Friday, May 31, 2019

Fun with Ravens at Sea Ranch

Sea Ranch is a beautiful seaside development at the northern end of Sonoma County.  We like to rent homes there that overlook the ocean.  Last week we rented a house right on the cliffs overlooking the ocean with glass windows all along the wall of the house that faced the ocean.  What a view.  When we first arrived there was a parade of whales making their way toward Alaska.  One after the other we could see the whale's water/vapor spouts and then their backs as they dove under the waves.  It was really a grand sight.  After getting settled I noticed a nearby tree with ravens!
These were really BIG ravens.  They were flying all around but would return to the top of the tree periodically. I had a good time watching them for the 4 days that we visited with them.  We had purchased some chicken eggs that we were not going to use so...raven food.  I put an egg on top of a small dirt mound just outside the ocean view window.  Before you knew it- here comes raven wheeling in the wind and scooping up the egg.  Wow- such agility in the strong wind.  The weather was unsettled with high wind/rain/sun..didn't bother raven.  We put out the rest of the eggs over a period of time and were rewarded with raven coming and picking each one up and flying off to the nearby tree.  I always get a kick out of seeing raven grab an egg and fly off.  It was a good raven visit.
Back at home I had discontinued putting food out for raven because a pair of vultures figured out raven's schedule of visiting around 9:30 AM for food.  The pair of vultures would sit on my neighbors roof like VULTURES and wait for me to appear with the food.  Raven never got any.  Vultures are so much bigger than raven- out competed.
It has been awhile and the vultures are no longer visiting each morning.  I put an egg out the other morning and raven picked it up-yeah!  I may be back in business with raven.  I hope so but I will watch the skies for the big black vultures.

Thursday, February 15, 2018


Whenever we go over to the ocean for the day I always take some peanuts for the ravens.  We park our old van up on the Bodega Head and look for the raven pair.  They live in a grove of trees some distance from the parking lot.  They invariably come around flying along the edge of the cliff in front of the van.  So I get my peanuts at the ready and throw some out for the ravens.  The trouble is- the seagulls really like peanuts too!  The crafty seagulls swoop in and sometimes- read most of the time- get the peanuts before the ravens have time to consider their strategy.  I have used various ploys in the past to get the peanuts to the ravens BUT this time we had another problem.
Starlings!!  This is the first time I have seen starlings around Bodega Bay.  They are proliferating all over California and now have made it all the way across the country to the Pacific shore.  Why someone brought them over here from Europe I do not know.  They are not very pretty, are very loud, eat grapes, and generally are obnoxious.  When I was young I used to spend the summers with my grandmother in York, PA.  My grandmother loved birds in general but despised starlings.  At night they would congregate and sit on the electric wires above the side walk and make noise and poop on the sidewalk. She would go outside with a pot and spoon and bang on it to scare them away.  It did not work.  She was afraid they would steal the babies from the robin nest in the cherry tree in our backyard.
So here I was in Bodega Bay trying to give treats to the raven pair and what do have for company- a bunch of starlings. (I think a bunch of starlings is called a mummeration) They are faster than seagulls and ravens.  I throw out a peanut and they are there to grab it.  They are very FAST.  They are survivors. So what can you do??  Starlings just want to eat. So the solution next time is to walk up to the raven hangout in the trees and give them treats before the starlings and seagulls find out what is up!!!
So here at home in Napa yesterday there was a real food fight.  I had put out a hunk of cooked chicken for the ravens and some peanuts.  I heard a racket outside so I went to see what was going on.  Two ravens were on the ground near the food with a buzzard circling around overhead.  The ravens were squawking and making all kinds of noise but the buzzard prevailed.  He swooped down and picked up the chicken and took flight.   What I learned from this is that I have to limited the size of the pieces of meat that I put out for the ravens.  A bigger piece attracts the turkey vultures (buzzards) and makes it worth their while to fly down and pick it up.  Poor ravens- they only had peanuts for lunch yesterday.
A note on the effects of the Napa firestorm of last October 2017.  Behind my former home on Mt. Veeder there was a 2000 year old sequoia tree.  From my window I could often see raven sitting on the top of this tree.  From there he had a panoramic view of the hills and Mt. Veeder Road.  A friend had gone up to check on the tree and had taken a picture.  I could not believe it.  It was completely black from the fire.  It had survived for 2000 years.  It survived the logging of the redwoods that took place after the earthquake in San Francisco at the turn of the last century.  It's unusual shape had deemed it not worthy for lumber to rebuild San Francisco and now it looked doomed.  I am so sad.  We will have to wait to see if the cambium layers are still alive under the blackened bark.  We will look for sprouts of green this Spring- hope upon hope that it is still alive.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Bold and Shy have a new home

