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.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Nov 16th, 2009

Yet more surprises today!

There had been a lot of rain during the night, the ground was exceedingly muddy. As we went out, about 7.15 a.m., rain threatened, but it was dry, grey, and even a bit windy. It was rather mild.
Not many dog walkers around - and a big flock of black-headed gulls were sitting at the top end of the big field.

We made our way up that field, playing a bit, and the seagulls took off.
Then my ravens appeared. I gave them a few scraps - Madame had some as well, but was again dead keen to chase the ravens off and get their scraps as well. At least she doesn't bark when she does that ...

And then: two more ravens appeared, from the direction of the toddlers' playground.
They joined my ravens - who were outraged!
There was quite a scrap, wings being flapped, some squawkings, and then the newcomers and what must have been my timid raven all assumed the 'begging' position, as if to soothe each other. They were facing each other - but what must have been my bold raven just walked off, as if to separate himself from this group.
They did not beg towards me - they did that amongst the three of them!

I left them to it, and Madame and I went into the ravens' field. Quickly, the bold one appeared, then the timid one - just these two. As Madame had decided she'd rather chase the ravens for the meat scraps than be an obedient dog, I put her on the lead. She did get rewards then, after I had thrown some scraps to the ravens.
A nice black dog appeared, with her owner - and she chased the ravens vigorously. They did flap off, but didn't fly into the trees.

So we had our usual routine, walking round the enclosure and throwing scraps into it. This time, the bold raven actually did hop close to the fence to pick up the scrap, rather than display that displacement behaviour. And of course, he managed to get most of the scraps again.

Before we walked off, he sat on one fence post, scraping his beak - that made a startling sound against the wood!

We walked round the spinney under the trees, crossing the footpath - and the ravens followed us into the big field. They got a few more scraps, to reinforce that this is the 'some-more-food'- way.

On our way home, walking towards he car park, I saw one raven in the middle of the big field, on his own. Another one was closer to where we walked, but still some distance away. Each had their beak in the ground.

Then two ravens flew in, coming from Pontcanna Fields. They stayed together and did not approach the two single ravens. Next, two more ravens flew in, also from Pontcanna Fields, joining the first two.
So - there are six ravens in this area. I have no idea how they are related - but at least now we know their number!

Nov 15th, 2009 (Sunday)

We were a bit late today, seeing that it was Sunday.
It was calm, sunny, a bit cooler than yesterday - and no wind!

We ran into Marianne and Billy again, and chatted a bit. Marianne told me that she saw me and the ravens the other day, with the ravens following me! While we chatted, we observed two of them flying from Pontcanna Fields over to the ravens' field, and I thought these must be 'mine'.

There were no calls, no squawks, it was all very quiet as we went to the top of the big field, Madame playing a bit with the ball.
Also - the ravens did not come to meet us at the top of the big field - nor were they present in the ravens' field when we crossed into it.

They eventually did turn up, however, and we had the usual feeding routine.
As noted yesterday, when I threw one scrap quite close to the fence, the bold raven first approached it, and then hopped back a bit and put his beak to the ground, seemingly licking the damp grass.

The timid raven did something new today: at one point it fluffed itself up and assumed the 'begging' posture which the juveniles adopt, just after they've flown their nest, when they still ask the parent birds to feed them.

The ravens now seem to feel quite secure inside the fenced-off plot: Bart appeared, the black, young Labradoodle, and Otty (a younger, chocolate Labradoodle), both coming up to us, to greet Madame and me. The ravens just hopped a bit towards the middle of the plot but did not fly off.

Also noteworthy: whilst I was feeding 'my' ravens in the plot, they suddenly stopped looking at me and flew onto the fence posts: quite high up a group of four birds flew over us, from the toddlers' playground/Pontcanna Fields, in a diagonal direction.
I couldn't make out what they were - too high up - but these were definitely not sea gulls or ducks or cormorants. Might have been ravens: too small a group for jackdaws or crows.

We went round the spinney at the tennis court side again - and it looks as if the ravens have indeed understood this 'signal'.
The bold one flew to sit on one of the smallish trees in the spinney, right next to where we walk, and cawed a few times. He did not follow us further, but looking back I saw him on the ground, drinking from the huge puddle in front of the changing rooms there.

Tomorrow I'll see if they follow us back to the big field, for more food, when we go round the spinney the other way.

Nov 14th, 2009

Well, that was a dead loss today, in regard to the weather!
Okay, it did rain in the night - but there was no storm: that came, for a few hours, in the late afternoon today.
England got a harsh battering, mind - but here in the Welsh capital things were acceptable for this time of year.

So no answer as to what ravens do in a storm.

However - as it was cold, I put my hood up, which is black. Still the ravens came, meeting us at the top of the big field.
That, of course, means any speculation about the role my hair colour plays in their recognition of me is now thrown out of the window, because Madame was there with me. So I'm up a stump here.
More thinking needed!

Two things happened today:
1) Madame, who so far has been happy to snuffle round the fence of the enclosure in the ravens' field, did a very naughty thing today!
She wriggled underneath the bottom of the little gate of that enclosure, to get into the pitch! The ravens flew off while I got her out with rank bribery. Bad Madame!

