Of all the world’s birds, the raven has the deepest connection with humankind. It was the first bird mentioned in the Bible, sent out by Noah to search for land. Ravens are central to Norse and Native American mythologies, as symbols of wisdom as well as agents of prophecy. And they feature prominently in literary works from Chaucer, via Edgar Allen Poe, to Game of Thrones.
Whenever I see a raven flying above my Somerset home, uttering that deep, guttural call, I feel the weight of that long connection between bird and human. But I also feel a sense of hope; for in recent times, the raven has finally begun to shake off its reputation as a symbol of darkness.
For the first few years after we arrived in Somerset, raven sightings were few and far between. Yet today, a decade or so later, they soar over my home almost every day. But however often I see them, for me an encounter with this charismatic bird is always very special.
A while ago, I was birding along the coast when a raven flew past. As it did so, I imitated its call; and without missing a beat, the bird turned its head towards me, uttered two calls in reply, and flew on. It had, I felt, been a meeting of equals.