Site Problems Fixed (we hope)

Dear Readers,

We are very sorry for any scare caused by the Google Blocker some of you may be seeing. Google does this as a precaution when vulnerabilities are found in a website. In our case, we believe the new update of WordPress from our host was compromised, and so when it installed to our site it allowed some javascript to be injected in our index that would have tried to redirect those of you trying to view some posts to the hacker’s webpage (nothing too malicious, just annoying). This would not have affected any of you using our RSS feed.  We have since fixed this to the extent of our ability and the google review should be completed in the next few days to remove the red page.  Please know that there is nothing to worry about now, and you will NOT get a virus or anything like that from using our site.  Please let us know if you experience otherwise ASAP.

If you have a wordpress powered site, we recommend that you update manually using the files on the wordpress site, and verify your theme’s index files are free of weird looking code. If you are using any plugins by authors NOT verified by wordpress.org, you may also want to deactivate them (we found particular issues with the simple facebook connect plugins)

Site Updates Plus How to Get Prints

There has been a lot going on in AvesNoirLand! We have updated the site here and there to make it run a little smoother for those of you on hand-helds, and have launched our full Facebook portlet. The portlet gives you a sneak peek at featured content monthly and gives you an easy way to access several key features here at avesnoir.com that you would otherwise miss if you just read our wall.

We also received a question regarding how to purchase prints of the many wonderful artists and photographers we feature. In most cases, the post will link to the artist’s site or a gallery where you can inquire about purchases, but in cases like the Japanese woodblocks, it is a bit more difficult. Many of the images are considered commons due to age, so you may find reproductions somewhere, but many of the original wood blocks are owned by collectors or galleries such as the Ukiyou-e Gallery featured in our Japanese art post.


I did, however, track down a few japanese prints for sale here


…and here

You can also check out Etsy for many items created using some of the more popular designs.  I will keep looking, and will post an update on the Japanese art collection if I find anything!



AvesNoir Reader Survey

Since our launch earlier this year, we have been truly impressed with the number of corvid lovers all over the world who visit us, and flattered by the kind words and praise you send us.  As a result, we are inspired to make Aves Noir even better.

Have you got a few minutes to spare?  To make Aves Noir the best it can be, we would like to ask you a few questions about you and your interests in a 20 question survey. Our survey is secure and anonymous, and the only information collected about you is your IP address (used to identify unique individuals to the survey) and what you provide us in the survey itself. We  do hope you’ll help us, as well as the many photographers, artists, and rehabilitators that support us, by answering the survey as truthfully and completely as you can.

What is in the survey?

We ask you some general questions like your age range and sex, and some more specific questions like what your professional and spiritual viewpoint is. This allows us to create content that suits you better, and stay away from content that might bore or offend you.

Your opinion also matters to us. We ask you how we can improve both our content and our design, and also about other sites you visit so we can refine usability.

The ‘Rules’

Any feedback, suggestions, dreams or ideas that you have are welcome. While we can’t promise to act on every suggestion or respond to every comment, we make a frequent effort to keep up with what our readers say.



Derrick Coyle – The King Raven

61 year old Derrick Coyle’s working day starts at the crack of dawn – literally – when he greets each of his ravens by name, letting them out of the cages where they spend the night.

As he opens each door, the impressive birds half fly, half scurry out, reclaiming their territories on the Tower of London’s greens, hours before the first visitors come through the gates.

The next hour or so is spent checking on the ravens, feeding and watering them and cleaning out their cages. And that’s all before his own breakfast.

As the Tower of London’s Yeoman Warder Ravenmaster, Derrick is responsible for the birds’ welfare, and therefore ensuring the royal decree issued by Charles II – that there are always six ravens at the Tower – is obeyed.

Legend has it that if the birds leave the site, its White Tower will crumble and the Kingdom of England will fall.

Weighty stuff, but Derrick’s day-to-day duties caring for his six adult ravens and two young “spares”, recently found abandoned on Dartmoor, are more down to earth. They include chopping the raw meat he buys from Smithfield Meat Market to feed the birds, filling their water bowls, and generally keeping an eye on them as he performs his other tasks as one of the Tower’s 35 Yeoman Warders, or Beefeaters.

TOWER RAVENS
[list]

  • Gwylum (male), aged 17
  • Thor (m), 14
  • Hugine (f), 10
  • Munin (f), 10
  • Branwen (f), 3
  • Bran (m), 2
  • Gundulf (m), 5 months
  • Baldrick (m), 5 months

[/list]

It can be a long day. The ravens are out in the grounds from dawn until dusk, when they are locked up to protect them from roaming foxes or feral cats.

In the height of summer, this means his day can end as late as 9.30pm, and he rises as early as 4.30am for a shower and shave before starting all over again.

But these are only small hardships to endure for a job he so obviously loves.

“The best thing is looking after the birds, the working relationship I have with them. It’s a lot of fun, and gives me a lot of pleasure,” he says.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way. The ravens are part of the family. They all have their own characters – they’re very intelligent and mischievous.”

So intelligent, in fact, that one of them – the self-appointed leader, Thor – can even speak. He started imitating Derrick, who often receives a “good morning” from him – as, apparently, did a delighted Russian President Vladimir Putin when he visited the Tower.

To be considered as a Yeoman Warder candidates need to have spent at least 22 years in the Armed Forces, with a good conduct record, reaching the rank of warrant officer. Derrick, originally from County Durham, first donned his Beefeater’s uniform at the age of 39, after serving as a regimental sergeant major in the Green Howards. As an animal lover with a lifelong interest in birds, he became a ravenmaster’s assistant just two months later. Finally, after two ravenmasters retired, he got the top job in 1999, and plans to keep doing it until retiring at 65.

His hard work was recently rewarded in the Queen’s Birthday Honours – he was awarded the Royal Victorian Medal.

“It’s a great honour, and something else for the ravens really,” he says. “I try to keep them high profile.”

RAVENS’ DIET

[list]

  • Adults: 6oz raw meat daily
  • Young: 9oz raw meat daily
  • Meat is usually liver, lambs’ hearts and beef or pork trimming
  • A boiled egg, complete with shell for the adult birds, every other day
  • Bird biscuits soaked in blood every other day
  • Occasional part of rabbit, complete with fur for roughage
  • Monthly food bill is about £120[/list]

‘Love pecks’

Monitoring the ravens’ health is an important part of Derrick’s job, and he is in close contact with vets at London Zoo where he takes them when they fall ill.

Once a week, with the help of one of his three assistants, he gives the birds a thorough check over, and every three weeks trims the lifting feathers on their right wings to prevent them from flying away.

To protect his own health, he gets a regular tetanus jab and wears plastic gloves when feeding the ravens in case they transfer a possible infection picked up from rats or other wild animals.

Although the birds are obviously comfortable around humans, Derrick says he never forgets that they’re essentially wild birds, and tries to keep them “stand offish” so they don’t become too tame.

He wears a full face mask and gauntlets when examining them, and admits that at other times he does receive the “odd little peck”.

“But they’re more or less love pecks – they’re being affectionate and don’t know their own strength.”

They also generally do what he says – and come obediently when he whistles for them to go to bed in their cages at the end of the day.

“I’m the king raven here, they look at me as part of them,” he says. “I’m the one who does things for them so I’m the boss.

“The fact it’s an unusual job does give me a little bit of a fillip. There’s no one else who can say ‘I’m the only Ravenmaster Yeoman Warder in the world’.”

Portions of this article were originally reported by Alison Stenlake for BBC News