Every 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!