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.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Sunday, Jan 31st

I've stayed inddors today, not being well.
Sorry, ravens.
Better day tomorrow ...

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Jan 30th

It was freezingly cold this morning. No songbirds to be heard, but there were some raven calls around 6 a.m.
I left the house at 7.55 a.m. The sun was just coming up, the sky was clear, and there was a thin sprinkling of snow on the ground everywhere. 
Did I say it was very cold, well below freezing? It was ...!

No raven calls or ravens as I walked from the first field to the big field, but as I came to the spinney, there was one, in one of trees, calling. His companion then flew to one of the big sycamores to the left of the spinney. 

As they were flying to the ground in the ravens field, following me, a lively spaniel turned up, rushing at them, chasing them, barking, ears flapping. So they retreated to the safety of the trees and only came to the ground once that dog had gone, and I was well on my way to the enclosure. 
They were the young pair, showing all the behaviour I've seen previously.

There was one behaviour which I noticed today for the first time: when I look at one of these ravens, he starts wiping his beak, against the ground or against the post he's sitting on. Some sort of displacement behaviour, I believe.

Going back the 'more food' way, after these two had flown off to hide their food, the first ravens to turn up in the big field were my quarry pair. The were as skittish as always, and still kept their distance. 
Then, the bold pair turned up. The bold one always is so keen to get all and any scraps! His companion always waits until he goes to hide his booty - and she seems to erect the feathers on her head when she is alone and other ravens are around.

Then a third pair appeared, from the toddlers' playground.
All got their scraps, until I had run out. There were no scuffles, but I noticed that one of the quarry pair seemed to have a tiny spot on his chest where he must have lost a few feathers.
They all stopped following me when Bas turned up, rushing up to me: what a lovely sight!

More freezing temperatures tomorrow, perhaps some snow, but some sunshine to start the morning with: the ravens won't mind, I'm sure!

Friday, 29 January 2010

Jan 29th

Just like yesterday, the songbirds, such as robins and blackbirds, were shouting their hearts out at 6 a.m., but not one raven called. It was still night rather than pre-dawn. The ravens only started calling about an hour later. 
I left the house at 7.30 a.m. on the dot. The rain had stopped, but the dark clouds still hid the light of dawn. The wind, from the North West, was strong and cold.

I heard the first raven call when I got to the top of the big field. He was sitting on one of the bigger trees in the spinney. As I entered the ravens field, he first flew to sit on a branch of the huge sycamore to the left, then he came to the ground. His companion had meanwhile flown into the enclosure.
It was my young pair, both still quite shy, still waiting for me to move on before picking up the scrap.
After I'd been round the enclosure, throwing scraps, and was on the way back to the big field, just approaching the spinney, a single raven flew over us, rather low. 
First one, then both of my young pair flew up and chased this intruder away. Well, they tried - he came back a few times, but in the end they did get rid of him. 

I went to the big field the 'more food' way. My young pair did not follow, but to my surprise, after I'd walked on a bit, my bold pair turned up! 
As with my young pair, they were still a bit uncertain because there was no Madame with me - but then the bold one just went on scoffing the scraps.

The quarry pair now turned up as well. They also got their scraps, and as before, they were very skittish. There were no scuffles between the two pairs. 
This time I got rid of every single scrap, but interestingly, the ravens did not follow me, begging. The reason was that this flock of black-headed sea gulls turned up again, circling over. 
I am taking note of this, because with the days lengthening, and the breeding season approaching, I expect to see changes in the behaviour of the birds, as well as in the way they partition the time they spend in the various playing fields here.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Jan 28th

Early in the morning, before dawn breaks, all one can her now are the robins. The ravens start calling about an hour later.
It was mild when I left the house at 7.40 a.m., the wind from the North East had not picked up yet. There were thick clouds both in the East, hiding the dawn light, and in the West. But in between were patches of clear sky, tinted a delicate pale blue and soft yellowy pink.

I went along the wall near the first field. Madame loved walking along the wall and he trees. It is like a huge dog newspaper.

When I got to the top of the big field, there were raven calls, and I saw one, who flew from one of the tall trees in the spinney further down into a smaller one. As I rounded the spinney into the ravens field, no raven was there on the grass.
But then, getting to the enclosure, there they were, sitting on a fence post, one to the right, one to the lft of me. I hadn't seen them  flying there, because it was still too dark. 

Again, it was my young pair, and again they were very shy, picking up the scraps I threw into the enclosure only after my back was turned. Going back into the big field the 'more food' way, none followed at first - then one came, flying to the ground. His companion did not come, and he flew off after he'd got a couple more scraps. The quarry pair did not turn up, nor did my bold raven.
I assume the flock of little black-headed gulls circling overhead kept them away.

