Friday, 7 January 2011

The Jackdaw

Somebody - and I think it was Joanna at Titus the dog, although I can't find the reference - said they had seen jackdaws already beginning to pair up. Well that was cheering news indeed as it has snowed here in the Dales all morning. If they have not started to pair up then, for sure, the first mild spell we get they will do so, for the very important reason that nest sites round here are in fairly short supply and they need to stake a claim early.

Church spires always were favourite nest sites and there are not many of those around here. In some areas I read that jackdaws will resort to nesting in old rabbit burrows. Here their favourite nesting sites have always been chimneys - these days cottage chimneys no longer in use because of central heating.

Some people put wire cages over unused chimneys to stop the jackdaws nesting, but I can't really see much harm in it myself - what are a few twige between friends. (One local householder who lives in a three storey house had an Aga fitted a few years ago and the builder found solid twigs throughout the three storeys and sticking out of the top of the chimney. OK then, so maybe there is some harm in it after all.) But I must say that jackdaws are one of my favourite birds and I get the feeling the Spring is not all that far away when I spot a pair laying claim to a redundant chimney in our village.

They are always cheerful, cheeky birds with a penchant for anything which glitters, so that their nests are often decorated with shiny sweet wrappers and the like. One of my father's favourite poems, which he knew off by heart and would recite for anyone prepared to listen to it in its entirety, is The Jackdaw of Rheims.

If you don't know it, I do urge you to go onto the internet and find it. The poem is by Richard Harris Barham and tells the story of a Cardinal at a great banguet, where his pet jackdaw was allowed to strut up and down the table helping himself to titbits. The Cardinal takes off his turquoise ring and puts it on the table and at the end of the meal the ring has gone.

The Cardinal curses the thief and when the jackdaw returns to the table -

'his feathers all seem'd to be turned the wrong way;
his pinions drooped, he could hardly stand -
his head was as bald as the palm of your hand.
His eye was so dim
so wasted each limb..........'

I won't spoil the end for you but do read it - it is the kind of poem that children
of my dad's generation had to learn at school (to keep them quiet?) and once you have read it I am sure that every time you see a perky jackdaw with its silvery grey head, every time you watch him strutting up and down your lawn looking for the odd earthworm, you will think of the poem.

Today's aros: soft snow has cloaked the fields in silence.

16 comments:

Derrick said...

We get plenty of jackdaws around here but have managed to avoid fresh snow so far!

Heather said...

I learned The Jackdaw of Rheims at school Pat but couldn't recite it now. I must look it up and enjoy it once more. We had a holiday in Ventnor on the Isle of Wight some years ago and there were dozens of jackdaws near our flat. I love the 'chuck' sound they make.

Jinksy said...

Brrrr! More snow? Yuk!

MorningAJ said...

I love hearing poems recited by heart. I know a few, but not as many as I'd like. Must read the Jackdaw of Rheims.

ChrisJ said...

I get the Jackdaw, crow and raven confused when I see them. I don't believe we have jackdaws around here, but we do have many cheeky crows.

Lori at Jarvis House said...

The Jackdaw looks like the birds we call Cow Birds, except that they have a brown ares on their necks. I guess they are all related to Crows, and are opportunistic too. It's been snowy here all day on Long Island.

Hildred and Charles said...

No Jackdaws here, but lots of ravens and crows who get chased quite regularly by the little birs. Alas, no sign of pairing off or nesting - only a miserable mixture of snow and rain and dull grey skies. I miss my prairie childhood where the sun shone brightly in blue skies and the snow renewed itself every few days and was pure and white. But then it went on doing that until well into March, so best I should not complain.

steven said...

the crows stay for the winter which is nice because i like to say hello to them when i see them. i have no idea what they are eating but they are in their appointed spots and caw welcomingly each time i pass. spring will come weaver. steven

Pondside said...

No jackdaws in this part of the world, but lots of noisy ravens!

Jane Moxey said...

I had to look up about jackdaws! I remember hearing about those in England, but not here in the U.S. And very interesting it was to read about them. Not often found in North America, it seems some were introduced here about 20 years ago and are flourishing! We have a a Murder of Crows flying around our tall cedar trees -- they seem quite new to the neighborhood and seem to stick together! And of course the raven is a starring figure in the mythology of the Northwest Native Americans here and the First People in Western Canada and Alaska and he features in their stories of Creation! So fascinating! Stay warm, Pat! We have snow predicted here this weekend, too.

Cloudia said...

Caw! Caw!





Aloha from Hawaii

Comfort Spiral

><}}(°>


<°)}}><

Bovey Belle said...

We have a lot of them here, because of being next door to the farm. They are very canny birds, and there is always a Matriach who keeps things in order. They know all about GUNS - and you only have to go out in the garden with a long stick and they are off! (Next door has a Shoot).

I have long been puzzled by the law and order they deal out - a flock of them sometimes harrying another Jackdaw with great screams of anger, beating it in flight, yet and I have always wondered what the "bad" Jackdaw has done to merit this? Is it one from another area? Or been disrespectful to the Matriach? Dunno.

Gigi Ann said...

Sorry to say, I never heard of a Jackdaw bird before. From everyones comment I guess it is close to being a crow, or cow bird, or maybe a raven. I think I need to go google it and learn more.

Crafty Green Poet said...

It was me! I wrote a piece for aros about the jackdaws pairing up in the trees (though I've read at least one other person having made the same observation). The first sign of spring in all the snow...

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thank you for your comments - yes the jackdaw is a member of the crow family -

BT said...

We have mostly hooded crows around here - I don't think I've seen a jackdaw. They are lovely birds really! I love the way they take shiney things. I remember that poem from school but, like some of your commenters, must refresh my memory.