It was the 25th of June, a cold british summer day. My girlfriend and I were visiting the peak district, England, for a week of hiking, while camping on the way. Although the weather had been miserable, the scenery was fantastic, especially when we had arrived at the famous Stanage edge.
Being fond of bouldering (climbing large boulders), I had come to the right place with tons of boulder problems along the edge. However, my eyes were not only fixed on the amazing gritstone boulders lying in a field of ferns. I had heard of people sighting ravens in the area! With a great fascination for birds in general, and the crow family specifically (currently actually doing research with rooks), I have been hoping to see a raven for many years.
Some great bouldering problems later and with damaged hands, I finally took a break and sat down on the large boulder called ‘the pebble’. Looking up at the grey clouds covering the sky, I suddenly noticed two large, black birds flying in the distance. I knew that also carrion crows live in the area and that ravens are rare, so didn’t want to make a too quick determination.
Luckily, gliding on the moderately strong wind that blew past the edge, the two birds were coming closer every second. Although ravens are much larger than their cousin the crow (they can actually be bigger than a buzzard), the birds’ size is no id-clue when seeing them against a grey sky. However, looking at their way of flying, I noticed the birds had a very deep and driving wingbeat, characteristic of a ravens flight. A little bit later, I also noticed their tail to be wedge shaped, also characteristic for ravens! They only had to come just a little closer to be sure… With my eyes strongly focused on the two graceful birds above, one of them gave me the final clue: a loud ‘krack krack krack’ call. No doubt about it anymore, those were two ravens flying overhead!
Some 10 seconds later, and still filled with excitement, they suddenly performed something I had never seen before: The lower flying raven of the two flipped upside down, flew 10 meters belly up, and continued its peaceful flight! Although I knew about bird species flipping upside down in midair to receive a meal from their partner, like marsh harriers do, I was totally amazed to see this curious behaviour during my first sighting of a raven!
While climbing down the large boulder and starting to head back to our tent, I looked up to the horizon and saw the two magnificent birds slowly gliding away into the distance…
What a fantastic day.