2) when the ravens had come back, some of the scraps I threw landed very close to the fence - about half a foot away. Even though I walked on a bit, they didn't dare come close to pick them up.
Instead, first the one, then the other displayed what can only be called displacement behaviour: they put their beaks to the grass and seemed to lick (yes, they have tongues) some of the raindrops from the grass.

They did this twice. I give them off-cuts from raw meat - not salted, cooked or interfered with in any way. I thought this was very interesting - I'll see if I can replicate this tomorrow.

We went back along the tennis court side of the spinney, the 'no-more-food' side. The bold raven flew onto the roof of the changing rooms there, and sat on the end of the roof,  towards the toddlers' playground, not the ravens' field end.
He fluffed up his feathers - but did not follow us any further.

If they really have grasped that us walking this way means feeding is finished, then they are indeed incredibly intelligent - we've done all this for less than a month!

Madame, while not quite as food-obsessed as Big Dog, is still far more anxious to get any scraps she can, regardless of me being cross with her, and regardless of being told 'down - stay'.
Aww - ravens more capable of learning new things than a Border Collie??? Unbelievable!

Now all these observations need to be repeated over the coming days and weeks, else its just some nice anecdotes.

Nov 13th, 2009

Another surprise today?

Oh yes! 
Two, in fact ...

In the first place, it was dry, and there was no gale - the weather forecasters got it wrong, again! 
Some rain bands had been moving across the country during the night, the ground was a bit muddy, but no weather horrors. 
At the time of writing this (mid-afternoon), it is raining a bit, but not hard. Mind - just now Madame looked out the back door and then looked at me - nope, she definitely did not want to go out at all!

In the second place, as soon as we got into the big field, I could hear a raven croaking to our left, from the horse chestnut avenue. This croaking seemed to accompany us as we went/strolled/played with the ball our way up to the top footpath. 

At the usual place there, right in front of the trees on the other side of the footpath and in front of the spinney, first one, then another raven appeared - and got scraps. Madame was very good at sitting next to me, waiting for her bit - but as the ravens seemed a bit diffident, she managed to rush off and give chase, getting their scraps as well as hers as the ravens flew off.

We then went into the ravens' field, and again the ravens followed us, getting their scrap or two. 

And then ...! I still can't believe it: two ravens came swooping down from the tennis-court side of the spinney, squawking and croaking loudly. The two on the ground flew up, and actually flew across the spinney back to where I couldn't see them any longer, while the two newcomers landed.

Turns out the two 'newcomers' were actually my ravens - the bold one with the pronounced bow ridge, and his companion!

So I obviously fed two different ravens first. Absent any leg rings, its very hard to distinguish them - they are very similar in size. I think the one diagnostic feature has to be the pronounced brow ridge of the bold raven - otherwise there is no way of keeping them apart.

All four (if I have fed two different lots, accidentally) show similar behaviour, being not keen to come too close to me when picking up a scrap and preferring to pick it up when I turn my back. I don't want to re-interpret my observations, but it might just be possible that I've fed this other pair at some stage. 
In the background of my memory lurks the observation that once or twice i vaguely wondered about the absence/presence of that brow ridge, without paying too much attention.
That attention I shall certainly pay now!

We went back along the tree-side of the spinney and the ravens followed us again and got a few more scraps. Then a cluster of dog walkers turend up, with the very bouncy whippets Archie and Dougie taking over practically all of the place. Oh, and Bart also came, saying hello to Madame. 

That was it for today - we'll see what the weather brings this evening and tonight and in the morning. The weather forecasters are besides themselves, thick windspeed arrows on the weather map, right over Cardiff, doom and gloom, but so far nothing is happening. 

It will be interesting to see, if there are gales, how the ravens cope: will it deter them? Will they still come?

Nov 12th, 2009

Today we had another little surprise!

I was wearing the red dog walking clothes, because some drizzle was predicted. Instead, it was dry, milder than the last few days, but grey and very much overcast.

Madame and I went into the big field first, spoke to another dog walker (well, she had a puppy ...!), and played with a ball. Then Madame went off on her own, snuffling about - and of course never brought the ball back! Bad Madame!

As we approached the top end of this, the big field, the bold raven appeared. He flew to sit on the top branches of one of the young ash trees in front of the spinney - that was more a twig, it waved around as he settled. And then he croaked three times, as if to say 'hello'!
After that, he flew down into the field, and his timid companion appeared then as well. I gave them a few scraps there, then moved into the ravens' field - both following.

I tried to get Madame to sit and wait, but she was so intent on getting a scrap as well - it wasn't working. More time needed here!
The ravens weren't too fussed, but did keep their distance.

Again, I walked round our enclosure, throwing them scraps from each side of the square. As usual now, the bold one got about three for every single one the timid raven managed to pick up. When I'd only got three scraps left, we turned to go round the spinney and back into the big field, along the trees lining the footpath.

But who should turn up? Bas! And Karen, of course.
We walked on a bit, Bas and Madame romping around. The ravens meanwhile had flown into the trees at the footpath, where they could observe us.
We went back a bit further, to the enclosure, and one came to pick up some scraps he'd hidden there earlier, while Bas was running round, and Madame was snuffling right next to the fence.

