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Ravens

Author: S. Plytkevich
Photo: author

05.11.2020

Weekly dramatic events that take place in Minsk and other cities of Belarus, pushed me to search for some natural parallels. It came to my mind - why not to recollect the ravens (Corvus corax)? They also pounce on prey that can no longer resist, show both aggression and cowardice – it all depends on specific situations.

I went to the editorial server, typed the words "Common Raven" in the search engine, and got links to fifteen hundred images taken by me over the past fifteen years.

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The first photo was of a raven’s chick in Krasny Bor wildlife reserve (a part of “Paozyorie” sanctuary), May 9, 2006.

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in February 2007, I tried to photograph ravens and eagles from the photo tent of Dima Shamovich – a biologist and wildlife lover. A wolf carcass was lying nearby, and we hoped that the birds would come to eat the meat. Unfortunately, they didn't want to pose.

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A month later shooting from Viktor Kozlovsky's cabin in Vileysky district appeared to be more successful.

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I took a couple of decent photos of a common raven. The bird flew to the bait alone, so I could have only taken its portrait.

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30, 2007, Zhitkovichi district, outskirts of the city of Tourov. A gray crow stole an egg from a northern lapwing 's nest (Vanellus vanellus). I use this shot of a raven’s relative to show their predatory nature: crows eat everything that can be stollen. 

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But life is not easy for them either. This Raven was taken in the Polesie radiation reserve, February 2008. The - 20°C frost had frozen the carcass of the wolf, so the ravens could not feed. Then I saw an interesting picture: a northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) dared to fly up to the food. Magpies and ravens attacked the big bird so much that it was forced to hide inside a bush waiting for the screaming flock to leave the feeding area.

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February 27, 2009, again shooting from the photo tent of ornithologist Dmitry Shamovich in Krasny Bor.

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Same place in four days. Part of a roe deer has already been eaten.

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In fact, the main goal of wildlife photographers during such shooting at baits was always not ravens, but golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) or white-tailed eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla). But rabens always appear first, they swoop in flocks, there is a way more of them, and therefore they are caught in the frame much more often.

But there were also golden eagles. Krasny Bor, February 18, 2008.

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In the relationship between golden eagles, eagles and ravens, there is one characteristic feature of such privations: it is the ravens that are indicators of food safety. No eagle will land or eat until the ravens start feasting. And ravens behave very carefully! A bird will land, you click once and it will fly away. And along with it, everyone else will. And you have to wait a couple of hours until another flock appears. During this time, white-tailed eagles sit on distant trees and do not go down to eat. And this can go on for days and weeks, not hours. One Russian photo hunter spent six days in Dima Shamovich's stall and did not photograph the eagles, I had absolutely unsuccessful attempts to photograph them too.

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White-tailed eagles also arrived. This is a young bird. Krasny Bor, March 3, 2010.

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And this is an old male. He looks up warily, since another white-tailed eagle is circling there, which is also heading this food.

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When several birds appeared at the same time, it was possible to catch some interesting situations. This frame, for example, can be titled: "let's pray before eating, my children..."

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Or: "TU-154", give up the runway to "Boeing"!

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Here the ravens hold a meeting to discuss some actual issue.

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I don't even know how to title this shot, but I had a chance to take this photo in Krasny Bor.

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Dima Samovich has placed a dead cow near the carcass of a wolf. The ravens held another meeting nearby.

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Judging by its right leg, this is the obvious the leader of the ravens’ army.

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The squad of ravens is ready to complete the task.

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And this is the wife seeing her husband off…

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A young white-tailed eagle arrives to the bait again.

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Ravens aren't happy with a competitor. One of them grabs an eagle's tail with its beak.

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The eagle attempts to get rid of the raven and loses a piece of meat. One of the ravens catches it, and the second one grabs the larger predator by the tail again. The eagle can't stand it and flies away, a flock of ravens immediately takes its place.

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The eagle returns in about twenty minutes.

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And everything is repeated…

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A year Later, I'm taking pictures at Dima Shamovich's again.

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But this time only ravens arrive…

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February 2014, the bait on the hunting area of Krasny Bor.

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Among other food they also had a nice fox. It is obvious that I was hoping to shoot golden and white-tailed eagles, but there were only ravens.

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They were already preparing for the breeding season.

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16, 2015, shooting from the cabin of Dmitry Shamovich.

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Dima approached the organization of photo hunting professionally: not only he built a real cabin good enough for four photo hunters to take photos at once, but also he solved the problem with its heating and made a toilet.

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In addition, he took care of the surroundings in which the photo shoot will take place: a very photogenic dry pine tree was dug in next to the bait.

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As a result good pictures taken by different photographers in Krasny Bor can be found across the Internet.

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This shot, for example, I called "Mephistopheles".

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After a hearty meal, the ravens were taking seats on a dry branch and started to argue.

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Photographers had just not to miss interesting moments.

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In the winter of 2015, I paid attention to the national park "Pripyatsky", since according to its Director Stepan Bambiza, one could shoot ten eagles in one frame simultaneously. My first visit was unsuccessful. On the second trip I bought alive and frozen fish and decided to arrange a shot of an eagle pulling this fish out of the water. To do this I drove the pegs into the bottom of a shallow ditch and tied the fish to them. A fallen deer was placed nearby, and I sketched frozen fish along the banks of the ditch. 

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Unfortunately, my plan didn't work. First of all, about forty ravens arrived in the semi-darkness. Immediately they started to pick up the scattered fish. However, they did not peck it, but grabbed, took it away, and hid it! Because of the poor lighting, no good shot could have been made. Then the ravens attacked the deer. It was amazing!

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From time to time, eagles were approaching the spot, but the ravens swooped down on them all together, and the big predators had to fly away.

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By the evening only bones were left of the deer. One raven found my fish, but failed to drag it away…

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In 2016, I took several more photos with Dima Shamovich.

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Various epizodes were repeated, but I decided to choose the most positive shots for the end of this report.

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Here are the moments of courtship of a male for a female.

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Here the female looked to be telling to the male: "We must be kinder! And maybe people will change their attitude towards us..."

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Maybe we should be kinder indeed? Probably, there is a chance to improve the world with your kindness?!

Translated by M. Shaturin


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