As I was arriving home today, one magpie carrying a stick was followed by another magpie also carrying a stick. It reminded me of the wonderful quoteby T.H. White in Helen MacDonald’s ‘H is for Hawk’: ‘A magpie flies like a frying pan!’
It’s spring, and the nesting instinct is stirring in corvids. Earlier today, a Carrion Crow pulled large sticks from a plane tree and carried them to another one trying persistently to position them so that they would stay put in the very first start of a nest.
This year, the pair of magpies I saw in my street have moved tree and started a new nest on a tree on other side, not far from the old one. The old nest still stands proud, having miraculously survived the battery of storms we’ve had this winter. This is quite usual in Magpies, they will often build a new nest each season, sometimes on top of last years nest if trees are in short supply.
I remembered today one of the best nature spectacles in the UK: the Grey Seal colony at Donna Nook. One of the things that struck me the most was the presence of Great Black-backed gulls feeding on placentas and dead seal pups. Crows were dwarfed by these awesome top predators, but joined in the feast for juicy tidbits.
We watched the campus from the top of the University library. Some feral pigeons bathing in a flooded rooftop, a wagtail in the lone pavements, passing gulls. But the crows were up to no good. First one of them chased a Jackdaw in flight for a long while, both coming and going, occasionally the Jackdaw getting behind the crow and chasing it. After a while, one of them dive-bombed a Mistle Thrush that was sitting atop a tower. They looked like they were showing off.
Then three of the crows gathered on a flat rooftop. Something odd seemed to be going on, and we got the binoculars onto them. One was watching, while the other two individuals appeared to be playing some sort of peek-a-boo around a ventilation shaft. Round and round they went, chasing and changing direction. At some point one of them appeared suddenly from behind the shaft and surprised the other, who jumped back comically. At soon as I took the camera out to take a video they stopped and dispersed. I’d love to know if anybody has watched similar behaviour in crows.
The top of the church’s roof is a coveted vantage point. There is often a gull or a crow on it, more rarely a Mistle Thrush. This pair of Carrion Crows yesterday wanted to sit on it, but the Common Gull was standing her ground and only flew away after several dive bombs, as one of the crows literally sat on top of it.
From my office, I hear a crow calling. I look out of the window and I just glimpse a Carrion Crow chasing a Herring Gull. Crows have a nest nearby, and are prone to defend the area around the nest from potential chick predators. The action happened too fast for me to grab my camera, so I drew this sketch to remember the event.
The alarm call of the crow, a rattling ‘krrrrr’, often alerts me of the presence of birds of prey. On one such occasions, a crow mobbed a kestrel over the garden, and I managed to get a very poor photo. I drew the scene in pencil based on a photograph.