Monday, November 30, 2009

The Wind Storm

The last two days have been very windy.  The power was out in many parts of Napa.  The raven pair arrived right on time for their morning treat but appeared to be very disgruntled.  Their feathers were all askew from the wind.   I placed  two raw chicken eggs far apart on the ground.  This was done because the day before I had placed the chicken eggs close together on the ground and Bold came down and poked a hole in each one.  This precluded Shy from picking up one of the eggs and flying off with it to eat it in peace.  Bold had demonstrated one of raven's primary characteristics- GREED!!
This morning the treat was a slice of french bread with a raw piece of bacon on top.  I had heard Bold arrive as he was making his little raven sounds so I went downstairs and outside to look at him.  He was looking mighty fine.  I could hear another raven in the distance and shortly after Shy flew in to alight in the redwood tree.  I decided to place the pieces of bread at some distance from each other along the deck rail to preclude Greedy Bold from getting both pieces.  Bold flew down and picked up the piece of bread and the bacon and flew up to the favored tree stump to eat.  This left Shy looking bereft in the tree.  Soon enough Bold picked up what was left of the prize and flew off with it.  Now- would Shy see the other piece of bread on the deck rail?  Shy did and flew down and got the morning treat.  I was pleased.
I just finished a book- Sky Burial by XINRAN.  It is a love story that centers on a lost love and a Tibetan funeral rite called Sky Burial.  In this rite the body is dismembered with knives and left under the sky for the sacred birds- vultures to eat the flesh and carry the body skyward to be with the spirits and enter heaven.  There must not be any ravens in Tibet or I am sure they would get in on this funeral rite.  It is interesting how different cultures can view the same occurence so differently- ie European perceptions vs. Tibetan of carrion bird activities.  Perhaps when I die I should just be laid out on Mt. Veeder to serve as raven food.  Recycling, no?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ravens in the fairy trees

The ravens arrived right on time this morning. Bold was sitting on his favorite branch watching me while I prepared my tea in the kitchen.  This morning they were served two raw chicken eggs and the tuna fish that Andy the cat did not eat last night.  They really liked the tuna.  After eating, they flew away and landed  in the fairy trees.  They really like to sit in these two trees.  This morning they were preening each other's neck feathers while resting in the trees.  The fairy trees are two native oak trees.  These trees were completely obscured by rangy fir and bay trees when we first moved here.  After clearing the hillside of the brush, the two oak trees were discovered.  In the ensuing years the trees have regained their vigor and have grown toward one another.  The two trees are bent from being in competition for light for so many years.  The main trunks and branches cross over one another to make what looks like an arch- this truly must be where the fairies live.  It is a lovely spot and favored by the ravens.  I look upon the fairy trees in all seasons and appreciate their tenacity.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Shy makes her move!

The ravens were hanging out in the Raven Creek valley all day yesterday.  Their off site food supply that had kept them occupied and elsewhere must be exhausted.  So- they are BACK!!!  I was going in and out of the house all day- bringing in groceries- taking books out to the car for the library book sale- poking about in general and I had two ravens observing my every move.  Darn if they aren't nosey parkers!  In the afternoon I was cleaning out the refrigerator and found some old bacon slices- perfect raven food- lots of FAT!    I put the bacon out on the deck railing in two distinct piles in hopes that Shy would get some of the bacon.  But NO- Bold came down and gathered up all the bacon slices- stuffing them all in his beak.  Bold looked quite comical with bacon slices hanging down in all directions out of his beak.  He took his stash up to the top of a cut off redwood tree where he put some down and began to eat the rest.  I was watching Shy.  I could tell Shy was getting quite agitated.  All at once Shy flew up to the bacon banquet and grab several pieces of bacon in the beak and flew off!!  Good for Shy!!  Enough is enough!!  Of course ravens are the greedy gusses of the corvid world- can't be helped- but it was very entertaining to see Bold get the snatch put on his private stash of bacon. 

The ravens just arrived for their morning snack, two raw chicken eggs and salmon scraps.   It is 7:18 AM- right on time- actually a little early- how do they tell time without a Timex? 

