It has been a long while since Conall caught a vole in the yard, so his food bank for the local raven pair has been bare.
I worried that the ravens had given up on us as I hadn’t seen or heard them much recently.
Now I realize that was mostly due to weather. We’ve been getting a lot of new snow in February. Even though I’m sure the ravens are flying and searching for food each day, even as the snow falls and visibility is down to a quarter of a mile, I’m not able to see them unless they’re flying right over the house.
Today, though, the clouds parted and the sun reappeared.
First thing I noticed this morning was a set of tracks on top of the snow in the field, just below the yard fence. Right where I had tossed the boys’ marrow bones last night. Marrow bones that were cut so long that there was still some marrow left in the middle where the boys’ tongues couldn’t quite reach.
I know they’re raven tracks because they’re isolated in the middle of the field. Four-legged critters, like a fox or coyote, leave long meandering tracks across the entire field, showing how they arrived and departed.
Not long after I noticed the raven tracks, I heard the boys crash out through the dog door, Finn barking furiously, the distinctive bark he reserves just for the ravens. I ran to the window and saw both ravens on the snow in the field, but before I could find my phone to record them, they flew off.
Nice to know the ravens are paying attention and noticing that while we may not be able to provide them with voles, we can occasionally toss them some bones.
A bit later, one of the ravens returned to the field. This time I had my phone handy and captured some video before I spooked it into taking flight and retreating to the peak of the neighbor’s garage.
Then its mate arrived on the scene, landing on the higher peak of of the neighbor’s house, which is where they usually hang out, able to keep keen eyes on this part of their territory from that high perch. (This neighbor leaves for the winter. The local fox, coyote, and these ravens turn his house and property into their winter safe spaces, which makes nice wildlife viewing for me.)
Knowing there were treats somewhere in the snow, the ravens kept returning, searching. Finn kept barking.
I’m amazed that the ravens know to look for the marrow bones I tossed out there last night. Especially since Conall and I haven’t been enticing them here with voles lately. The bones are fairly heavy, and I give them a pretty high, curving trajectory when I toss them. Surely they crash through the snow to a significant depth when the land, the soft surface snow tumbling in after and covering them. Maybe the ravens notice small depressions in the snow as they fly over, a disturbance in the otherwise smooth surface of the snow in the field. I don’t believe ravens have a keen sense of smell, so I’m thinking their ability to find these marrow bones is based on visual cues.
As the day wore on, the boys kept watch.
This evening, as I was attending to my daily dog-bomb-clearance duty in the yard and the sun was descending toward the horizon, the raven pair did their thing – an evening series of big soaring circles over the neighborhood and my house before heading to the trees at the edge of the forest to roost for the night. Finn was not happy.
I’m so grateful to have these ravens to watch. I’m grateful they visit regularly, entertaining me and irritating Finn (which also entertains me). In the depth of winter there is precious little wildlife to view, especially in a year like this one where the snow is so soft and deep. I haven’t seen any white-tailed deer crossing my lot in weeks. I did see a fox yesterday, first time in a while. Actually, Conall saw it first and alerted me with his woofing. I figured the coyote, who has been a regular visitor most of this winter, had chased it off. But the coyote has been absent lately, so it seems the fox feels safe returning and the snow has finally consolidated enough that, light as she is, she can trot across the snow’s surface. Heavier animals, like deer – and me, and my dogs – still punch through, making travel arduous.
Even as the sun was setting this evening, the ravens secure in their forest roost, Finn kept watching the sky, making sure we were safe from them. It’s his job, herding them away.
Feature photo: a still taken from one of the videos. Note the snow load on the neighbor’s roof. We’ve had a bunch of snow so far this winter, more coming later this week.