Town Raven

Town Raven
In flight


This is a diary, or rather, field notes written up each day, with the latest entry at the top.

To get the full story, start at the bottom entry in the archive, and read upwards.
Then read the current diary entries from the bottom up as well.

Once you've got the full story, just visit and read the new story for the day!


Location Map

Location Map
This shows where we walk and meet the ravens
The yellow and pink squiggly lines are two walks we take. The yellow one is the one we usually do. The squigglyness indicates how Madame visits her several important sniffing check-points!
We stop several times to feed the ravens, and you can see where they come from.

If you right-click on the image and open it in a new tab, you can then zoom in to see more details.

Thursday, 31 December 2009

New Year's Eve

It was not as dark and grim when we left the house today, around 7.40 a.m., as it was for the last two mornings. There was a hint of sunrise, but alas, the North East wind was atrocious. While it wasn't raining it was still feeling damp.

We had heard only the faintest of raven calls earlier, and when we got into Llandaff Fields the faint calls we heard again seemed to come from the allotments, quite far away. We didn't see any ravens until we came into the ravens field proper.

There, two ravens came flying to the ground towards us. They came from the allotments on the far side. It was my young pair, as always more adventurous and coming closer when in the open field, as opposed to being in the enclosure. They do know about this enclosure, though - they anticipate us, flying there as soon as we turn towards it. Why they prefer to keep much further away from us in there, I do not know!

Once we had fed them, and turned towards the open field again at the spinney, they flew off to hide their food.

Then, with a big swoosh of wings, my bold pair arrived, also coming from the far allotments. Even in the semi-darkness, where their physical features are a bit difficult to make out, their behaviour is so distinct, it is quite clear who is who!
As usual now, the bold raven scoffed as many scraps as he could, before flying off to hide them, thus giving his companion a chance to feed. Once back, he again pushed her off to get what he wanted.
And they both followed us closely into the big field, flying low - no sitting on tree branches for them!

Another behavioural difference between the bold and my young pair: the young raven who is less shy in approaching us, is not, however, the one who competes for the scraps: he waits until his shyer companion picks them up before he starts eating.

Once my bold pair had picked up some more scraps in the big field, both young pairs appeared as well - one pair coming from the ravens field, the other from the quarry side. There were no squawks today, no fighting, all got their scraps - and then some seagulls came circling over our heads. They were pretty large, so I think these were the lesser black-backed gulls.
On that, the ravens dispersed, and we went back home.

There will be clear skies and temperatures well below freezing in the coming night, so I better bring a lot more food tomorrow morning, as the ravens won't be able to get at their food caches.

From Madame and me, a very Happy New Year to all of you who enjoy reading this Ravens' diary!


Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Dec 30th

That snow yesterday - well, it snowed for half an hour, and then it was back to rain, so no white fluffy stuff on the ground this morning. Instead, it was just as yesterday: dark, wet, street lights still on past the official time for sunrise, but far less wind, so it didn't feel as cold.

We hadn't heard a single raven call earlier in the morning, and there were none when we first got into Llandaff Fields, having left home at 7.40 a.m. Walking to the top of the big field, we started hearing them in the far distance, from the allotments and beyond.

But one pair did keep a look-out - and came swooping into the trees at the footpath, then following us into the ravens field. It was my bold pair.
I noticed again that they are wary of Madame to start with, especially as she is off her lead but sits next to me. Then, once they see she is not going to attack them, they come much closer.

They got all the scraps - on the way to the enclosure, in the enclosure and on the way back. 
The bold raven again came swooping to face us, repeatedly, on the ground, after he had hidden his food in some holes further away. 
The young pair don't do that - they go to ground behind our backs. 

So he and his companion got the lot - some went into Madame! - and we left on the 'no-more-food' walk. Neither raven followed us - they have learnt this, and remember it very well!

I also noticed that the bold raven now flies to the allotment boundary to hide his food. He seems to have cottoned on to the fact that if he hides the food in holes in the open ground it will get scoffed by dogs, and will of course be noticed by other ravens, who will then come and pinch it! 

Also worth noting is that he lets his companion feed on what I throw while he is off, making holes to hide the food - and she is now waiting for him to go away. 
Today, only once did he push her away from the scrap I had just thrown.

Finally, I have the impression that they are following us from afar, on our way back home. I have seen him a few times in the big road with the shops - so he seems to know his way around the area. 

Once the days get longer, and they start breeding, perhaps I could entice him to our back garden ... 

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Dec 29th

We've had no snow as yet, but did we get rain!! 
Its been raining all day, and as we left the house around 7.40 a.m. it was not just raining, the wind came from the North Eest and was biting.
Also, it was so dark, the street lights were on even past the official hour of sunrise, at 8.20 a.m., when we came back.

We had not heard one raven call early in the morning - nor did we hear any once we were in the park. The ravens only turned up when we were in the ravens field - these were my young pair, whom I now recognise by their behaviour. 

Madame was off her lead, but she was happy to sit next to me, waiting for her reward as the ravens get their scraps.
Interestingly, while she sits, she keeps her head down as if to signal that she is not really looking at where the scraps fall - but she does know precisely where they are!

Also of interest - the ravens approach closer when Madame has her back turned to them, rather than the both of us. One of the young pair now hops as close as a yard.

We left the 'more-food' way, but the ravens took their time to follow us - and they did not call once we all were at the top of the big field. So none of the others came. 
I wonder if this was due to the darkness rather than just the rain.

Ah - its snowing now, just as I type! It looks very wet. 
Will it stay on the ground and bring us another big freeze?
We'll have to wait and see ...

Monday, 28 December 2009

Dec 28th

It did freeze overnight, as predicted - but since the ground, roads and pavements had been dry, there was no ice. It was cold, though, and there was frost on the grass. No wind, and the sunrise seemed to take forever!

We heard raven calls early in the morning, about an hour before the sun was up, but very faint and far away.
We left the house at 7.45 a.m. - it was still dark, but the street lights were switching off as we walked down the road.

Then, in Llandaff Fields, there were more calls, seemingly coming from the boundaries (Pontcanna Fields, side of the old quarries, top of the Horse Chestnut Avenue). 
It sounded as if they were calling to each other: one finished, then the next call came from another direction.

