If you ever have had the opportunity to watch ravens in the wild, you know you’re in for a treat. They have a real sense of play when they’re in the air — sometimes turning air somersaults, sometimes careening swiftly, sometimes rolling over sideways while still flying.
The raven often cast as a mischievous trickster is most often cited for its gloomy role in Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven,” but Poe’s poem does not do justice to the raven.
The Ravens I’ve watched at the Grand Canyon inspire. They are clever in their knowledge of wind currents, social in their interactions with other birds and humans and calculating in their moves around the canyon with tourists.
Watching them fly is pure joy. They can waft leisurely across the distance of the canyon, or they can turn and dart quickly.
Pulling their wings in close, they can speed across the canyon faster than any tourist helicopter.
If you are lucky, you will see them roll over sideways by forming an “o” shape with one wing. Usually they speak and tell any observers they are about to do a trick. You will hear them call and then roll into an air somersault. The first time I saw this I was busy saying, “Did you see that?” and forgot to take a picture.
The next time I heard the Raven call, I knew what was to follow and thought I had my camera ready. It happens fast, and the photos of the somersault don’t really do justice to the Raven’s form.
After an afternoon of photographing ravens and condors at the Grand Canyon this past summer, I continued to find inspiration in the raven representation of art forms on the South Rim through painting, weaving, pottery and other art forms. At one of the ranger stations on the South Rim of Grand Canyon, a wall dedicated to artists who find inspiration at the canyon featured one of gourd artist Bonnie Gibson‘s gourd tributes to the raven on display.
When I took a woodturning class at Arrowmont, our instructor talked about developing iconic pyrography. During her talk, I developed my image around the Raven and you will see it featured on my work. I have used my Raven photography to inspired wood burning previously, but now the Raven is featured on my kanteles.
Like all creatures, Ravens have politics.
As I returned to our cabin with a camera full of raven photos, a loud Junior Raven (with fluffy new feathers) acted like a child-bird wanting to be fed by a parent. Junior Raven was much larger than Mother Raven.
Meanwhile, Mother Raven was examining a loaf of bread, still in its plastic bag, lying on the sidewalk! Raven lottery!
Looking at the loaf with her head tilted, Mother Raven calculated how to open the bread bag. In the shadows, also eyeing the loaf of bread, was a squirrel. Mother Raven hopped on to the loaf of bread to rip it with her claws, while her wings flapped to give her leverage. But the bread bag hissed as she dragged it across the sidewalk and Mother Raven jumped away — wary.
Junior Raven’s loud cries brought the attentions of Intruder Raven who also wanted the bread. Now Mother Raven had to figure out how to open the bread and defend it from Intruder Raven. While she defended, Sneaky Squirrel ran out of the shadows and began dragging the loaf of bread across the sidewalk.
The hissing sound again startled Mother Raven who flew up and made a masterful defense move against Intruder Raven who backed off. Sneaky Squirrel, also startled by Mother Raven’s masterful move, ran off. But not before it had ripped the bag open. This gave Mother Raven what she needed. She plunged her beak into the soft loaf, but had to back off when her son stalked forward and plunged his beak into the loaf. He could, by far, outdo his mother in the amount of bread he walked off with!