Last night we had a picking party as in playing music with guitars/ukuleles/violins/bass and mandolin.  My  5 year old granddaughter was right in there with her ukulele- singing along.  A fine time was had by all!  It was a get together to celebrate surviving 2017.  Our bass player lost his house in the Mt. Veeder fire.  Our guitar player had her house partially burn down.  Our former neighbors on Mt. Veeder just got to move back into their house now since they finally got the power restored to their home.  They lost their studio and winemaking facility in the fire.  It has been a hard year all the way around.  The good news of the night is that Bold and Shy raven are still alive and have taken up residence in the redwood trees near our friend John's house up on Lokoya Road.  By a miracle or a shift in the wind John's house did not burn down.  He says the raven pair appear to be nesting up in a tree near his house.  This was wonderful news for me.  When he left the party last night I gave him a box of eggs and asked him to put them out for Bold and Shy.  They LOVE eggs.  The ravens here at my current house- not so much.  Strange isn't it?  The ravens of Crystal Court prefer MEAT not eggs.
They show up every morning at 9:30 to see what is in the offering for the day.  The other day I looked out to see if they were eating the chicken meat and fat I had put out and what did I see.  A crow was eating most of the food and the raven was watching!  WHAT!!! Bold and Shy would have run that crow out of town!!!!  These ravens here are very shy and reserved.  They are not honky/tonky strutting birds like Bold and Shy!  I wonder what the difference is???  When I lived on Mt. Veeder the ravens could see me sleeping in my bed.  If I did not get up in time to FEED them they would bang on the windows until I got up.  I would never expect to see this type of behavior from my shy and retiring pair where I live now.  Such a difference, it is hard to explain.  Well I love them all those saucy black birds!

Monday, December 4, 2017


I have it on good authority that Bold and Shy ravens of Mt. Veeder survived the fire that overtook the mountain in early October.  I am so happy that they must have been able to fly away from the fire fast enough to survive.  I have yet to go up to Mt. Veeder to survey the damage.  I just cannot make myself go up there to see what is left.  I am told that all that is left of our beautiful house is the chimney.  I just cannot believe it and I do not want to see it.  Lokoya Lodge which was located behind our former home was destroyed.  All the cabins burned down.  I have rented one of these cabins in previous years during the summer.  I would go up there for the day and paint and play with Bold and Shy.  They loved to play the EGG game.  I would put an egg in an unusual spot- like inside the cavity of a tree stump and they would find it. They would then pick it up and fly off with it.  What fun that was!  I feel so bad for the owners of the lodge.  It was their home and livelihood.

Everything is in great disarray right now.  PG&E is being blamed for the fires because they did not keep the trees trimmed away from the power lines.  So in response PG&E has contract crews up on Mt. Veeder cutting down trees left and right.  The biggest problem is that they are cutting down huge redwood trees that survive fires just fine and are not going to fall on the power lines. There were redwood trees on our property up there that bore burn marks from the last forest fire in the 1940s. 
They survived and continued to grow. This wanton destruction is getting people up there hopping mad.  Mt. Veeder is the most eastern stand of redwoods.  It take years to replace a giant redwood tree.

It is around 9:15 and this is the time my raven pair come to see what is on offer for breakfast at my house.  We went to a chicken dinner at the Native Sons of the Golden West the other night.  There were lots of chicken scraps left which I gathered up.  I just went outside to put the food out and my raven pair had just alighted in my neighbors deodar cedar tree.  So all is well with the ravens here.