That was interesting, because this might mean that they do feel safe inside the enclosure, even when a big hound like Bas is romping about.

We went back to the car park then, and as more dog walkers appeared, the ravens did not follow us into the big field.

That greeting this morning (if that was what it was!) was really good!

The weather forecast for tomorrow and the weekend is horrendous - heavy rain and gales from the South West.
Madame and I will have to go out no matter what - I do wonder what the ravens will do ...

The recognition experiment! (Still Nov 11th, 2009)

But now - the crunch experiment!

I came back from the Cathedral - on the way there, having walked under the horse chestnuts, the ravens didn't approach me. 
Coming back, there were numerous couples and groups of threes with their numerous dogs walking round the ravens' field, in opposite directions to each other. 
I assumed therefore that this was not going to work.

But then I saw one raven fly onto a smallish tree in front of the Parks' Dept shed, this side of the spinney. Still - far too many people and dogs around, I thought ...

I was so wrong! 

As soon as I was mid-way between the top (our) and the bottom enclosure, he came swooping down, into the open field, and hopped closer. Now I was not wearing dog-walking clothes, but a nice long skirt and jacket ...

Well well well..! 

Mind - he made himself look very thin again, so he cannot have been that certain that it was me, his food source. However, he did not approach any of the other dog walkers, not even those who'd walked across this open field before I got there.

I threw him a tiny piece of cheese - he took it. Then the timid raven appeared as well. The two pieces of cheese I threw went straight into the bold raven, but as he hopped off to hide them, the timid one managed to get the third piece.
Then I walked to the enclosure, and fed them some more. 

So its me they recognise - that must be it. 
After all, Madame had been left at home, can't have a dog in the Cathedral! 

Also - they did not approach the group of three, one of whom was Val with Tilly, a nice, smallish Border Collie. and Val wore a red waterproof jacket. These three dog walkers had come past the spinney into the field while my raven was sitting on that tree, watching me come from the other direction - a direction he'd never seen me come from before. 

In addition, the dog walkers kept standing around for a few minutes, waiting for their various dogs to reappear from behind the bushes - so me standing still in the field cannot really have been a deciding factor.

As I knew all three ladies from other dog walks, we went off together and I told them all about it. We went to the big field, again the usual way, under the trees, and as we stood there, waiting for one of the terriers to come back, the bold raven flew towards us and sat on a lowish branch right above us. I wonder if he wanted some more food from me. Well, he is the bold one, after all!

This morning's experiment has been truly amazing - I wish I knew how the recognise me. Perhaps it really is the hair. So somehow, sometime in the next few days I'll have to cover that up and go on my own, without Madame. That should confirm it.

Nov 11th, 2009

Armistice Day:

More surprises!
We were just a bit late - 7.15 a.m., but it was glum, grey, cold and slightly drizzly: a morning one would prefer to stay indoors! 
Thus thought a lot of the usual dog walkers ...  

The ravens met us in the open bit of the ravens' field. Again, the bold one tried to scoff as much as he could, the timid one letting him. Madame still trying to chase them - i think I'll have to train her not to do so, with scraps as rewards, naturally.

We ended up walking round the enclosure, as usual now, ravens inside, us outside. However - as we were at the far end, another one came, flying above tree height, coming from the direction of the toddlers' playground and Pontcanna Fields. 
'My' ravens stopped what they were doing (i.e. watching me) and flapped onto  the fence posts, squawking. The other raven increased his height and flew off. 

Now I'm intrigued: will we see more ravens? Or will they keep to their territories?

Another thing I noticed is that while the ravens do now hop closer, they still prefer me turning my back to them so they can pick up the scraps. Hopping closer, they make themselves look rather slim when they are in the open field, or when they need to get to about two feet distance. 

This morning, a nice man with two teenage labs came round. I've seen him around sicne this summer, his labs are a male black and a golden female. They are nice, but boisterous. We chatted and walked round again - the ravens flew off. However, as we got back into the big field, and separated, the bold raven did approach again. we did, after all, go round the way under the trees ... Since Madame was off the lead and rootling around, I didn't feed him. I've noticed that Madame is now going to look for the holes they make to hide their scraps - and steal them, if she can. Bad Madame!

Nov 10th, 2009

The ravens had another surprise for us today!
We did manage to get out shortly after 7 a.m. It was cold, grey and drizzly - but more daylight, really, than the previous days.
A few other dog walkers in the distance, nothing to upset the ravens.
At the top of the big field, before crossing the path into the ravens' field - they were waiting for us again. Again, it was the timid one which came first. After I'd distributed a few scraps - also one to Madame! - what happened next was another jaw-dropping moment:

Two more ravens appeared, from the toddlers' playground! They kept well back, and the first two flapped at them a bit.
I didn't want to start a fight, nor did I want to encourage these new two by feeding them as well. So I walked off, taking the opportunity to give Leo a cuddle. He's a lovely, cream-coloured Labradoodle whom we've known since he was a puppy. He's on the lead, he had damaged a muscle in his hind leg.