And then there were Toby and Cookie, the Border Collies, with their owners. I went up to talk to them. Both had lost dogs before, so they knew what it is like for me. Both miss Madame, who always was so happy to greet them with ecstatic face licks. 

Again, I had scraps left over when I went back home - they used to be for our last little obedience exercise. I still can see her happyy face, looking up expectantly, tail wagging, smiling, doing her heel work ...

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Jan 27th

The ravens calls I heard in the distance, early this morning, were nearly drowned out  by the robins' songs.
I left the house at 7.30 a.m., to an incipient dawn, with the light in the East hidden behind thick, dark clouds. It was cold, the temperature was just below freezing.

There were no ravens when I walked to the ravens field, using a route which Madame used to love walking and sniffing in the spring and summer. So I suddenly appeared in the ravens field from yet another direction - but one raven, sitting in one of the maples at the tennis court fence, made a soft quorking sound - he had seen me. 
At first I went to the wall, to the bench - and he did come to the ground, following me - but keeping a good five yards away. His companion was in the enclosure, but came when I started to throw scraps. They were my young pair, and they were much more shy and diffident than the last time I saw them, with Madame still at my side.

I went to the enclosure and threw more scraps into it - both ravens again keeping well on the opposite side to where I was standing. 
I left by walking into the spinney, the way Madame loved to walk, and came out on the side of the big field where she always came out. One raven had flown to sit on one of the small wild cherry trees at the spinney, as if checking that I was leaving the 'no more food' way. Sorry about that, ravens!

They did fly to the ground, at the top of the big field, when they saw me there, and got some more scraps. Still, they kept well away, and then went off before I had finished. The quarry pair did not turn up today. There were no dogs around at that time, not close nor in the distance, so I don't know what happened.

I went home, with just the amount of scraps left which would have gone into Madame, as reward for her good behaviour.
I miss her more than I can say.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Jan 26th

I left the house at 7.20 a.m. It was dark, not even a hint of dawn, but it was mild. 
I had heard raven calls a good hour before I left, and later there were robins singing their hearts out.

This was a difficult walk, my heart was heavy. I walked all round Llandaff Fields, not our usual routes but combining the two. I needed to say good-bye, for Madame Dog, to all her favourite places.

I had brought scraps for the ravens, but as I walked into the ravens field from the far end, coming from the little arboretum, I was not looking out for the ravens. I walked all along the fence and wall, bordering the allotments at the top of the ravens field - that was where we played all those summers, first with Big Dog, then just Madame and me.

The bold raven came as I approached the enclosure - he was not sure about me, because not only did I come from a different direction, I also was on my own. 
He had watched me from one of the big maples along the wall.
So I threw some scraps - and his companion came as well. I told them that Madame had died, and that she would never bark at them, chase them, or stare at them ever again.

As I went to the big field, Bas and Karen turned up - Bas running joyfully towards me. I told Karen that Madame Dog had died. We separated at the spinney, and I went back into the ravens field, crying and feeding the ravens.

They followed me back into the big field, the bold raven walking behind me, cawing loudly. As I threw scraps for him and his companion, the quarry pair also turned up, making quorking sounds behind my back. When I turned round, they both were displaying that juvenile begging posture.

When all the scraps had gone, I went back, lonely and sad, but determined not to forsake the ravens.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Jan 25th

My beloved Madame died this morning, in my arms.

We were at the vet's, and having talked through all the options, I decided that even taking her home again would have been too much of a torment for her.

So I held her tight while the medication went in, she didn't know a thing and was gone even before the syringe was empty.

Loving someone, a person or a pet, also means we must have the fortitude to let them go, for their own sake, no matter how hard it is for us.

I hope to pick up with the ravens in the next couple of days, when I have no more tears to cry.

Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Sunday, Jan 24th

We made it through the night. At one point I thought we wouldn't, madame having trouble breathing. But she is such a tough little girlie - and she most definitely does not want me to even give the hint of fussing and being worried.

As reward, in the morning, I was greeted with her wagging tail, as she was lying on the carpet.

We're taking this day as another gift - both of us struggling a bit: Madame with her illness, weakness and pain, me with trying my best to make her feel normal, and not fussing even though I want to carry her on my arms.

As long as she manages to wag her tail now and then, for a brief moment, I am contented.
Not crying is the hardest bit.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Jan 23rd

Madame is not doing well at all - she is in visible pain due to the withdrawal of the painkilelrs for ehr arthritis.
The results from the specialist, in just now, confirmed what my vet said: the red blood cells are not regenerating. 
My vet is still hopeful, he said this may take some time, meanwhile I'm to feed her some red meat, and bring her in for another check-up on Tuesday.

So I'm doing my best to keep to Madame's routine, and am trying hard not upset her in any way by being emotional.