We went to Berkeley the other week to 4th Street to visit the shops.  I came across a shop called Castles in the Air.  What a fabulous place.  They have very unusual items and hold classes on all sorts of crafts.  What did I see in the window but the most fabulous raven mask!!!  I inquired and they had a class on raven mask construction coming up.  Unfortunately it was a date that our band was performing so I could not attend- however they let me buy a mask constructed by the teacher of the class!  It is a wonderful contrivance of paper, feathers, beads and ribbons all in raven black of course.  I have it on display in my living/craft/music room for all to admire.  And so life goes, some happiness, some tragedy  and the days keep on rolling on until our end.  I read a book recently about Nepal where they lay out the dead on a mountain side so the ravens and others can eat- not a bad idea in my opinion.  I do not think I could get my body laid out on Mt. Veeder but my ashes will be stashed in a hole in the ground in Dixon.  Such a waste of potential raven food.  Ah well- the sun is shining and it is time to go get a Christmas tree and get decorating for the season.  Cheers!

Sunday, October 22, 2017


I am very sad to report that the hills and mountains on the East and West sides of the Napa Valley have been on fire for the last two weeks.  The fires are now out except for some hot spots and we are beginning to access the damage.  The Mount Veeder area where I used to live and where I meet Bold and Shy ravens was very hard hit by the fire storm. Looking at the county map of impacted areas I can see that neighbors on both sides and across the street lost their homes to fire.  The Enchanted Hills Camp for the Blind across the way was destroyed.  Bold and Shy spent a good deal of their time at the camp- cawing and clacking at the blind patrons.  I am so sad.  I loved the camp and my former home.  We had put so much work and money into it to make it what it became.  I hoped that the two ladies that bought the house enjoyed it as much as we did.  It is hard to believe it has been reduced to a pile of ash.  Mt. Veeder Rd. is still closed so most people have not been able to access their properties to see the damage. If you are a grape grower you can get an agricultural pass to let you access your property.  My next door neighbor up there was able to do that.  His facility for winemaking burned but his house did not.  The fire skipped around based on the wind direction.  His two big water tanks full of water burned down- amazing.  So at least his house was spared. It appears the little cabins that we rented up there in the summer months so that I could play with Bold and Shy have also burned down.

I hope and pray that Bold and Shy were able to fly away from the fire.  We will know eventually.  We will hear their calls eventually if they are still alive.  Oh God of Earth and Sky I hope they are ok.

My lone raven here where I live now has attracted a mate.  So there are now two noisy ravens calling to me each morning for FOOD!  What I find interesting is that these ravens do not like raw chicken eggs very much.  They will take one once in awhile but usually they are left for the grey fox.  The fox visits toward twilight.  What they like is MEAT and FAT.  They really like chicken fat.  I trim it off chicken thighs and then they have a feast.  Today they got raw bacon strips since I am clearing out the refrigerator.  The fire storm started on a Sunday night about 11 PM when the wind from hell started up.  I could not sleep all night for the banging of branches against the windows and the sounds of the howling winds. The next morning the power was out/cell towers down/no house phone working.  The power was off for two days.  We took our frozen food to a friends house.  I was cat sitting for her so we got to use her phone and TV and refrigerator.  Now I am sorting out what to discard from the refrigerator and the bacon had to go even though the refrigerator remainder very cold.  So raven gets a good treat and will get some chicken fat tomorrow.  What lucky ravens they are.  I continue to get to know the local ravens  Sometimes the raven sits up in my neighbors giant deodar tree and makes racket.  I call back.  We do this for some amount of time.  We enjoy it the raven and I.  Not so much the neighbors?  They never say.