I had turned my back on the ravens, all four of them, and after Leo and his dad walked off, Madame got into the spinney and I walked into the ravens' field on my own - followed by 'my' two ravens!
I kept to the usual feeding routine: a few scraps in the open field, some more into the fenced-off plot, thrown from each side of the square as we walk round. This time, I tried to see how close the ravens would dare to come to pick them up. 
I stood right next to the fence and threw the scrap in, about a foot away from me. That exercise was inconclusive however, as Madame was sniffing at the fence, right behind my back! It certainly made the ravens extra-cautious.

However, as soon as I stepped a couple of feet back and called Madame off, they hopped to it and scoffed what was there. Again, the timid one seems to wait for the bold one to feed first.
Walking back on the tennis court side of the spinney, the ravens followed, and when they got nothing, they flew up to sit on the shed roof. One actually ventured after us onto the grass next to the bowling green, but gave up as no food appeared. 
It was also, perhaps, a bit too close to the toddlers' playground - where I didn't see ravens this time, because Karen appeared, preceeded by a very happy, bouncing Bas! That Bas would scare any raven off. I roped Karen in, to tell me if any ravens approach her in Pontcanna Fields.
Well - that was an interesting morning!
Tomorrow we'll be out early again, to see what happens - and then I'll try and find out if they will come to me when I come back from the Cathedral, which is from the opposite direction. 
This will be a different time, more like mid-morning, and I'll obviously not be wearing my dog-walking clothes.

Nov 9th, 2009

'Tomorrow' is now today.

And there was another stunning twist to the ravens' tale.

We went out at 7 a.m. It was just light, it was quite cold (2 Centigrades). There was some fog, rather than just thin early morning mist - and we had the first grass frost.

Madame enjoyed rolling in the frosty grass, she loves to throw herself down and roll in it every five yards or so.
I didn't see any of the usual dog walkers this time - far too early for the time of year.

To my utter surprise, the ravens came swooping from the trees at the footpath, into the big field, as if to meet us! This time the timid one came first, the bold one later. 

How do I know which was which?
Because when I threw the first scraps, the first raven waited for the second, the bold one, to hop across and take it!

They followed us into the raven field - it was difficult to keep Madame quiet, so she got a few scraps as well. I prefer feeding them in the fenced-in plot, but they do like following us around in the open field as well, so I do give them some scraps.

I observed the same food-storing behaviour as before.
I also noted that even when they are behind the fence, they are still wary enough not to approach too closely, that would be about a couple of feet or less away from me. They also seem to prefer me turning my back on them, as if they'd rather pick up the scraps unobserved.

As we finished our walk, we could hear croaking and squawking coming from across the allotments, from Pontcanna Fields. Both ravens took off in that direction, and we walked towards the tennis-court side of the spinney. 
But then both ravens came swooping back, following us to the grassy patch this side of the Parks Dept. sheds. As we went on, they flew onto the shed roof - but didn't follow further.

Now I confess, I'm puzzled.

Are they waiting for me and Madame, personally, as it were? Or do they now think any person plus Border Collie is going to feed them? (Which wouldn't be so good ...!)
Do they prefer the earlier time - because there are fewer people and dogs around?

Two things I can do:
1) go out at 7 a.m. again, tomorrow - provided its not chucking it down with rain;
2) ask Marianne if she now has raven encounters as well - and ask Karen, too (she's got Bas). If they do - note what they have observed.

One other thing: Wednesday I'll be going to the Cathedral in the morning, after our walk. Its John's birthday, and I want to put some flowers on that spot in the Garden of Remembrance.
On the way back, I'll try and see if the ravens will come just for me: different time, no Madame ... that ought to help clear up what it is that they note, remember and that makes them come for scraps. I'll take a few scraps with me, and the camera - as always, weather permitting!

Nov 8th, 2009, Sunday

I got it wrong again for today!

Overslept again - its the longer darkness, and no birdsong to wake me up. It was not as cold as yesterday, a bit more cloudy perhaps, but again dry and no wind.

We were running a good 15 minutes late, but that mishap at least seems to have led to a tentative answer to the question of how the ravens recognise me.

As we got into the first part of Llandaff fields, Marianne and Billy came towards us from Pontcanna Fields. Marianne is a tad taller than I am - and she was wearing a red jacket. Two ravens appeared from Pontcanna Fields, and landed on the footpath in front of her! As she didn't do anything, they flew into the trees again, and then back to Pontcanna Fields. It was too far away for me to recognize them, but I thought this was quite significant: its the combination of a tall person with a Border Collie - dogs which are quite distinctive with their mostly black-and-white coats.

We walked on to the ravens' field. None there to wait for us, initially, but they did appear. Madame had a few tries at chasing them - but while they flapped off they did not fly up into the trees.

We had the now usual feeding routine, with me throwing bits into the fenced-off plot. Madame got a few titbits herself, the reason being that I might perhaps train her not to chase the ravens because of the food!

Again, the bold one tried to scoff evey piece he could lay his beak on. At one time he had four bits stored in his crop!

