Mowgli

This morning, Poe alone in the yard.  No Never.  No More.

In the west toward Floyd’s field, a mile distant, I heard a few calls.  I suspected it was More and Never, but wasn’t sure.  Two days ago on the walk back from the wash, a solitary raven did a fly over.  Poe (in my arms) was the first to catch sight of him and struggled excitedly.  One of our ravens observed where the wild one landed and flew over to join him.  The second raven soon followed.  Never and More had taken off to join one of the wild ravens.  Since it was solitary, we assumed it to be one of the parents.  And there they remained together, all three flitting about in the desert and getting acquainted.

At dusk, Never and More returned and settled in for the evening.

So now, this morning, I have little doubt that the two are off with their new found friend.  But lo, what do I see approaching?  What appear to be six adolescents, dipping, soaring, circling around one another as they approach the house, all the while calling out playfully (more on this in the next post).  I step to the back yard just as four of the ravens settle onto the rise beyond our yard.  And there are Never and More perched on the fence.  The wild ravens continue to call.  It’s not defensive, but more like a summons:  come out and play, join us, why are you sitting on the fence?  But More and Never don’t respond.

I swaddle Poe and set out toward the wash, hoping the other two will follow, (as part of the on-going experiment, I don’t overtly lead them with food this time, waiting to see if they’ll just follow Poe) but they remain where they are, tired perhaps from their morning exertions.  The four wild ravens, however, follow (and lead) us out, and eventually settle in the brush on the far bank while I put Poe in his customary place beneath the tree.  I feed him and he turns to face in the direction of the other birds.  I also leave meat out for them, hoping to attract them to Poe.

I feel like a doting parent trying to introduce my child to new friends on the first day of pre-school.  Please, I want to say, he’s a good bird.  Please, will you be friends with him?

Poe, Alone

We’re trying to help the ravens return to their kind.  But it’s hard.

They’ve all had a good number of Wepo Wash days.  We have to carry Poe, but Never and More will go back and forth between our house and the wash at will.  At dusk, though, they return home to the ramada to roost.

Yesterday was blazing hot.  We were to be gone into the evening and so didn’t take Poe out because we wouldn’t be able to retrieve him before dark.

Never and More didn’t leave either, though. Instead they chose to hang around with Poe.  It could have been that it was just too dang hot (all the birds sat around, following the shade, their mouths gaping open as a cooling response).  Or it could have been that they enjoyed being in close proximity to water.

Or perhaps they just wanted to be with Poe.  A couple times when one or the other of the dogs approached him (Poe tends to hang out on the ground), the other two alighted near by and cawed defensively.

When I returned that evening though, More and Never were nowhere in sight.  For the first time, they chose not roost at the house.  A good thing, I thought.  But that left Poe, alone, roosting on the back of one of the porch chairs.  The dogs sniffed at him and he was safe, but I thought it not good for him to become too comfortable with our house.

I carried him over to a log leaning against the ramada and he clambered up it in an ungainly way.  It wasn’t too comfortable of a roost and he had to work to stay balanced, so I brought the ladder over and he soon alighted on that.  He took to his customary habit of staring off silently into the desert, as if awaiting for someone or something.  He’s one to always look out, away from even his siblings.  I wish any of you could experience his gaze, so solitary and at once both hopeful and resigned.

I lay in the hammock, looking up at the stars.  And I talked to Poe.  And he murmured back.  I felt sad and worried for him, stuck with my meager human company.  He needs to get better.  He needs to fly.  Or soon he will be left behind, first by his siblings and then the other ravens.  And then even by us.  It felt too unjust.  Too undeserving.  And with only that, he and I continued to wait.  We stared out into space and that deluge of stars.

 

Born Free (sort of): June 22

Kerry Hardy, naturalist at large:

The same routine worked well once again– Broken Wing as decoy, and this time the sibs even beat us down to the wash and were sitting there waiting (I daresay their pattern recognition skills exceed those of most of our neighbors). Broken Wing apparently has a favorite seat down there; he headed right for this elevated tussock and hunkered right down– until he noticed the one last scrap of elk that I was saving for bait to lure the others over. He hopped from about 20′ away and was just about to nab it (pretty good eyesight to spot the small red morsel among the black, blue, and green objects!) when I spotted what he was up to. Two minutes later, Never and More had joined the party, and were swilling away at the water dish and getting cozy in the elm’s shade. Not a bad setup.

I was talking with Shawn this morning and he said he’d gotten a ‘call’ (i.e. complaint) about the birds. I explained that we were doing our all to rehab and wildify them, and were making good progress. This relieved him– he’d done his job and told us, and now he was off the hook.

