Notes from the North Country

by Lon and Lynn Emerick

A pair of ravens lives on our Foster Creek Homestead (perhaps the birds see it differently and we live on the Raven Home Place).
In winter, they follow us about on our daily snowshoe soirees. Although they talk to each other in an extensive lexicon, this wild pair of ravens engages us only with “Here I am” quorks as we mush through the snowy forest.
Perhaps it is a meal the ravens are anticipating. We know they feast on red squirrels we leave here and there on stumps in the woods. These pesky little critters love to invade our log home; some population control is required to forestall illegal entries. So maybe the ravens see us as large predators; by sticking close to us on our rambles, they might be led to a winter picnic.
Bernd Heinrich, a wildlife biologist and raven doyen, has learned that ravens do in fact shadow wolves, coyotes and other predators in hopes of getting some leftovers (See Heinrich’s Mind of the Raven and Ravens in Winter). His research revealed that ravens often try to alert predators to a roadkill or carcass in the woods because carnivores are equipped to tear open the tough pelts of deer or other animals.
Members of the Corvid family—ravens, crows, jays—reportedly are the most intelligent of all bird species. Researchers have observed crows dropping small stones into partially-filled vessels, raising the water level so they could drink.
The Foster Creek ravens announce their arrival by a delightful swish-swish-swish of their wings sawing the still winter air. They land high in a maple tree, perch close together and utter a “tok” call as they touch beaks. They watch intently to determine which snowshoe trail we will take.
By early March, the raven pair will commence nesting and raising a family. Then they withdraw from any contact with the human dwellers of this land. We wish them well and respect their privacy; a squirrel or two will help to feed the young when they hatch.
The long winter would be diminished without the company of ravens.

—Lon and Lynn Emerick

Editor’s Note: Comments are welcome by writing MM or e-mailing marquettemonthly@marquettemonthly.org
Lon and Lynn Emerick’s Upper Peninsula books: The Superior Peninsula, Going Back to Central, Lumberjack—Inside an Era, Sharing the Journey, You Wouldn’t Like it Here and You STILL Wouldn’t Like it Here are available at area book and gift stores or by visiting their Web site at www.northcountrypublishing.com

Ravens and Crows:
How to Tell Them Apart

• Ravens are larger, have larger beaks and have a ruff of neck feathers.
• Crows travel in groups; ravens are generally seen in pairs, except at road- kill sites.
• Crows in flight flap continuously; ravens soar and make lazy circles in the sky.
• Crows take flight straight up from the ground; ravens usually hop once or twice before taking flight.
• Watch the two birds in flight: crows have a squared tail-end; ravens’ tails are fan-shaped.

 

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