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An individual, of no great importance, who is unable to the see the natural world as a place for competition. I catch fish, watch birds, derive immense pleasure from simply looking at butterflies, moths, bumble-bees, etc - without the need for rules! I am Dylan and this is my blog - if my opinions offend? Don't bother logging on again - simple!

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Sunday, 11 March 2018

In praise of the Raven

Being born in London I spent my formative years, growing up, in the New Town of Hemel Hempstead, as my parents plied their trade, as school teachers, in various schools of the district. However, the vast majority of my relatives remained in the capital and visits were frequent as family ties were far more important than they are today? Visits to the museums were regular, as were those to Battersea Fun Fair and The Tower of London; so obviously my first experience of Ravens. Those mythical inhabitants whose presence kept the site secure, according to the legend.
Over the years, as family holidays took us to the west country, Wales and Scotland, I came into contact with these magnificent birds, but always associated them with the rugged landscapes of coastal granite and Scottish mountains purely because of these experiences. It was sometime, in the early/mid - 80's and I was fishing Wilstone Res. The headquarters of The British Trust for Ornithology was in Tring and many of the employees spent time around the reservoir complex and it was, a very young, Steve Dudley who called a Raven, one evening, as huge flocks of mixed corvids made their way towards a communal roost site away in Ashridge or Wendover Woods? He got ruined by the disbelievers - me included. Whoever heard such nonsense, a Raven in the Home Counties, not a cliff or mountain in sight - bloody clown! Everyone now knows who had the last laugh - Steve's sighting had been the vanguard of a rapid colonization, of the region, by these highly adaptive birds.

A photo from our Scottish pike trip 2016. It can't do justice to the "personality" this species exudes when
experienced first hand. It's far more impressive than simply being dismissed as a "big" crow!
Moving down to Kent, in 1993, I immediately became involved with the county birding scene and enjoyed some amazing adventures as I sought to assemble a respectable county list. I think it was over five years before Raven made it as an entry. I had to "twitch" a lone bird, which was feeding on a sheep's carcass, down at Dungeness in order to make that happen. Yet, less than ten years later, the species was colonising "The Garden of England" starting at the White Cliffs between Dover and St. Margaret's. In 2018, Ravens are being sighted from a variety of locations around the county and have already bred on Thanet - a pair successfully used the, exposed, framework of the old Richborough Power Station, before it was dismantled.
I am now confident of recording the species, during the course of a year, no matter where in Kent I go. The vast flatlands of the Romney Marshes or Ash Levels, are just as likely to provide a  sighting as the sea cliffs of Folkestone and Dover. I even have it on my garden list and hope that I'll never cease to be thrilled by their resonant low croaking contact calls and the impressive spectacle of these massive corvids as they "play" on the wind.

5 comments:

  1. I thought we'd seen a raven on a big stillwater just off the River Orwell on Friday. No bins to get a better look but they are seen further down the coast in North East Essex.

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    1. Always the sceptic, I'm of the opinion that if you "think" you've seen one - you haven't! Ravens, just like Goshawks, are so big! It's a bit like the difference between a Spitfire and a Lancaster, they are so impressive you simply know that they can't be anything else? Doesn't mean you didn't see one, just my thoughts - Dyl

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  2. Definitely one of my favourite birds Dyl. When I first heard one calling on my local patch, in the midst of the cacophony of crows and jackdaws, I thought I was hearing things. A minute after I'd convinced myself I had, it called even closer and flew rather conveniently over my head as it did so. The air was punched. A London Raven in Harrow!
    Turned out to be three of them. Great watching them demonstrate their mastery of the air in the breeze that day.

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    1. Ric, I think that it's the ingrained association of Ravens with rugged environments which makes these encounters so much more exciting. The additional factor being that the species has done this without any assistance from "relocation projects" which have been so successful in the reintroduction of Ospreys and Red Kites. I still haven't seen one in Hertfordshire, but have enjoyed prolonged views of family groups riding the winds at Hampton Lode, on The Severn, and Mt Ainos (Aenos ?) in Kefalonia. Doesn't matter where they are encountered, the thrill is just the same - they are magnificent birds and to see them locally is a real buzz! - Dyl

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