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The Chaotic Homestead of the Rook

Updated on August 5, 2015

Notes from a Lancashire Countryman.

The day offered a tantalising glimpse of what spring has to offer. The sun was shining the cold winds had gone and a foray into the countryside was just what a country soul needs after weeks of winters icy grip. Rain had occurred overnight and a million gems sparkled on the grasses as the remaining drops of water caught the rays of the sun. I walked along rutty pathways, with the sun on my back, thinking of what a pleasure it is, to be able to proceed, without the tenacious mud trying to steal the boots of my feet.

Birds were about the hedgerow I observed the agile little acrobats about the hazel catkins that blew in a gentle breeze, as others sang sweet refrains from the inner sanctum of the hedgerow. Primrose leaves were appearing among the dank litter of the hedgerow their crumpled foliage bringing new life that will prove to be the vanguard of spring. Buds on the hawthorn were beginning to swell, indeed some were almost at leaf burst despite the recent hibernal conditions that have prevailed over the last 4 months here in Lancashire. From the distant copse I could hear the welcome, strong, repetitive notes as the song thrush reclaims his territory. All is well with my world! I know this countryside in all its moods the four seasons that make our countryside a delight to share with its inhabitants. I would not like to live in a hot country for I would not appreciate the beauty of a day like this. From now on every day will have something new to offer as the inhabitants wake from their winter slumber and the "summer" visitors begin to arrive from sunnier climes where they have passed the winter months. The very first of these will be the sand martins which will arrive next month displaying aerial skills that never cease to amaze.

Birds of the Corvidae family-the crows, are about the trees that will play host to their home over the coming weeks. The birds I had come to observe were circling above the trees, wings outstretched against the vast blue sky. Rooks are an integral part of our countryside I can not imagine a day without the sound of their throaty caws. These birds have been visiting the trees that hold the rookery more and more over the last few days. Next month they will settle down to the important business of spring cleaning the nests and the breeding season will begin in earnest.

Once this occurs the rookery becomes a chaotic homestead a noisy vibrant place full of quarrelling and argumentative birds. How I would miss this annual display of corvine activity should, God forbid, they ever left this locality, where they have bred since I was a young lad. They have played apart in my pastoral life, which has lasted as long as my memory. I would sooner loose the trees themselves should this occur.

The rook is a large bird with a black plumage but can be easily distinguished from the carrion crow by the grey bare patch at the base of their strong thick bills. The thigh feathers are another  distinguishing feature giving the appearance of the bird waring baggy trousers.

Rook

The rook is a noisy communal bird.Photograph courtesy of Rafal Komorowski
The rook is a noisy communal bird.Photograph courtesy of Rafal Komorowski

Commotion in the tree tops

During this annual renovation much of the commotion issuing from the tree tops is attributed to combats over nesting rights or the right to twigs other birds have used in their construction.Year after year the old nests are used again. Should the owners of a nest did not survive the winter or succumbed to old age other birds will seize them. It is more often than not, that there is more than one couple trying to posses the vacant nest. It is though these birds instinctively know that the old nests are the best and following a spruce up and renovation the nest will last for years.

Instinct will inform the birds that these old nests of their ancestors will have been located in the safest and best position in the tree. In any case the disputes are usually settled before any new nest is constructed. Young inexperienced often choose precarious positions in the upper most wind swept branches as a nest site.

Winter winds bring down many twigs during its season and the birds will utilise these for renovation work. However, new nests that are under construction will be made from live twigs taken from trees. Because of their pliability they helps the birds to weave the twigs around the forked limbs to establish a well secured base for the nest. Rooks are notorious for stealing the twigs from other nests and individual birds need to be on their guard at all times, for while they are away to find another twig the previous one may well be taken by a neighbour. It all adds to the commotion of at this time.

Rooks lay their eggs early in the season and by the end of May the chaos that has ensued will be over for another year. rooks are gregarious at all times of the year as those familiar with farmland will concur. They are often seen in large flocks following the plough or feeding around arable fields.

Early Breeding Birds.

This well known painting by Alexei Kondratvevich Savracov is an excellent example of a rookery. Note the snow on the ground and the leafless trees. Picture courtesy of Wikipedia commons.
This well known painting by Alexei Kondratvevich Savracov is an excellent example of a rookery. Note the snow on the ground and the leafless trees. Picture courtesy of Wikipedia commons.