Thank you for all your kind words - we're hanging in there, taking each day as it comes.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Jan 22nd

Nothing about ravens - just a brief update on Madame:

*) Madame is reasonably cheerful within herself - but so weak, and her lips and gums are very pale indeed. Its pitiful, but except for making sure she is not falling and getting scared, I have to keep everything as normal as possible, for her sake.

*) We've got to wait for the results. The blood samples were sent to a specialist yesterday. The results might be in tonight, more probably tomorrow. I decided not to search the web before I know precisely what is wrong with Madame.

Virtual hugs and cuddles for Madame are very much appreciated!

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Jan 21st

I had to take Madame to the vet today - she was so weak, she couldn't even walk upstairs last night. 
She was too weak to walk today, she just went to the garden once, stumbling.

Result so far: she has anaemia, the cause is not clear, so the vet sent her blood samples away for further investigations. 
We'll know by the weekend. 
Meanwhile: no exercise, and no medication for the next few days. 

While we go to and come back from the vet in a taxi, I walked there to pick her up. This walk takes me through Pontcanna Fields. I wanted to see if there were some ravens.  
Indeed I saw a couple, quite a way off, and one sitting in a huge sycamore. 

Now that we're back, all I can do is keep Madame safe, so she doesn't fall and get scared - and wait for the results.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Jan 20th

As predicted, we're having rain, which is icy cold, and it is already snowing a bit further East, in Wales and England.  

Earlier in the morning, Madame stepped into the back garden - and came straight back indoors, not happy with the weather. 
So I did not take her into Llandaff Fields: we only walked down the back lane and back again. She was so slow - it was all I wanted her to do - she does need exercise, even if its just an infinitesimal amount.

We did hear raven calls, earlier and far away, coming from Pontcanna Fields - and when we got back from our little walk, two ravens called from the rooftops as we walked along. 

I am not going out alone today to feed them, because I do not want to leave Madame on her own. 
Depending on how she does, and depending on the weather, we may venture out tomorrow, either together or me on my own.

The ravens might perhaps be more keen to come for their scraps when I miss feeding them for a day or so ...

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Jan 19th

Madame had a better night, so we ventured out. It was grey and damp when we left at 7.35 a.m., and it was still darkish. 

The robins have started to sing around 6.30 a.m., in the dark, and the ravens have also started to call around that time.

There were no raven calls when we got into the first field. We walked straight to the ravens field, Madame on her lead. No ravens in sight on the way there - but once in the ravens field, two were sitting in the big sycamore, at the fence to the tennis courts, clearly visible amongst the bare branches. 

I had brought some scraps which I was going to throw into the enclosure, but they came down to the ground, so I fed them there and then.
It was the young pair. 
While one of them, as with the bold pair, aims to get more scraps than his companion, he only snaffles up three of them before he flies off to hide them. 
His companion takes just one before flying off as well.

We did not go to the enclosure - Archie (a nice, teenage whippet) turned up, trying to get some of the scraps, so we went back to the big field. 
The young pair followed in the usual way, and the quarry pair turned up as well. Both kept their distance, both got the rest of the scraps. 
We tried to go back home in a straight line - but Toby and Cookie (both Border Collies) were there, so we had a brief chat. Their owners saw how the four ravens walked behind me, to get the final little pieces, they thought it was hilarious!

Then Bas came, so that was the end of the outing. 

Depending on how Madame is doing overnight, and depending on the weather - it might rain, it might even snow - we'll decide tomorrow morning about going out.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Jan 18th

No ravens - Madame had a bad night, had to take her to the vet, first thing this morning. He's not doing anything yet - I'll have to observe Madame closely for the next few days. 
I'm upset, don't know how this will turn out.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Sunday, Jan 17th:

We did go out together this morning. No snow, no wind to speak off, no drizzle - and while not exactly balmy, it was not cold. We actually saw a hint of dawn.

Earlier, before we got out at 7.50 a.m., we had heard the ravens call as if totally outraged. To my great astonishment, some of the rubbish bags were being collected, thus disturbing the early morning ravens raid on the ripped food bags. I was told by a neighbour, who works nights, that he'd seen the tracks of urban foxes who'd ripped open those food bags.

Once in Llandaff Fields, we heard some raven calls from Pontcanna Fields, but did not see any ravens anywhere. 
We walked to the ravens field - Madame on her lead - and once there, two ravens swooped in from the trees at the back wall, the boundary to the allotments.

It was my bold pair! 
They landed and walked up to us, facing us frontally. again, the bold one scoffed as much as he could get before taking off to hide his food. His companion patiently waited - and then flew off to hide the two, never more than three, pieces of scraps she got. 
The bold raven easily takes four or five.

This time, he also, twice, did not fly to the far end of the ravens field, but made two and three holes - some surely decoy holes, as described by Bernd Heinrich - just a couple of yards away from me, not bothering to fly away.