I've got to work on this feeding technique - its patently unfair on the other raven. He only gets a bit when the bold one flies of to cache his loot in the ground. On the other hand, the bold one seems to have learned that there is a second piece coming, which it is worth his while to wait for ...

This time, as we'd finished walking round the enclosure, both of them flew to sit on a fence post, and both croaked at me. After having got  a 'reward' for that performance, they both flew across to the other side and to the trees at the boundary to the allotments.

We went back round the spinney by the tenniscourts - the 'other' way - and the ravens did not follow this time.

So - more questions in regard to their following behaviour: did they not see us leave? 

I'm not sure they have already got that this is the 'no-more-food' exit, not after one example.

Tomorrow we can check out the part which is played by the time of day: I've got to be much earlier than the last few days, so it will be a bit darker - but, as always, weather permitting!

Nov 7th, 2009

And on the first day of this weekend ... the best-laid plans did indeed 'gang agley'! 

First, I overslept. Then, having decided that I'd therefore be on time, but dressed differently, things went totally out of control!

It was a rather cold morning, rather dense early morning mist low over the ground, but the sun was out.

In the car park, we ran into Alfie (a young Border Collie) and his dad, whom I hadn't seen for some time, so we had a chat. Couldn't do other, really.

Then, walking further into this first field, we met Marianne, and her Billy: another Border Collie, whom Madame adores, him being about 8 years old now. So - another chat, quite long. I had to tell her about the ravens ...

So there was my 'experiment': totally in tatters - being dressed differently, but also, unfortunately, being late!

Something else, not to do with the ravens: just befoe we got to the ravens' field, a skein of geese (Barnacle? Canada?) flew over us, 16 of them, in perfect wedge foramtion, honking away. Fantastic!

Into 'our' field, and no ravens.

Having walked up to the fenced-in plot however, they appeared. This time they came one after the other, hardly any time lag between their arrival. I fed them - it was just as yesterday.
I threw stuff into the enclosure, Madame being off her lead, and the bold raven tried to get each and everyone of these bits. It took some doing on my part to get one or two bits to the second raven.

A few times they nearly came to blows over the scraps, the first raven being determined to get all the food. This time, they did not hide the bits in the ground. I wonder if that was because they were more hungry (me being late and all) or because it was much colder than the days before?

Otherwise - again the storing of food in the crop was noticeable, and again the bold one croaked at me. He also has started to overtake me as I walked further along, landing in front of me, as if trying to bar my way.

Madame, off the lead, took a couple of runs at them. The first time, they took off onto the fence posts. The second time, they just flapped away for a few yards.

Also, I went round the spinney as usual - that is, around to the general footpath where the trees are, into the big field. Both followed. 

At least this is one thing I can try tomorrow: see if they'll learn that going round the spinney the other way (the tennis court side) means: 'no more food'.

Regarding my recognition experiment: coming late seems ok, as does wearing different clothes. I'll try and come early tomorrow, and perhaps I ought to consider wearing a woolly hat? Not because of the cold: because of covering my head, thus hiding my hair colour - which is sort of titian ...

I haven't had so much fun going out with Madame for ages!

As for taking photos: if its not raining, and not as cold as today, it ought to be possible! The ones I took earlier this year were taken with a zoom lens, thus I was keeping a good distance (about 50 yards at least) to them and they didn't mind me. We'll see

Nov 6th, 2009

Its getting really interesting now! 
Here is what happened today:

We left the house at 7.30 a.m. It was a bit gloomy, overcast, no sun - but no wind and no rain.
In the car park, there was one raven, rootling around on the ground in the fallen leaves. He took no notice of us, nor of any passing cyclists, but did hop off when one of the residents in our road opened his car with these new keys which switch the alarm off: flashing lights and klicks, that was too much!

Madame and I then went to the big field, to play around a bit, making our way to the back field with the fenced-in plots. This is our routine, whatever happens.
I had to pick up one of Madame's little deposits, and took them to the nearest waste bin, while she went off to the spinney.

When I'd crossed the footpath to get into 'our' field, first one, then the other raven came, swooping to sit on the lowest branches of the boundary trees, looking at me.

Now I was coming from a slightly different direction today, and we were quite some distance away from 'our' plot. Also, these trees were at the opposite end from those from which the ravens so far used to swoop down.

What about that, then!

As I went into the field proper, they came down to the ground and hopped close. One, the more dominant one, is definitely the one with that brow ridge. And as he was much less timid than yesterday, I am beginning to think its the same 'bold friend'.

They both were a bit scared when Madame tried to chase them - but in the end, they got on with following me and waiting for scraps. Again, the second raven was more timid, not just of me but also of the first raven. It was as if he was waiting for permission from that first one to feed.

And again I could see how the bold one stored one scrap in his crop, to fly off and stick this scrap into a hole in the ground, which he made with his beak. He did this a few times.
This all took place in the open field.

Then Jeff the chocolate lab came bouncing towards us, and the ravens flew onto the fence posts. After we had sorted ourselves, Madame and I went round this fenced-off plot and I threw more scraps into this plot. The ravens fed and followed us - and then the bold one croaked at me, loudly, facing me. I could see right into his open beak, and even saw his tongue.

