(Caveat: Never birdwatch while driving.)
Way in the back of the long office parking lot, there is a pass-through driveway to the supermarket next door. The back of the parking lot is a bit overgrown, and in the curbside underbrush grows a tree. And on that tree, there hangs an impressive and unmistakable paper wasp nest. Big and grey, it waves, heavily on a windy day, on the tip of a delicate branch.
I was taking the shortcut through the supermarket lot on my way to the office when I saw a big black bird fly over the car and land on the nest. I thought it was a crow at first, as ravens are not as common in these suburbs. But this was a big glossy bird with a heavy bill, and it was making no sound, unlike the boisterous local crows.
The pass-through is narrow, and I hit the high curb as I was looking at the bird. Two cars leaving the office lot stopped to stare as I backed off the curb and let them pass. I drove through when they had gone and pulled into the nearest space, hoping the bird was still there. It stayed as I stepped out of the car and into the lot. A guy drove up behind me and honked impatiently until I moved to the side. A woman drove up behind him and smiled indulgently as I snapped a few shots.
All I had was my Samsung tablet. It takes photos, but not like the Nikon does. With no zoom lens, and only a screen which reflects the sky on a bright day in such a way that one cannot tell what one is photographing, I took a few blind shots while the raven picked at the nest, sending shards of the soft gray paper fluttering to the ground. This is the good one:
This one wasn't too bad, either, left uncropped. It was a gorgeous cold day, and the raven is beautiful black bird.
Since it was a sub-freezing, I imagine the raven got a few tasty torpid wasps for its trouble. Ravens are the largest of the perching birds, members of the crow family, and quite stunning up close. Paper wasps are nasty, stinging insects. I'm thankful for ravens.
Want to learn more? Here are some raven books:
Mind of the Raven (Heinrich)
Ravens in Winter (Heinrich)
The Raven (Poe!)
Raven and the Red Ball (picture book)
Raven (Native American tale)
Arabel's Raven (Aiken)
Charlie's Raven (George)
Clem (true story)
The Seven Ravens (Grimm)