Jackdaws pair for life and develop strong pair bonds with their mates. They lay four or five eggs and will often nest in colonies.
It was a battle of wills, man against beast, and in hindsight, one between right and wrong.
For the last month or so a pair of jackdaws has been eyeing-up our chimney pot as a place to nest. Jackdaws breed in tree holes, or crevices in cliffs, but such natural sites are scarce in our village, so a chimney makes the perfect alternative.
These jackdaws chattered merrily to themselves, sat on the chimney top and poked their heads down into its dark recess. They were a pair of happy love birds and their hearts were set on rearing a family.
I wasn’t so keen on such domestic avian bliss, because although we rarely use our wood-burning stove, it is always a nice option for a cold winter’s night, and if the jackdaws nested, I would have to hire a chimney sweep in the autumn to clear their twiggy obstruction. We previously had a protective cowl on the chimney top, but it had blown-off in a winter storm.
So, when the jackdaws began nest building, and with no small measure of guilt, I lit the stove on several occasions to try and discourage them. Whenever this happened, the jackdaws flapped around the chimney stack on dark wings, confused and bewildered by the billowing smoke.
This battle of attrition went on for a week. The jackdaws kept returning with nesting material and I kept on firing up the stove like a man possessed. One evening as I watched the pair sitting on the roof-top, looking miserable as the smoke gently wisped from the stack, my guilty anguish became overwhelming, and I relented by deciding to let them nest. With humanity in such turmoil, it was the least I could do, a gesture to our precious natural world. Besides, jackdaws are among our most intelligent and charismatic birds, little black-feathered bundles of mischievous fun
But the next day, they had gone, and the day after that there was no sign of them either. I felt awful, for it seemed they had abandoned their attempt to raise a family and it was all my fault. Then, on the third day, they returned, their high-pitched calls ringing joyously through the air. It was a call from the wild, and as the jackdaws chattered, my spirits soared and danced with them.
Now, amid this relentless lockdown, I sit in the garden and watch fascinated as the jackdaws busily go about their daily business. Their behaviour is often comical, popping down into the chimney pot, with their backsides momentarily pointing heavenwards. Sometimes, a head will emerge from the top as a curious jackdaw looks out to see what is going on, before dipping back down below again.
I am now fiercely protective of my new lodgers and look forward to the day when their youngsters emerge. They provide wonderful entertainment, and I am truly at peace with myself. But then again, that’s what nature does to you.