We then went home, rounding the spinney the other way, that is round the side facing the tennis courts. The bold raven followed in the distance, but i did not give him any more food. I want to see if they learn that going round this way means feeding-time is over!

The next question, of course, is: have they formed an image of me & Madame?
If so - is the trigger the colour of my clothes? The dog-walking clothes I've been wearing all this autumn are in various shades of red.
Or is the trigger the time of day? 

We'll work this out over the next two days (weather permitting!), as its the weekend and many dogwalkers will have a lie-in!

Nov 5th, 2009

Guy Fawkes Day - thankfully the little b*stards don't play with fireworks at this time of day!
It was bright and nippy, some clouds, and we got to the 'raven'-field at the better, earlier time of 7.45.

We hadn't seen any ravens on the way there - and there were none in the field when we arrived. But - as soon as I was level (though a good ten yards away) with the fenced-in plot, one came swooping down from the trees at the wall. He sat on a fence post, and I thought it was my bold friend.

I started throwing the scraps of meat - but he was acting timid, like the one two days ago. Then the second raven came - also timid. They did follow me round the fenced-in plot, but very carefully and ready for take-off. Even when I threw some scraps into the fenced-off plot, which they took, they were wary.
Madame was running free - well, sniffing around the whole fence, but well away from them, doing her own thing (like looking for any scraps the ravens might have left!!).

But then ... as we were walking back, the first raven followed us again to the big field, round the spinney and across the footpath - a lone cyclist coming along was no deterrent. I gave him one of the pellets, again - and again he flew away as soon as some more dogwalkers came along, further down the path.

Now I wonder: is this raven, who twice now was so timid, the same as my bold one? He certainly looked like him when he sat on the fence post! I definitely thought it was him when I saw him sitting there. Is it possible that he's been getting too close to other people and got scared away? Or that some dog chased him, and he's now frightened?

I'm speculating because while his behaviour - swooping down from the trees as soon as I turn up, the following around - is similar to that of the bold one, his timidity is not.
More observations needed ...!

One other noteworthy point: this raven (if it is the same), or better: the raven who comes first to ask for food, so far has always got the most of the scraps. The other has been coming later, and doesn't try to get to the scraps when he sees this first raven hop towards them.
Its not related to being in the open field: the same happened when they were both in the fenced-off pitch. The second raven also looks generally slighter.

Oh - and from the photos, I'd say the first, 'bold' raven is definitely one I've photographed earlier this year. He's got what I can only describe as a 'brow-ridge'. It was clearly visible today, when he was in the fenced-off plot.

Nov 4th, 2009

... and tomorrow, that is today, brought ... nothing!

We were out earlier, it was a nice morning, with showers threatening - but no ravens.

Mind - it was another Bas-morning: we met him and Karen and walked round the field together.
I was looking at the photos of Bas later - and there is one, from June, which clearly has him and Madame bouncing around - and two ravens on the ground, in the back. So, they can't be too fussed about him. 

Therefore - it might be the time: the earlier we're out (and thus the darker it is), the fewer the raven encounters.


Nov 3rd, 2009

It was a different story today!
While it was still a bit breezy and showery, it was nothing like Sunday, and the sun was poking through the clouds.

To begin with, there were two ravens on the first rugby pitch we come to, next to the car park. They were not interested in us. One flew off, the other flew to sit on the top of one of the goal posts.
Then there were two ravens in the toddlers' playground - the one from the first lot was still sitting on the goal post. They were poking the ground, one of them giving an almighty swipe with his beak, to remove a clump of the grass cuttings.

So - are there more than just two ravens in Llandaff Fields? Looks like it!

Reaching our usual field, the first thing we noticed was that the temporary fencing, which was about 6 foot high, had gone from both the fenced-off, re-seeded cricket pitches. Instead, both were nicely fenced in with a post-and-wire fencing, about 4 foot high, and with a gate in each.
No ravens to start with ...

Then, one arrived, but kept quite a distance away - about ten yards. He was obviously waiting for me to do something, so I threw a scrap of meat for him. He was quite scared, and hopped away as I threw, but came back to snatch the meat from the ground. I gave him another one - same action by the raven: he was shy, it was not the bold one. He also looked thinner.

Another raven arrived, even more timid than this first one, just sitting on a fence post, watching, before he came for his scrap of meat.

Both were very jumpy and flapped off quickly, for some yards, when Madame Jodi barked at them.
Clearly, these were not at all like the big bold raven who had followed me around!
They were however close enough for me to observe that the first raven kept the meat scraps in his crop: it was clearly extending, in contrast to that of the second raven.

We walked round the fenced-off plot, and they did follow, at a distance. The first hopped a bit closer. His hopping was more like sidling, he did not come full front. His right side was turned away from me, as if keeping ready for a quick take-off.

As the showers increased, Madame and I walked off towards the spinney. The first raven sort of followed, but nothing like the bold one the other day. It didn't make it to the spinney, and the other one had flown off by then.
Two dogs, one a bouncy lab, arrived - so that was the end of that!

On the way back home, we again observed two ravens in the toddlers' playground, still poking the ground. And then there was a couple displaying over the houses close to Llandaff Fields - wonderful, but brief: they vanished as soon as some sea gulls flew across them, reasonably high up in the sky.

