Wednesday, 22 October 2014

October 22nd 2014 - Jackdaws again from 2012

Yesterday I posted about my quest to discover where 'my' jackdaws went in my area of Somerset. But that was not the first time that I'd done this. For the last 5 years I've been to and from a small part of deepest darkest Wiltshire, sandwiched between Hampshire and Berkshire; a land bedecked with the feeling of emptiness. Yet it is a landscape awash with abundant wildlife including corvids, huge drifts of which blow and tumble like black snow across the landscape, especially in the winter months. 

Today Jane a wildlife colleague of mine were discussing on-line my posting from yesterday. Why do jackdaw and rook flock together? Well it is a mystery, and as I said in 2012, I like a mystery, the natural world is all about mystery.

Research is on going, although the current thinking is two fold. Firstly rooks being the bigger of the two species are possibly acting as 'Big Brother' to the jackdaws; not in a reality TV sort of way you understand, more, looking after their smaller cousins.  Secondly, rooks posses sharp pointy bills with which they dig and probe the earth looking for worms and other invertebrates, something jackdaws couldn't do with any force. Thus the jackdaws could be following in the wake of the rook-like plough, much as seabirds will follow a tractor turning the furrow.

I like both theories. I like the fact that two species live and work as one unit. Not unique in nature, but something surprising. I have my own third theory. Given the intelligence of corvids, maybe, just maybe these two gregarious and flocking British corvids just like being with each other and are co-operating and communicating with each other in a way we'll never know. Whatever the reason, I'll keep watching and learning, and above all listening. For me, winter months mean bird spectacles, and like last night, tumbling black snow across a farmed landscape probably ranks above most things in my notebook.

Finally, to illustrate this posting, these two photos came from Jolle Jolles who is a jackdaw researcher at Cambridge University. The top image is us lot recording a living world on their work in 2011 for Radio 4, the latter is just one of the most evocative images I've ever seen of corvids. They're not my copyright nor for re-use elsewhere.

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