Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Mind of the Raven by Bernd Heinrich

Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds, Bernd Heinrich. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1999 and 2009. e-book, 380 pps. inc. notes, index, afterword.

     I like birds. And trees, abandoned buildings, woods, water, fields, mountains, dogs, cats, and stuff like that. And I like the way that biologist Bernd Heinrich writes. Mind of the Raven is about ravens-- ravens who are quite intelligent and have had a symbiotic relationship with wolves, ravens who are quite charming and funny, ravens who screech loudly for food and do goofy tricks in flight and recognize other individual ravens and some dogs and humans too. 

     I must have seen ravens but I truly do not remember now. I've been to at least one dump in odd hours of the wee morning. I know I've smelt bear. Bears and ravens are said to frequent dumps before the sun rises. So perhaps I've seen them at the dump but I'm not sure. There was an individual I saw hanging on a tree or a telephone wire some years ago. He was a black bird but too large to be a crow. He had a regal stance. And he was alone. I was in a car which was going too fast. He remained a blur. I'm sure he wasn't a crow. Not sure enough for me to comfortably say, "Yes, I've definitely seen a raven."

     I've never been able to climb trees. But Bernd Heinrich can and does climb trees in order to inspect raven nests. I'm jealous of that ability. I'd love to see a raven nest in the wild but if I must climb trees to do so, then I guess I never will. Meanwhile, I will content myself with looking up into the sky in hopes of catching ravens doing aerial tricks. And down on the ground near stands of pines in the woods in hopes of identifying the mutes that are indicative of the presence of raven nests.

     Mind of the Raven takes up where Ravens in Winter left off. The book itself has some delightful photographs and drawings of ravens in various postures and doing various things. Bernd Heinrich has the proper permits to raise ravens. He has an aviary in Vermont and one in western Maine. He has raised ravens, introduced ravens that he has raised to wild ravens, and studied ravens. Although some of the material in the book is not eligible for publication in science journals, all of it is interesting to those of us who like birds in general and corvids in particular.

sapphoq reviews says: I enjoy the writings of Bernd Heinrich. In Mind of the Raven, he relates numerous anecdotes and research studies related to ravens. For those who are looking for more than the basic bird species identification manuals, highly recommended. I was charmed by Bernd Heinrich's ravens and I think you will be also.

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