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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 7, Number 2, June 2013


Salisbury, Wiltshire, England


To call jackdaws social birds is, at times, surely the grossest of inaccuracies. As I lie now in my bed, 8.00am on an early summer Sunday morning, I feel them to be the most anti-social of all the feathered visitors to my garden. From the dark density of a nearby yew tree comes an incessant racket of clacks and clattering as if all the world’s fishwives with their sharp tongues and knives were bantering and berating each other whilst butchering the fish. In the brief silence that follows an angry neighbour’s loud SHUT UP and clapping of hands, one almost hears them whispering What was that? . . . before they carry on; until, like sooty tatters from a suddenly erupting bonfire, they burst into the air to flaunt their aerobatic skills. Lang-lauf skiers of the sky, they let themselves be lifted almost out of sight to sweep back down again with outstretched wings. And now they swirl around in interchanging groups, until in ones and twos, they take their leave; one straggler flapping furiously to catch up, leaving an empty sky and silence.

Often I’ve watched them swagger across the ridge tiles of neighbours’ houses to join in preening and quiet conversations; or perching silhouette-like on a comfortable television aerial, before hurtling off as if on some forgotten appointment. And sometimes, one has seemed to stalk across to another as if to say Race you to that tree and back. But these last few months, I have noticed one pair taking increasing interest in a particular chimney pot, tilting head-down to peer within, sometimes disappearing inside for lengthy periods. Doubtless, they had their nest inside; though how one adult and three or four nestlings moved safely around in the sooty darkness of such a confined space defies imagination. I guess, though I never recognized them, today has been the great fledgling coming out day when offspring finally flew the nest, and adults, free at last from parental duties, have had one last big get-together before flying off on a well-earned break.

Days later, they’re back in their yew tree, noisily exchanging all the latest news.

how I’d love to know
their language, their wind-torn flight—
those pesky jackdaws



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