Common Raven — Outta Here!
You may enlarge any image in this blog by clicking on it. Click again for a full screen image.
Having observed Common Ravens for years, I believe that they may be smarter than I am. That’s probably damning them with faint praise, but their intelligence is uncanny. I’ve never encountered any other wildlife that seems so adept at figuring me out and playing me for a fool.
I see Common Ravens all the time. Indeed, when I’m out taking pictures in agricultural country I probably see more ravens than any other species. But, photographing them? Another story, indeed! Ravens don’t want me to take their pictures and the ones I’ve encountered have figured me out, so much so, that getting decent images of them has become a frustrating obsession of mine. Time and again I have the same experience. I’ll see several ravens perching by the side of the road. I slow my car and cut the engine, coasting to a stop a few yards away. The ravens either watch me from the corners of their eyes or stare at me boldly. Very slowly I lift my camera to eye level in order to photograph them. At the precise instant that my hands reach the level of my shoulders, the ravens take flight, usually presenting me with an empty frame when I push the shutter. It’s weird. I may attempt to photograph a couple of dozen ravens in a morning and every single one of them evades me, but only after waiting until the last possible second. Are these big birds taunting me?
They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. If I could figure out another strategy for photographing these birds, believe me, I would. In the meantime they definitely have me figured out.
The other day, however, I had one of my rare successes with this species. This particular raven delayed its departure just long enough for me to capture a sequence.
The first image depicts the bird at the moment that I’ve raised my camera to eye level. Notice that it’s giving me the eye and clearly thinking about leaving its perch.
Now, here’s the second image taken a fraction of a second later.
Wings raised, the raven is saying “bye!”
And, an instant after that:
This what I see, over and over, but I am almost never able to capture it.
Ravens are generally recognized to be among the most intelligent of all forms of life. Some say that they have the learning abilities of higher primates and they are as good at solving certain types of problems as we are. They are highly social and they learn from each others’ experiences. They evidently have very advanced communication skills and a language that they can use to “talk” to each other. They inhabit defined territories I’m convinced that the ravens that occupy the area where I take many photographs know who I am, probably because they’ve seen my car and they recognize it. They interpret my raising my camera as a threat, and they respond. And, I know I sound a bit paranoid, but I believe they’ve told their friends about me.
Images made with a Canon 5Div, 400mm DO II lens+1.4x telextender, aperture priority setting, ISO 640, f5.6. First image @ 1/1250, second and third images @ 1/2500.