A False Start ?

Beneath the tree of the rookery I have been observing I came upon the foliage of the wood anemone a pretty flower that will display its white sepal like petals during next month when the rookery will be at its most chaotic. These tender looking, yet hardy plants, are another sign that spring is around the corner. 

However, during my foray to the rookery clouds had appeared over the horizon and with a surprising rapidity consumed the blue sky. On my way home from this locality I felt the first flurry of snowflakes, reminding me that winter was reluctant to leave. Early spring is notorious for its false starts as this day proved. The old adage "when the daylight gets longer , the cold gets stronger" is certainly apt for the early part of spring. Yet the morning I enjoyed before the advent of the clouds gave promise of longer, much warmer days to come and enjoy.

A Sign of Spring

This beautiful picture of the wood anemone "wind flower" is by kind permission of Lilly M. The blooms are abundant in woodlands during March and April.
This beautiful picture of the wood anemone "wind flower" is by kind permission of Lilly M. The blooms are abundant in woodlands during March and April.

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    • D.A.L. profile image
      Author

      Dave 8 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      2patricias--thank you for reading and for taking the time to comment.

    • 2patricias profile image

      2patricias 8 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      A wonderful word picture of very early spring. We have got quite a few spring flowers in bloom here, but the wind is still cold. Must start looking out for early nesters.

      Nice Hub.

    • D.A.L. profile image
      Author

      Dave 8 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Yard of nature, thank you for calling by.I agree they are interesting birds.

      hypnodude thank you for reading and for taking the time to comment.

    • hypnodude profile image

      Andrew 8 years ago from Italy

      Great, and the painting is wonderful. Obviously thumbs up.

    • Yard of nature profile image

      Yard of nature 8 years ago from Michigan

      Nice hub. Got to appreciate the rooks -- or the crows here. Interesting birds.

    • D.A.L. profile image
      Author

      Dave 8 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      jayjay your welcome and thank you for reading and taking the time to comment.

      Jill, thank you too, I really appreciate your kind and appreciated comment.

    • jill of alltrades profile image

      jill of alltrades 8 years ago from Philippines

      Your prose sounded like poetry to me! Beautiful! I love it.

    • jayjay40 profile image

      jayjay40 8 years ago from Bristol England

      Thanks for the breath of fresh air, I haven't seen wood anemones sinse I was a child. Beautiful hub as usual and thanks for the memories

    • D.A.L. profile image
      Author

      Dave 8 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      IzzyM,thank you for reading. And for leaving your complimentary comment.

      Darlene your encounter with the bluebirds amused me. we have a saying in Lancashire " muck for luck"-good luck to you my friend.

      Rose-thank you also for your kind and appreciated comments.There are many beautiful places for those with eyes to see and ears to listen.

    • IzzyM profile image

      IzzyM 8 years ago from UK

      Beautiful hub as always DAL :)

      I like your style of writing - it is so descriptive. I could almost be standing in your shoes, seeing the wonder of nature through your eyes.

    • D.A.L. profile image
      Author

      Dave 8 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      akirchner. Thank you for reading and for taking the time to comment. It has been a weird winter weather wise for many of us all over the world.

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 8 years ago from Washington

      Nature is always the best to calm us and center us again. We are all frantically thinking spring but I have a feeling we have missed out on too much snow for it to NOT come. My poor malamutes however, are laboring in the 50-degree temperatures when it should be about 30 or 40. GREAT pictures!

    • Rose West profile image

      Rose West 8 years ago from Michigan

      Good hub, D.A.L. Your knowledge and love for nature really come out in your writing. You must live in a beautiful place. Thanks for the enjoyable read.

    • Darlene Sabella profile image

      Darlene Sabella 8 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

      OH my friend, I love this hub, and the pictues are awe inpiring, reall great. This reminds me of a funny thing that happened the other day. I took my dog out to the back yard to do here thing. And it was a day after the snow and I was standing under my favorite large tree. It started to snow and I though gee, it's sunny out why is it snowing. I looked up to my leafless bare tree, and their where at least a hundret blue birds on the very top, so I was being pooped on. All that white stuff falling, I ran in the house and had to talk a shower. That you might like a little levity...

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