Flies In The Ointment; Jackdaws On The Grass

Apologies are winging your way if I’ve not replied to your comments or visited your blogs recently. I’ve had a little fly in the ointment, so to speak, which is non-technical jargon for I’ve been having problems with WordPress recently and I haven’t a clue why.

I’m writing this post in the hope that it has now been rectified, and if it hasn’t, well, there’s only me reading this and you guys are none the wiser. Please let me know.

A couple of days ago, at a motorway service station, I was walking down a corridor, flanked the whole way by a glass window, whilst seeking out the Gents. At the end of the corridor a little girl was loudly banging on the glass. “Look, Daddy, pigeons!”

Her father, wearing the forlorn look of one waiting for his wife to come out of the toilet, a look I knew only too well, replied: “They aren’t pigeons, darling, they’re crows.”

As I passed them both I too glanced out at the birds.

Actuallythey are not crows, I thought to myself, they are jackdaws. 

And, with a certain smugness:

And I should know, being, unknown to you, the anonymous author of the City Jackdaw blog.

I didn’t say this, of course, for who was I to destroy the little child’s fantasy of her all-knowing father.

And besides, at that moment in time, I couldn’t even get City Jackdaw to work.


Sedentary Sunday

Sunday morning. Palm Sunday morning.

Reading outside in the sun.

Slowly the town awakens, quite some time after the world had awoken.

Blackbirds are nesting in the bushes that border the garden; jackdaws in the tall chimney pots.

All unnoticed by the people returning from the shops with their six packs to greet the sun with, or driving around the estate on their noisy quad bikes.

Flaubert comes to mind: ‘Civilisation is a conspiracy against poetry’.

Maybe I’m getting old. Given to moan a lot.



A clamour of crows,
raucous and riotous
in their autumn fraternity.

Light-golden bathed,
beneath the season’s
bowered crown.

A dirt road winds
through the 
foilaged banks.

A single jackdaw
dines on a
roadkill banquet,
upon the forest edge.

Melting into sundown.

And from the depths:
the screaming,
spectral, jays.


Jack Attack

Well I know Spring has definitely arrived when the following sentence appears in the ‘search engine terms’ of my dashboard:

Jackdaws have nested in my fascia boards.

You remember my posts last year, the Feathered Frenzy series? All types of despairing, disparate people were stumbling onto my blog in a desperate attempt to garner information on how to repel these dark invaders. My favourite one was:

Jackdaws are eating my car.

There was a definite sense of last straw desperation about the people who were caught up in the maze of City Jackdaw, tearing their hair out, exclaiming “What am I supposed to do, pepper them with poetry? Harass them with humour? Repel them with a reblog?”

We are back in the cycle of the Jackdaw, I will now keep an eye on my search engine terms with interest. If you are one of those desperate, besieged victims, dear reader, stick around, throw us a follow. Together we’ll figure it out.

But first, how about an old photograph?

The Heat Is On


The heat is most definitely on.

At this moment in time, my favourite Winking Weather Girl is still in a job.

(That line has just prompted me to try out that old joke on the kids: What do you call a three-legged donkey? A wonky. What do you call a three-legged donkey with one eye? A winky wonky. Sailed right over their heads, should have saved my breath).

Anyway, yesterday a bedraggled, initially enthusiastic group consisting of my wife, my four children, a family friend and myself decided to head to Dovestones reservoir for a picnic on that most glorious of days. Finding a shaded spot beneath some trees, we unpacked the food to fill complaining, hungry mouths.

As you can see from the photographs above and below, the water level of the reservoir is quite low. Despite last year’s record rainfall, I suspect soon we will be slapped with a hosepipe ban. I must see what Winking Weather Girl has to say about that. What is a guy with a rose bush supposed to do?

2013-07-07 13.03.06

After filling bellies with food and liquid-replenishing juice, the children made the precarious trip down to the water. Unlike our recent trips to Blackpool and Southport, my two youngest decided to brave the water and paddle. Perhaps because water without waves appears much safer, and perhaps buoyed more by the encouraging and reassuring presence of their two older sisters, they went in to torment the ducks.