The only time both started to get skittish was when they were in the enclosure and a single seagull (black-headed gull) kept circling quite low over us all. It went away after a few minutes, I did not throw any food while it was circling. 

The bold raven, separated from us by the enclosure fence, came to within a couple of feet of me - but Madame's collie stare, that close up, did disconcert him a bit.

We went back the 'more food' way, both following us, and the bold raven actually swooping to the ground under the trees next to the spinney and hopping after us, across the footpath!

Once there, while still feeding them, the quarry pair turned up. They kept well away, and didn't call today. I gave them scraps when the bold pair, separately, had gone to hide their scraps. So no dust-up between them today.

Worth noting: the companion of the bold raven fluffs up her head feathers when she is alone and the quarry pair is around.

As it will stay reasonably mild tomorrow, we'll try and go out again, depending on how Madame feels.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Jan 16th

Madame is not recovering as quickly as I hoped - so no outings for the two of us, nor for me alone either. I really do not want to leave her alone: she had another very slight attack this morning, and it frightens her so much. 

The ravens are having a brilliant time, food-wise: more of the bags for food-waste had been opened overnight - probably by some of the urban foxes which live somewhere in Llandaff Fields - we've seen them often enough in the early morning hours in summer.

The rain overnight and in the morning has thawed all the snow and ice, it is warm, compared to one week ago, and there are even some little patches of blue sky right now. 

If Madame rallies and is better tomorrow, then we might attempt a brief walk. She'll have a better time then, without all the cold and snow.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Jan 15th

It is raining, and since it is still cold it feels really grim outdoors.
Madame is not well - the treatment will take time before it kicks in, so we're not going out, not together and not myself on my own. I do not want to leave her alone today, she is still looking a bit frightened.

The ravens will have to fend for themselves, but there really is a lot of food for them around - and they know how to get it.

For two weeks now our rubbish has not been collected. We have different bags, given to us by the City Council, into which we sort  our waste: recyclables, food, and ordinary stuff. The bags have different colours, and the food waste goes to be composted, so those bags are quite flimsy, being bio-degradable.

Yesterday, when I was taking Madame to the vet, I saw one raven, literally in the road, on the other side of the cross roads. He was drinking from a puddle of ice melt, and in front of him, on the pavement, were some of those food bags which he'd obviously raided - their content was spilled onto the pavement.

So I am pretty certain my ravens will not starve.

I don't know if tomorrow will allow me to go out on my own - rain is predicted, so Madame will still have to make do with the back garden, improvements or not.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Jan 14th

It was grey and damp again, but hardly any breeze. The temperature was positively balmy, compared to the last couple of weeks, being just above freezing.
Madame enjoyed lots of rolls in the still soft snow - and sneaked some snow-eating in as well!

We had heard raven calls before we left the house at 7.50 a.m. - again coming from Pontcanna Fields and sounding quite a distance away. We heard these calls as well when we got to Llandaff Fields, and there were some coming from the field next to the big road (that's not on the image above). 

We saw one pair of ravens sitting in the big trees to the left of the spinney - but only after we crossed from the big field into the ravens field. 
One made a soft quorking sound. 
They were the quarry pair, very skittish, staying well away from us - a good five yards. They did not like Madame staring at them, and picked up the scraps only after we had turned away.

As we got back into the big field the 'more-food' way, they made some calls but did not follow. Instead, we heard more calls, coming from the allotments - and my bold pair came swooping in over the spinney, from the allotments and Pontcanna Fields!

The bold raven has become an expert now: the scraps bounced a bit when landing on the hard-frozen ground, and he picked them on the bounce, every time! 
He did something else amazing: his crop was full, so he kept one piece in his beak, which stayed open - and then he called, with that piece still in his open beak!
His companion only got her scraps once he flew off to hide them, well behind the spinney. She seems quite used to this now - she just waits patiently until he flies off.

The quarry pair came back as well - they kept well away. But then they called - and lo and behold: both the bold raven and his companion swooped onto them and beat them with their wings. Lots of squawking - and after they all settled, both bold ravens displayed to each other, fluffing up their feathers, bowing to each other, nearly beak-to-beak. 

Then they came back to us - we hadn't moved. and of course they got more food - the quarry pair got their scraps once the bold pair had flown off to hide their loot.

As we went home, the bold pair went back to where they came from - Pontcanna Fields - but the quarry pair, after a while, flew into the big trees at the toddlers' playground, eyeing us, and getting the rest of the scraps which they only picked up after we'd gone some distance.

Madame had a slight attack again as we came back to the house, so I took her to the vet. Antibiotics again for Madame ...

