Our regular churchyard welcoming party
As you enter the churchyard you cannot escape noticing the chattering jackdaws that live around the church throughout the year. These do not migrate but are constant residents here and their intimate lives and jaunty behaviour can be a regular joy to watch.
The Jackdaws, also known as the sea-crow, chimney-sweep bird, chaw or caddaw, are the smallest members of the black crow family and are almost entirely black except for a grey hood on the back of the neck and pale eyes. In large groups they are known as ‘trains’ or ‘clatterings’ and they forage in gardens, fields, etc. on insects, worms, cereals and scraps. There are some 1.4 million breeding pairs in the UK.
Throughout the day they will be seen, as lifelong couples, perched on the church gutters chatting amiably to each other or strutting about on the driveway or the short grass not easily frightened away as you pass by. This suggests that their forebears have been close associates of the church, possibly for centuries, as their cheerful chatter is heard over the generations.
The 18th C poet W Cowper described the jackdaw as:-
“A great frequenter of the church,
Where, bishop-like, he finds a perch,
And dormitory too”
Come nesting time in March, there is serious activity with safe places to prepare and defend; any hole or crack leading to a nesting cavity is filled with twigs to form a secure base before soft material such as hair, wool and feathers is brought in; such lining material may even have come directly from a farm animal’s back, apparently without any discomfort to the owner! Nests have been found with up to 8 feet of twiggy material beneath, blocking chimneys, loading old mine shafts with twigs day after day and, as we know, bell towers can also be invaded!
Like the magpie, it has been noted that inquisitive jackdaws are attracted to bright and shiny objects, probably not to the same level as foreign Bower birds that need to entice a mate into the nest since the jackdaw’s nest is invariably in total darkness. Also, another curious fact is that the eggs are decorated with greenish and brown marks, similar to rook or crow eggs in open nests and not white like most hole-nesting birds have. Does this suggest that the jackdaw may once have nested in daylit places?
Recently a Jackdaw bearing leg rings has been seen in our Illogan garden and identified as being raised near Stithians. The church members at Stithians appear to have a love of these birds since there are many nest boxes on the churchyard trees there. Do you think there would be support for us to do likewise or would we be encouraging too many?
Everyone would like to thank Portreath Garden Machinery very much for an excellent mower to add to the churchyard team’s armoury. This second donation will enable a wider cut to be carried out on the pathways and grassy areas.