Tawanda Scott-Sambou wanted to see lots of ravens. She is a CNN producer working on a story about Hardshell and after seeing the Guardian Angel Rover in action with captive tortoises she asked to see the dark side of the tortoise conservation equation, to understand what all the fuss is about. So I took her to where I knew there would be hundreds of the black birds: a large composting facility near Victorville, the site of much of our testing of raven repulsion. Over the last year and a half we have used lasers and aerial drones there in approved tests, refining our techniques and recording their effects. Over that span I have been able to come and go largely without notice from the birds.
Tawanda and I were both unprepared for what happened next: as I stepped out of my car 1500 ravens rose as one from the “buffet table” into the late afternoon air, flew upward several hundred meters in a roiling, squawking, panicked mass and a good three quarters of them simply left the area entirely, flying southeast along the Mojave River toward Victorville. While she scrambled to get her camera ready (the show was over by the time she did) I marveled at the powerful association that had been formed in the birds’ heads and in their society and at how little it took to send them off. I reveled in the potential it showed for our long-term efforts to rid at least small areas of the desert raven free. And all I could think of was the first scene where Dorothy and her friends encounter the Wizard. Hey ravens: Pay lots of attention to the man behind the curtain!