Meanwhile, attempting to take advantage of the absence of these ravenous young wolves, the customary, ubiquitous jackdaws appeared en masse, casting hopeful pale eyes towards abandoned bread crusts. Surely they know that eating crusts makes your feathers curl? Surely they know that I will be posting reports of their conduct to the WordPress world?

Intelligent birds though they are, I think that bottle top may pose a problem.

2013-07-07 13.58.28

After a memorable time spent in our selected spot, my two eldest daughters were keen to walk a circuit of the reservoir up in the hills. But us adults were flagging, wilting in the relentless heat of the sledgehammer sun, and decided to retreat to our air conditioned cars and call it a day.

And my two youngest children?

Sleeping kids

Now that is what, in the parenting business, come rain or sunshine, we call a result.

Red In Tooth And Daw

It is that time of the year again when an attempt to vegetate in front of the television set may result in us being compelled to actually open the blinds and peer outside, maybe get out in the garden or, if we are truly touched by the adventurous spirit, get our boots on and  seek out the more scenic parts of our country.

To get involved with the outside world.

Yes, Springwatch is back on. This programme, and its sister programme Autumnwatch, is partly responsible for a public increase of interest in our indigenous wildlife. We have also recently had a shorter-run Winterwatch, with a promised Summerwatch too this year. So that covers just about everything then.

We are nine episodes in, with live cameras and twenty four hour web cams set up in a variety of locations around the British Isles to document many different species of our wildlife, showing how they have faired through the winter months and the struggle they face to breed and survive among a changing world and predation.

We have been treated to, among many others, ospreys and otters, finches and foxes, warblers and weasels, dippers and dolphins, buzzards and bees. We have marvelled at feats of endurance and display, persistence and guile.

And among all this impressive footage, who do you reckon have been the villains of the piece?

That’s right, the jackdaws.

There is a bird box set up in a barn, and two jackdaws have nested there, raising two chicks. The parents are doing a masterful job of mucking in and spreading the load. No single parent or free loader in this set-up.

The problem is when the two parents are off foraging for food. In their absence, two other adult jackdaws have been entering the nest box and going about the process of systematically attacking the defenceless chicks. Time after time, day after day, they have come in and merciless pecked at the two cawing chicks, as they huddle together in the corner trying to find some kind of protection. It only ceases when one or both parents return to eject the invaders from the box. The problem is that they need to go and find food for the young ones, and as soon as they do the deadly duo come back in and the whole sickening spectacle begins again.

Over and over.

Viewers throughout the country have been horrified, dropping their digestives into their cups of tea as they reach for their phones to tweet their disgust

The theory given is that these two intruders are lower down the..ahem..pecking order in the jackdaw hierarchy, and want the nest box for themselves to breed in. They have even been bringing in nesting material of their own. Talk about cheek.

The one thing going for the chicks is their size. They are close to fledgling. If they had been younger it would all have been over with by now. And they are beginning to fight back themselves. Like bullied kids the world over, they have their tipping point.

I know that wild life is just that-wild life. Red in tooth and claw. I mean we have recently seen a young meadow pipit taken by a grass snake as the rest scatter from the nest in a desperate attempt at survival. But at least that was quick. The young jackdaws are being subjected to constant, prolonged attacks.

Having a front row seat to witness this violent drama has caused me to  feel a little uncomfortable about the title of my blog. Do I really want it associated with such, well, animalistic thuggery?

And what would I change it to? What if I kept it along the wildlife line, but chose something nice, inoffensive, cute even?

What about a rabbit? Everybody loves rabbits. Rabbits are lovable. Cute? Check. Fluffy? Check. Not psychotic? Check.

Right then, I will have a blog name incorporating the word rabbit and something else, something that would not cause me to waiver after watching a single episode of Springwatch or Watership Down.

But before I could make that connection, a memory came to me. My Dad, saying very casually to my Mum:

“Rabbits sometimes mate with rats in the wild.”

I can’t for the life of me remember the context of that conversation, and I am convinced he was pulling her leg. But my Mum never ate rabbit again.

Now I have another vision. The horrific sight of those attacks on the poor, defenceless chicks has now been replaced by another, unwholesome image.

Rabbits mating with rats.

2013-06-11 21.28.13 (1)

That’s it. I’m sticking with jackdaws.