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 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.
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.