Worth noting in passing that the past fortnight has seen an abrupt change amongst the local ravens. Even at the end of November, I was seeing groups of six and seven birds flying together when the wind dropped, but now they are far more often in pairs. Out in the snow on Sunday, two flew over my head in such close proximity that I thought they were one. Over the course of two hours, they circled round and round the high ground within inches of one another, and a close inspection with binoculars revealed that they were rolling over on their backs alternately. A little later, I saw the same pair flying together over some of the low ground. The first bird flew very slowly and the second followed it with a series of abrupt stalling manoeuvres. Each time it almost caught the leader, it flared up as if it had seen something alarming on the ground just in front of it, giving the flight a bizarre stuttering feel.
While it feels like winter has only just begun, these birds are unquestionably in the first throes of some kind of relationship building. Ravens nest very early in the year, and perhaps the foundations are being laid already. It was interesting that sound played little part in these encounters, and the only noise was the knuckly flogging of black wings. In due course the calls will begin, and then the hill will really sound like winter.