Friday, 6 March 2015

Update: the 'raven' which was actually a crow

After my post on Tuesday, I got a comment from Bug Mad Girl recommending I put my pictures on the RSPB forums for a proper identification. So I did. It turns out my 'raven' was actually a crow.

To be honest I'm far more excited about finding a place where I can ask people my daft questions than I am disappointed about my raven not actually being a raven at all. Besides, I've loved corvids ever since I was little and even crows are, in my mind, still a real treat to see. They're almost like our version of parrots (although they aren't very closely related; crows are passerines like many of our garden birds, while parrots make up the Psittaciform order). Highly intelligent, long lived and charismatic, they're the noisy, mischievous and charming class clowns of the bird world.

Ravens in particular have always fascinated me, Their slightly gothic reputation means they turn up regularly in fiction, so growing up they were a part of my imagined landscape of witches, talking trees and all the rest. I particularly remember  the ravens from Michelle Paver's Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series of childrens' books, set in prehistoric Northern Europe. Ravens, in my childhood mind at least, were creatures of ancient forests and the magic which always, in books, went with them. So learning more about these beautiful birds, in particular their behaviour, has only increased my fascination with them. This video from BBC's Springwatch Unsprung is one I particularly remember, and tool use in corvids is a big area of research in animal behaviour; more information can be found on the University of Oxford's Behavioural Ecology research group website here.

This is probably a sort of confirmation bias for me, where anything big and vaguely crow like immediately takes my mind back to my childhood fascination with ravens. I wonder if this will be the time I finally see one, and finally that one little part of my imagined adventures will come true. This time wasn't it. But hopefully one day the raven will actually be a raven.

All in all, this is why I probably shouldn't post something about an identification I'm unsure of before I've actually got it checked. But I hope you enjoyed this digression. In signs of spring news, I saw my first blackbird singing as I walked back from lectures tonight. If this isn't a sign that winter is almost over I don't know what is.

The RSPB forums are a great resource for any questions about wildlife, not only about identification and no matter how daft you think it might be. I got a reply to my question in a couple of hours from incredibly helpful people- I'm so glad I used it and it comes highly recommended.


  1. That's the cool thing about science and wildlife etc - it's all about getting things proved wrong so you can learn new things and get more excited about finally achieving the thing really want to! :) great post xx
    elly from alldeathbydiamonds

  2. Never mind, it's still exciting to think it might have been a raven! I think you should post about anything that you find interesting, even if you're not sure what it is. If you find it exciting, then so will somebody else. I quite often just make up the names of things when I can't id them, or I have a guess and find out later I've got it all wrong. I don't think anybody really minds!