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Saga of the Raven

We have a lot of wild urban creatures in my Pasadena neighborhood: coyotes, raccoons, squirrels, skunks, the occasional bear and bobcat, lizards and a variety of birds. That last category includes hawks, owls, hooded orioles, mockingbirds, cedar waxwings, western bluebirds, black phoebes, scrub jays, crows and their cousins the raven.

About six months ago a couple of huge ravens began being regular visitors to my front yard birdbath. At around the same time, I noticed some strangeness. Large chunks of French bread began to appear on the rim of the birdbath, with a few pieces ending up in the water as well.

That meant that each day I had to hose out the birdbath and refill it with fresh water.

Then other stuff began to appear, such as fast food wrappers. I figured a neighbor (as a not so funny joke) or someone strolling through the neighborhood was using my birdbath as a trash dump.

Then the daily deposits began to get weird. One morning I found what looked like the remnants of a dead lizard in the birdbath water. On closer examination it proved to be a mostly devoured rat carcass. The next day I indeed received most of a fence swift lizard. Then a sparrow’s head. Then alligator lizard parts. And a chunk of squirrel. Pretty weird. I was being kind of grossed out on a daily basis, so I put on my deerstalker and began to investigate.

The culprit(s) turned out to be the huge ravens who had begun visiting me on a daily basis.

To thwart their actions I emptied out the birdbath and flipped it over. After two weeks I righted it and filled it with water. The ravens got the message and never reappeared.

Shortly after that, I watched a documentary on crows and ravens and read a fascinating article on corbids (the crow-jay-raven family) and their remarkable intelligence in National Geographic. One girl had amassed a a large and varied collection of crow or raven gifts.

It made me realize that what was being left in and around my birdbath were presents from the ravens in thanks for the fresh water I was providing for them each day.

I felt awful.

I related what had happened to my family. My innocent yet wise seven-year-old grandson Jesse suggested the following explanation: “Maybe the ravens didn’t know what kind of presents you liked, Grandpa.”

This all made me incredibly sad. I kept the birdbath filled on a regular basis but the ravens never returned. They have amazing memories. They also pass on to their fellow ravens and young ravens which humans are nasty (or nice) to them. I feel that the neighborhood corbids had been alerted to my ungrateful nature, as I scarcely saw them in front yard ever again.

I even left pennies and other shiny objects on the birdbath in an attempt to lure the ravens back.


Until a week ago.

Chunks of French bread and fast food wrappers began appearing in or near the birdbath. Then the stripped carcass of a dead rat. Then another one. Today I found the front paw of a rat in the water.

I began dutifully cleaning out and refilling the birdbath with fresh water. I also started keeping an eye on the birdbath.

Sure enough, I spotted a huge raven visiting my birdbath around the same time each day, often with gifts in tow.

I cautiously appeared a few times in my front yard, speaking in soothing tones so that the raven could see and hear me and realize I wasn’t going to harm him.

I asked my wife to pick up some raw peanuts in the shell to leave for the raven.

I’ll let you know how it goes but for now I’m a pretty happy guy with an optimistic attitude in regards to reestablishing the bonds between me and my pals the ravens.