As we got to the top of the big field, my young pair came flying down. Once they had some scraps, the other young pair came from the quarry side. Then another pair turned up - but not my bold raven.

Suddenly - an intruder! 
This raven came from the far end of Llandaff Fields, and got squawked at, with some flapping of wings - but he stayed. So now there were seven ravens!
At one point in time they formed a semi-circle round me - unbelievable.

Not one of them was my bold raven - so I have no idea who the intruder was. 
I do remember that about seven years ago or so we saw ravens nesting in the tall tower of Llandaff Cathedral. As they can become 15 years old, might this have been one of the tower ravens, being hungry and following the calls?

I believe the bold raven and his companion were well provided for by all the people who had been out yesterday, enjoying the sunshine, and leaving lots of food remains in the waste paper baskets in Pontcanna Fields.

Rain and lots of snow predicted overnight and tomorrow - we'll have to see what the conditions will be like in the morning.
One thing is certain: the ravens are always good for another surprise!

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Sunday, Dec 27th

There was heavy rain during the night - it woke us up, it was that heavy. That got rid of the ice all right - back to mud, then, with a very few small patches of ice remaining on the grass.

The ravens started calling about an hour before official sunrise, which is shortly after 8 a.m. here. with the days getting longer, I'll check if this holds true.
When we left the house around 7.40 a.m., there were huge dark clouds in the West, and the dawn was very overcast and dark. There was also a very stiff breeze from the West, which was cold and penetrating.

Once we got to the bottom of the big field we could hear ravens call from the boundaries of Llandaff Fields, from each side. We didn't see any, however. Making our way up, and being the only dog walker around, I kept looking, but it was too dark to make out any ravens in the trees.

Right on cue, though, as we came to the top of the big field, the bold one came swooping to the ground, and then his companion. After they had picked up a few scraps, both fluffed themselves up and croaked at me. 

Then the young pair arrived, again from the Horse Chestnut Avenue, but this time they were allowed to take some of the scraps without being attacked. I assume that they can now access their food caches, as the ground has unfrozen, so the hunger is not quite as bad, and the competition not as fierce.

I am constantly amazed to note how close the bold raven is willing to come to us, Madame sitting at my side. When we walked away towards another raven, he followed so close behind, hopping - he was about two paces away, within a yard. 
He also does not wait until we turn our backs before he picks a scrap - he just goes for it.

Another thing I noticed today: he is the only one of the three pairs I've now met repeatedly, who fluffs up the feathers on his head, to make himself look bigger. All the others not only do not do this - they try and make themselves look slimmer.
That means he is the dominant raven in this group.

On the way back, a flock of black-headed sea gulls had settled on the far side of the big field. That is a place where I've noticed ravens make holes in the ground, to hide food. 
Its too far away to note which raven it is - but today, I saw one raven actually swoop towards and low over the flock of gulls - it looked like an attack to me. The sea gulls immediately took of and flew away, being chased for a short stretch by that single raven, who then went back to the part of the field he'd cleared.
I've never seen that before!

I hope the wind will dry the roads and pavements by evening - we're in for another night of frost, with freezing fog tomorrow ...

Saturday, 26 December 2009


Thats more like it! 
There was rain overnight, and it was milder this morning, with wind from the West. We got out about 8 a.m., with both dogs.

Unfortunately, what looked like perfectly normal mud on the playing fields turned out to be ice - so walking was still unsafe. 
We made it to the top of the big field, where I heard a lovely soft squawk on my right.

And there they were - two ravens, sitting on the young ash trees, low down and close to the footpath. I stood still, and they came swooping down. 
It was my bold raven and his companion!

I fed them - which was a bit awkward because Bas thought I was throwing the scraps for him, and, although on the lead, he always tried to get them ... Madame is far more civilised!

But even the huge Bas did not deter my bold raven, who again tried to get as many scraps into his crop as he possibly could.
Then a young pair flew in, from the Horse Chestnut Avenue - and my bold raven took extreme objection.
He and his companion swooped on them, squawking and flapping their wings - it looked as if they were beating the young pair with their wings.
Those two stayed well away from us, didn't dare to come even within fifteen yards to get some scraps - and then flew off. Thus I couldn't tell which one of the two young pairs they were.

Between them, my bold raven pair and Madame and Bas got quite a lot to eat!
I am glad I had brought so much - these two ravens must have been quite hungry. Because of the frozen ground they couldn't get at their food caches since Monday. 

I am also happy because obviously my bold raven knew exactly who I was, and what I was there for. Having big Bas with me did not confuse him, and although he was a bit nervous at the start, having that big dog so close, he soon realised he wasn't going to be chased away and came to within a yard to pick up the scraps, His companion, as always, kept a bit further away.

If one could hug a raven, I'd have hugged my bold one!

Back to 'normal' tomorrow, Bas is going home tonight. The weather should be acceptable - and hopefully the bit of extra sunshine we had for a couple of hours might have got rid of the rest of the ice. 

We'll see!

Friday, 25 December 2009



Still sheets of ice pretending to be roads and pavements - but then there came the sun. Not enough to thaw the ice, but enough for us three (Madame, Bas and me) to venture out, well after one p.m.

We slithered to Llandaff fields, but the fields were still covered in ice, not nice for the dogs to walk on.
There were quite a few people about -mostly men and children: probably kicked out by their mums while she's dealing with the Christmas dinner: turkey with all the trimmings ...

We heard the ravens call, from the direction of Pontcanna Fields, and from the quarry side - but none came.
Madame looked unhappy on the ice, so we slithered back home.

Here is a nice video of a raven enjoying the snow:

No snow, and no slopes here in Llandaff Fields ...

We'll see if tomorrow will be less icy ...

Enjoy the rest of your Christmas Holidya!

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Christmas Eve

Alas, another day without ravens ...

It is sad, but the state of the pavements and roads is still so perilous that I didn't want to take a chance - not on this day! Not when, according to local news, 300 people had to go to the hospital in this area with broken limbs!

Not being out in the cold has helped Madame a bit more with her recovery. She is keen to go out - lets hope we don't have any more frost overnight, and that the little bit of thawing we had means we can hop from  one ice-free patch to the next until we get to the grass!