Rain predicted for tomorrow, and even balmier temperatures - so there will be some thawing. I may have to go out without Madame.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Jan 13th

The snow started to fall yesterday evening. It is sticking everywhere, and while it's not a blizzard, it does keep on coming. Everything looks very pretty, but I won't take photos - it reminds me too much of the snow we had three years ago when Big Dog was still alive, and when I took so many pictures of him and Madame.

We left the house around 7.50 a.m. It was still dark, the sky covered in thick grey clouds which were shedding their snowflakes, slowly but persistently. 
Madame enjoyed it very much - her ecstatic rolls in the snow are a picture to behold. Unfortunately she, like all other dogs we met this morning, loves to eat the snow as well, with a predictable unfortunate 'out'-come!

It was still cold, below freezing, but there was none of the wind which had been predicted.

We did hear raven calls coming from Pontcanna Fields, quite a bit away, both before we left and when we were in Llandaff Fields. 
No calls in Llandaff Fields - and no ravens until we got to the ravens field. There, two ravens waited in the trees at the spinney, but did not come down to greet us.

They only came to the ground when Madame had strolled off and I had thrown a few scraps. They could have been the quarry pair. They were very skittish indeed, ready to jump and flap off every time Madame looked at them, as well as every time I moved to throw another scrap. They did not follow us back into the big field either.

Further along the footpath on our way home, another couple of ravens appeared, sitting in the trees at the toddlers' playground, just next to the top of the first field. I did throw them some scraps as well. They waited to pick them up until we'd gone into the first field.

I don't know what to make of this. It seems that my usual ravens have found a great source of food somewhere else, and these 'new' ones are not sure what is going on, but will take the food anyway. It may well be that the deep snow keeps my usual ravens away, especially if they find easier food somewhere else.

We'll see who turns up tomorrow, when the forecast is for slightly warmer temperatures, perhaps some rain, perhaps some thawing.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Jan 12th

Another very cold and damp day, clouds thickly covering the whole sky. No sun to be seen. And to make it really comfortable (not!!!), the harsh wind from the East picked up while we were out.

We left the house at 7.45 a.m., on the stroke of the bell. Again, the first raven calls came as soon as we entered the first field.
We kept hearing raven calls in the distance, coming from Pontcanna Fields while walking further on. I believe they do find food there.

Not one raven appeared as we came to the top of the big field! 
Then one flew in, and sat on one of the trees at the entrance to the ravens field. He was very skittish, and only came down when we'd got quite some little way into this field. 
Then a second raven appeared, from the quarry side. Their general behaviour made me think that these were the second young pair, who come to the big field after my (first) young pair have picked up some food and made some calls.

Their behaviour showed that they were indeed not my other young pair. 
For example, they did not anticipate us going to the enclosure. They finally flew to sit on the fence posts, but were not sure what to expect. They did not wait for me to throw scraps into the enclosure., but flew from one side to the other, to sit on those fence posts.

They did get a bit more confident and followed us when we turned to walk back, along the 'more-food' way, getting more food while still on the ground in the ravens field.

They made no calls - and they did not follow us into the big field, something which both my young pair and of course the bold raven and his companion know very well by now.

I noticed that there were raven tracks in the enclosure, in the iced-over snow. It looked to me as if the young pair, who has made food-hiding holes inside the enclosure, went there to retrieve what they had hid.

All the time we were in the ravens field we could hear raven calls coming from way over Pontcanna fields. No other raven turned up.

With the wind picking up all the time, we were glad to get home - well, I was, not having a furry outside!
No snow so far, today - it may come overnight, if its not rain, which then ices over. 

Monday, 11 January 2010

Jan 11th

It was another cold morning. The sky was still so dark when we left the house at 7.45 a.m., visibility was very bad. 
This was due to the thick cover of cloud, which hasn't moved all day. 
Some wet stuff came down from those clouds - snow, rain, sleet? Who knows - it was far too intermittent to make out. But the damp cold was awful!

We had heard the ravens call much earlier, and as soon as we go to the first field, we heard them again, as if they were announcing our arrival. More calls, from the Pontcanna Fields side as we walked up the big field - Madame ecstatically rolling in the snow ever so often.

At the top of the big field, one, then the second raven came to the ground, from the spinney - and as yesterday, the second young pair soon arrived from the quarry side. I had lots of scraps for them, but even so, there was one almighty scuffle between them, one from each pair really laying into each other. It was plain competition for one little scrap - the other two ravens didn't get involved. 

My young pair is less skittish when Madame is off the lead, and one of them didn't even budge when she walked past him to get the scrap he'd overlooked. 
Then, the single raven turned up as well, waiting in the distance until I went towards him and threw him a scrap - he then hopped closer, but it was too dark to see if this was my bold raven.

While I was doing this, the other four squawked loudly behind my back. They had hopped quite close, to about a couple of yards, so they got more food.

Then Bas turned up and the quarry ravens took off immediately, as did the single raven. My young pair didn't seem to mind, one of them calmly swallowed the last scrap, standing on the ground, while Bas walked past him - just a yard away.

