Thursday, 22 December 2016

Finally catching the naughty Jackdaws.

This is a terrible picture but it's as good as it's going to get - it's our Jackdaws roosting and I took it without looking just as I opened the front door.

It's a daily phenomenon at dusk and this was the dusk on the shortest day of the year; the Winter Solstice. From now on every day gets just a little bit longer.

Each day, just before the light fails, all the local Jackdaws start to gather, and begin to fly about in formation. There are hundreds of them and they are very unruly.

They fill the sky.

They spent the day spread out over miles but then they start to get all social before they go to sleep. It's different every day but broadly they divide up into groups and then land on trees, trying to get all the other birds to join them on their tree.

When that fails they all take off again and eventually they combine into one big group or they form a long line or several groups - it's always different.

Meanwhile there's a lot of raucous chirruping and squawking and more flying around like naughty teenagers. Then all at once they decide on a couple of trees and the whole flock spectacularly flops down out of the sky to roost for the night.

I've been trying to take a picture for some weeks and it's always the same - I hear the squawking, stagger out of the house fumbling with my camera only to watch them disappear. I then stand around in some pain, get fed up of waiting for them to come back, put my camera away and come back indoors only to hear them come back.

I think they do it deliberately.

This kind of social behaviour reinforces the birds life as a flock, after a day of complete individuality. It's because if a predator comes after them when they are asleep they need to take off all at once to have any chance of survival.

It's the same with migrating birds; they spend the summer as individuals or pairs then in the autumn they start gathering and becoming social. This is because when they migrate back to Africa, they have a better chance of making the long journey if they all fly together.

Also, I think that's the way the new generation of birds are taught the journey by the old ones.

Anyway, I finally caught them.

Naughty birds.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
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