Meanwhile, here are two links to brief summaries of some of Bernd Heinrich's magnificent field work with ravens:

Have a beautiful and  Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Dec 23rd

The roads and pavements here have been sheets of ice throughout the morning and afternoon, so we abandoned our walk. Not only am I not keen to have an accidental fall - one of Madame's Border Collie  acquaintances actually cut her foreleg when she was running after her ball and crashed through the ice sheet covering the grass on the field.

Sorry, ravens ...! Lets hope for better conditions tomorrow.

In the meantime, here is a brief overview of one of my favourite books on ravens by Bernd Heinrich, 'The Mind of the Raven':

"Much like a sleuth, Heinrich involves us in his quest, letting one clue lead to the next. But as animals can only be spied on by getting quite close Heinrich adopts ravens, thereby becoming a "raven father," as well as observing them in their natural habitat, studying their daily routines, and in the process painting a vivid picture of the world as lived by the ravens. At the heart of this book are Heinrich's love and respect for these complex and engaging creatures, and through his keen observation andanalysis, we become their intimates too.
Throughout history there has existed an extraordinary relationship between humans and ravens. Ravens, like early humans, are scavengers on the kills of great carnivores. As scavengers, ravens were associated with hunters they found in the north: wolves and, later, men. The trinity of wolf, man, and raven in the hunt is an extremely ancient one. In considering the appeal of the raven, Bernd Heinrich suspects that a meeting of the minds might reside in that hunting trinity.
Heinrich's passion for ravens has led him around the world in his research. Mind of the Raven takes you on an exotic journey--from New England to Germany, Montana to Baffin Island in the high Arctic--offering dazzling accounts of how science works in the field, filtered through the eyes of a passionate observer of nature.
Heinrich has a true gift; through his stories, his beautiful writing, illustrations, and photography, the ravens come alive. Each new discovery and insight into their behavior is thrilling to read. just as the title promises, the reader is given a rare glimpse into the mind of these wonderful creatures."


A truly inspiring book - worth reading even if you're not a zoologist.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Dec 22nd

Another icy day. It was 28F/-02C when we left the house shortly before 8 a.m. There was no wind, so it didn't feel too perishing. Sun rise was in full swing, the streetlights were off, the sky showed beautiful pastel colours in rose and orange and gold.

We had heard some raven calls around 7 a.m., but they did sound far away. Because of the later time, there were many more dogs in the park. The ground was still frozen over with snow on ice and frozen snow melt on top, so walking was very treacherous. 
Madame enjoyed being out a bit more today, so we made it to just this side of the spinney.

No raven calls at first, but as we approached the top of the big field, one flew to sit on the big tree inside the spinney, and then  the other came to fly into the branch of the tree closer to the footpath.

This was my young pair. I gave them some scraps and then went straight back into the big field, not wanting to overtax Madame. They followed us, in spite of Toby coming to greet us, and in spite of me standing and talking to Toby's owner. Toby is, of course, a Border Collie ...!

The young pair got some more scraps - and then they called. Now the other young pair came flying down, from the side of the old quarries. 
As I threw some more scraps to them, the two pairs had a short, squawky scuffle. 
Both pairs kept a good distance, about ten yards.

Interestingly, immediately after they settled down after their scrapping, one each of the pairs fluffed up, squawked, and assumed the juvenile position, begging to be fed. Then they all, individually,  picked up the scraps I threw - and we left them, Madame starting to look a bit unhappy. 

Its still going to be like an ice skating rink tomorrow, according to the weather forecast. We'll be out at about the same time - ice and darkness are not a good combination: if I can't avoid a slip and fall, at least I want to see where I'm falling!

Roland Keller from Switzerland, a reader of this blog, sent me this story by e-mail:

'do you know the story of St. Meinrad an eremit and founder of the famous  Einsiedeln monastery/switzerland who had 3 raven to protect him. Once a day two criminals went as guests and killed him in his chapel. Afterwards the raven followed the criminals until Zurich where they were arrested and executed because of the raven apperance.

This is a true story, not a legend. The two criminals were hanged in Zurich, where the 3 ravens were known.'

I like it - the ravens as avengers!

Monday, 21 December 2009

Dec 21st

Poor ravens! 
I had to abandon going out in the dark - first, we had rain late last night, and then snow on top - on frozen ground!
The roads, pavements, even the park were treacherous. 
Therefore, I had to leave even earlier than planned, to get to my appointment.

When I was back home again, we did go out. 
It was about 10 a.m., the sun was shining, but the ice was even covering the grass in the fields. 
Lots of dogs - no ravens. It was very cold - too cold and too icy for Madame, so we turned back home after I took some photos of the area. 
I've added some below, so you can see some of the features I keep talking about!

On the way back, we heard one of these deep raven calls - and one, then another came swooping from Pontcanna Fields. They were very shy - most certainly not my bold raven and his companion, nor my young pair. I threw them a few scraps - but they waited until we were well away before they ventured to pick them up.

Because of the ice, I carried Madame until we were out of the park.

Here are some photos:

Looking to the top of the big field, sheds on the right, then the spinney. The ravens field is beyond the spinney and the trees.

Looking left, from the big field, the old quarries, and towadrs the middle distance, the small arboretum.

Still in the big field, the toddlers' playground to the right. 
Pontcanna Fields is behind the huge evergreen trees in the far distance, beyond the playground.

Looking across the footpath into the ravens field. The spinney is on the right - and the ravens sit on the lower branch of the big tree in the middle foreground to wait. They sit on the branches of the tree next to the spinney when they follow us back into the big field.

The bottom end of the ravens field - the Horse Chestnut Avenue is the boundary, leading away on the left, middle distance.

Madame checking for new scents ... still in the big field.

The two ravens who turned up - see how far a way from us they are!

I zoomed in on the one raven - note the big, heavy beak, and the crop (empty!) underneath the beak. 
He is making himself look slim because he is a bit scared.

If the conditions are like this tomorrow (might be even worse, according to the weather forecast!), I shall have to leave Madame at home, and shall have to go out later than usual. 
I most certainly don't want to have a fall ...!

