Saturday, 28 January 2012

Living World Jackdaw Roost Sunday 29th

I know some of you in the past have been kind enough to send in comments about the wildlife radio programmes I make, thank you. Well just to remind those who do listen, on Sunday the 29th January at 06.35hrs, there is a new series of Living World on Radio 4, beginning with a favourite subject of mine, the Jackdaw. And of course it's also available on the BBC i-player after broadcast.


This was recorded on January 5th in Cambridgeshire. If you can remember back then, it was a stormy day, much damage across swathes of Britain. So at 5.30am in total darkness I set off into a woodland with the presenter and contributor to record a wildlife programme. The noise of the wind through the trees was deafening, it really was like a steam train passing by, only it never passed by. The stuff of wildlife recording nightmares.

The technique in such conditions then  is to 'close mic' the presenter and contributor to make sure their voice isn't drowned out by the atmosphere. That does have a disadvantage in that a lot of the atmosphere is lost. So what then needs to be done is record what's called 'wildtrack' of the atmosphere, and then in the studio mix the two together to produce something both atmospheric and listenable to.

I enjoy making all the programmes I have had the privilege to be allowed to make, but this one on jackdaws was something special, as in the evening we just witnessed what has to be one of the all time wildlife spectacles in the Natural World. I've been interested in corvids for a long time, and to be with specialists is for me just so exciting. Sadly my photographic techniques need help, as these 2 images of jackdaws taken in Dorset in 2008 prove, I never did manage to get to grips with digi-scoping!


  1. I like your close up of the Jackdaw. I didn't realize they had yellow eyes. If you zoom out your camera all the way you won't have that black space with your digiscoping.

  2. Actually they have grey blue eyes Lisa but my awful photo makes them look yellow, it was a hand held digi photo. I'll give it a go zooming all the way next time. Quite special jackdaw eyes too in that they have a pale iris like us humans. Very good at focusing on objects too. Clever birds

  3. Well, I will be listening to the programme but maybe on iplayer as I am unlikely to be that organised that early on a Sunday morning! There seems to be alot around about Jackdaws at the moment so I feel it's time I brushed up on them a bit.

  4. Will listen to it on Iplayer. At least the Beeb allows us to listen on Iplayer as they do not allow us in Eire to watch their programs via the player.

    I wish I'd been there! Corvid specialist... would love talking to that person, as you know I love Corvids. My Rooks are courting, the Jackdaws being cheeky, as usual.
    Looking forward to their fledglings in summer.

  5. Hi Goosey and Yoke, thanks for the comments, it's a real shame the programme isn't repeated, but thankfully with the i-player anyone in the World (or Eire) can listen.

    Do you still have your pet jackdaw Yoke?

    Having been fascinated for years, It's only recently I've really come to understand corvids, I've a long way to go, but currently I'm reading Corvus by Esther Woolfson, it's just such an endearing book based around her orphan rook, 'chicken'

  6. Hi Andrew, it's taking me an awful long time to catch up but I'm happy to be here at last. Your cholesterol free meal suggestion made me smile, not sure the doctor would though ;-)

    I love Corvids, a much maligned, extremely intelligent and misunderstood group I think.

    I will catch the programme on Iplayer. You do make some interesting ones!

  7. It was a fascinating programme, the group behaviour reminded me of the pecking order and rlationships within my poultry flock; and as I live not far from the roost featured, I may even go along to see the spectacle for myself.
    I was left with lots of questions - what percentage of UK jackdaws join these large mixed roosts? I've not noticed if the jackdaws that we see around our village go off to roost elsewhere. I assumed they stayed nearby overnight.
    There is a largish roost of rooks about 8 miles east of us, I often see them seeing off the buzzards! Or foraging on the verges of the main road.

    I'll certainly keep my eyes open for corvids when I'm walking this year.


  8. Hi Shysongbird, lovely to have you blogging again. I agree with you, a much misunderstood group of birds.

    Hi Celia, all jackdaws will go into roost at winter, but an interesting question, what percentage at mixed rook and jackdaw. Mmmm will see if I can get a handle on that. What I omitted from the programme is that they can travel upto 30 miles to forage, so your birds could be anywhere.

    Bit of fieldcraft help; If you want to find a roost, look for the pre roost sites first, 50-100 birds, and watch where they fly to. At home in Wilts it did take me 3 days of searching but I got there in the end (mainly as the racket after dark alerted me to a wood)