Without actually counting them I’d bet I’ve written more words about ravens than about any other bird. Ravens are responding to lengthening daylight, and pairs are spending more time with each other. Here are some words I wrote over 25 years ago that I think you might appreciate at this time.

Raven’s Portrait

Some winter days I notice only a couple of bird species — if that many. Overcast windy days, all-day snowy days, days with no snow and no hint of sun. Grim days. Days when the full impact of a winter has to be acknowledged. Days when nothing stirs unless it must. Nothing except a raven.

A raven will not only be out, but likely riding the wind in seeming delight, playing the currents, chuckling to itself, searching the landscape for a bit of food. Some ravens migrate — or at least move down out of the mountains to less rigorous climates — but most stay put in their home territory. They shift around, moving to food sources. Since ravens aren’t picky eaters, winter finds them near ranching operations, where big game animals congregate, around landfills and by potential carrion — wherever small mammals or insects might be active. And not just small mammals. When you’re out on a trek or cross-country venture don’t be surprised to find a couple of ravens looking covetously at a hunk of your sandwich. Try not to look as if you are faltering, either. (Nothing personal, of course.)

Ravens aren’t good to eat; thus, man can watch them objectively, if he chooses. Or reverently. Abundant evidence has established that many cultures not only revered ravens but also learned from them, acknowledging their abilities and intelligence. Some peoples of the Pacific Northwest believed ravens created the world, its animals, even Man — teaching him how to survive and live.

Whether or not societies subscribed to those particular beliefs most have been aware of and fascinated by ravens, and watched them for clues to and information about their environment.

Ravens are smart. They and their relatives have the largest brain relative to body size of all bird families. Presumably that’s why they are so smart and can learn by watching. Which leads to the question: If they’re so smart, why don’t they simply fly out of winter?

Maybe they stay to show us how to survive. Ravens talk to us. They chortle, call, chatter and pronounce the prospect of a full crop to be good. They display their exuberance in flight, and do they ever know how to romance. After winter solstice ravens appear more and more frequently in pairs, performing intricate aerial ballets, perched side by side, preening each other, muttering soft endearments.

Lessons to take to heart.

Field notes: The ninth annual Moose Day count in Teton County was held Saturday. The Moose Day tally is a cooperative effort, this year combining 60 volunteers from Wyoming Game and Fish, Grand Teton National Park and citizen scientists from Nature Mappers. Preliminary reports are coming in, and counts are scattered. The Wilson neighborhood in the vicinity of Highway 22 reported a total of 23 moose. Several reports have lacked observations of moose that were seen earlier in the week, while other observers were surprised to find moose in areas where they’ve not been reported previously.

Other wildlife sightings reported on Moose Day include white-tailed deer, a wolf, several pairs of courting bald eagles, a fox, red-winged blackbirds and a dipper swimming from an ice shelf in the Hoback.

Appreciation to all the volunteers from the Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation and Nature Mapping Jackson Hole.

The first junco was reported from the Hoback a week ago by the Gesslers — Ron, Jen and Kai. The first gray-crowned rosy-finches were seen Feb. 21 by Tracy Blue and Hunter Marrow west of the airport.

Great horned owls and great gray owls are courting and, on some overcast days, can be seen hunting. A great horned owl was spotted as dusk approached in Skyline Ranch on Feb. 19 by Bert Raynes, Carolyn McPhee and Tammi Cook. Photographers have been getting opportunities to watch a great gray owl on Spring Gulch Road. Enjoy!

Bert Raynes © 2017

Bert Raynes writes weekly on whatever suits his fancy with a dash of news on nature and its many ways. Contact him via columnists@jhnewsandguide.com.

Jennifer Dorsey is chief copy editor for the News&Guide and one of the editors for local articles printed in the Jackson Hole Daily.

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