Raven – 1894

Corvus corax – Resident.

The Raven is still in sufficient numbers to justify our considering it as one of the characteristic birds of the county. We scarcely ever visited any part of the coast without beholding a Raven, or a pair of Ravens, and often have we seen them flying overhead far inland.

The Rev. C. M. Phelps thought that there were about twelve nests of the Raven on the cliffs, following the coast round from south to north, and there is also a nest or two in each of the islands of Ramsey and Skomer, and on a few places inland, in some of the old castle walls, and they are said to have bred (and possibly may still do so) on the Treffgarne Rocks. Their nests are often placed on sites which are beyond the reach of any who might wish to rob them.

We visited a nest in his parish of Castle Martin, in company with the Rev. Clennell Wilkinson, the Rector, that was placed on a shelf on the cliff beneath a great overhanging crag, the waves dashing against pointed rocks far below. This nest, which was an enormous stack of sticks thickly lined with sheep’s wool, had evidently been added to by the pair of birds year after year, and had probably been occupied by generation after generation of Ravens. While we were watching it, the Ravens, in their anger and excitement, kept on performing extraordinary evolutions in the air, at one instant shooting vertically upwards, the next instant, swooping down and disappearing behind a neighbouring cliff, they would again dart upwards, and sometimes suddenly swoop so close to our heads that we could feel the vibration of the air as they darted by. All the time they barked and croaked their wrath at our intrusion. It would have been perfectly easy to have shot them both, and we have heard with regret that a nest of Ravens, that had been long established on the coast, a little to the east of Tenby, was destroyed through the keepers shooting the old birds when they offered themselves as easy victims at the breeding season.

Ravens nest very early in the year; Mr. Tracy saw eggs in a nest on 14th February in 1842, and took six from another nest on 4th April in that year. In Dr. Propert’s splendid collection of eggs, there is a very fine and remarkable clutch of Ravens’ eggs that were taken by Mr. Mortimer Propert, on Ramsey Island, in the spring of 1885: the eggs are large in size, and are pyriform in shape, like the eggs of the Guillemot. We have in our cabinet an exactly similar clutch of six eggs, taken a year or two since at romantic Tintagel, in Cornwall.

The Rev. C. M. Phelps writes: “Just beyond Pendine (in the neighbourhood of Tenby) rises Oilman Point, a lofty headland of limestone. Oilman introduces us to an important personage, Corvus corax — the Raven. How persecuted this bird is! I verily believe he has been driven from other parts of South Wales to find a more secure home on the wild coast of Pembrokeshire. Here he nests in the most inaccessible cliffs. It is no easy matter to take a Raven’s nest. The cliff is often 200 feet high and more. A nest taken last week was placed in such a cliff, and some 90 feet from the top. The summit of this cliff considerably overhung its base, so that the man dangled in mid-air during his descent. In another case, at St. David’s, the nest was located in the roof of a cavern, and the collector, suspended over the entrance, had to be pulled in, while yet swinging, by another rope. Precious are the eggs taken at such a risk ! The Raven is probably our earliest breeder. All the nests I have seen were robbed somewhere between 28th February and the 12th March. How the bird manages to brave the piercing north-easterly gales, accompanied by sleet and hail, which dash with the utmost force against the nest on the exposed face of the cliffs in our neighbourhood (Tenby) I cannot imagine.”

Mathew M.A. 1894, Birds of Pembrokeshire and its Islands

More about the Raven in Pembrokeshire