We'll see what tomorrow brings - I do long to meet that bold raven again!

Nov 2nd, 2009

It was still a bit windy today, but no rain. We again met Bas and his mum Karen, but I thought we'd better all go on together and see what the ravens make of it.

However, once in the usual field, there was a van, and workers. So the chance of ravens coming down to us were pretty much nonexistent.

I did throw the obligatory piece of meat into the plot - we walked round, and one raven came from the trees on the allotment side - but he swerved off when he saw the workers coming out of the van. He settled on the top of the middle tree (one of those growing against the wall) and stayed there the whole time we walked around. 

Now that most of the leaves have gone, thanks to the gales on Sunday (yesterday), he was nicely visible, even from that distance.

I walked round one more time after Bas and Karen had left us, but nothing doing ...

Nov 1st, 2009 - Sunday

As expected - atrocious weather, gales, rain ... a flock of black-headed gulls in the park, but no ravens, nor any other mad dogwalkers! 
Well, it was Sunday - but how were the ravens to know?

Mind - I'm beginning to wonder if the ravens dislike the presence of the flocks of black-headed seagulls. There are quite a lot of them, a good four dozen, some herring gulls amongst them. I am wondering because yesterday they did not come until after Madame had chased the  - much smaller - flock of wood pigeons off.
Its worth thinking about ...

I left the obligatory scraps of meat in the fenced-off plot, and then Madame and I trudged home, wet and cold.

On the way back, one raven appeared - he came from Pontcanna Fields and sat on the fence between the footpath and the toddlers' playground. I stood still, and then I carefully put my hand in my pocket to get the bag with the scraps of meat out - but he flew off.
It must have been the shy one, or else there are more than two ravens, which is possible. It certainly wasn't my bold one!

We'll see what tomorrow brings, weather-wise, dogwalker-wise and raven-wise ...

What happened next on that morning!

What happened next still has me totally enthralled - and incredulous!

He followed us along the grass, really close, hopping and flapping.

So I gave him one of Madame's dry dog food pellets. He loved it!

He loved it so much, he followed us round the little spinney and over the footpath, onto the huge field, always keeping quite close. That was for a distance of about 60 or 70 yards, and round the spinney, where we were briefly out of his sight.

Meanwhile, I had let Madame off the lead. She did a small, soft hop-and-bark towards him, and he responded with a short, very low, winged hop - both giving the impression that this was just for form's sake ...

The raven and I just stood there, looking at each other.
I was stunned.
I gave him another pellet - then dogwalkers came along further down the path and he took off.

I still can't quite believe what happened this morning.

Obviously, these two ravens have seen me around since spring, they must have taken notice of Madame. They might well have watched me throw the meaty bits and the cheese into the fenced-off plot. I am reasonably certain that they do not regard me as a threat, and they must know by now that Madame is more bark than bite.
But why would the bold raven actually follow me - for quite a way?

Today was the first time I actually threw food items to them where they could see me up close, and pick them up straight away. This all took place in the open field, not in the fenced-off enclosure, where neither me nor Madame would have been able to get at them.

I was enthralled when they took the pieces of cheese I threw without flying off, in spite of my physical throwing action, and in spite of having Madame sitting next to me. That was astounding in itself.
But following me?

I've got some more meat scraps for tomorrow, although I don't hold much hope for any feeding encounters.
The weather forecast is for rain and gales. So even if the morning turns out to be dry, there will still be strong winds and it will be gloomy.
I'll try and shout - see if that attracts them.
Can't wait!

Oct 31st, 2009

It was a lovely early morning, sun rising, mild, damp from the overnight rain. Madame and I were the only ones around, and it was practically the same time as yesterday, give or take five minutes. (Thats about 7.40 a.m.)

Not a raven in sight - but three wood pigeons in the fenced-off are, and another small flock a bit further away, towards the back wall and the tennis courts. I shooed the wood pigeons off the plot. Madame was running free, and had fun chasing the other wood pigeons off.
Then I threw one of the pieces of cheese into that fenced-off plot.
No ravens.

After the wood pigeons had gone, and Madame had turned towards the wall and the trees there, one raven appeared and started poking the grass where the wood pigeons had been. Then the other appeared, also poking the grass, a few yards away from the first raven.

I walked round the plot, having been diagonally opposite where the pigeons and now the ravens were. I grabbed Madame and put her on the lead, not wanting her to chase the ravens.
When I was about five yards away from them, I stood still. The bold one actually came hopping towards me, eyeing me. I slowly took another piece of cheese out of my pocket, desperately trying to keep Madame under control, who thought that piece of cheese was for her.

The raven stood, then came closer, and I very gently threw that piece of cheese towards him. He didn't fly off, he hopped to the cheese and took it in his beak, then flew a bit down along the fence to eat it.
Then the more shy one, who was much further off, also came closer and stood waiting. I gave him a small piece of cheese, so he took it and moved back.
The bold raven came back, hopped really close, about a yard away, and waited for his next bit!
I duly gave it to him - and then walked off with Madame, as I had no more cheese to distribute.

