Sunday, 15 May 2016

In a big stick nest in a tall Scot's pine there's a whole gang of fully feathered raven chicks!

The deep kronk of a raven is a magical sound. We can hear one now, it's one of the adults calling from high above us. He calls twice and throws himself over backwards in a tumble somersault. We breathe a sigh of relief as this means that all is well, they are still here. Ravens although protected are often persecuted and there has even been the recent call to have them treated as 'vermin'. In response to this a live petition to Maintain the protected status of the Raven in Scotland has now got over 21,000 signatures showing how many people truly value our natural heritage here in Scotland!

We hike in over the tussock-beaked track, the adult lazily circles overhead, keeping an eye on us. In the wood we can quickly see that there are not many signs of activity. The usual copious splashes of white are all but absent. I climb the tree and although there are signs of the adults roosting here, the nest cup is well lined but empty. Perhaps these are a new pair, still inexperienced; it takes around three years for the ravens to become fully mature and raise young. We will have to wait and see next year.

At the next nest site we hear a call long before we near the tree. We press deeper into the wood and  almost feel the breathy 'flap flap flap' of the female passing overhead. This time we can clearly see there are some good-sized chicks up there as the whole area under the tree is sprayed white. The climbing line is installed and I scale the great Scot's pine and, by the time I reach the last branch before the nest itself, I am sweating bucketloads and everything is covered in raven guano and stinking like a sea-bird colony. I slowly peer over the edge of the great stick nest and count four big beaks, and big they are - this is a result! A friend of mine keeps an eye on these and had seen at least two beaks a couple of weeks back so four was a pleasant surprise. We quickly measure, weigh and ring them, and they come in at around 1.25kg so a fine healthy size.

These young ravens will soon stretch their wings and take to the skies and we leave them looking out over the valley. Here are some ravens calls for you.

Here are a few bonus photos courtesy of Angela Hunter showing the chicks thinking about it, and then properly out of the nest, fledged and on their journey to adulthood. Thanks Angela!