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Sunday, Dec 20th

Another clear sky at dawn - another very cold morning. The colours of the dawn sky were magnificent: a pale pink, a yellowy blue, soft pastels.
We left the house around 7.45. The ravens had been calling around 7.15 a.m., which is about an hour before sun rise. Today, we could hear them calling in the park, and it sounded as if they were calling from the rooftops of the roads bordering the park. I believe their calls were so clear because there was hardly any traffic noise.

The ravens had a surprise for us today. As it was so very cold, the third day in succession, they must have been quite hungry. So they came to meet us at the top of the big field!
The first pair to arrive was the young pair from the quarry side, and then my young pair turned up. They swooped to the ground, and then hopped nearer.
As my young pair turned up, there was a little dust-up between the pairs, with squawking and wing-flapping. They settled and all had their share of scraps.
Then my bold raven and his companion arrived, from the direction of Pontcanna Fields. They also got their share.

As it was so very cold, we cut our walk short and went home. The bold raven followed us, flying into a tree along the footpath, then his companion came as well. And then his companion made this lovely, deep sound which sounds a bit like blowing across the top of a rusty metal pipe.
Unfortunately, Bart bounced up to meet us, and wanted to play with Madame, so that was the end of that! (Bart is a young, big, chocolate Labradoodle.)

I don't know yet what I'll do tomorrow, as I have a very early appointment, right on the other side of town. Thus it will be still very dark if we go out at 7 a.m.
Perhaps it might be better if we go out later in the morning, after I'm back.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Dec 19th

The thermometer may have been lower this morning, but it didn't feel as horrid as yesterday: there was hardly any wind at all when we went out at about 7.45 a.m. 
It was much lighter than yesterday - the sky was clear, with a pale, greenish-yellow cast in the East.

We had heard some raven calls earlier - but none when we came into Llandaff Fields, nor did we see any ravens until we came to the spinney. 
There, we heard one raven call, and saw him sit on the highest tree in the spinney - and his companion came flying over from the allotment side, to perch next to him.

We entered the ravens field, and both came to the open ground. It was 'my' young pair - it was sufficiently light to make out the 'Roman' nose of one of them.
Again, as now customary, they came to within a yard an a half in the open field, but kept further away in the enclosure. 
Again, they wait until we turn our backs before they pick up the food.

We left the 'more-food' way, because I was hoping to encounter more ravens. My pair followed us, again flying rather than hopping, and after the first few scraps in the open field they called - and the other young pair arrived, from the side of the old quarries. 
All four kept their distance, a good four yards, in spite of Madame being on her lead, and in spite of the absence of any other dogs.

At one point, as we walked on back home, all four followed us, walking in a line four abreast, spread out. I loved that!

I think I can now assume that the ravens field is the territory of my young pair, and that the big field is regarded as place for all hungry ravens to come and get what is offered, like a sort of more communal, shared raven territory.
We'll see if the next few days support this. 

It will be cold - again! - and it seems to me that Madame, while enjoying her rolling-about on the frosty grass, is not so keen on being out in the cold as she used to be ...

Friday, 18 December 2009

Dec 18th

Now I know where the ravens are calling from, early in the morning!

When we left the house at 7.15 a.m., it was dark, with just some brightness in the sky to the East. Sunrise today was at 8.15 a.m., so the street lights were on, and I saw ravens sitting on the chimney pots of the houses further down the road. Might they be attracted by the street lights?

It was bitterly cold today, with a perishing wind from the North East, which caught us, both going to the ravens field and coming back. 
No raven calls in the park, and no ravens. We went along the Horse Chestnut Avenue, because there are some street lights, so we could see where to go.

No ravens in the ravens field - but two did turn up when we were already on the way back, and had started to go down the big field. They came from the direction of the old quarries, so must have been the second young pair. They kept well away from us. 

As we turned back to go home, having thrown them a few scraps, I heard a loud squawking. Two others had turned up, and were flapping their wings, trying to get at the scraps. It was pretty noisy!
So I gave them most of the scraps. 
As we finally made our way back, Bas turned up. He gave Madame a little kissie! Neither Karen nor I lingered long - it was too cold in the perishing wind. 

This dark morning showed that the ravens appear to prefer light, to see whats going on. The two ravens turned up as the dawn had got under way, which incidentally was around the time we usually get into the ravens field. 
And seeing the other ravens, calling, sitting on the chimney pots also is indicative: they sat on those chimneys closest to the street lights.

It will be even colder tomorrow - but we shall get out a bit later, when it is lighter, with lots of food!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Dec 17th

It was a bit colder this morning, but not as damp as yesterday. There were bits of clear sky visible during the dawn, so it was quite a bit lighter than the last two days.
We heard some distant raven calls, also magpies and jackdaws, before we left the house at 7.25 a.m.

Llandaff Fields was empty - no dog walkers, no ravens.
Once we got to the ravens field, one came from the Horse Chestnut Avenue, to check us out. 
As he got his first scrap, his companion came flying down as well. 
Having picked those scraps up, they flew immediately into the enclosure. They certainly were not the pair with my bold raven - but which young pair were they? It was still too dark to look for the distinctive 'Roman' nose which one of my young pair has got.

We had our usual feeding routine, and it was their behaviour in the enclosure which makes me uncertain about their identity: they flew towards the different sides of the enclosure as if anticipating where I'd go next. 'My' young pair hasn't done that. 
They did however keep a good distance, in the enclosure as well as later in the open ravens field.

Again going back the 'more-food'-way, they followed us by swooping into the trees at the footpath separating the ravens field from the big field, and then swooping down from there to the ground. 
Once there, they called - and two more ravens turned up - probably my young pair - but all four kept well away. 
The reason for that came bouncing up to us: big Bas!
The pair with the bold raven didn't seem to be too bothered by Bas, the rare times they appeared together in one field.

All in all, some little interesting details about their behaviour, but not much else.
Madame thoroughly enjoyed her romp with Bas before we all went home.

As for tomorrow - we'll have to get out even earlier, unfortunately, because of the appointment with the vet. So it will be truly dark for most of our walk. 
At least we can find out if ravens have good night vision!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Dec 16th

It was dryer today, and a bit colder - but the sky was as dark and grey as yesterday. No sight of the sun ...
There were some calls before we left the house at 7.30 a.m., but these were from magpies and jackdaws, no ravens.

