Year End Countdown # 5 — Mr. And Ms. Raven
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Common Ravens are among the most intelligent of all creatures. These very large birds — about the size of a Red-tailed Hawk — are masters at problem solving, they have phenomenal memories, and they are superb at exploiting their environment for maximum advantage. They also mate for life and a pair of Ravens is inseparable. If you see one Raven you will invariably see the boyfriend or girlfriend within moments.
Ravens are not easy to photograph. They’re normally wary of humans and, when I encounter them in the hinterlands of Arizona, they almost always fly before I can photograph them. There are exceptions to this rule, however. In venues where there is a lot of tourist traffic Ravens have learned to exploit humans as food sources. I’ve had the same experience on several occasions: at heavily visited tourist sites the Ravens will often approach people quite closely in order to see whether they can cadge a bite to eat from them.
One afternoon in early October I was standing on an overlook in the Hayden Valley of Yellowstone National Park. It is a popular location for tourists. The Yellowstone River winds below the overlook and bison frequently are on the river’s banks. Suddenly, a Common Raven flew in and landed just a few feet away from me. I immediately decided to take its picture and knelt down on the ground in order to get the best perspective. My kneeling piqued the Raven’s curiosity and it hopped to within a couple of feet at me and stared at me as if wondering what I would do next. It was so close to me that I had to back up a bit in order to keep it in focus. I took a couple of pictures and then, the Raven was joined by its companion. The two of them watched me photograph them, standing so close to each other that their wings were touching. They remained that way for quite a while.
I was taken by the obvious affection that these two showed for each other. They are true partners in life and in love.
Image made with a Canon 5Diii, 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 ISII zoom lens+1.4x telextender, at 187mm, aperture priority setting, ISO 250, f8 @ 1/320.