closing down the ravens diner

The bald-headed eagle teetered in the air like a kite on a string. Craning his neck, with his legs and talons outstretched, he tried to fight off the raven who was flying below him.

The bald-headed eagle teetered in the air like a kite on a string. Craning his neck, with his legs and talons outstretched, he tried to fight off the raven who was flying below him. The raven took another upward dive at him, clucking constantly like a chicken of all things – possibly calling the eagle just that.

I rushed around frantically, a nearly impossible thing to do in the soft snow that kept sucking my legs out from under me, and shouted at the raven to be careful. His wife was sitting in the nest after all, incubating his off-spring. Which was probably why the raven wanted to chase the eagle away.

Sam, who watched both my and the birds’ antics from the dry and solid vantage point of the veranda, shook his head. “He knows what he’s doing and anyway he can’t understand you.”

Men! Such daredevil acts and no thoughts about the wife at home. With my head thrown back, I saw the eagle swoop towards the spruces, cutting through the air like a knife. The raven who looked so small next to the huge raptor angrily followed, incessantly giving his “gog gog gog” call. The birds flew out of sight. I strained my ears but couldn’t hear a thing anymore. Was no news good news? The age old question of mothers and wives.

I struggled back to the cabin through the collapsing snow, where Sam had resumed eating. Such luxury, to sit outside in the sun with only two layers of clothing on and enjoy the first salad of the season. Our indoor planter had finally produced lettuce and radishes big enough to eat, although the quantities were small. Because of that, we were only eating tiny portions: snippets of green and white, speared individually on the fork and chewed very slowly to get the most out of it. I sat down and put my salad plate on my lap. Still no sound or sign of the raven, only the buzzing of thawed-out flies who were copulating on the warm house wall.

“Our first eagle of the year. Quite the welcome.” I closed my eyes and savoured the sharp radish taste.

“Especially with you running around like an overwrought mother hen,” chuckled Sam.

“Well if the raven gets maimed or killed, the female would have to abandon the nest, I guess. No raven babies this year, then. And they are so much fun when they learn to fly and when they come over to the compost.”

The flapping sound of wings came from overhead. I jumped up just in time to see the raven fly over our cabin and on to his favourite perch, high above the compost. No eagle anywhere. “Looks like he chased the eagle away.”

A couple of minutes later, the raven started croaking repeatedly, maybe announcing that he still ruled supreme in his little kingdom. Eventually, he took off and flew towards the nest.

“I guess I better quit putting out tidbits for them,” I said ruefully to Sam. “If they don’t come and eat it right away, it’s just going to attract eagles now.”

The feeding spot also was very close to the nest. So far, the ravens had always swooped down and cleaned everything up within minutes of me putting it there, but it seemed better to discontinue this food delivery service. It had been sporadic anyway and it wasn’t much that I had for them – some old bread crusts, a couple of eggs. In the grand scheme of raven dining, not a big deal, other than the delivery to their doorstep.

But in the evening, as the sunlight slid ever higher up the mountain sides, I saw one of the ravens sitting in the snow by the feeding spot. Like a patient diner in an empty restaurant, waiting for service, he sat still and studied the view. Maybe he listened too, to the woods that aren’t so quiet anymore now. Robins and juncos have been making their way through, following in the wake of the swans.

Eventually, as dusk began to settle, the raven unfolded his wings and flapped into the air, flying towards the nest. What a day it had been for them: first the eagle invader, and now their restaurant had closed.

Lisa Hasselbring is a writer who lives at the headwaters of the Yukon River south of Whitehorse.