By: Chris D’Alessandro
A lot of people I come across, strangely enough, hate ravens, which I could never understand. As natural scavengers they keep our forest and highways clean of carrion, and have always been regarded as harbingers by aboriginal societies, a harbinger basically being an announcer of things to come e.g. An approaching caribou herd, a freshly killed animal, a movement of fish, ungulates or any other species. They live as long as some humans, mate for life and are incredibly smart and resourceful, somehow managing to survive year after year in the harsh environment of boreal Canada. I have seen then team up and hunt with wolves, coyotes and other predators, flying ahead of a pack and with the hundreds of sounds they can make lead them to moose, caribou etc. and share the meal that is made with the pack.
I recently got to get acquainted with a band of unusually fearless ravens on a construction site in northern BC. Usually they won’t come into shooting distance of people. These ones would come and sit on the ‘dozer I was running at both break time and lunch; I would amuse myself by feeding them scraps and leftovers. The one that is pictured was extremely bold: he had no fear and was very trusting. After a few days of patiently feeding him I got him to take food out of my hand on a regular basis. As I was there for months and had nothing better to do, I decided to up the stakes and see how far I could go with my new friend. I put a cookie in my mouth and stuck my head out the small sliding window. He came and landed and at first was cautious; the most amazing thing about the whole encounter was that the entire time he was looking directly into my eye, my soul and as he made his way he never disengaged this very trusting personal eye contact. As he leaned forward to slowly and gently take the cookie, I had an incredible exchange with him as he was reading my soul- all of a sudden, I read his! What I saw was a mirror image transference: looking in his soul he was seeing his mother feeding him from her beak as this is how he was raised as a fledgling! Startling, remarkable and fairly uncomplicated form of communication. After that, he camped out on my ‘dozer morning, noon and night, and I was able to get some fantastic photos of one of our most fascinating northern neighbours.