IT WAS humbling to hold this young raven in my hands – the inherent power of its body was palpable, yet there was an inner vulnerability to this bundle of black feathers which reflected the fragility of nature and the delicate balance of life.

A short while before, this young raven and its three siblings had been gently lowered in a protective bag from its Clackmannanshire treetop nest by David Kelly of the Central Scotland Raptor Study Group (CSRSG), where his colleagues Mark Rafferty and Dave Taylor waited below in readiness to put coloured leg-rings on the birds.

Mark Rafferty is the raven co-ordinator for CSRSG and over the past six years has colour-ringed over 500 young ravens in central Scotland as part of a study to learn more about their behaviour and movements.

Ravens are charismatic birds that play a key role in ensuring an ecologically balanced environment, yet they are also controversial with some farmers and landowners not liking their presence because of potential threats to lambs and gamebirds.

Mark says: "One farmer might say he has a problem with ravens, whilst a neighbouring one will contend there are no issues of concern, which might be telling its own story that any conflicts are more perceived than real.

"Ravens are protected birds, although they may be culled under special licence if deemed definite harm is being caused, although this should only ever be an action of extreme last resort."

Certainly, in the 21st century when so much of the natural world is under pressure, there is a responsibility for humanity to give nature space and to live in harmony with it, rather than always trying to control and destroy it.

Mark points to the close relationship between ravens and humanity since the dawn of time, and there is probably more folklore associated with the raven than any other bird.

The raven was the first bird Noah sent out from the Ark, possibly so it would feed on the dead bodies of animals killed by the flood.

Shakespeare's Macbeth refers to the raven croaking himself hoarse on the fatal entrance of Duncan, while King Kenneth I of Scotland was hailed as the 'raven feeder' in reference to the bodies felled in the field of battle.

Despite the large number of young ravens Mark has ringed over the past six years, there have been surprisingly few recoveries or sightings of marked birds, although some have been recorded by camera traps, and others have even turned up as prey in golden eagle nests.

However, there does seem to be a perceptible trend of ravens moving more into our towns and cities, highlighting their adaptability and guile.

As the ringed youngsters were carefully placed back into their nest, I reflected upon the mystique of these enchanting and intelligent birds.

Ravens should be celebrated rather than demonised, for they are an integral part of the soul of both nature and humanity, and as such, we have a special responsibility to ensure they thrive for centuries to come.