As yesterday, no calls in Llandaff Fields, and no ravens to be seen until we were in the middle of the ravens field. We did come from the Horse Chestnut Avenue today, but the young pair definitely was not waiting for us in those trees at the crossing of the footpaths.

When we were in the middle of the ravens field, I could hear some calls from the direction of the allotments, but couldn't see any raven there. After I had let Madame off her lead, I saw that one of the ravens had flown to sit on top of one of the rugby goal posts - that gave him a good view.
As we walked on - he flew into the middle of the enclosure, where he was joined by his companion. It was the young pair again, their behaviour made that clear. 

After the usual feeding routine, we left by the 'more-food'-way, and again, they did not follow us for very long in the open field but flew to the trees at the spinney. From there, they followed us, flying,  to the top of the big field.

They made some pretty loud calls there, and so it was no surprise to see the other young pair appear from the quarry side of Llandaff Fields - and then, a bit further away, from the toddlers' playground, the third pair arrived. 

That third pair is the one with the bold raven - he is the only one who comes really close, who tries to get every scrap of food, bumping into his companion with intent - and he is the only one who picks the scraps up while I look at him.
The others all wait until Madame and me turn our backs.

After we'd run out of all the food, we went to talk to Toby and Cookie and their owners, who had been observing us and were highly entertained watching the four young ravens walk behind us, to get food from us. It must look quite funny!

Then Bas turned up, Madame and he had a jolly little romp, and that was a nice ending to our morning walk.

It is interesting that the other two pairs of ravens came today, under the same light conditions as yesterday. I think this happened because the first pair called when we were in the big field - they didn't call yesterday.

It will be even colder tomorrow, according to the weather people - so we'll see what happens then. I'll certainly take lots of food, especially as Madame seems to be getting quite fond of those scraps as well ...

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Dec 15th

The weather forecasters had it wrong - it was by no means cold today! 
However, it was so overcast that there was not even a hint of sunrise, and a heavy drizzle was coming down. No wind to speak of, so it felt really mild.
When we left the house shortly before 7.30 a.m. it was so dark that the street lights were still lit.
We had heard no raven calls earlier, we heard none in the park - and there wasn't a raven in sight.

When we got into the middle of the ravens field, we heard the first call - it came from a huge lime tree, and I could just make out one raven sitting in its branches. He came down into the open field, and then his companion followed. 

It was the young pair, and again they ventured much closer, even up to a yard away - provided we turned our backs to them and did not watch them picking up the scraps. 

In the enclosure, they were again more diffident - I really do not understand why they keep so much further away when they are protected from Madame. 
Still, one of them flew onto one fence post and made this wonderful deep and soft croaking noise, fluffing himself up. I do like that!

We left along the 'more-food' way - but they did not follow us for long. Instead, one flew to the big puddle in front of the sheds - that's the 'no-more-food' way, to drink. 

They did pick us up in the big field, but did not venture as close as in the ravens field. 
No other ravens came, so we left them and went home.

I wonder if the darkness today meant that the other ravens were late getting to Llandaff Fields. 
We'll see tomorrow if they come when it is a bit brighter, drier - and colder!

Monday, 14 December 2009

Dec 14th

Another cold and grey morning. It was still dark when we left the house at 7.30 a.m. The sunrise looked as if someone had made a line with a paint brush across the sky, right above the rooftops. It was a pinkish, pale orange. 
The wind hit us when we left the shelter of the street, it came from the North west and was icy!

We'd not heard raven calls earlier this morning. There were none in the park, nor did we hear any calls. 
The young pair came flying in from the allotments when we were practically in the middle of the ravens field. They are getting closer when in the open field, but are not keen on being fed in the enclosure. One even stayed outside it until we were halfway round.

We left along the 'no-more-food' walk. One followed us and flew to sit on a small crab apple tree. The slim branches could just about bear its weight. 
It was good to go this way - on the patch of the big field, where I had the six ravens last week, Cookie and Toby were having their play-time. They're both Border Collies - so we went up and had a chat, with them and their owners.

As we went further along, back home, two ravens came from the toddlers' playground, and sat on a small rowan tree, watching us. They got a few scraps, because I now think its not so much the locality they associate with the food, its me and Madame!

Interestingly, the magpies avoid the ravens, and they also fly off when we approach, regardless of ravens being around. I know they have observed me and the ravens getting food at least once, but they don't seem to have made the connection between me and food being made available.

It will be even colder tomorrow - I might change our approach to the ravens field again, to see if the two young pairs are willing to share the food in the ravens field. 
And Madame seems to be up for a slightly longer walk ...!

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Sunday, Dec 13th

Another dry and cold day. Raven calls as usual, well before we left the house, coming from Pontcanna Fields, with other corvid calls mixed in. 
We left at 7.40 a.m. - well, its Sunday, after all ...
It was still dawn, but the sunrise was not especially spectacular. 

There were no ravens in Llandaff Fields, but we heard their calls, coming from the same direction as those we hear from the back of the house. Then one raven appeared from that direction, flying over the toddlers' playground and settling on a tree at the boundary to the bowling green. 

As we got into the ravens field, at first there were none there. Then, one pair turned up, coming from the Horse Chestnut Avenue. It was my young pair again. They now venture closer, to within a yard and a half, when we are in the open field. It was noticeable today, especially on the way back. Having Madame on or off the lead doesn't seem to make any difference.

Mind - Madame is now very good at sitting next to me, waiting for her rewards. Sometimes she gets up and stares at the ravens - more to see if they pick up the scraps than to give chase. Her Collie-stare doesn't seem to bother the ravens much - well, they're not sheep, are they!

I have no idea why these two ravens seem to dislike the enclosure. They do fly into it, and do pick up the scraps, but always from a much greater distance. One of them always makes a hole in the middle of the enclosure, to hide his scraps.

We went back the 'more-food' way, and the young pair again followed us, first walking behind us, then swooping into a tree before swooping down onto the big field beyond the footpath.

As I was giving them more scraps, right on cue the other young pair turned up, again coming from the side of the old quarries. They are more shy and do keep further away. All picked up scraps without much competing. Then all four of them made a few croaks, fluffing themselves up. That got them more scraps.

Turning my back on them - yes, here was my third pair, with my bold raven. They had come from Pontcanna Fields, and waited patiently quite some distance away from that young lot. 
Their behaviour, and the boldness of my raven, were clear indications of who they were! 
It is amazing to see how close he hops - less than a yard!

