesting site or fledglings (as illustrated) and dropping them in an accurate trajectory while uttering an unfriendly sounding ‘glug’ to show their intrusion displeasure.
As we begin a new year with each passing day of more daylight hours, birdwatching becomes more rewarding and significant. My greeting of the season for you as a reader is to “look skyward, angel” to find creative and artistic inspiration as we share the wonder of it all.
By George B. Emmons