Rooks in the ash trees, St. Bride’s Castle, Pembrokeshire
Rooks in the ash trees, St. Bride’s Castle, Pembrokeshire
Or it could be a parliament, a building, a storytelling of rooks.
The people who lived in our house before us called it Rookery Cottage. We didn’t adopt the name. The house actually sits beside the main road out of Wenlock and the rookery is behind us on Sytche Lane, with a stretch of Townsend Meadow in between. Even so, we do hear its clamour, especially on spring and summer evenings. And we do have ring-side viewing of the whisking-whooshing corvid ballets that feature over the field in the twilight hours of early autumn. These aerial displays are a sight to behold, and are among the Farrells’ household treasures.
As with cloud-watching over Wenlock Edge, so with keeping an eye on things at the rookery behind the house. It’s endlessly fascinating: a visual meditation if you like. One thing that happens after the rooks return each twilight after the day’s foraging in the fields, is that there’s a general settling in the treetops. The roost is also shared with a large number of jackdaws. For a time after the general homecoming all seems peaceful, just some low-level muttering between fellows.
And then for no obvious reason (at least not to me) there’s a mass explosion from the wood, followed by a great whirling and swirling, which then may, as spring approaches, evolve into a full-on balletic extravaganza.
Cohorts of rooks and jackdaws divide and swoop, re-gather, execute a Mexican wave, divide and swoop on and on. The show may last for several minutes. If you happen to be walking over the field when it happens, as I was last night returning from the allotment, it can be almost elevating; the sense of avian energy lifting your heels from the earth. Wheeee-eeeesh! Let me join in.
But then, just as suddenly, it all stops. The birds alight in the wood, and all is quietness again. Perhaps it never happened.
A small helping of earth magic for challenging times.
The things I do. Yesterday’s twilight with its magnificent post-storm sky had me standing on the cabin bed in my study and resting my camera on the open rooflight. If I use lots of zoom I can spy on the rooks in the wood on Sytche Lane. At this time of year there’s much to watch. For one thing they are making some serious extensions to their old nests.
For another, now is the time when the more spectacular ‘fly pasts’ begin. There seem to be two modes. The first kind involves a sudden outburst in the rookery (there are jackdaws in the wood too). For no apparent reason all the roosting birds whoosh out over the meadow, bowl around in a swirling mass and then return to the trees as if nothing had happened. The second kind is a much bigger production and usually happens around sunset or shortly afterwards. It seems to be about a gathering in of rook cohorts from the four quarters, a reconfirmation of rookery membership perhaps (?) – this after their day’s foraging around the fields.
As they return to the rookery so the aerial dance begins: sometimes high above Townsend Meadow, at others in high-speed mass swoops at ground level. It is very exhilarating. And perhaps that’s it. The display is an expression of rookish joi de vivre. And why not? If I were selling my house, I would say the view of rooks from the study rooflight is a very particular asset, though maybe not for the ornithophobic or anyone with a tendency to vertigo.
copyright 2019 Tish Farrell
Unlikely – that I was awake enough to take this photo
Unlikely – the early morning yellowness of an oil seed rape field
The cawing of rooks and chack-chacking of jackdaws in the grounds of St. Bride’s Castle was deafening. Day after day and no break from the din as the birds whisked round gathering nesting material or scouting out new nesting spots. The jackdaws seemed to have their sights on the castle turrets, while the rooks had commandeered the nearby ash wood where they were busy composing the usual twiggy mounds up in the treetops. So much commotion and it said one thing: SPRING!
In which Six Go Potty In Pembroke With Cockapoo Puppy – holiday snaps #9
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
Rooks coming home to roost over Townsend Meadow, Much Wenlock. Sometimes too many words aren’t necessary; the place speaks for itself.