A clattering of jackdaws

It wasn’t so long ago that there used to be a rookery in our little wood. It was an old rookery that had been around for a long time and locals could remember seeing (and hearing!) it since they were children, making it at least as old as the 1940s but it was most likely much older. We have lived here twenty years and at its height there were 57 nests in the rookery. In late March/early April every year the noise of the nesting rooks was quite something but we really loved watching them, and just having them around brought a feeling of permanency.  Then one spring, only three nests remained.  The other nests had vanished from the treetops!  Then the following year, only one nest still remained at the top of a tall beech tree. This solitary rook’s nest stayed for two years then that too finally disappeared.  It was a mystery and a great sadness, as the rooks have never come back.  I hear or see a flock of rooks every now and then pass overhead and wonder if they are the descendants of the rooks that used to have a rookery here. It must be about ten years since the rooks left and since then I have read from people in the know that rooks often do this and that they actually take their nests stick by stick and move their rookery to a new site, usually not that far away.  Had I known this at the time I probably would have driven around looking to see where they had made their new home. I have also read that this may be where the term to ‘up sticks and move’ may have come from but even if this isn’t true, I’d like to think it was.

When the rooks left, the jackdaws moved in.  They nest in the holes of trees, and our trees have plenty of holes!  We didn’t mind the jackdaws at first. That was when there were just a few of them but now there are dozens of them and they make a lot more noise than the rooks but the most upsetting thing that they do is that they mob the squirrels when they are trying to feed.  You see jackdaws are clever birds like all members of the crow family and they have worked out that squirrel feeders are also jackdaw feeders. I’ve added extra wood to the feeders to make them harder to get at, but they have realised that the lids lift and with a little luck they can get at the nuts and seeds, especially if the feeder is full! They have a tendency to sit, two or three jackdaws at a time, and just commandeer that particular feeder for ages, so that no squirrel can get to it and if a squirrel should get there first, then they dive-bomb the squirrel until it runs away.

If there is any food left over in the morning from what I feed the hedgehogs, then the birds get to finish it off.  The blackbirds, thrushes and robins are always the first to get to it at dawn. Followed by the collared doves and the wood pigeons.  Jackdaws, I have learnt, are late-risers compared to a lot of other birds. This is a good thing, as they are a very greedy bunch indeed.  I have to admit though, that the jackdaws are fun to watch on video, especially when they are finishing off the hedgehog food.  I love to watch the young running from one adult to another, opened-mouthed and begging for food, and they all squabble constantly. It seems to me, that there are always two or three jackdaws ‘on watch’ on the periphery of this breakfast frenzy, that you wouldn’t necessarily notice unless you could watch them closely on video, and I wonder if that is actually their role. Maybe because there are young in the group.

Now, nature has a way of correcting the balance of things.  If you have been following my blog you will know that we have a lone resident carrion crow called Sid (so called because he’s a carrion/Carry On so Sid as in Sid James).  Here is Sid…

SID Carion 1.5.2017

Sid arrived with his parents back in April, stayed a few days then his parents flew off and left him behind.  After a short spell of being quite lost and following every other bird around, he settled down and is doing very well for himself and roosts at the top of a large oak tree every night.  But a few days ago, a pair of carrion crow arrived in the woods and every morning they meet up with Sid at the hedgehog feeding station.  I wonder if they are his parents, as they are larger than he is and he follows them around almost as if to cadge food from them and he is often scolded for it. Then they brought a younger one along.  So three carrion crow visit each morning and Sid is over the moon.

Carrion crows 19.2.2017 (2)

Anyway, the upshot of this is that the jackdaws keep well clear of the hedgehog food in the mornings, as they are scared of the carrion crows, and this also means that they keep well away from the squirrel feeder nearest to the hedgehog food, which is good for the squirrels. The carrion crows don’t tend to commandeer the hedgehog food as much and will allow other small birds to fly in and take a few titbits every now and then.  It is very interesting to watch the pecking order amongst birds.


Lots to catch up on…

The vixen visited one of the hedgehog feeding stations again the other night and as you can see, she is still nursing. It is still only male hedgehogs that come to the feeding stations now and they won’t tolerate any other male to eat at the same time as them.  In case you are wondering how I know for sure they are male: I have the camera positioned so low that it really is very obvious when they walk into shot. Usually, one of the males is more alpha that the other and bullies the other one away from the food but on this occasion, both males were determined to own the feeding station…

Well, it looks like Delilah’s drey is not here after all, as we have watched her last thing in the evening leaving our little woodland and seen her first thing after dawn coming into our woodland, from another small wooded area. None of our Trail Cams have caught sight of her kittens yet, although I reckon they should be leaving the drey and coming out with their Mum for the first time in the next week to ten days, if my dates are correct. Nibbles is still around but not as much and usually not at the same time as Delilah. She caught him in one of the oak trees the other day and was like a squirrel possessed, chasing him from it: he was running for his life to get away from her. It had me thinking that maybe her drey was somewhere high up in the oak, as it is thickly covered in ivy and very hard to see if there is a drey or even a den in it but I have spent ages with the binoculars and can’t see anything and Delilah doesn’t go there last thing at night or come from there first thing in the morning. The shot below is of Nibbles leaving one of the feeders with a hazelnut in his mouth. He is moulting his winter coat and is looking a little tatty.

(By the way, in case you didn’t know, if you click on most of the photos in my blog they should open up separately and enlarged for better viewing)

For blog Nibbles on feeder 7.5.2017

Sad to write that Phoghorn Leghorn is no longer with us. I found him a couple of days ago when I was gardening in the woods. He had made a hollow for himself under a thick mound of Lamium and I found him snuggled down inside,  At first I thought he was just hunkered down, feeling poorly.  It was very sad to find that he had died: he had been my gardening companion for quite a long time.  He hadn’t been well for a while and had something wrong with his beak, which was making it almost impossible to eat, so it was only a matter of time I suppose.

Good photo of Phoghorn Leghorn

But we do have a new kid on the block here at Ye Olde Rectory.  Meet Sid…

SID Carion 1.5.2017

The cameras first caught sight of Sid with two other carrion crows in our little woodland a couple of weeks ago. The other two hung around for a few days, then left this one behind, so I am assuming that Mom and Pop brought Sid here and when the coast was clear, they flew off.  He was very lost for a day or two, just walking around the grassy glade, following any other black bird that came near, whether they were Black Birds or Jackdaws but he has slowly got used to being on his own and tucking into the hedgehog food that is left over in the morning!! I saw him trying to have a bath in a small water bowl left for the hedgehogs, which was very funny, as he could only fit one leg into it, so he now has a shallow tray as a bathing pool, which he is very possessive and won’t allow any other bird to come near. We lose one character and gain another 😀

We’ve all been super busy in the garden the past few weeks but especially the woodland garden.  We couldn’t have done it without Scott’s help, so a big THANK YOU! to Scott. 😀 At last, we have soil in the River Kwai and a bridge over it.  Two actually! They need securing and covering with chicken wire, so they aren’t lethally slippy in wet weather but at least the end is in sight!  We have started planting up the River Kwai with blue plants that will self-seed and spread and the aim is to be able to stand on the bridges and look up (or down) and hopefully, at most times of the year, there should be a ribbon of blue that looks almost like a river running down through the woods.  Well, that’s the hopeful idea anyway 😀 Here are a couple of photos of how it looks so far…