Fleece Lined

Picture 679Picture 688Picture 684Picture 683Picture 682Picture 681Every year a pair of ravens (Corvus corax) who roost in the woods nearby start making daily visits to our farm. It is believed that ravens and crows mate for life, so we are assuming that it is the same pair returning. It makes sense, because every February we can expect the presence of these ravens, carefully watching us from their perch in one of the giant pine trees. Their daily visits have become one of the great and rewarding things we look forward to as winter nears it’s end. They have become part of our seasonal markings of time. Someone says “The ravens are back”, and then everyday we feel like the patterns of our lives are not just being observed by them, but some calculated interaction begins to happen as well. In February, ravens are building their nests. Every morning, starting mid winter, they begin cruising above watching to see if an egg, or some compost, or even straw bedding is being tossed out. Ordinarily we would not be tossing eggs out into the snow, but during the bitter cold if we find a frozen egg in the coop that has cracked, we may toss it into the snow. The ravens seem to know this. So, we’ve gotten into the habit of leaving them an egg, every morning and night ( they know exactly when we do chores). At first we leave an egg in the same place. On top of the snow and several yards away from the barn. Later we begin leaving them in different places, just to see how carefully they are watching us. Their keen eyes don’t miss a thing. On top of the trellis, the peak of the greenhouse, even on the ground between the two barns, the ravens pay attention to where the eggs are left. Then they wait. They wait until we go back into the house. They make a few passes from overhead, they caw to one another, and then one makes the descent and collects their egg. This goes on though the months of February and March. But the really amazing thing that we have been observing for years ( 6 or 7 years) is how they come back to gather nest building material. Every year these ravens come and gather fleece from our sheep. The fascinating thing is that they actually land on the sheep’s back, these giant ravens, without the sheep making any real attempt to move away. They grab a big hunk of fleece and yank and yank until a big tuft comes out. The sheep? They just stand there! They would never let me yank out a handful of wool like that! I have been trying to get a picture of this for years, but the ravens are too crafty for me to catch them. I swear they can even see me peering out the window. Yesterday I did finally catch them landing in the sheep pen and stealing wool ( although I’m not sure if it can be considered stealing if the sheep seem to be o.k. with this!). The pictures were taken through the window from inside the house, with me crouching and trying not to make sudden movement. Those keenly observant ravens really don’t miss a thing! One of the lambs, as you can see from the photo, seems quite perplexed as to who these birds are yanking wool from their mum’s back. Let’s face it, you can’t beat a fleece lined nest to welcome your new arrivals this spring. Pretty cushy! We truly love living amongst these great birds and observing their behavior. We wonder? Do the ravens and the sheep have some way of communicating this arrangement of fleece offering? Do the sheep think “well, we mama’s know what it’s like to have babes during a cold snap, you ravens take some insulation for your young ones”. I don’t know. We do feel privileged to bear witness of the ravens in winter, we enjoy knowing that sheep, ravens, chickens, dogs, and humans share common ground and can live fairly well together. There’s room for everyone here at Fernwood! Picture 708Picture 709Picture 711Picture 715Picture 717

26 comments on “Fleece Lined

  1. Amazing to watch. Love the pic where the crow/raven seems to be yelling/cawing at the sheep and she just looks on to say “what is all this noise about?” I call them all crows — have had many here as one of the neighbors has a food pantry and throws out donuts and muffins etc. What a racket when that happens think they come from miles around as they are great communicaters. Also have been fascinated by seeing them in the road after the sand trucks have been by I think eating the sand or salt for help in grinding their food. That is my thought anyway. Always brings a smile to my face to see a crow flying by with a muffin in his beak :+) and the Cardinal just patiently watches.Nice to see the snow melting slowly with the sun. Love all your pictures.

    • Hi Molly,
      I can’t tell you how excited we get when the ravens return. We love that they choose to come back to our farm every year as they get ready for their offspring. And I have been fascinated by their relationship to the sheep. was so glad to finally catch them in the act! Take care Molly…and as always, thanks for reading!

  2. Fantastic photos! And such a great relationship you all share! And now I know where my frozen eggs have disappeared to – have seen the ravens, just not in the act!