We went back home after all the food had gone - too cold for a longer outing! 
The scraps I had put out in the back garden had all been eaten by nightfall yesterday - but looking at the footprints, it probably went into some blackbirds or robins, not into a raven.

Heavy snow forecast for the night and tomorrow - if not snow, then rain and ice. Never mind, the socks-over-boots trick works fine, so we'll go out: the ravens will get their food!

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Sunday, Jan 10th

We did it! The trick with the socks-over-the-boots worked!*)

I went out much later than usual, after 8 a.m., and found it so mild, compared to the last days, that I went back and got Madame to come as well.
She's been getting so much better, and was so happy out in the park. The snow there was still snow-like rather than ice, so she enjoyed it much more than at Christmas. 
Unfortunately, she got bowled over by an excited Bart - I'm now watching her like a hawk to see if she's still fine by tonight.

It was grey, no sun, snowflakes slowly and intermittently coming down - and the wind from the NE had not yet got up to the predicted strength.

As for the ravens ...
We have heard their calls in the morning during the four days when we not in the park. So they were all right. We heard them again, as soon as we were in the park - and their calls were coming from Pontcanna Fields, so I was reassured - they had enough to eat.

Once we got to the top of the big field, not having seen one raven until then - there they came, from the spinney, to the ground.
My young pair! 
And within the time I had thrown a few scraps, the other young pair came from the quarry side. They all got a large amount of scraps - Madame participating to the extent that she noticed where one piece had not been picked up - and getting it for herself.

There were a few scuffles, between each one of the pairs, and then between the two pairs. But it was mostly sound and fury, no damage done. 

Once every piece of scrap had gone, we went back home. I was so glad that my ravens had not forgotten me!

Tomorrow, we'll get out again now that we have seen we can do it!

*) The 'trick' is to pull terry cloth socks over one's boots, with the terry side out. I had done that once before, ruining a few pairs of socks which I missed when the cold grip started. Unfortunately, I'd forgotten why those socks had gone ... 
I'd heard this trick mentioned again a few days ago - so when I had the chance to get to a supermarket yesterday, I got a few cheap pairs in a suitable size, and here we are!

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Jan 9th

No change to yesterday: the same icy conditions, Madame getting a bit better, ravens not yet come to the back garden, and the need of doing some foraging on my own behalf (fridge was empty ...) meant I've not been able to try out my 'trick' in regard to getting out to the park.

Sorry about that - and more than sorry for the ravens!

Hopefully, with the fresh snow predicted overnight, going out, even just on my own, might be possible.
If so, I shall bring loads of raven food ...

Friday, 8 January 2010

Jan 8th

Here is a satellite picture  of what Wales looks like, today: snow and ice covering the whole country!

We stayed indoors, on the vet's advice in regard to Madame, who has rallied some and seems to get better again. At her age, the bitter cold is too much for her, with her arthritis.

I've put out some scraps for the ravens in the back garden - in places where the cats can't get at without massive, loud retaliation from Madame. 
I do think the ravens can see where the scraps are, and they may come, driven by hunger.

There is no end to this ice and snow in sight - I am pondering how to get to the park, on my own, to get some food to them, perhaps tomorrow, when we're promised temperatures hovering around freezing rather than massively below.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Jan 7th

Ice everywhere - and temperatures well below freezing today, not just in the early morning. 
We heard some raven calls while it was still dark, around 6.30 a.m., but that is all I can say about ravens today.

We did not go out - too hazardous, and I'm afraid Madame is not doing well. The cold seems to have exacerbated either her arthritis, or the injury she had in the summer. So keeping her warm indoors is in order - if this gets worse, we'll see the vet tomorrow.

This will be all for today, I'm sorry - but I'm a bit upset because of my dear Madame.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Jan 6th

It started snowing in the night, and has been snowing intermittently all morning. There are about 4 inches of snow here in my vicinity.

We did go out, disregarding my raging cold, and were leaving the house at 7.25 a.m. while the snow was still falling.
It was dark, and we had not heard any raven calls. I did not expect to see any raven, but I wanted to leave some scraps for them, in case they came later.

I did not want to wait until the snow stopped, or until it got light, because by then the snow on the pavements and roads will be packed down by people and cars - and will become icy and treacherous to walk on.

And my final reason was to give Madame a treat - she so loves the snow!

We got to the ravens field - meeting only one dog walker. No raven calls - but when I got to the enclosure, two ravens came. it must have been the young pair - I hope they found the scraps in the snow. They kept well away and flew back into the trees as soon as we turned back to the big field. At first, not one raven came, then one made it to the ground there.

However, as I turned back to walk towards him, he flew off before I could give him some scraps: too many happy dogs suddenly rushed towards us!