Sunday, November 22, 2009


I just discovered to my horror that the collective noun for a group of ravens is an UNKINDNESS.  The collective noun for a group of crows is a murder.  Who came up with these UNKIND terms??  It must be a European thing from the time of the black death- with so many corpses around the crows and ravens had much to eat much to the horror of the people.  Nature's recyclers.  
We had a large group of juvenile ravens fly in last night and pick the big redwood tree next to the new deck for their nightly roost.  It is so marvelous to watch- birds flying in from all directions- choosing one tree and then another- flying to and fro until they settle on one particular tree.  Once they decide on a tree, they all settle in and quiet down.  At that point ,between the darkness of the interior of the tree and the night falling it is impossible to see the birds.  I however know they are there and am very pleased indeed.  This morning I went to the window to see them fly out into the world, but missed them- got up a little too late.  I hope they will return one day.  One never knows how they chose their nightly tree refuge.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Bodega Bay Ravens- Ravens all around

We were gone for a few days to Bodega Bay and of course I was on the look out for my favorite birds.  Down at Doran Beach I heard the raven call!  There was a pair of ravens in the stand of big dark pine trees near the parking lot.   The beach was separated from the trees by a sand dune which was about 50 wide.  The ravens were difficult to see because the trees were so thick and dark.  Once my eyes got used to looking at the trees I could finally see the two ravens sitting close together doing their canoodling thing.  I decided to see if I could get them to come down to the ground so that I could get a better look at them.  There were some oatmeal raisin cookies in the car so I went and got two cookies.  As I was walking back to the stand of trees, I was surrounded by seagulls.  They were no dummies= they saw food in my hand and wanted it very badly.  As soon as I passed from the beach, over the sand dune to the area under the trees- the seagulls disappeared.  The distance was very short but the seagulls would not go near the trees.  It was very interesting that despite their desire for the food, they would not go near the trees. 
The raven pair watched my approach.  I held the cookies up over my head so that they could see them clearly.  I then placed them on the ground and backed away to see what they would do.  One raven came down immediatly to check it out.  He did the look at it- jump forward- jump back to see if it was alive- look it over but I never saw the bird pick the cookie up.  I stood over by the parking lot for sometime watching the ravens. The first raven down then flew back up in the trees.  The second raven began its approach- jumping from higher branch to lower branch all the time keeping an eye on me. I was distracted by a man with 2 bigs dogs and when I looked back both ravens were in the tree.  At this point I walked back over to where I put the cookies and they were both GONE!  So the ravens got the cookies when I wasn't looking!!   It was fun to have a raven adventure away from home.
 Bold and Shy should be arriving this morning at 7:30 AM  by the clock and will probably be disgusted since I have been gone and no food appeared for a couple of days.   The ravens don't care about that- they come at the same hour as always and are ready to see what is on the menu today.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ravens All Around

Yesterday morning the ravens came at their usual time- 6:30 AM- to see what treat I had in store for their culinary pleasure.  I put out two eggs for the first time in a week.  This time I put the eggs on the ground at the end of the path near the door instead of in the flower box on the deck railing.   Both ravens were sitting in the redwood tree watching me as I walked along the path with the eggs held over my head.  I called to them- here are your eggs ravens and if you take them up on the roof to eat them you are in BIG trouble!  Bold was the first to pick up an egg and fly off down the valley- then Shy picked one up and followed Bold down the valley.  So they got the hint-  smart ravens!!  They are such a sight- flying with a chicken egg in their beaks!  I never tire of seeing them pick up an egg and fly off with it.

Later that morning we went downtown to see the high school band review.  Thirty high school bands from Northern California were strutting their stuff on the streets of Old Napa Town.  We sat near the band stand review station so that we could see them perform.  It was quite a sight and we liked the Fairfield High band with the bagpipes the best- however my alma mater- Napa High School wasn't too shabby!  But hark- what did I hear but a RAVEN call amid all the band sounds.  I looked up and there was a raven perched on top of a very large tree in front of the old court house!

About two years ago we were having lunch downtown and noticed a pair of ravens flying in and out of this very same tree.  On further inspection we could see a nest near the top of this tree.  The ravens were flying in and out of the tree- bringing food to their babies.  So it seems there is a resident raven pair in downtown Napa who have alot of RAVEN FUN watching the human antics on the streets of Old Napa Town!

