There’s something very British about the sound of a rookery; in a way it defines the countryside in early spring. When the weather allows me to sleep with the window open, waking to their raucous calls is a delight. Before the leaves obscure the nests, sitting underneath the one in our village has become a ritual. Winter gales have destroyed most nests and looking up through the bare branches, I count only nine so far this year; it will be some time before I can be confident of the final total. These early nests are beginnings, just a few twigs, but there’s lots of activity; birds arrive noisily with sticks often looking far too big, but somehow arrange them into place; there’s stealing from neighbours too. Other pairs sit around preening, but always communicating; it’s the sound that creates the wildness. I don’t have the same affinity with carrion crows; rooks are somehow different. Is it their gregarious nature, perhaps the mysteries of rook parliaments, or just the way they’re woven into our folklore? Whatever the reason, sitting under the nests this morning moves me again; they’re a great addition to the life of the village and somehow make it complete.
Although large long established rookeries seem stable, many smaller ones are not, and move around. Satellites form, last a few years and disappear. Ours arrived in the village about a decade ago and has stuck at about twenty nests each year. Although confident that they’ll return each year, I’m always a little nervous until I see them back.
The warming sun has cleared a light overnight frost, softened the earth, and made life easier for the few remaining redwings still waiting for the severe weather in continental Europe to moderate. They’ll be off soon, leaving the village and the rooks to welcome the spring arrivals from the south.