Jane is a naturalist, photographer and nature writer living in Dorset. Her work has appeared in books, anthologies and blogs for charities such as The Wildlife Trusts and the International Bee Research Association. When she’s not exploring Dorset’s lanes and countryside she can be found lying on her stomach watching insects in her garden. Jane is currently studying for an MA in Travel and Nature Writing at Bath Spa University and can be found: www.janevadams.com and on Twitter @WildlifeStuff Jane’s previous Guest Blogs here can be found here.
The Jackdaw Roost
Have you ever had a flying dream? I don’t mean a dream where you’re flying in an aeroplane, I mean a full blown flap-your-arms-and-fly kind of dream? I used to get them all the time as a kid – they were exhausting, exhilarating and, most of all, joyful.
For several afternoons this week I’ve been watching jackdaws flying to their pre-roost in the trees at Knoll Clump, a small copse of oaks perched high on the edge of Corfe Mullen. The main roost lies a mile to the south, over the next hill at Mountain Clump and down into a quiet hidden valley called Stoney Down.
I first noticed the roost in the winter of 2008. We’d been living in our house for a couple of years and I’d started hearing the tchack, tchack of jackdaws flying over at dusk. From our hilltop vantage point it didn’t take long to spot where these birds were going. Like spokes on a wheel, dotting the sky from every direction jackdaws were heading towards Knoll.
Twelve years later they still gather here. On this cold afternoon just before Christmas, three hundred birds are already draped across the tops of the trees. Grey squirrels jump angrily from branch to branch below them but the birds themselves land and then calmly point in the direction of the main roost. Waiting.
This is not a silent affair. As birds approach there is talking in the air, especially just before they land, and once in the trees some reposition themselves and set off a chain reaction of tchacks as birds jostle for position beside their mate.
The light is fading, it’s well past sunset, and they will soon depart. I hurriedly cross Knoll Lane, climb the stile and struggle up a field of thick mud to the peak of the hill, beside the ancient oak and the sleeping pigs.
Behind me there’s a momentary silence before the flock clatters into the air – calling excitedly as if cheering each other on in an imaginary race. They’re soon over me. Skimming the hill their wings silhouetted against the red sky, a mass of power and noise that gets right inside you. This is when I wish I could fly again. Could flap my arms and join them in this aerial confusion, but all too soon they are gone.