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.