1 ̶ Ravens
Winter in the north wouldn’t be the same without them.
Ravens to collect and dispose of garbage. Snowplows to spread it over all Creation.
I spent a good hour today watching our ravens clean up the garbage around our bird feeders. I put them out there ̶ meaning both the garbage and the feeders. Birds have a tough time of it in our winters. And we live in the bush, miles from the tasty packets of garbage that townspeople pile on snowplowed sidewalks for their convenience. The ravens’ convenience.
I call them “our” birds but these birds below to no one. These are wild birds. Even the cute and chirpy chickadees who practically poke their beaks into my hands when I am filling the feeders. The ravens are more skittish. Two of them showed up today. One I named Old Moss Bill, because he seemed to have a crust of white coating his bill, possibly acquired from the bread slices I scattered on the snow, or the snowbank he was shovelling. Old Moss Bill had a tattered undercarriage, maybe from too many belly landings on rough terrain.
The second raven was smaller, more groomed. I say smaller although he was still a good size, hefty enough to carry off a young rabbit. Imaginatively, I thought of the young one as The Young ‘Un.
What was I doing laying out garbage on the snow? I was laying out a feast of out-of-date frozen foods. Or, more accurately, I was trashing items in our freezers that I could not confidently date within a few months. Olga, my helpmeet, subscribes to the philosophy of “waste not, want not”. If we can’t eat it within a day or two, she freezes it. Also, some of this stuff was bought uncooked at bargain prices and purposely frozen until a rainy day. Or until some day when we she discovers it at the bottom of a freezer and opts to take a chance on thawing it. I don’t have her confidence.
As you might have guessed, I am now batching. Olga has been in hospital for a month now with no prospect of coming home soon.
So, Old Moss Bill and The Young ‘Un were having a ball. They took turns stalking the dinner table, eyeing it from every angle and at every level. Eventually they each performed a graceful landing. Old Moss Bill was the braver, for he strutted right up to the table and selected the choicest tidbits. The Young ‘Un was more wary, making several tentative moves before snatching a beakful. Then each flew off in a different direction to cache its loot.
I admire ravens. I admire their fearless aggression, their intelligence, their resourcefulness. I admire them when a couple of them gang up on a lone eagle that passes too close to their nest. I admire them when they scour the lakes and the bush and the improved game trails (some of which go by the name of roads) and pounce on the teeniest morsel that may contain sustenance. Nothing escapes their scrutiny.
And they can recognize garbage when they see it. It may be smothered in black plastic bags and stowed in hard-shell bins, but they can still find it. They don’t smell it, for many a time I find them ravaging a bag or knocking heck out of a bin that contains nothing edible. I’m talking about wild bush ravens here. They are resourceful.
The town ravens have it much easier. Once every seven days they congregate on their favourite streets and sidewalks. There the homeowners have left their garbage in stacks at curbside, and the feeding frenzy begins.
Ravens are experts in garbage collection and garbage disposal. But what are snowplows adept at?