Ravens headlining at Greek Theater

Before leaving Griffith Park on Thanksgiving morning, I couldn’t resist stopping by the dumpster outside the Greek Theater to see if the ravens’ source of free gourmet food had dried up. It sure had. That big bin was totally empty. But no sooner than I’d turned back to the car, than I heard a familiar clok-tok-tok. I turned back – they were just inside the fence of the now-dormant ampitheater. As I approached they began to cry in alarm, and took off for the nearest boughs, keeping an eye on me. Keeping up the alarm calls, they slowly left the area, heading off over the golf course towards the southeast. I shouldn’t be astonished by now that two random trips to the same place in Griffith Park turn up ravens, but that has to say something about the population density there. I just wish I knew what.

Ravens have a lot to be thankful for

The Thanksgiving holiday got off to a bright, sunny start as ravens filled the skies over Griffith Park to welcome the First Annual Inter-blog Turkey Day Raven Walk. Beakspeak and Ravens in Hollywood joined forces to survey the holiday activities of this all-American bird, which is probably giving thanks for the abundant anthropogenic resources which have allowed them to live in great luxury for the last fifty or so years.

Taking up a position on a ridge to the southwest of Mt. Hollywood, just off Vista del Valle Drive and below Captain’s Roost, the intrepid birders observed seemingly unending streams of ravens in the air, and Hollywood sign-seeking tourists and locals on the ground. Ravens were seen in pairs and in groups, traversing the park at all altitudes, sometimes ignoring raptors and sometimes annoying them. Aerial acrobatics and even chases were observed (indicating the presence of interlopers?). Although they occasionally alighted on a rock or water tank, ravens spent most of the morning in flight around the ridges, treetops, and mountain tops of LA’s most accessible wilderness. It was a bit like being at the center of a merry-go-round of ravens. This is the first time I’ve not marched around until finding them, and it certainly proved you don’t need to do anything but show up in the park to mingle with America’s cleverest avian characters. In fact, as I drove in that morning, one was perched on a branch above the road.

Forget the bird in the oven – it’s Raven Day

Woke up this Thanksgiving morning with the rrak-ousness of five or six ravens chasing each other around my building. Unless that bird in the lead was a hawk… later I spied on over the empty lot next to the TraveLodge, and decided to grab the camera aned go see what might be on. Didn’t have to go far. Three ravens were perched right up in the dead Canary Island pine across the street from Ravenwood Manor.

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One had a large crust with it, clearly very happy. The third was chased off by the second, but not after a good bit of winging in the I’m-a-poor-hungry-juvenile assuming-subordinate-posture mode. After a while it tried to come back, only to suffer the same banishment. The superior bird didn’t even ruff or fluff, just hopped up towards the junior, which provoked the pathetic pleading and retreat. Meanwhile, bird with crust flew over to a lush pine across the street, and proceeded to cache the treat in the dense needles of a bough. It was really exciting to see behaviors that I’d only read about till now, and to see them on my doorstep! (As usual, the photos are being developed and will appear soon).

And I thought Tim Allen in my local 7-Eleven was cool. The only thing better than this will be raven watching in Dodger Stadium when baseball season comes back around.

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Beyond the mountains

Traveled out to Big Morongo Canyon Preserve last weekend, mainly out of curiousity after stumbling across their Web site. The possibility of seeing a Golden Eagle was another attraction, not to mention ravens. But the only ravens I saw were hanging out by (and above) the Cabazon factory outlet stores and the Morongo casino off Interstate 10. Ravens are no fools.

Even so, the preserve is a great place to visit, and somehow the weather that day was some of the best, blue-sky, warm sunny California weather anyone could want. Photos to come (wealthy raven lovers are welcome to donate high-end digital equipment to yours truly). Seeing a real, recovering-to-native-flora desert oasis was a terrific change of pace from my usual asphalt jungle. The information kiosk is clever and creative, and they have worked hard to make the flora and fauna of the area readily understandable to the visitor. It’s unusual to learn so much from a self-guided experience. They also have regular, guided bird walks. The most observable bird while we were there was the White-crowned sparrow (I think! we’ll see when the film is developed).