    • Hi Lillie, Thank you! The ravens bring quite a bit of delight to our days right now. if there is a day they don’t show up ( very rare) , we worry. We feel fortunate to be able to watch and study them so closely, and we always have a spare egg or two to share! thank you for reading the blog!

  3. Great photos. Isn’t it nice to have these harbingers of the season? We city folk sometimes have to look harder to find pick me ups as we are trying to peek around the snow piles…

    • Thank you and so true. The ravens bring us some lightness and distraction from a long, long winter. We truly appreciate the intimacy we share with them. It is so interesting that they remember and come back to retrieve sheep fleece every year….and the way they go about it! Thank you for reading!

    • Thank you Judy……I am certainly not a photographer and getting a picture of these ravens left me feeling like I was on safari! They are very smart and crafty….and yes their relationship to the sheep and the sheep’s passive attitude, too funny!

  4. Wonderful and fascinating observation and pictures- thank you for sharing with all of us! Nature never ceases to amaze !

    • You are right , nature is amazing. I am only hoping my raven friends leave some wool for me to spin! It is certainly great when we can observe the day to day behavior of animals. We learn so much! Thank you for your comment.

  5. Judy sent me over….this is just fascinating! I have seen the little birds around my house swoop in for fur if I’ve brushed my long hair dog in the spring but ravens plucking hair from your sheep is amazing. So glad that you were able to capture the photos of it as well as tell the story πŸ™‚

    • Welcome to our blog and thank you for your comment. You can imagine how funny it is for us to be inside , watching from the window, as the ravens hop around on the backs of our sheep….who stand there doing absolutely nothing to discourage them…..gathering BIG chunks of wool. Amazing! I was lucky to catch their picture doing this, they watch me very carefully while I am out doing chores…not afraid but very careful with their timing. Thank you for your comment!

    • Thank you! They are a treat to watch. I have been telling people about the ravens and the sheep for years, and now finally was able to catch them in a photograph. They are very smart birds…the sheep? I’m not quite sure where to rate their brain power, but they are very kind to be sharing their wool! Thanks for reading.

    • Hi Cecillia,
      I know…too funny! The ravens have truly been doing this for years. I wish i could climb up into their nest to see how much wooly goodness they have stuffed into it, their babies will be born in cushy comfort! Thank you for reading and your kind comment.

  6. Amazing pictures and what a wonderful thing to get to watch! Judy sent me over to see/read — so glad I came by! Thanks for sharing.

    • Welcome! We love when the ravens come to Fernwood. We truly look forward to them every year, and this sheep/ raven relationship is so amazing to me. So nice that the sheep are so relaxed about giving up some of their wool, and the ravens are just comical! Thank you for reading and your comment!

    • Howdy and Thanks! Stellar shots? Luck and persistence! I have been watching ( and enjoying) those amazing and crafty ravens for some time, I was determined to capture their fleece gathering on camera.It only took about 6 years. Thank you and how are things in Ireland? My friend Sally has just returned from her home in Kilorglin. Can’t wait to get back there!

      • Stellar as in far out! and way to go! A little hippy jive is all. And I remember you mentioning how elusive they had been. But you won’t be beaten by no camera shy ravens!
        The weather here is still cold which is okay really, but the sideways rain is tiresome. Happy March to you just the same! πŸ™‚

    • Ravens being very intelligent and crafty birds, catching them in the act was not easy! It has been great having them nesting nearby and we are thrilled to be witnessing their behavior. Thank you for the comment and reading the blog!

  7. These are amazing photos πŸ˜‰ What brazen ravens! The sheep appear so calm through it all. Thank you for visiting Forest Garden and for your follow. I will enjoy exploring your site now that I’ve found it πŸ˜‰ Best wishes, WG

    • Hello and welcome!
      Enjoy reading your blog as well…..and will keep on doing so! Amazing photos of ravens chalked up to pure luck and persistence ( I am no photographer!). With this pair of ravens returning year after year, I have been trying to get a photo of them collecting wool. You are right , the sheep seem to care less. very kind sheep, they are! Thank you for your kind words and visiting the blog.
      Best wishes to you, as well! DS

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