Story last updated at 6/10/2009 - 1:36 pm
It happened quite by accident. I was hiking the beach along the saltwater, headed back to my cabin. The incoming tide kept forcing me to take detours into the woods around obstacles which thwarted my progress. I struggled through the early April underbrush, thrashing through the alders, stepping gingerly through the devil's club and pushing aside leafing blueberries.
Next, I was stopped by a fallen tree that angled down out of the woods and across the beach. A maze of sturdy branches held it off the ground on one end while the tip was now underwater. Tired of going around, I just crawled under the tree. As I stood back up on the other side, an agitated raven began causing an uproar about 50 feet inside the forest, halfway up a large hemlock.
I turned and studied the noisy raven, wanting to establish its particular point of concern, and noticed a large shape in the tree behind it. Wow - there was the nest! Had I not been in that particular spot at that time with reason to look in that direction, I might never have found it. I guess that bird just didn't know how to keep a secret.
I was excited! Even though I'd seen raven families in this area in years past, I'd never hoped to find their nest. It was very large, about two feet wide, shaped like a deep bowl, and neatly constructed with various sized branches and twigs. I understand there is normally an inner layer of roots, then bark and mud and finally an opulent lining of deer fur (or alpaca where available - hey, ravens live all over the world!) Checking out the inside of the nest was not an option I wanted to pursue, so I could only hope they remembered the fur.
It was not illogical to presume that young ravens would appear and I commenced patrolling the area every week or so, with increased anticipation. When none had materialized in over a month, I was sure it was a dummy nest. After all, once you knew it was there, it was easy to see right from the beach, and considering the raven's celebrated reputation for cleverness, I deduced the real nest was elsewhere and the two obsessed birds were merely actors.
This theory, however, was discredited in the middle of May when I discovered the nest was indeed real and occupied full time by two hefty baby ravens nearly as large as their parents. So! They had been quietly hiding in there all along because they certainly didn?t hatch out that size.
It wasn't until the end of the month that I was again shocked and amazed to find that not two, but four young ravens lived there. A couple of them had begun sitting up on top of the nest and the next time I visited, some had graduated to branch sitting.
Since the parents were prone to frantic displays and nonstop calling and circling until my retreat seemed assured, I limited my visits and kept them short. Fiercely protective, I watched them chase away an eagle one day, dive bombing it repeatedly as they pushed it almost into the ground.
Still, I kept track of them well enough to know they fledged on the second day of June. Two were sitting on the fallen tree and the other two were behind it in the alders when I first discovered this. They hopped around and jumped from branch to branch, clearly not unhappy with their lot.
Now I suppose the beach will be four times noisier - if I remember right, those teenagers never stop squawking.