Oct 30th, 2009

Yesterday I took some small pieces of cheese with me, having run out of meat scraps. 
It was again a bit grey and overcast - and no ravens appeared. I had heard them earlier, and they must have been around, but perhaps they have a different routine on different days. 

We were about ten minutes later than the day before - on purpose. There were no other dogwalkers or joggers in that part of the park at that time, although two turned up with their boisterous, lovely dogs, after I had given up on the ravens.

Ah well ... try again ...

Oct 29th, 2009

Today it was grey and not as bright: we were a bit early, and we also met Bas and his mum. So, while I distributed the rest of the meat - quite a few pieces, as they were starting to go off - there was no raven to take them this time. Perhaps seeing me with someone else, and having another, bigger dog rushing round the fence put him off.

I'll get a fresh lot tomorrow, Friday, to keep this up. I want to know if this was just an accident, or if the ravens do watch and come to get the food - and if they will get used to me.

I have the suspicion that at least one of these ravens 'recognises' me as a source of easy food. This is the one not bothered by Madame Jodi - in fact it looked rather comical to see her make a desultory attempt at scaring him off, with a tiny jump and some soft, unthreatening barks, while he literally hopped just a few yards along the fence to show that he wasn't really scared by her.

I'll try and get out a bit later, when it is lighter.
Saturday and Sunday will be quite empty of dogwalkers at that time of day - so we'll see.

The next day

On the next day I brought the meat scraps again. 
I was not at all certain the ravens would appear again this time, because there was one person doing some physical exercises with a stick, and some idiot had put up a tent under the trees at the back wall.

Still - I threw that meat into the fenced-off area and turned away to walk off. I had taken only a few steps and turned round to call for Madame Jodi - when the raven came swooping down, right onto that plot. He started to pick up one piece of meat, and then walked a few steps to make a hole in the ground to put it in. He did that with all the pieces of meat (three altogether) and then went back to the first one to start eating it.
Meanwhile his companion was rooting around on the ground a bit further afield.


I was thrilled to bits!

More, it was incredibly wonderful, applying some bits of raven behaviour described by Bernd Heinrich in Vermont - and seeing that it worked here in Wales.

The best part, so far, for me, was having this amazing bird sitting there, about a couple of yards away, looking at me, not being scared, and then making these soft, gentle, croaking noises ... and to top it all, he looked just like one of the drawings in Heinrich's book!

Ravens - not quite in winter ...!

Since spring this year I've observed a couple of ravens in Llandaff Fields when I was out with Madame Jodi. I've taken quite a few photos, and their behaviour, as well as their segregation from the other birds has been very intrigueing to watch: jackdaws and, since autumn, the little black-headed gulls avoid them, and even the lesser black-backed gulls keep their distance. Magpies and crows don't go near them, and the wood pigeons also keep well away.

In September the Council's Parks Dept. fenced off three of the cricket pitches, to re-seed them. Two of them are in the part bounded by the tennis courts, and the wall and fence segregating this part of Llandaff Fields from the allotments. This part is less frequented, especially now that these two large areas are fenced off.
Joggers and dog walkers still walk round the periphery - but that hasn't bothered the ravens.

Often, they sit on the fence and watch. Madame Jodi made a few attempts at scaring them off, barking and jumping - but as they only flap off to the fence opposite, they all have now decided that this is futile, and don't pay any attention to each other any longer.

On Oct 23rd, Madame did her usual scavenging (which infuriates me!), and found a piece of soggy bread. I don't know if some sea gull had dropped it, or if it had been placed there by the ravens, who do make holes in the ground with their beaks to hide food morsels. That is what Bernd Heinrich describes in his book 'The Mind of the Raven'.

Anyway - I rushed up to Madame Jodi and pulled that soggy piece of bread out of her mouth, scolding her, and threw it over the fence onto the re-seeded cricket pitch. That was just so that she couldn't get at it - the ravens were nowhere to be seen, and had not been around that morning, and I had no thought at all of feeding them. There is sufficient stuff for them to scavenge - they often sit on the rubbish bins near the car park and pull things out.

But - as soon as I had thrown that bread, one raven came swooping from the trees, right into the fenced-off pitch, and eat it. Nice! 

I gawped - that was not something I had reckoned with.

The next morning, this raven, or his companion, sat on the fence of that selfsame pitch - and I swear he looked at me as if to say 'where's my food then?'.

So I went to our butchers (who, incidentally, is the 'dad' of Bas, the four-legged holiday visitor) and begged for some cut-uff scraps of meat, which he happily gave to me.

The next morning, and the following ones, I religiously threw these pieces of meat onto that fenced-off grass plot. Never a raven came ... but the meat had gone the next morning. I suspected the ravens might have either been somewhere else, or might not have been up yet - it was very dark, the clocks had not gone back yet to GMT.

Getting a bit annoyed with this failure, I stopped throwing meat scraps for two days.

And then ... on a lovely, bright and sunny morning, one raven flew down from the trees, sat on the fence and looked at me. He then started to preen his chest feathers, and he made some soft croaking sounds.
Then his companion arrived and both flew off together.

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