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Birds of the Western Slope May 2, 2018

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Raven

Of all the birds that I've met and felt that I knew, the Raven is at the very top of the list. I've meet this bird during the Nevada years in numerous towns, along the California coast, at Borrego Springs, Calif., along a dry Nevada wash, and sitting in the trees at my Delta home. The sexes look alike, so the best way to dis-tinguish is by the bird's behavior.

These birds have a long-term pair-bond (humans tend to say "forever") with female often following the male. And I recall one windy day when the ravens decided "to play." They left our trees and soared repeatedly over the pasture. Then the first bird (the male?) dived steeply downward to stop just short of landing. Back up he went, and the female repeated the maneuver. The pair flew off to the north, only to return to the pasture in sweeping and curving turns. It looked like such fun!

And another special time was in Nevada. We had driven out to Cuda wash and as we were preparing our inflatable boat to go fishing, a pair of ravens landed on the small hill near us. They checked us out, decided that we were non-threatening, and proceeded to their raven business. As they disappeared over the hill, I heard the most delightful "bell" call that I've ever heard! It sounded like a church bell, but of course there was no church for miles. The male repeated it several times and then I saw the pair circling together over the hill top. A magic moment for me.

And I certainly remember the ravens of the northwest. They were frequently atop the totem poles and the stories that they represented were fascinating: Raven the wise bird, Raven the angry bird, and Raven the ho-hum bird. And I recall the story about the raven pecking around the ground when he pecked at a particular spot and out came tiny human beings -- many of them. Of course, they gave homage to the raven. I've a book on loan from Jim Wallace entitled "Ravens in Winter" and I'm anxious to read it. Of course, there's always Edgar Allen Poe's "Quoth the Raven 'Nevermore'."

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Birds of the Western Slope, Evelyn Horn
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