Thursday 25 October 2012

Low Jackdaw, High Jinks

Saturday afternoon last, we were sat in the conservatory, Our Lass, First Born and me, chatting as you do when there's the opportunity to catch up on family stuff.

A movement in the garden caught my eye and I turned around to see a Jackdaw walk along the path by the window, hop up onto the lawn, wander over to inspect the pond and then pootle across to the bird feeder.

It seemed unconcerned that there were three humans staring at it in astonishment.

Jackdaws fly over Tense Towers every day. There's a small flock nearby, but they rarely visit as the garden is rather small and enclosed. In fact, unless the weather is really cold and food is scarce, they remain very reluctant neighbours.

This one obviously had a problem with its left wing, it was carrying it at an odd angle. But it wasn't preventing the Jackdaw from mopping up any bits of sunflower seed or peanuts that had fallen onto the grass below the seed feeders.

As the light was fading and dusk wasn't far away, I mused that being on the ground in a garden surrounded by houses with cats was not a great idea. Not to mention the local Crows, who would no doubt put aside any feeling for a fellow corvid if they thought that there was an easy meal in the offing.

Grabbing a handful of peanuts and sunflower seed from the store, I gingerly opened the back door and the Jackdaw retreated to the vegetation at the far side of the garden. When I threw a peanut in its general direction, it immediately put food above safety and retrieved the nut. Once back in the shelter of the border, it proceeded to hold the peanut in a claw and break it into pieces before devouring it. We played Fetch for several more peanuts before I had another idea. Flinging the remainder of the bird food across the lawn for the Jackdaw to work through, I rummaged about in the pile of rubbish carefully-stored useful things propped up beside the garage. Here was an old piece of shaped trellis that we had removed from a wall or fence at some point. Placing the wide top end on the lawn and resting the narrow bottom end on the lower branch of a Hawthorn tree, I thought the Jackdaw might find it useful to gain some height. With all this activity, the bird had retreated into the border again, but soon resumed eating peanuts when I disappeared back indoors.

Unfortunately, I was distracted by something else at this point, but five minutes later when I returned to the window, there was the Jackdaw sat in the Hawthorn tree. Our Lass, who had been watching from an upstairs window, confirmed that the bird had just hopped up the trellis as if it had been doing it all its life and it was the most natural thing in the world to do.

Over the next few minutes, it hopped from branch to branch, gaining height all the time, until it was high enough to glide off across a neighbour's land and out of sight. What became of it is not known, but we couldn't fail to be impressed with its quick thinking and intelligence in adversity.

It was only later that I realised the Jackdaw must've crept under the gate at the side of the house and walked down the narrow alley to reach the back garden, not a safe route for a wounded bird. So did it remember from numerous flights that there were feeders in our garden? And relate the position of those feeders as seen from the air to its new situation on the ground. And work out how to reach them on foot?

I tell you, when humanity is dead and gone, don't be thinking that it's the rats and cockroaches that'll rule the roost. There's one or two species of corvid that'll have the last laugh.

It's been rather foggy, wet and cloudy since then, so here's a photo of that evening to cheer me up.


Martin said...

Lovely anecdotal behaviour. I hope the feathered friend continues to outwit the feline foe.
The corvids are well known to possess considerable intelligence and use tools for various purposes. If you haven't read Konrad Lorenz's King Solomon's Ring I think you'd find it very interesting. He was looking at Greylag Geese as well as Jackdaw behaviour.

holdingmoments said...

Totally agree.
I think the Corvids are more intelligent that some of the people I happen to come across.
And when we are all gone, they really will have the last laugh; and truly appreciate this planet.

Imperfect and Tense said...

That's a book that I never quite got around to reading, shame on me :o(

Imperfect and Tense said...

Perhaps we just need to convince Charlie or Charlene Crow to stand for public office. I'd vote for him or her :o)