Raven over King and Queen rocks, Flamborough

Raven over king and queen rocksYou will be very lucky to see a Raven at Flamborough these days, as they are rare visitors. But Ravens bred in at least a couple of places at Flamborough, up until the mid 1830s. One of the last locations was near Breil Newk, when two stacks called the King and Queen rocks, graced the bay next to this headland. The King was toppled by a storm 50 years ago and is now just a rock visible on the low tides where Shags like to rest, but the Queen still stands proud. I can imagine ravens sitting at the top of the stacks, watching the nesting sea birds, waiting for a kittiwake to leave her eggs unprotected, or to spot a dead chick fallen onto the beach. The cliffs would have offered rich pickings during the nesting season, and during the winter, the Ravens would quarter over the grassy tops of the cliffs or the village pastures to feed. Their nest would not have been as impregnable as you would think, as in those times, ‘climmers’ from Flamborough village would descend the cliffs regularly to pick eggs to sell, not to mention tourists coming to the cliffs to shoot sea birds for fun. Raven nestling would be collected and sold to pubs and hostelries to be kept as pets, a common occurrence those times. Unfortunately, the Ravens of Flamborough did not survive to see the Sea Bird Preservation Act passed 1869, the first legislation to protect wild birds in the UK.

During one of my visits almost exactly a couple of years ago, I was unlucky to miss a passing Raven, which was seen in the company of a Red Kite, flying over the headland. I based this pencil sketch on an old postcard of the rocks, with a raven flying by.

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Raven overhead

Raven over Spurn based BethanRavens fascinate me, I have met them at Scotland, Wales, the Canaries, Mallorca, the Pyrenees. I am reading a lot about Ravens lately. The two fascinating books by Bernd Heinrich (Ravens in Winter and Mind of the Raven), Derek Ratcliffe’s monograph reporting on the decline and resurgence of Ravens, a Shadow Above, by Joe Shute…

Last year I witnessed indications of this recolonisation first hand when I found a pair of ravens on a valley in Staffordshire where I’ve been birdwatching for the last 20 years, my first sighting of this species there. While Red Kites and Buzzards have become regular breeders in East Yorkshire, the Raven remains a rare occasional bird. But last year too I saw my first raven in East Yorkshire, a couple of deep croaks made me look up while at Tophill Low and a wonderful Raven flew above. A photo of a Raven at Spurn by Bethan Clyne, only the 9th record there, inspired me to draw a sketch. Ink and pencil on Wacom tablet.