Hoping to Curry Favour!


This young raven had a rough day. I found him late this afternoon while gathering eggs during a lull in the rainstorm. He may have been hung up for as long as five hours.

The chickens didn’t seem overly alarmed and luckily for the raven, the farmer was not overly alarmed!

With Donna’s help using scissors, we got the youngster cut free from the four-inch square mesh netting that we use as a roof over the chicken pen. Initially, he wasn’t too pleased with our handling but my deer-hide gloves protected me when he gave a good peck with his inch and a half long beak!

We put a towel over his head and after that, all was easy. Donna carefully cut around the net while I firmly held the youngster.

After this photo for the record, we set him down and off he scurried. He didn’t fly but I suspect he was cold and sore.

For most farmers, the raven is bad news. And that may be the case for us too, but I have a history with these guys and for the time being, am hoping to integrate them into our farm life. They may not know it but they have already curried some favour with us and I am hoping to reciprocate with this rescue.

It was 1980, fresh out of university, and I was back on Cortes for a short visit with my parents in late September. The crows and ravens were wreaking havoc on the apple orchard and all this despite my father having shot and hung in the trees, a raven and a crow. This age-old remedy clearly didn’t work here. In September the tides are often high during the daytime, leaving the crows and ravens with nothing to forage for on the beach. Apparently, hunger trumps fear. Full of enthusiasm and anxious to shed some of my five years of academic learning, I was only too eager to grab the 12 gauge and show the black bandits their errant ways. The ravens had been used to my father slowly trodding down to the orchard and were no match for my stealthy moves. It was an easy shot. For the next thirty years I cannot recall seeing a raven fly over Sunny Brae. Over the years I very much regretted my actions from that fall of 1980.

A few ago the ravens returned. They say ravens in the wild have a lifespan of 10–15 years. It took many generations for the knowledge of the dangers of Sunny Brae to wane from the raven’s lexicon. I was so pleased to see their return. Donna and I were amazed as we listened to the youngsters experimenting with their talk and squabbling on the beach. I watched carefully to see if they would fly over the farm or would they stay over the beach, with an innate fear of Sunny Brae. After a few days it was obvious, they were flying over the farm again!

So for the past three or four years the ravens have grown comfortable with our farm. I have pictures and a blog of them plucking wool from the ram’s back. And in a great coup I even found one of their nests!

This summer we watched six youngsters spend their days learning to talk and performing fancy flying tricks. And now the fruit is ripe. At first, they only went after the old pear trees that lie outside the fenced orchard but now with those trees bare they have moved on to the main orchard. Some days we see them walking amongst the chickens as they peck away at fallen fruit. Chickens and ravens seemingly at peace. We have heard from many who tell of the carnage ravens have brought upon their chicken flocks.

I would like to think these ravens understand the peaceful existence they enjoy to date.

And as for currying favour, it seems the raven’s presence today has deterred the crows from pillaging our trees. The ravens and crows are age-old adversaries, constantly harassing each other. The crow flock numbers over seventy birds, down from the hundred plus in the 70s, but still large enough to decimate the crop in just a few days. Six ravens eating versus seventy crows eating. Well worth currying some favour on my part!

Mike Manson

Mike Manson

Mike Manson (third-generation) owns and operates Sunny Brae Farm with his wife Donna.The first orchard was planted in 1908. Today, many of these trees still survive and are in full production.
The farm has been in production for 106 of the past 125 years. Mike said it was his father's vision that was the key to the farm's success going forward.
Mike Manson

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