Animosity and admiration in equal measure.
Lambing season and we’ve not had issue with the traditional farmer’s foe the maligned and misunderstood fox; instead our opponent comes from the sky, the coastal raven.
Acute eyed, ever patrolling they never miss a beat. They truly are the all-prevailing aerial predator.
My emotions for this large corvid are deeply tangled. They hunt for weakness and feast on the frail. Their colour of plumage embodies the dark side to lambing, because where there is new life there is inevitably always some death.
I resent the raven’s boldness, its brashness and its opportunistic speed in striking.
I deplore its method of dispatch, to disembowel its victim still alive.
I’m vexed at the level of work needed to deter its efforts; a momentary lapse, a turned back can swiftly
lead to a fatal attack.
Most of all I despise the dark thoughts this bird encourages me to have for its demise.
To say it tests my love of the natural world and all other life would be an understatement.
Yet, I have to say I deeply admire my adversary as well.
As tiredness and sleep deprivation creep into our elongated working hours so does a malaise in our clarity of thinking.
The same can not said for the raven, its sharp concentration is as honed as when the first lamb was born.
I have to admit its keen eye and artful presence leads us to ewes in trouble that may otherwise not have been spotted so quickly.
It tells us equally of a lamb that needs extra care.
Its company reminds me that over thousands of years we have created an unnatural situation of domestication, breeding out a species’ natural ability to defend itself and where I must now choose to work so hard to protect these now defenceless souls.
It also brings clarity to the fact that we breed our flock for food and it’s not just us humans that need to eat.
It prompts me to remember we can’t and should never think we can control all that surrounds us.
To work beside such a fearless carnivore instils in me that this farm is an ecosystem, it has taught me the wise lesson that to farm with nature doesn’t mean you automatically must hold a profound fondness for all the species you share the land with.
In fact perhaps it means more that we are willing to cohabit with other species that we’re not automatically sentimental about, that are in direct competition with us. Indeed perhaps this truly is the definition of land sharing.
Note: Ravens are protected by law.