Bird-Watching with the Ravenmaster
October 26, 2018 10:52 PM   Subscribe

i very much enjoyed reading this on the bus Friday morning inbound to work at oh dark thirty.
posted by mwhybark at 1:14 AM on October 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

Actually had some ravens in my neck of the woods yesterday! They appeared to be crows the size of hawks, and they went "quork! quork!" rather than "caw! caw!" as crows do hereabouts, gathering into their murders for winter.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:27 AM on October 27, 2018 [5 favorites]

Nice! There is supposed to be a raven nest in the back of my yard, but I have yet to see any ravens in person. Maybe the amateur birdwatcher who told me was mistaken. After reading the article, I went to find more about the book, and there is this Guardian podcast, which I plan to hear later today when I am cleaning house.
posted by mumimor at 6:21 AM on October 27, 2018

I do love that the Tower ravens get fed “dog biscuits soaked in blood.” Also that there are many signs saying “Do not approach the ravens. They are not pets. Thy will straight up murder you and your family and eat your eyes. Really. No, really. Just go look at the Crown Jewels; the Crown Jewels will not eat the soft parts of your face.”
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:08 AM on October 27, 2018 [7 favorites]

I live in London, so of course I haven't visited the Tower for about 20 years, but then two of the ravens were called Hugin and Munin. Have they gone back to Asgard?

The keeper then also said the ravens could talk, but they didn't while I was there, so maybe he was pulling our legs. Excellent birds anyway.
posted by Fuchsoid at 7:39 AM on October 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

We have seen ravens this year in the gardens where I work in Yonkers, NY (just north of NYC) They’re so enormous and sort of wonderful. We all stopped working one day just to watch them when they were hanging out in a tree.

Also, Gabriel Willow is quite lovely and leads bird walks at Wave Hill fairly frequently if I recall correctly.
posted by sciencegeek at 7:43 AM on October 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

I loved seeing ravens when I traveled in the American West, and I have visited the ravens at the Tower. Nice post, thanks.
posted by theora55 at 8:19 AM on October 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

I saw a raven on Bathurst St. several days ago. I think it's the first one I've ever seen in Toronto. It was trying to get at a raccoon who was...ahem, resting in the street. This was during rush hour, so I was concerned about it getting hit as well, but it was a) timing traffic very effectively, and b) fucking enormous.

I also recently saw a turkey vulture and a pair of crows alongside the road in Port Credit. The turkey vulture was attending to another raccoon who was resting, while the crows waited cautiously nearby.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:26 AM on October 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

There are lots of ravens here in SE Arizona and no crows at all. Ravens are curious birds and seem to make a point of flying directly overhead and croaking, sort of an avian greeting.
posted by Agave at 10:39 AM on October 27, 2018

In three visits to the Tower I've had ravens land half a meter away from me, play a stick-stealing game, pretend to get stuck in a bush, and march up to me demanding photos (Merlina, the Ravenmaster's particular pet, last year). I think the signs are mostly about discouraging people from feeding or touching them...
posted by I claim sanctuary at 11:00 AM on October 27, 2018 [8 favorites]

I always thought of ravens as birds of wild, remote places, because when I started birding 30 years ago they still were: the mountains of Scotland and Wales, or Cornish cliffs. But actually it’s only because they were so persecuted, and they’ve been slowly expanding their range again, along with buzzards and sparrowhawks. So perhaps there will be wild ravens in central London again in a few years. They bred in Hyde Park until 1826 (although there was a lot less urban sprawl between Hyde Park and the nearest countryside in those days).
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 2:01 PM on October 27, 2018 [3 favorites]

Hello Terry
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 2:06 PM on October 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

They appeared to be crows the size of hawks, and they went "quork! quork!" rather than "caw! caw!" as crows do hereabouts, gathering into their murders for winter.

And then the murders began.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:18 PM on October 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

When we visited the Tower of London seven years back, the Ravenmaster was the designated beefeater tour guide. The conversation went along the same lines as this piece, culminating in him talking about his Raven tattoos (he probably also showed them off; can’t remember)

We also had a very similar conversation on the Kohinoor, except that I added that I didn’t know which was the greater crime, to steal that damned rock from the mother lode, or charge us £18 per pax for the privilege of seeing it. I’m still so sore about it, that I’ve made this very joke in multiple places over the years.

But yes, super cool to read a piece in the New Yorker about someone I’ve actually met, and to have brought back memories of that winter.
posted by the cydonian at 7:07 PM on October 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

Terry the Raven is a pirate!! Better protect your doubloons.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:24 PM on October 27, 2018

What a delightful little article. He sounds charming.

When I was 8, my mom took me to a special event at the bird rehabilitation center at one of the local state parks. The highlight of the trip was when I got to put on a leather glove and let a smallish owl perch on my arm for a couple minutes (there's a picture of me and owl somewhere at my mom's house). There was also a raven there, but they told me I was too small to hold it -- which makes sense, given that the bird was probably the same size as me.

I've just remembered this after however many years, and now I really want to go back and hold a raven (although they've probably stopped doing that, and anyway ravens are so smart I'd probably feel guilty for making them perch on some smelly guy's arm). Failing that I should just be friends with the ravens I see around the area. I should become one of those people who keeps dog biscuits in their pockets all the time. Only, you know, with more blood.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 3:54 AM on October 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

Another lovely profile (this one from visiting him in London) from Washington Post correspondent William Booth.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 4:45 PM on October 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

His Twitter account is worth following, not least because sometimes he posts a video of his ravens making an amazing *KYUNG-KYUNG* sound.

It's mostly book publicity at the moment but stick with it until he gets back to chat with ravens, or pets a raven until it purrs
posted by BinaryApe at 1:21 AM on October 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

So I used to live 200 miles southwest of here and crows generally outnumbered ravens 70/30. Up here, it's ravens/crows 90/10. I've always been a bit creeped out by ravens (although nothing compared to how terrifying I find rooks) but since I've been up here I've found them to be a bit more genial, since they're the most common large birds around.

I think I've mentioned before how there appears to be one raven that sits on the top of every building and I've given them all titles. However, I am not sure if I mentioned that a couple weeks ago I saw a raven wandering along the ground and I greeted him and called him a handsome fellow - at that moment he picked up something white and round and sized pretty much the same as a human eye.

I'm scared of the ravens again.
posted by elsietheeel at 7:42 AM on October 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

Today I watched 9 ravens line up on the ground along the shadow of a lamp post. It was really bizarre.
posted by elsietheeel at 4:51 PM on November 7, 2018

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