Magazine article Geographical

A SHADOW ABOVE: The Fall and Rise of the Raven

Magazine article Geographical

A SHADOW ABOVE: The Fall and Rise of the Raven

Article excerpt

A SHADOW ABOVE: The Fall and Rise of the Raven

by Joe Shute

* Bloomsbury

* [pounds sterling]16.99 (hardback)

* Britain's ravens are doing very nicely. Numbers have increased by 45 per cent since 1995, Joe Shute informs us, and we can now lay claim to more than 12,000 breeding pairs. As the figures soar, so does the cultural interest, and Shute adds to the literature with the usual blend of fascination and rhapsody.

We have always, Shute writes, 'attempted to explain ourselves through this soulful bird' (whatever 'soulful' is supposed to mean in an avian context), and the raven is the reliable 'bellwether for the fortunes of our nation'. Shute wonders what this 'bird of augury' sees 'for our own dark times'.

Well, not too much, I shouldn't have thought. Ravens, like all the corvids, are extremely intelligent--a fact ably explored in Shute's book--but in the larger scheme of things they remain, well, bird-brained. …

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