The next day I was in Runyon for some exercise, but the ravens hid and did not reveal themselves until just as I was leaving, offering more proof of their psychic ability to taunt their pursuers. As usual, they were perching above the Wright house.

Up, up, and away

Today they did the opposite – seven ravens soaring above Hollywood, south to north, roughly over LaBrea (really to the west, but drifting east as they approached Runyonwards). Late morning, hot with mostly clear skies. This was very similar to the soaring group of a dozen or so that I saw above Redlands last Saturday, soaring and doing acrobatics while traveling slowly from one place to another. I wish I had a rooftop vantage point, to see these trips as they begin.

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Sunny and clear

So why are all the ravens keeping it low? Ideal soaring conditions late morning and noon, but the only birds I saw were 40-50 ft. One crossed northbound in a beeline over Santa Monica Blvd. at Sycamore, using a lot of wing power so it must have been going somewhere, and two over LaBrea and Beverly, moving NW, to make my most southerly random sighting in Hollywood.

I recently noticed the light aircraft some biologists are using to join the Monarch Butterflies and whooping cranes on their migration. Wouldn’t that be a gas! Be a fun way to travel around the GP. Bet the ravens would not be amused.

Ravenhood Sweet Ravenhood

I wonder why I bother running hither and yon to see ravens – there are plenty at home. Agitated crows outside woke me up all too early, but lying in bed later, I heard that familiar rruk-rruk, no doubt from the pines above my building, and then closer – looking out the window, two birds glided over, no higher than the telephone poles, heading south across Sunset Blvd. and towards the old Chaplin studios that are now Muppet headquarters.

An hour and half later, two birds in the same mode, a half a block to the east – going after a little In and Out burger, maybe? Too cloudy and cool to soar, but even when it is warm, I think it is not to early to claim a pattern of foraging in the flats. The question it opens up is are the flats part of anyone’s territory, and is it locals or others doing the foraging, and what are they foraging for? I suppose that’s a silly question. They are ravens and will eat anything. But with all the human activity, I can’t believe everything edible constitutes an opportunity.

The clouds began to break up between nine and ten, and I took a walk around the block. Four ravens above Hollywood Boulevard, playing in the warming air, soarcling over the Roosevelt Hotel, seeming to enjoy the day. It was hard to tell really what this was about. A meeting of two pairs, or four acquaintances out on the town? Was there any territorial defense going on? Ravens can be very low key about this. The last thing I saw was a single raven making a beeline westwards over Hollywood Boulevard. But after this last two weeks of chance local encounters, I’m leaning toward focusing my observations right at home, to learn as much as possible about ravens in the urban zone.

Detroit and Willoughby

In the drizzle of a grey November morning, and our second storm of the season, a raven was foraging around the rooftops and large dish antennas of a local television station (this isn’t the Media District for nothing). This is very near the previous week’s sightings. I cannot imagine being a raven and trying to compete with L.A.’s numerous crows on their own turf, but they do.

Ravens and crows in the hills

On the way to a morning hike under clearing skies, we came across a disturbed landscape on a ridge overlooking Lake Hollywood. I spotted the raven right away, but many crows flew off (the raven did not) and answered my previous questions about whether or not they entered the hills much. I think this is an access point and work area for the DWP projects to stabilize the hillsides against erosion, and as Marzluff notes, disturbed areas are the crows’ gateway. Ravens were there again the next day, but not on the ground – a dad and his two kids were walking their dog on the ridge, so any foraging had been disturbed, and I couldn’t see anything really to forage for – grubs, I suppose. Aside from this, I’ve only seen crows flying over the hills, and not seen any in the hills or in GP.

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