So I was on Garrarus Beach last week with some pals, picnicking. The day was getting on a bit, our swim was swum and the yellow cliffs were throwing shadows. Usually at Garrarus the choughs would be cruising above us croaking on their black scythe wings with their silly red legs but this time two large ravens were patrolling.
I’ve seen these boys here from time to time, stalking around looking for trouble, the secret police of the bird world. Of course they are more than likely a mated pair but both look thuggish being larger than crows and being possessed of what seem to me to be wide shoulders and violent looking beaks not to mention a forwardness that would embarrass an aging show girl. Not that I know of any aging show girls. Naturally…
As we moved from the remains of our food, following the last of the sun, one of them swooped on the pile of deitrus and picking up a closed salad box set about opening it.
I like corvids, crows and the like. They’re clever unlike blackbirds for instance who, determined not to evolve to accommodate the changing world, make a point of flying under cars. A blackbird flew alongside my slowing car recently, overtook me then swerved immediately left and under the grille. Idiot. Then again maybe they’re trying to tell us something with their kamikaze karry on.
But I digress. Crows and ravens have adapted and have been spotted doing all sorts of things like using tools, manipulating other animals into working for them (they have a special way of calling wolves to break down a tough carcass for them for instance), making toys ie breaking off twigs to feck around with, and undoing bags in the search for interesting goodies. So they’re one of my favourites for smarts and cheekiness. As we watched the raven go to work on the picnic my friend Alan asked…
“Do you know Dermot* who comes out here swimming?” he asked me.
“I don’t,” I said “but I know who you mean.”
“Well,” said Alan, “he comes out and brings only a banana to eat with him for the day.”
“Just a banana!” I exclaimed, trying to imagine such a thing.
“One banana. Well, one day he left his banana on his towel and went in for a swim. When he came out the banana was gone!”
“Never!” I said, “The raven took it?”
“The raven took it,” he confirmed, ” and you know what else?”
“No” I said.
“Well”, said Alan, “there was a gold ring left in its place.”
“Ah now you’re telling big fibs!” I said
“I’m not,” he said, “it’s as true as I’m standing here!”
And he leaned back in the deck chair and took another sip of his beer.
*Name changed to protect me from the repercussions of stealing his story…no really, if the original story owner wants to contact me please do in the comments below.