Saturday, September 26, 2009

Raven's dinner

Spent four glorious days on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Camped at Surf Junction and spent warm sunny days on the beach.

Late one afternoon a hake, deep sea fish, came up with the surf on Long Beach. Two people tried to coax the battered fish back out to sea, but it was done for. The body was rubbed raw and the fish didn't have the strength to struggle past the breakers to the deep.

Who knows what kind of day the fish had to wind up dying in the last of the sun.
Turned out to be a good day for a raven who spotted the fish and came in for closer observation. After a bounced landing on the sand a test prod with the beak elicited a full body flip and the raven took to the air again.

I puzzled over that. Surely the fish was weak enough for the bird to take. Couldn't the raven finish the job with its sturdy beak or did it not like its meal that fresh?

I returned to wave gazing and watched a woman try to send the fish into the water with her feet, then her hands for as long as ten minutes before she gave up.

I remembered being on commercial fishing boats as an observer and seeing tonnes of this species shovelled into the ocean dead, treated like garbage and realized that had made me see them in that way. As a worthless fish that didn't really matter. I liked that other people made no such judgement of the worthiness of this fish for their aid.

Then I thought about the raven. What about its free meal.

That train of thought ended as the bird returned, this time with a partner. The fish rescuers were further down the beach and the pair moved in for the kill.

I have read before of ravens sharing meals like this. Partly they need the help to rip and carry but it also seems to be an I'll scratch your back, you scratch mine arrangement. Not always between related birds either.

They ripped the fish into chunks and flew into the trees with their bounty.

I trundled down to the water's edge to see what was left. 

The raven had plucked and eye, but left it. The head remained with what seemed like a lot of body still attached to it.

Wasteful ravens, I said. 

A few minutes later one of them flapped back in and swooped up the last piece of hake.

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