Madame and all the other dogs really were so happy!
All of them, no matter the breed, size or age, kept eating the fresh snow - they had a wonderful time! They thoroughly enjoyed themselves while we humans stood around shivering, snow being blown into our faces.

It will stay like this for the foreseeable future - so it is quite possible we won't make it out tomorrow if conditions worsen. Thus I am so glad Madame had such a good time this morning.

As for the ravens - I so wish they would come into my little back garden.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Jan 5th

I have a raging cold - its been going on for a few days, and has been getting worse since yesterday. 
So we stayed at home today, especially as snow was coming down early this morning. 
We had not heard many raven calls at that time, and in view of their happy scavenging of rubbish bin contents, I decided that indoor games for me and Madame were the order of the day.

As there are no current raven encounters to note today, I am taking this opportunity of reporting two incidents which have not found their way into these diary notes:

1) Some time ago, in November, when Madame was still well, we'd just finished feeding the bold pair in the ravens field. We were going towards the spinney, Madame being off her lead, when the bold raven swooped over her, length-wise, from tail to nose. He was about half a yard above her.

She was not bothered, and it did not look like an attack to me.

Later, I was told by another dog walker that in early autumn (before I started my feeding experiments), the same happened to her dog, a young, small Border Collie called Tilly.

I wonder why it happened, and I also wonder if, come the breeding season, it will happen again.

2) Last week, coming back from a brief foray into the ravens field, one of the young pair flew to sit on a low branch on one of the young maples at the spinney, next to the footpath. 
I'd just turned to the spinney to see where Madame had gone - and there he was - at the height of my eyes, about a yard away.

What a magnificent bird: huge, glossy, unafraid, looking at me ... I looked back at him, and stood there for a few minutes, in admiration.

Then I had to get Madame - and regretfully, because of the freezing temperatures, I have not been able at all to bring my camera: how I would have loved to take a few photos of him!

More snow and ice predicted, for today, tonight and tomorrow ... no end in sight for the deep freeze here ...

Monday, 4 January 2010

Jan 4th

It was another perishingly cold morning - a clear sky, with the dawn colouring the Eastern sky a deep pink, and the moon still high and clear in the sky to the West.

We left the house around 7.40 a.m. The raven calls we had heard earlier had been rather faint, coming from far away.
As it was the first working day after Christmas, there were more dog walkers around at this time of morning. So I was not surprised when we heard no raven calls, nor saw any ravens as we got into Llandaff Fields.

One waste basket at the entrance to the first field had its contents taken out and strewn all over the ground: yesterday, in the sunshine, lots of people had been in the park and left their rubbish behind. The ravens must have investigated this, I thought.

There were no ravens until we came to the ravens field. Then, the young pair came down to the ground, but they were distracted by the other dogs, not just Madame. 
I managed to give them some scraps - but then Bas turned up, and that was the end of that! They flew back up into the trees they had come from, and we all walked back home. 
I was glad of that, it was too cold to be happy - and when we got to the car park, there were two ravens turning over all the rubbish on the ground, looking and finding food. 
That confirmed what I have always suspected: the ravens have many sources of food here in the area, and most certainly know how to find them and get at them.

Unfortunately, this brief raven encounter did not provide me with more data for my little report - so we've got to wait a bit longer for that.

More cold and ice predicted for tomorrow ...

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Sunday, Jan 3rd

Again, many raven calls during the dark, early morning hours, around 6 a.m., but there were none when we left the house around 8 a.m. 
It was indeed cold, and there were a few icy patches on the pavement, but nothing really bad. It was cloudy, so even with the dawn having started, and the sky pale pink in the East, it was not really light. Also, the clouds hid the magnificent moon which had greeted us yesterday and the day before.

In Llandaff Fields, ravens started to call as soon as we got to the big field. I didn't see any in the trees, but they saw us very well indeed! 
As we came to the top of the big field, my young pair was already on the ground, waiting - and the other young pair came swooping in even before I had the scraps of food out of my pocket. And then the single raven came and sat at the same distance from us as yesterday - only today, a bit later, he was joined by a companion.

Madame was off the lead, and had been rolling around on the hard grounds where she found a patch of icy, frosty grass. she loves doing that, and I'm happy to see her do it again, after her illness.
We stayed in the big field and did not go further - I still do not want Madame out in the polar temperatures for too long!

The ravens picked up their scraps, as always one is more competitive than the other, in all three pairs. But there were no scuffles amongst them today. When I turned to walk towards the pair furthest away, one of my young pair displayed the juvenile begging posture again, with some soft squawking. His companion, having got most of the food, had flown to the ravens field to hide his loot. Well, that earned the begging raven some scraps!

I have the suspicion that this lone raven might be my bold one - but something must have happened to him. He seems subdued and a bit unsteady, not walking to me as my young pair now does. He also seems to have lost a tail feather. He did not come close enough for me to make sure.

