Talking as we were of ravens, we saw a full set of crows in Anglesey and Caernarfon: Raven, rook, carrion crow, jay, jackdaw, and the inescapable magpie, as well as the choughs around South Stack. Carrion crows, as in Kent, fancy themselves as waders, and ravens seem to like the beach as well; choughs and jackdaws enjoy the wind, as if having fun in the air is what they were created for. There won’t be so much time to play in a week or two, when breeding really gets going!
Saint Peter’s churchyard in Sandwich is on the South side, a good spot to bask for a quarter of an hour’s worth of Saint Martin’s Summer sunshine, having paid my Armistice Day respects to the poppies by the North door, and to the men they represent.
Once seated on the bench, it did not take long to realise I was not alone. From the church roof, from the tower and from the tall hawthorn bush behind me, rose the whirrings and chucklings of a murmuration of starlings, and contented chacks from the resident jackdaws, never still for long.
i enjoyed my fifteen minutes in their company before the chimes reminded me to make a move.
If these birds were not out in the nearby fields, gleaning and foraging, they must already have been well fed, ready to enjoy life. I think they may have stripped the hawthorn already, since the bright red among its branches came from a rose that was rambling all over it. Inspired planting! The rose should follow on nicely from the mayflower as summer gets going, and gives winter colour as well.
There are a few species of crow in Britain: the most familiar around the Turnstones’ home being Jackdaws and Magpies. In Cornwall, Jack is present along the cliffs as well as the quaysides, and is by no means totally dependent on crumbs of human generosity. There is another crow that inhabits the rock faces and narrow ledges, but not the carrion crows that we saw in numbers stalking the fields above the slate cliffs.
It was not wishful thinking. That is a crow, yes, but neither jack nor carrion crow. Mrs T saw its orange bill without prompting from her husband – a chough, no, a pair of choughs! They may be associated with Canterbury, but they do not live here, in fact, I’d not seen one since we sat at the top of the Great Orme, eighteen years ago. To bed with a smile once more!
Sometimes you actually do contrive to go around with your eyes open. This last Sunday morning was one of those times. On our way up Abbot’s Hill to church there were blackbird and robin babies around. The young blackbirds from our ivy were being shown where to find water in next-door’s blocked roof gutter; the robin hopped across our path by the college. Joy enough there, but there was a wren too.
Walking home, aside from ubiquitous rabbits, and the ducks and moorhens on the college pond, so beloved of Sunday afternoon walks when the children were little, the first sighting was of two green woodpeckers, parent and child perhaps, probing the ground softened after the storms overnight, at least until we came around the corner. The bird that flew up into a pond-side tree, however, was much less familiar: a young cuckoo, finally chased away to fend for itself by its exhausted foster-parents. Was it the child of the one who sang for us all day in May?
A hundred yards further, and the cries of crows above us drew Mrs Turnstone’s eye, then my own. There were three rooks, making a great deal of fuss, mobbing a buzzard who was certainly low to the ground and perhaps a little off his usual beat, or maybe it was another juvenile bird trying to make his way in the world. The crows won the day, at least in their own eyes; the big hawk soared away up the valley and the rooks returned to their own business, perhaps to contend with the woodpeckers who were already undulating their way back to the rough turf near the monument. The buzzard was soon out of sight above the wood; no doubt to find some unsuspecting victim before the day darkened. Was he bothered? Not much I suspect, but the rooks were happy to see the back of him.