Day’s End at the Rookery


With sunset there is a general homecoming behind our house: hundreds of rooks and accompanying jackdaws return to the rookery in Limekiln Wood. The corvid air fleets head in from all points, returning from the day’s foraging grounds around the town. There are the strident greeting calls – a caw-cophony if you like – of passwords given and passwords received, as the early-bird returnees acknowledge the arrival of others. Sometimes, it seems, an incoming squadron ends up in the wrong tree, and then there is an avian explosion, black silhouettes shot into the sky. Much rook-shouting and abuse ensues.

They sort themselves out, and the wood soon echoes to sounds of companionable muttering.

As the year progresses we will be treated to elaborate twilight fly-pasts and synchronised acrobatics that resemble the murmuration of starlings. And, as the weather warms and we sleep with open windows, so the night will be sound-tracked by the chuntering of rooks. I know from the sleepless small hours that they talk all night. ALL NIGHT. Sometimes I want to tell them to settle down in their nests, and SHUT UP.

The collective term for rooks, of course, is ‘a parliament’, and anyone who has listened to the proceedings of Britain’s House of Lords or Commons on the BBC will have a rough idea of how a rookery sounds. Some might say the corvids are the more intelligent. I could not possibly say.

The rookery wood thus gives us much pleasure, but there are strains of melancholy too in the resonant kaah-kaahing, and the tchaka-tchak counterpoint of jackdaws. It evokes the kind of nostalgia that is so very English, the longing for a lost and perfect England that never existed; a feeling that A E Housman conjures so well in stanza XL of  A Shropshire Lad:

Into my heart an air that kills

From yon far country blows:

What are those blue remembered hills,

What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,

I see it shining plain,

The happy highways where I went

And cannot come again.


Post inspired by Jennifer Nichole Wells’ One Word Photo Challenge: Bittersweet, a colour that is roughly the colour of the sky in the photo.

copyright 2015 Tish Farrell

A Shropshire Lad by A E Housman – you can read the full work HERE courtesy of Gutenberg Press

To see/hear rook acrobatics click on the link below to my brief video …OF ROOK DANCING