My old blog still has stories that are just too nice to go down. I tell them here again in English, but (sorry) use Google Translate (only) for those archive articles (I admit I find it too boring to translate myself). I just improve on the worst mistakes. This one I’m digging out because Bilbo had just helped me with a rescue mission. The Black Redstart, nesting above the back door, had strayed inside and couldn’t find its way out. Bilbo alerted me. I don’t know what all his friend Kraechzel told him: He leaves birds in peace. I was able to persuade Mrs. Redstart and she let me carry her, sitting on my landing net like in a circus act, to the next open window. This happened four years ago:
My Beagle mix Bilbo has a close pal who I called „Kraechzel“ because of his nice raspy sounds. Look at these consonants in the German word! „Krächzen“ means „to caw“, „Kraechzel“ is the „little cawker“. And I swear Charles M. Schulz must have felt something similar because his stories between Snoopy and Woodstock are so true to life!
Bilbo watches his pal Kraechzel with much the same fascination and interest like Snoopy talks to Woodstock.
Last year a pair of common ravens (Corvus corax) nested on a neighbour’s hundred years old tree. So I was able to observe everything from the courtship flight to the nesting presents to the fledging. One of the fluffy raven chicks, probably the only survivor, always sat in the tree in front of my studio window and entertained us with his cawing, which wonderfully turned into cooing noises when he felt good. Somehow Bilbo had the same respect for him as for a fellow black cat (was it the colour?) and sat by the gate, listening intently. That turned into a ritual.
The dog had an internal clock to know when Kraechzel would appear – woe betide you if the back door wasn’t open! And when Bilbo was late, Kraechzel called him. He probably needed an audience. At some point, Kraechzel called from afar and Bilbo scampered off the house.
The raven even gave gifts. One day I found the sofa slit miraculously filling with walnuts that couldn’t have come from us. One day I caught Kraechzel throwing one to the ground in front of Bilbo’s nose. The dog found this improvement of his oh so meager diet wonderful and reciprocated by messing around with Kraechzel. It sort of looked like the raven was the Red Baron flying low and flipping somersaults in front of Bilbo, who in turn was trying to mimic the real Red Baron, that is, trying to fly somehow. At least he could do that with his ears. I had seen young ravens perform such daring maneuvers when playing with each other, but never with any other animal.
Now Kraechzel has become a beautiful and proud yearling who hangs around with a gang of bachelors. He was gone a long time; I discovered that in winter he lived at the edge of the forest, where the table was richly set. And suddenly he’s back. The gifts to Bilbo are starting to take over. Well, I like to tell fairy tales, but I was interested in the real cause. The raven loses all shyness, sits with Bilbo in the garden – and my beagle mix is amazed. As if the two were chatting.
Earlier, while mowing the lawn, I discovered the cause. Pluckings. This is the natural explanation of the new bonds of interspecies friendship. Bilbo has two miniature sandstone rock slabs that he uses as a lookout. In between is the bird bath. He doesn’t touch anyone, he’s learned that – and delicious ducks haven’t come by yet. So while Bilbo watches over the bird bath and looks for things of interest (other dogs, people, frog legs, mice), the birds feel safe and bathe.
And then hunting Kraechzel has to come. And Bilbo tolerates that. I don’t know if he is nesting somewhere now because he flies back and forth very often. In any case, I only find feathers as pluckings under his hide. And I’ll find a rest of the prey … at the place in front of the gate where dog and raven use to talk. Exactly there the raven drops parts of his prey to the dog! Sometimes a few feathers, sometimes a wing part, sometimes some intestines. If that isn’t symbiosis! Not a fairy tale, but nature. The one who is not allowed to hunt birds munches on raven gifts, in return he lets the bird do the hunting and treats him to the best hunting place …
It’s fascinating what you can observe when humans stay out of and a dog can live his secret life!
Four years later, we still sometimes meet Kraechzel on our walks. He has moved on and has a family of his own now. But he still recognises us and we leave him walnuts in the meadow. The raven loves them. As if in gratitude, he then plays Red Baron with Bilbo for a short while before continuing to look for mice with his female.