More flyovers from the resident birds, and (so far) no sign of hostilities, just curiosity. Never and More flew several hundred yards uninterrupted on their way to the wash, and actually landed about fifty yards from the big nest tree– which had several birds sitting in it– and spent five or ten minutes just wandering around there, so I think they’re getting a handle on the raven geography of the area.

Slow progress.

Broken Wing © Kerry Hardy

Born Free (sort of) June 21 evening

Broken Wing is definitely the star today. I was pretty late heading down to get him tonight (owing to a flat tire on my bike ride), so I took the truck. About halfway down the road who should I see, gamely hopping back towards your house. Quite touching! and such a trooper. I picked him up and just held him as I drove; he was quite happy with it all (and even gave Lola a good peck on the nose when she got too friendly!).

The sibs greeted us enthusiastically when we reached the yard, and all three (successfully) begged a little nightcap of elk from me. I figure it’s good to keep that food connection strong so that they’ll follow me to the wash each day. Cindy was amazed (and relieved) that they had spent the whole day there, and I think she’ll be game to lead them there herself in my absence. All in all, I’d say really good progress today.

To complete the picture, the wash is a quarter mile distant from our house.  In order to reunite himself with his siblings and return to the ancestral roost, he made a beeline on foot for the entire distance.  You have to love the guy.

It also spotlights the importance of the intra-raven relationships as well as physical place.  They need to be on the ramada by nightfall.  It’s not willy-nilly choice, but rather a pit in the stomach as dusk advances and they’re not in a place considered safe.

The beauty?  When they are fully airborne and mobile and integrated, is there really any problem in a couple birds sleeping in our yard?

Here’s to Broken Wing.

Broken Wing © Kerry Hardy

Born Free (sort of): June 21

And the odyssey continues:

This morning Cindy couldn’t get the ravens in the cage. No problem; with enough elk meat anything is possible. I just grabbed Broken Wing, wrapped him in a towel, and headed for the wash, feeding him tidbits as I went. The sibs couldn’t stand the thought of not getting their fair share, and they flew along quite nicely. Just left all three of them down there with water, and they seemed happy. Even more interesting is that at least four ravens did flyovers, and have perched just 100 yd. up the wash in the big cottonwood. Let’s hope that they talk today.

Today’s pix: #1 is the native birds settling in up the wash; #2 is a shot from the wash of that weirdo’s unit in Walpi Housing (what’s up with that guy and all the brush?); #3 is Broken Wing, my prize decoy, enjoying a well-earned drink.

Broken Wing is getting stronger and stronger; some very vigorous flapping today, apparently pain-free. Flying in 3 days? As I walked back up I was chuckling at the irony of your being at the bluegrass fest, surrounded by world-class musicians– and diving for your computer three times a day for updates on the ravens. I’m sure this will be used as evidence when they lock you away. . .

Native Raven © Kerry Hardy

Broken Wing © Kerry Hardy

Walpi Housing

The four wild ravens were either the other set of fledgelings or the two mating pairs.  Note the incongruity of our units in this setting (despite the groovy ramada).

And I’m fully ready to be committed on this one.  We’ve been encountering our share of bumps on the human side, starting with the forced removal from Health Care and continuing on to neighborly complaints.  But it only steels our resolve.  If we as a species are that removed from the environment around us, then it’s time to hone the edge and take it to the streets.  Time for us, perhaps, to reinhabit the wildness that is our own nature.

Born Free (sort of): June 20

More from Kerry:

Another good day, with all three safely roosted in the yard at dusk. I went down to the wash just at sunset to round up Broken Wing, who literally came running to me in his best baby-like behavior. Wrapped him in a dishtowel and walked back up, with him calling himself almost hoarse the whole way.

The sibs were on the ramada; they heard us coming and got excited; they did a flyover when we were still 100 yd. away. I gave everyone a little elk nightcap to calm them down (almost as good as Stranahan’s).

Cindi’s going to try and catch them all around 6:30 and will call me when she has them– and she’s also going to ride down with me! I saw Gary in his yard so I brought him up to speed on our plan of a gradual separation– which seemed to relieve him. “All signs look hopeful,” as the magic 8-ball would say.

Roosting © Kerry Hardy

Key fact.  We’re dealing with autonomous individuals here.  We can’t dictate the pace at which they readapt to their natural environment.  This might take weeks or longer.  And even if they integrate with the flock in the wash, they still may continue to come “home” to roost.  Can’t fault them on that:  the ramada is a nice place to hang out.