Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Raven Revelations

It's always interesting when I tell people that I think ravens are amazing birds. Most people respond negatively, commenting on how dirty ravens are, or how they eat garbage. All I can do is smile and shrug. I think ravens are incredible animals, and having spent almost ten years in close proximity to them I've certainly had the opportunity to study them.

Ravens are everywhere in Fort McMurray. Some cities have songbirds, and we have those too - but our signature bird is truly the raven. Ravens are on the sidewalks and the lamp posts. They hover around the downtown core, and in the suburban neighbourhoods. They land on the driveway when I am shoveling and watch me with those beady, cunning little eyes. I must admit that them watching me does make me a tad nervous. I suspect they are waiting for me to keel over while shoveling and then start picking at my carcass. Maybe, though, they are just being companionable. I haven't quite figured that one out.

What I have figured out is how resourceful these birds are. They don't wait for things to happen - they make things happen. If a dumpster is closed they find a way to weasel inside it, open it, or slowly tease bags out of it until they find something to eat. If they find something tasty they don't want to eat just yet they will hide it, perhaps in a snowbank or under a leaf. And they are always watching for someone to leave something shiny where they can reach it - a bottlecap, a coin, a sparkly earring. They have a weakness for shiny, sparkly things (and they and I have this in common, it seems).

There are times they annoy me, like when they hang around my yard and frighten off the little chickadees I try to attract to my bird feeders. There are times when I see they've gotten into the neighbour's garbage and dragged it all over my lawn. I am always astonished, though, to see how resilient they are. They survive the coldest days and the leanest times. They use that little bird brain to work out fairly complex problems (I've seen them open things that I was quite sure they'd never figure out - never underestimate their intelligence and pure persistence). I guess they remind me a lot of the people who live in this northern city. To survive here you need to be resourceful and resilient.. You need to be willing to make things happen, not to just let them happen to you. You need to be persistent, and well, just like the ravens, many here have a fondness for shiny things (often a shiny new car or motorbike). Perhaps that is why so many people don't like the ravens. Maybe they are just a bit too much like us for our comfort.

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