When I see our ravens I have a feeling, almost, that this island is not mine, but theirs. They have been here from time immemorial. They are, so to speak, indestructible, for they are believed to pair for life, and when one of the pair dies, a young bird immediately steps in to fill the gap. The ravens have been there though all the gaps in the occupation of the island by man, and will probably continue long after man has finished with Skokholm.
Perhaps this sense of permanence and continuity is behind our traditional anxious fetishization of the ravens at the Tower of London.
Lockley recalls that “it was once suggested to me that ravens might be established, by way of tame birds at first, as breeders, wild and free, on the Houses of Parliament!”. Not such a strange idea when, in these days of postmodern ecology, practically every English cathedral has its nest of Peregrines.
Anyway, this comes from Lockley’s letter to John Buxton of October 1, 1939, collected in Letters From Skokholm (Little Toller Books, 2010) – thank-you, Frin.