Well if this posting seems disjointed it is because I am still not ok after this fire.  Too many friends lost their homes and things will never be the same.  We went to the Reunion of the Decade of the 1960's for Napa High School yesterday.  We saw many old friends and the talk was all about the fire and who had been burned out.   It was very upsetting.  We left after lunch and took a ride up the valley to Calistoga.  It was a beautiful day, the air was clear and clean and the valley is still a lovely place.  You can see some blackened burned spots on the hillsides but other than that it looks about the same.  As soon as the rains come the grasses and wildflowers will follow and the burned areas will disappear.  The earth will repair itself, the fireweed will bloom and wine will be made and RAVENS will fly once again over the valley and in the hills.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Eclipse Day but Ravens VISIT Anyway

Well the eclipse just passed us by.  It is somewhat overcast today with variable clouds but one could see the happening in the sky. I put out TWO chicken eggs for Raven today to celebrate and some unsalted peanuts in the shell.  Raven arrived in the middle of the eclipse to get his treat.  He was not bothered by an eclipse since he is messenger of the world and already knew about it for days.
Two days ago I heard the raven call so I went outside to look.  He was way up on the top of a huge pine tree calling to me.  Cool- I went out and put his treats, chicken egg, chicken fat and peanuts in his special place.  Just about then the little girl next door came out screaming her head off and the gardener next door started up his blower.  Life in the burbs.  This never happened up on Mt. Veeder, living on 5 acres.. but here in burbs there is always NOISE.  So RAVEN took off never to be seen again that day.  I left the food out and some creature got it in the night and left a calling card- raccoon or fox?  Could not tell.
Oh well- they got a treat thanks to the noisy day!  All is well after the eclipse, raven got his food, the gold finches got their Niger seeds, orioles have a full feeder and it is a beautiful day!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


After many days of rain, mudslides, downed trees and general weather mayhem in the Napa Valley- the sun came out!  So we decided it was a good day to pack up the old trusty van with pillows, comfy pad and sleeping bags and venture to Bodega Bay for the day.  It was a beautiful day with no wind and a high tide.  Our first stop was The Tides Restaurant in Bodega Bay.  Since it was a Monday we got right in and snagged a seat at the window.  We had a great lunch and watched the crab boats going in and out of the harbor.  We also saw some fishing seals and diving ducks from our window on the sea.  It was a great location and a wonderful start to our day.  We then drove up to Bodega Head and situated our van so that the back of the van was facing the ocean.  With the back door of the van up we had a beautiful view of the ocean and could listen to the waves hitting the rocks below.  We could also lay in the back of the van and read our books in comfort. (an aside- I was reading the last of the Midnight Louie mysteries- number 28.  After 25 years the author is ending this series and I will miss Midnight Louie and his band of humans and cat friends.)
We decided to take the trail walk the goes around the promontory.  From this walk you can see the opening to Tomales Bay, the open ocean, the protected opening to Bodega Bay and Doran Beach.  It is quite the view.
As we approached a gnarled cypress tree- lo- what did I see but my Bodega Bay raven friends.  They were perched up in the tree watching our approach.  I just happened to have a bag of unsalted roasted peanuts in the shell in my pocket.  I tossed some out but they landed in the deep wet grass and the ravens had a hard time seeing them.  So I put some on the dirt path and here they came!  They followed us for awhile and I would put peanuts on the trail as we walked.  It was all good fun.  We also saw a great blue heron and a great white egret sitting in the raven tree.  All and all it was a great sight.  The heron and egret were not interested in the peanuts.
When we got back to the van I saw the ravens sitting on a small rise above the parking lot.  That crafty pair were watching me to see if I had anymore peanuts.  I had saved a few.  As soon as I approached the ravens they strutted down the small hill toward me.  They had fingered me, those crafty birds!  I had a hard time getting the peanuts to the ravens as we had attracted a crowd of noisy seagulls.  I then had to wait for the seagulls to lose interest before I could resume feeding the ravens.  I soon ran out of peanuts and all I had left was an oat breakfast bar package.  I broke the bars up into 4 pieces and threw them to the ravens.  One raven picked up three pieces and the other raven got one.  They were immediately chased by the seagulls but did not drop any of the food.  From now on I will give the ravens their snacks away from the parking lot where the seagulls hang out. 
So all and all it was a great beautiful day at Bodega Bay.  We finished the day by stopping by the shack that sells chowder (yum yum) and bought some for our dinner at home that night. It was all special and I am grateful that I live so close to the ocean and such a beautiful spot.  It was also special because I had my Valentine Chuck with me for the days adventure.