When all food had gone, we regained the footpath, and while the young ravens flew away to the quarry side and to the ravens field respectively, my bold one flew onto a tree at the footpath to watch us go. 
We didn't get his lovely soft calls today because a GoldenLlab turned up, Benji. He is a softie, but looks like a big teddy bear - so the raven flew away.

All in all a good start to Sunday - ravens happy, Madame happy, getting a tiny bit better, me happy.

Note to self: must take more food with me!

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Dec 12th

It was a cold morning again, but dry. The North-Easterly wind, which had been forecast, was barely noticeable when we left the house at 7.30 a.m. The sky was a dark grey, with the sunrise looking like someone was rolling up the sky from the East, like a curtain.

We had been hearing raven calls earlier, as in the last few days, so it was no surprise when we saw not one single raven all the way to the ravens field. 
Then two came, the young pair again. 

Interestingly, they did not appear to be too fussed with Madame being around, off the lead, when they were in the open field, and walked to about 2 yards within me and Madame. They got some scraps there, then we went up to the enclosure, where I gave them some more.

For some reason, they are much more wary when they are inside the enclosure, still preferring to keep to the site opposite from where I throw the scraps. They flew up to sit on the fence posts when we left to go back home, the 'more-food'-way. One of them croaked a few times, fluffing himself up.
Then, they followed us by swooping into the big trees bordering the footpath between the ravens field and the big field. From there, they swooped down onto the ground.

While I was throwing them more scraps, two more ravens came, from the direction of the old quarries. These were however not my bold raven, but the other young pair. The four of them walked a bit up to us, to withig three yards, and got more scraps. 

Then I saw another pair, quite a bit away, closer to the playground. I walked up to them, but couldn't make out if this was my bold lot. I think so - they picked up the scraps in no time.

As I turned my back on them, I saw that two of the other four were flapping wings at each other, a bit like a fight. Then both of those fighting ravens assumed the begging position of the juveniles, bowing to each other, fluffed up. 

We were a good ten yards away by then - so I don't know what made them do it - nor do I know what that means! The other two ravens of that lot did not get involved.

Walking back home on the footpath, the pair which had come last flew into a tree a bit ahead of us, and one of them made a few beautiful, soft, croaking calls when we were right underneath that tree. He got one of Madame's kernels as reward!

Madame likes being off the lead - she gets lots of rewards for not chasing teh ravens, and she seems to have made the first tiny steps towards getting better.

Having all six ravens around again was wonderful.

Tomorrow will be cold again, and as today, dog walkers will be out much later, so we and the ravens may have the park to ourselves, for a little bit, as we did today.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Dec 11th

It was quite cold, but dry, when we left the house at 7.30. The rising sun had started to give the sky in the East a glowing tinge, and there was a thin mist just above the ground in Llandaff Fields. Of course, it was not full daylight yet. Later, the sky turned a yellowy-pink: quite beautiful.

We had heard raven calls earlier, again from much further away, so again I was not sure which pair to expect.

As we went up to the top of the big field - not one raven anywhere, and no calls. Into the ravens field, and there was not one raven either. 
I was a bit disappointed, but then Bas came whizzing round the spinney, barking joyfully. That might well have kept the ravens in the trees. 

Bas and Madame had a jolly good romp - it was so funny to watch them scratch the dead leaves over their markings, as the other one tried to mark the same spot! Then both rolled on the cold grass - Madame only once, briefly, unlike her usual self, and Bas made a huge performance of it, rolling full stretch for a good couple of yards.

Finally, two ravens did come down to the ground - keeping well away of all these dog shenanigans. I threw some scraps when the dogs were otherwise engaged, and the ravens did pick those up. It was my young pair, but I can't be 100% certain as they were too far away.
Then Bas chased them, and they both flapped off into the enclosure. I did feed them there, but as more dogs turned up, bouncing and barking, they flew off. Who can blame them ...!

We went home - not one raven following us. The combination of Madame, Bas, Karen and me must have been a bit disconcerting. I couldn't go back today, to try and feed them again, as we had this appointment with the vet.

Hopefully tomorrow will be better - for Madame and for the ravens.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Dec 10th

We left the house at 7.45 a.m. It was dry, after some more rain in the night - but it was not as cold as it was a week ago. There was a very thin morning mist over Llandaff Fields, but no frost on the grass. The sun was breaking through the thin clouds.

Earlier, we had heard raven calls in the distance, coming from deep inside Pontcanna Fields. So it did not surprise me to find no ravens when we walked up the footpath along the big field.

At the spinney, one raven called loudly. He sat on a tree inside the spinney. Then the other raven came from the horse chestnut avenue, and the first raven flew onto a smalelr tree at the spinney boundary. It felt as if they'd covered both possible approaches!

The usual feeding routine, both on the ravens field and then in the enclosure, showed that this was again my young pair. Thanks to the much better light I'd already noticed the 'Roman nose' of the first raven - so their behaviour while feeding was a confirmation of this physical 'recognition' feature of the one raven.

We walked back the 'no-more-food' way. This time, they did not follow us at all, in spite of the absence of any other dogs, and in spite of Madame being on the lead.
We didn't see any other ravens, nor did we hear any other raven calls. So unlike a week ago, the other two pairs had not turned up anywhere.

There will be an early start tomorrow, we'll be out in semi-darkness. That is because of an early-morning appointment with the vet for poor Madame. It will be interesting to see which pair, and how many pairs, will turn up!

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Dec 9th

It was a dry and mild morning, no rain clouds and a mild breeze. We were running late, so it was quite light when we left the house at 7.50 a.m. There was still some reasonably dense morning mist over the fields - it looked beautiful, but was much colder than I had anticipated.

Because of our being late, we met so many people and dog walkers, we simply had to chat to them! 
So we were well over 15 minutes past the usual time of getting to the top of the big field and the spinney. 

On the way there, two ravens flew in and sat in a tree next to the footpath leading to the spinney. One made some beautiful, soft noises, like coming from a very deep metal pipe. 
I stood still and said hello - but didn't feed them there: too many people and dogs, and not the right place. These two must have been the third pair, the one from the toddlers' playground.