The young pair now walks behind me, on the ground. They are fine with me - only Madame makes them a bit nervous, especially when she gives them her 'collie-stare'. Not being sheep or dogs, they don't know what that means ...

The other young pair is still quite wary, but when together with my young pair, they do pick the scraps up, rather than wait until we have gone off for a little distance.

I am collecting notes as to which way they look when picking up the scraps of food - more on that in a separate note, when I have gathered more data. I'll just say that it is very interesting indeed!

More cold weather predicted - and with the ground frozen for six days, I'll bring more food ...

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Jan 2nd

Last thing yesterday night I noticed that we'd had a dusting of snow, staying on the ground due to the cold. This was still around in the morning - but no ice!
The ravens were calling loudly during the dark hour of  (6.30 a.m.) early morning, so I expected to see all six of them later in Llandaff Fields. 

We left the house around 7.40 a.m. It was very cold, the sky was clear. Dawn made the Eastern sky pale. it was an orangey pink. In the West, the moon was still huge, but had started to lose its fullness.

We heard some raven calls, but not as many or as loudly as during the dark, early hours. Then, as we came to the top of the big field, I saw two ravens sitting in the top branches of the trees in the spinney. They came down to meet us in the big field, where I fed them. 
I did not go further - Madame is not doing so well in the cold, I didn't want to imperil her health, now that she is off the antibiotics.

The pair who had waited and came to feed was my young pair. As they got their scraps, the other young pair arrived, from the quarry side. 
At first all was well, then there was a brief scuffle between three of them - it cannot have been over the food because these two pairs were quite a distance away from each other (a good 15 yards), and I was between them. They soon settled and the one raven from the second pair, who had flown up to my young pair to scrap with them, flew back to his companion.

While this was going on, I noticed a single raven sitting even further away from us, still in the big field. I hadn't seen him come, and the two pairs took no notice of him. It was not my bold raven. He got some food as well, and when I'd finished distributing all I had with me, one of the other young pair squawked and displayed the juvenile food-begging posture.

We left them, to go home, meeting Jack (a Westie) and Alison, and then Toby (a Border Collie, such a sweetie!) and Martyn. Some chatting ensued ...
Today, however, not one raven followed us from the big field. 

The snow has been thawing, the pavements and roads are wet - if its icy tomorrow, I'll try and see if I can get those early-morning calling ravens to visit our frozen little back garden ...

Friday, 1 January 2010

Jan 1st, 2010 - New Year's Day

We left the house around 8 a.m., it was quite cold, the ground frozen hard, but it was dry. There was no perishing wind this morning, and dawn was well under way, with a clear, pale sky in the East.

The very first sight, coming into Llandaff Fields, was the huge, enormous full moon in the Western sky facing us. 
What an extraordinary, beautiful sight to greet us on this first day of the New Year!

We had not heard any raven calls, and it was very quiet indeed. Only a very few dog walkers were around. I let Madame off the lead, and we walked to the top of the big field, not having seen any ravens in any of the trees.

But at the top, coming from the spinney, my young pair got to the ground while we were still quite some way off. They seemed to wait for us, or rather, for the food, and were patiently sitting on the frozen grass while Madame and I talked to a handsome young Pointer called Milo ... and his owner ...

These then went their way and I called Madame to sit next to me while I gave my young pair some scraps. They didn't call, and no other ravens turned up.

We then went the usual way into the ravens field, both ravens following us, and I first gave them scraps on the ground, then in the enclosure. 
I noticed again that the raven with the Roman nose is more confident and does come closer, especially when Madame isn't staring at him, but lets his companion take the scraps first.

I did not feed them much in the enclosure, as they don't seem to like it in there. They also, unlike my bold pair, make holes to hide the scraps inside the enclosure.

Going back to the big field the 'more food' way, again, and different from the bold pair, they first flew up into the trees at the side of the footpath before following us into the big field.
Here, they did not call today, and thus they were the only ravens to get food.
Then, a single raven came flying in, silently, landing on a tree in the spinney - he came from the direction of Pontcanna Fields, but not the way the other ravens usually come. 

My pair flew into the tree next to him - neither squawking nor calling. They flew up to that raven immediately, without hesitation. All three then flew off together towards the small arboretum, and out of sight.

This is very odd - I wonder who that raven is, and if he was the intruder who came on Dec 28th.

We went home then, meeting Billy and Marianne on the way back, as no other ravens turned up. I'd got so much food for them, there was still some left over! 
I assume the ravens found lots to eat from the left-overs from the New Year's Party in town - this was held near the Castle Grounds, and thus easily accessible for the ravens.

More cold weather and freezing nights predicted - we'll see what surprises the ravens have got for us in this New Year.

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