No matter where I go in my travels, my ear is tuned to the sound of the raven call.   It does my heart good to know that these birds are able to survive in so many different environments and that there are Ravens All Around!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


The ravens have been very naughty.  They have been eating their eggs on the roof.  This is not allowed as we have a membrane roof and a sharp raven beak could poke a hole in it.  So we have been yelling at them to get off the roof!  They do not like to be yelled at- loud noises bother them.  As a result of all the yelling they have become skitterish especially when they see my husband.  But never mind they come every morning at the regular time to see what is up.  No more eggs for them for awhile.  This morning the raven restaurant was serving chicken remains- chicken fat and the remains of a baked chicken- yum for them.  There is always a danger when I put out a large treat that the buzzard will see it and come down and get it.  The buzzard patrols the skies above the house on a regular basis to see what is going on.  He has never forgotten the day that I threw the turkey remains out the door - what a treat- and Bold raven was out of luck on that one.  Two buzzards had a Thanksgiving feast.  Bold is out there in the tree making all kinds of raven sounds- Bold sounds very happy today sans eggs- chicken will do.  We have had a helicopter flying overhead rather a lot lately.  I think raven tries to imitate the sound even though he does not like loud noises- why do we have a helicopter up here I ask?  Looking for marijuana I expect.  Life on the mountain is never dull.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


I put out the raven food yesterday morning and had no takers.  What in the world was going on?  I then went out on the deck to enjoy the nice weather and suddenly I heard it- raven racket.  Lots of noise and scolding and flying about.  There were 4 ravens in the valley.  Bold and Shy were not happy with the intruders and wanted them OUT- go away- get a new plan Stan- remove thyselves!!  This racket went on for sometime.  In the afternoon Bold and Shy returned to the redwood trees and got their food.  They were very quietly sitting on the tree branch as if nothing had transpired.  Peace in the valley had returned with Bold and Shy retaining their territory- banishing the upstart ravens! 

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Picky Eaters

Yesterday was a first.  The ravens came in the morning as usual but made very little noise.  They were out there in the redwood trees making their soft little sounds to each other and preening each others feathers.  I got up to get my tea and to put some food out on the deck rail.  I put out an egg, 5 bread slices, some dry dog food and a piece of beef- what a raven feast!  They just looked at the food and did not come down to get any of it.  So I went away.  When I came back they had flown off with 2 pieces of bread and that was all- they did not take the meat!  This was unprecedented!!  Seems they were full of food from some other source and were not very hungry.  When raven finds a great food source they will eat as much as possible until they can barely fly.  No wonder they spent most of the day sitting in the trees watching what I was doing. 

It must be hunting season right now as I have heard a number of gunshots lately.  Perhaps a hunter has left a food source behind that the ravens like.  We also have the remains of a deer on our property that would be raven food.  There are always dead gray squirrels on the road also- why the squirrels run across the road and toward the cars is a mystery to me!  So raven has plenty to eat- no wonder they are so big and beautiful.

Yesterday afternoon we took a ride down the mountain to sit in the sun by the Napa River and watch the fish jump.  A block down from our house is a open field by an old house.  It was full of juvenile ravens all pecking around in the new grass looking for something to eat.  I wonder if ravens eat ladybugs?  The lady bugs have arrived.  They come every fall and winter over in a sunny spot near the creek.  There are thousands of them and they appear to like the color white.  If you walk over to where they are located with a pair of white socks on- you will soon have a zillion ladybugs on your socks.  One of the curiosities of nature.  We have some white chairs near their wintering spot and they like to get on those as well.  We saw a program on California's Gold on the subject of wintering ladybugs.   Ladybugs like a sunny spot by a water source so the location they have chosen on our property is just right.  The program was about a man who knows where a large group of ladybugs winters and he goes and gets them and puts them in gunny sacks and sells them to nurseries.  So many of them die in the process.  The ladybugs on our property are left undistured.  I have never seen the ravens over where the ladybugs winter, so the well feed ravens do not appear to feast on ladybugs.  I am glad.

This morning the ravens were anxious to see me.   All the food which had been left on the railing from yesterday was gone before the ravens arrived.  The resident raccoon or gray fox had cleaned up during the night.  This morning we had steak bones and scraps for the ravens and they were on them in a New York minute.  So we are back to normal today.