Coming to the ravens field, the young pair swooped down from the trees and followed us - walking. These were the young pair. Their behaviour (the more timid one getting more scraps, but not seriously competing) made that quite obvious.
We did our usual routine, walking round the enclosure - they still keep a respectful distance, regardless of Madame being on or off the lead.

We then walked towards the spinney. Both followed us, walking, but at the point where I would turn either the non-food or the more-food way, I had run out of scraps, so there was no choice!

They then flew in our wake - one landing at the big puddle on eh ground, the one in front of the sheds - the other landing on the topmost branch of one of the smallish trees bordering the spinney. The twig he tried to sit on was too weak, it bent over under his weight and he nearly fell off. 
With a bit of flapping of wings he got it right. 

Madame enjoyed her walk - but her general behaviour shows me that she is not her usual self. 
Tomorrow it'll be cold, according to the Met Office, so we'll see if we'll get a repeat performance of having all six ravens coming to be fed.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Dec 8th

This morning, the kerfuffle came from quite a long way off, so I didn't expect much in the way of raven-encounters. I assumed they were all in Pontcanna Fields

We left at 7.40 a.m. It was quite cloudy, but it didn't rain and the wind was not too chilly. The sky in the East showed a few streaks of orange - and twenty minutes later, when we were in the ravens field, there was this stunningly beautiful sunrise: the whole sky glowing orange and red.

As I expected, we saw not one raven all the way up to the ravens field, nor did we hear any raven calls.
However, as soon as we approached the spinney, one and then the second raven came swooping into the tree closest to us. They came from the horse chestnut alley, near the little arboretum! So they had obviously been waiting for us there. One of them fluffed up his feathers while sitting on a branch, and made these beautiful soft croaking noises. It was like a greeting call.

This was my young pair, exhibiting the behaviour I've described below: a bit skittish, not competing for the scraps, and keeping about a yard or so further away than my bold raven. 
We went through the usual routine, feeding them in the enclosure, and walking off to the big field the 'more-food' way. Again - they followed us by swooping towards us, rather than walking behind us, as the bold one and his companion do. 
They went off when a few boisterous dogs appeared - who can blame them!

But there was a nice surprise. at the toddlers' playground, the third pair turned up. These two were very shy - but they prossibly remembered me feeding them on Thursday last week, when it was so cold and all six of them were there. They flew into one of the tall trees at the top of the first field, watching us, and waiting. I threw them my last scraps - and as soon as we turned our backs, they came down to get them. Two magpies had come as well - but they got nothing, the ravens were too fast.

Tomorrow will be interesting, especially as we can spend some more time. Madame is showing some very slight improvement and is happy to be out in the park, off the lead, for the time she was used to before her illness struck.

But - which ravens will turn up?

Monday, 7 December 2009

Dec 7th

Today, there was only some sporadic noise from the jackdaws and ravens, coming from Pontcanna Fields, about 30 minutes before we left the house at 7.40 a.m.
There had been rain in the night again, and it was damp when we left, with drizzle and intermittent rain. It was dark because of the clouds, but it was reasonably mild. The fields were very muddy, unsurprisingly!

We heard some raven calls from the ravens field as we made our way to the top of the big field.
One pair came down from the trees at the spinney - but there were still raven calls from the ravens field.
This pair was very shy when I threw them a few scraps, so I assume they were the second young pair.

We went into the ravens field, and eventually they followed us. They did not compete for the scraps, and kept their distance from us in the enclosure. When we had made our way round and went back towards the spinney and the big field (more-food way), they didn't follow us. I assume they had flown off - I was watching Madame and had my back turned.

Then, a pair did appear, just before we crossed the footpath, and they hopped into the big field in our wake. As I threw them the rest of the scraps, I saw that this was my bold raven and his companion. 
Its not just the way they follow us, hopping and getting within a couple of yards - its the way my bold raven competes for every scrap until he's filled his crop. He again scoffed most of the scraps, pushing his companion out of the way. It looks as if he really really means to get all he can.
That second raven gets her scraps only after the bold one has flown off to hide his loot.

I'm happy that he's back, but that happiness is tinged with a bit of sadness because of Madame, who still has a long way to go before she is well again.

We'll have to wait and see what tomorrow brings - and which ravens will appear!

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Sunday, Dec 6th

Half an hour before going out, I again heard this kerfuffle from the back garden, this time only ravens and jackdaws sounded to be involved.

We left the house at 7.45. It had been raining heavily overnight, but was dry when we left. it was quite dark because of teh clouds, the sun well hidden, but the waning moon. now nearly half, still nicely visible in the West. 
It was quite mild, with a cool, Westerly breeze. 
Madame was much more perky today than in the last few mornings.

We walked on the footpath to the top of the big field. One raven cam down from the spinney, then the second. I threw them some scraps and went straight into the ravens field, where I let Madame off for a brief run. We stayed close to the spinney, me not wanting to overdo things in regard to Madame.

The two ravens followed us - and I saw that this time it was my bold one, and his companion. He was a bit apprehensive, being in the open field, but they both were only about five feet away from us - closer than the young pair ever were.

And gosh, didn't he go for the scraps! He butted his companion out of the way, several times, and scoffed about five pieces, storing them in his crop, before he flew off to hide them in a hole in the ground. 
That was the only time his companion got some - and he was back with a huge swoop when he saw that there was more food to be had!

We walked back along the 'more-food'way, they both followed us. Again, unlike the young pair, they walked pretty close behind us, not swooping first into a tree and then down again onto the big field.

When I had nearly finished with the scraps, and we had walked on, a second pair flew down to this field. They, and we, were quite a distance away from the first, bold pair, so there was no squawking and wing-flapping: the first pair took off, and the second pair got the rest of the scraps. As they kept their distance of a good three or four yards, I couldn't make out if they were my young pair or the other pair which had come in the last two days.

All together, this was a very good start to the day: Madame a bit improved, and my bold raven back! 
Lets hope for more of the same tomorrow.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Dec 5th

There was rain in the night, but it had stopped by the time we left the house at 7.45 a.m.
It was mild - feeling like spring after that freezing day yesterday. It was still dark and overcast - no impressive sunrise, but the waning moon, now about 3/4 full, was still prominent in the West.

