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As the years progress, it seems like all kinds of wild critters are moving in closer to our city suburbs here in Connecticut.
In my many trips to Meriden Dog Park with our pooch, Charlie, I have seen deer, wild turkeys, a coyote, swans and geese that I no longer consider to be wild.
Then, the other morning I heard an all-too-familiar call and could not believe what I was hearing.
It sounded like the harsh croaking “awk” of a common raven, but my only sightings of ravens over the years have been on hunting trips to the big woods of Maine. To me, their call is almost haunting, especially when you are alone in the woods hunting deer.
Their call is unmistakable. Although they resemble an oversized crow, they do not make the cawing sound of a crow. To me, their call is very familiar, but what were they doing here in Meriden?
A quick call to my buddy, DEEP Wildlife Biologist Pete Picone, confirmed that there are ravens now in Connecticut and they have been here for some time.
That was news to me. In my many hours in the Connecticut woods, I never heard a raven call, although I heard many crows.
Then, as if to confirm what I had heard, there was a carcass of a dead critter by the railroad bridge on Hicks Avenue, and picking at the carcass was a huge black bird that I first thought might be a turkey buzzard.
But as I got closer, the bird flew up onto a branch over the carcass and I saw that it was, indeed, a raven. I was really amazed by the sight of this huge black bird that looked like a giant crow.
I did a little research on them and found some interesting facts from Audubon Connecticut in their Nature Notes.
The Audubon notes said the common raven was not common 25 years ago in Connecticut. During the summer bird counts of 1992, just two where observed.
In 2016, the number of common ravens identified by Spring Bird Count participants was 170.
Accordingly, the species has now adapted to our state and can be found just about anywhere — including, I would venture to guess, at times in the area of The Meriden Dog Park. I have not heard them on every trip to the park, but on occasion I have.
Upon seeing one in person, there is no mistaking that it was, indeed, a common raven. Why they carry the moniker “common” I do not know, but in my book they are anything but “common.”
Also according to the Audubon report, the common raven likes Connecticut hills with cliff faces and places like East Rock and West Rock in New Haven and Hubbard Park right here in Meriden have resident pairs of ravens.
The report says cliff faces are natural nesting habitats for the common raven, but now they have even adapted to nesting on cell phone towers and fire escapes.
As for the raven I saw at the Meriden Dog Park, I have no idea where it calls home, but I would guess they will be a familiar sight more and more as they adapt to life here in Connecticut.
As I said earlier, the only time that I have ever saw or heard ravens was when I was deer hunting in Maine. Once you have heard a raven call, I guarantee you will remember it, although here in Connecticut one might think it is a crow with a sore throat.
I do know that while hunting in Maine, once a raven found me, they seemed to stay in the area I was hunting. A study in Wyoming discovered that ravens are highly intelligent and, during the hunting season, the sound of a gunshot draws ravens to investigate a presumed carcass. Yet they will ignore sounds that they consider harmless, such as an air horn or car door slamming.
Common ravens are very smart, and this makes them dangerous predators. They sometimes work in pairs to raid seabird colonies, with one bird distracting an incubating adult and the other waiting to grab an egg or chick as soon as it is uncovered. I have also seen this done with crows invading a nest and taking young hatchlings when the adult was away.
Also according to the Audubon report, breeding pairs of common ravens hold territories and try to exclude all other ravens throughout the year. In winter, young ravens find a carcass and call other ravens to the prize.
This may be true, but the one I saw at the Meriden Dog Park was by itself, and I never heard another raven calling other than the one.
For centuries, the appearance of a common raven was a sign of impending doom. Be that as it may, I find the common raven to be an amazing bird both to watch and to listen to. The next time you hear that harsh croak of a huge black bird in the area, remember it might be a common raven and not a crow.
How is the fishing? If this weather keeps the ice off of some of the bodies of water in our area, who knows?
Last week, on Sunday, there was plenty of open water on both Lake Beseck and Silver Lake. In fact, there was a couple of brave kayakers at Silver Lake.
Regarding ice fishing, just remember there is no fish worth dying for.
See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops, police, firefighters and first responders wherever they may be serving our great country.