This evening the sky above the farmhouse is peppered with Jackdaw. From my vantage point in the front garden I estimate there to be over 100 individuals preparing to roost. I watch their black silhouettes wheeling and gliding over the Orchard before they finally settle in a stand of Sycamore.
There are 3 nest sites on the farmyard. Nest one, which has been used for the last 3 years, is in the eaves of the old Turkey Feathering Loft. This nest has chicks, although I don’t know how many. The adults are constantly popping through the gap under the tin roof to feed their hungry brood.
I have tried sneaking a look inside the nest but to get close enough requires scaling a storage unit that was built decades ago, and I really don’t think it will hold my weight!
Nest two, used for the past 2 years is in a hollow in the trunk of an ancient sycamore by the front gate. This doesn’t have any chicks in, and I think it may only be used sporadically by last years chicks from nest one.
Nest site 3 is new, and is located in another Sycamore tree hollow. It is exceptionally well camouflaged and virtually invisible from the ground. This nest too is full of hungry mouths, and an awful racket explodes from the tree at feeding time. This tends to draw the attention of other nearby Jackdaws, who subsequently flock to the tree.
Jackdaw are probably my favourite member of the Corvidae, followed closely by Jays. They are the smallest of the Crow family and can be distinguished by their light blue eyes and silvery neck feathers. They strut when they walk, as if going along to the sound of their own personal Bee Gees soundtrack (Ah ah ah ah, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive). Being social birds they tend to roost together of an evening, often with crows or rooks, hence the large numbers gathering over our farm. The collective noun for a group of Jackdaw is either a ‘train’ or a ‘clattering’. I much prefer the latter. It has a touch of onomatopoeia, conjuring up their harsh ‘jack-chak’ call .
Some mornings I cannot get JoJo to settle. No matter what I try her little face scrunches up, she grizzles and squirms in my arms. In a last bid attempt to maintain my sanity, I usually resort to popping her into the buggy and wheeling her into the back garden for some fresh air.
Today is one of those days. By mid morning the sky above the farmhouse is blue and thick with bird song. Sparrows nesting in the eaves of the feathering loft chirrup and chatter as we commence our ritual lap of the garden. A chaffinch trills from its vantage point on the roof of the cow man’s caravan. We make our way across the newly mown lawn and turn into the ruins of the old chicken shed.
Along one of the walls our log pile is stacked, with a layer of bark and leaf litter at its base. Behind this lies the boundary hedge, a tangled mess of nettles, pink Campion, hawthorn, oak, and sycamore. Bird song drifts down from the branches above; I am an amateur with bird calls, but manage to pick out notes from robin, blackbird, chaffinch and wren. We trundle through the ruined shed and bump across a narrow slate path back onto the grass. JoJo is still awake, eyes heavy but resisting sleep. I head across the lawn towards the farmhouse. A male sparrow peeks out from the old House martin nest on the gable wall, whilst another perches on the satellite dish below. We loop past the side gate, and start to retrace our tracks.
A loud ‘chak-chak’ alerts me to a jackdaw sitting sentry in a sycamore tree. It has a nest in a hollow halfway up the trunk of this tree, well hidden from view by foliage. I push the buggy back through the ruins, jamming the wheels on a loose stone the size of a tennis ball. I stoop to release it and notice a spiders web stretching between a pile of bricks and the vacant dog house. An orb spider sits in the middle, waiting patiently for a fly.
We continue back round onto the lawn, as swallows wheel,dive and roll above us. I walk towards the gate that leads onto the muddy cow track, and looks out across the fields to the Preseli hills beyond. A bird of prey soars above the ox park, its distinctive forked tail identifying it as a Red Kite. I pause to check on my passenger. Fast asleep! Peace reigns at last.