I was not certain what the ravens would do. There was an almighty kerfuffle half an hour before we left. I heard it from the back of the house, so it must have coming from Pontcanna Fields. I could hear magpies with their cackling, jackdaws or crows, and ravens - all croaking and cawing together. 
Interesting to note that the ravens have a much deeper voice, and a slower repetition when calling than the jackdaws. I say jackdaws because, while these might have been crows, I know that there is a large number of jackdaws around.

We went to the top of the big field - no further, as Madame is still not well enough. 
First one raven came, then the second. This was my young pair, and one of them was less timid and came closer towards us for his scraps - about 2 yards. 
As they both were picking the scraps, another pair appeared and landed on the field. There was a brief flapping of wings as the first pair tried to scare the second lot away, but in the end, they all stood in a semi-circle around us, about 3 yards away, waiting for their scraps. 
In each pair, one raven fluffed their feathers and did that juvenile begging motion with the croaking - but they did that not towards the other raven, nor towards me - they had their backs turned towards us!
They did turn back towards us after they'd finished, and waited for their scraps as the other two did.

Interestingly, the two non-begging ravens were the ones who tried to snatch more of the scraps - and succeeding. All four followed us as we slowly went back - walking, not flying!
They stopped as soon as we were level with the bottom fence of the enclosure in the big field, and flew off. By that time, I had run out of food anyway.

What will tomorrow bring? More rain, thats for sure. 
I wonder if the bold raven and his companion will come back - or have they given up this area of Llandaff Fields to these younger ravens? 

I'd love to investigate this - but with Madame unwell it isn't possible for the time being.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Dec 4th

It was a very cold night, and when we left the house at 7.40 a.m., there was a slight mist over Llandaff Fields, the grass was heavily frosted and the temperature was just above freezing. There was no wind, it was dry, but too cloudy for an impressive sunrise.
The waning moon was still very impressive, big and pale, visible behind the veil of mist. Later, the clouds in the West had a beautiful rose-grey tinge.

Madame coped very well, there was no episode of being even slightly off-balance, but I didn't want to overdo it, so we only made it to the top of the big field. I did let her off for a few rolls on the frosty grass - she so loves doing that!

As for the ravens ...!

To start with, we heard some calls, coming from beyond Llandaff Fields. There was one poking holes in the first rugby pitch - i assumed it was my bold one, but it was still too dark to see properly. Still, I threw him a scrap. He waited to pick it up until we were well past him.

But then something totally unexpected and extraordinary happened.

As we rounded the top of the big field - two ravens came swooping down from the trees at the spinney, and they made soft croaking sounds, as if to welcome us back.
These were my young ravens. I fed them, and they walked up quite closely, to within a couple of yards.

Then - another pair appeared, and my young pair just accepted them without fuss. Just as I threw them all some scraps - two more ravens appeared!

So there was this group of six ravens, all on the ground at the top of the big field, all expecting scraps. They kept away from us a bit further than my young pair, even my bold raven who was one of that group.
They got all I had with me - Madame getting some scraps as well.

I could not believe this extraordinary event.
I've never seen all six together in one group - they are usually spread out across the whole huge area of Llandaff Fields.
I think the cold and the hard ground made them somewhat desperate for food, any food - and I think they must have observed me feeding the one or other pair.

It was wonderful! I only wish I had had more scraps with me.

We went home pretty smartly after that, because my fingers were frozen, and Madame had collected little balls of ice under her pads - the frosty stuff from the grass collects on the fur between her toes and makes it uncomfortable for her to walk. It was difficult to remove them with my icy hands.

I wonder what the ravens will do tomorrow. There will be rain, and it will be a bit warmer.

We'll have to wait and see ...!

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Dec 3rd

We left the house at 7.35 a.m. It was dark, cloudy, cold, and there was some drizzle. Madame was quite happy to go out, she had a good night. 
It was amazing to see the waning moon, really huge, through the veil of clouds towards the West. What a sight!

We heard a few raven calls, and I saw one raven sitting in a tree close to the boundary to the new housing estate. Otherwise, there were none to be seen. 
We walked up the footpath along the big field, Madame on her lead. I was hoping to pick the ravens up at the top of the big field, and saw one sitting in the top branches of an ornamental cherry tree.
As we approached, he flew off towards the ravens field.


There was continuous noise from an ambulance trying to get through the early morning traffic on the road running along the top of what were once quarries. And then it started to rain properly. Madame sat down, looking at me, as if to say 'help me'. I suspect the noise made her feel ill.

So I picked her up and turned back home. I carried her for a bit, then she wanted to be set down and we walked the rest of the way.

Sadly, the ravens had to make do without my scraps of meat today. I don't know if we'll be able to feed them tomorrow - Madame's well-being has priority. 
I will take the scraps with me, however, just in case ...

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Dec 2nd

The good news is that Madame was allowed to come home  today, from the vet's hospital. She is still a bit shaky, but time will make her better, I hope.

The raven news - well, that was very interesting!
I left the house around 7.40. It was much milder than yesterday, but very cloudy, with a hint of drizzle, and no sun, but also no arctic winds.

There were a few raven calls, but I didn't see one raven the whole length of Llandaff fields, until I came to the ravens field. Then, i saw one flying to sit on the top branch of one of the trees near the spinney. 

He did not come down into the big field, nor did he come into the ravens field until I was nearly up to the top enclosure where I feed them. A second raven joined him - but they kept the whole enclosure between themselves and me, so I could not make out who they were. 
They did pick up the scraps, but were not waiting for me to throw them, as the bold one and even the young pair have been doing.

I'd say though that they were definitely not the pair with the bold raven.
They might have been the young pair, and might have been very confused and scared, seeing me on my own, without Madame.

If so - then the question arises why, after a good ten days, they don't recognise me on my own, and why, seeing me on my own, they were so scared? I was wearing the same clothes, after all.
Compare this with the 'recognition experiment', involving the bold raven, on Nov, 11th.

If they were the third pair, the pair I fed by mistake in the field next to the old quarries, when it was too dark for me to see that they were not the bold pair - then what has happened to my young pair?

Very odd.
I don't know yet what will happen tomorrow  - it depends on how Madame is doing for the rest of today, overnight, and in the morning.
We'll have to wait and see ...

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