Saturday, 15 November 2008

Crows in the Mersey Valley

Mark Cocker's book, 'Crow Country' (reviewed below) got me thinking about Corvids in the Mersey Valley; which species are present and which are absent?

Eurasian jays are a familiar sight in the plantations on Chorlton Ees and elsewhere. Black-billed magpies are common everywhere - some people might say too common! I am often struck by the large flocks of magpies which assemble on the grazing field next to the cobbled road which runs from Brookburn Road to Chorlton Ees car park. Years ago I met an elderly man, who had lived in Chorlton all his life, who reckoned that magpies are common now because there are no longer farmers with shotguns around to shoot them - as there were in his youth.

There is a large colony of Eurasian jackdaws in Chorltonville. They are often visible from the path which runs past Hardy Farm Community Orchard (ie. the path from Brookburn Road to Jackson's Boat Bridge). Their raucous and excitable chattering amuses me and never fails to cheer me up if I'm feeling a bit down.

Carrion crows are also common. They can often be seen 'hanging about' in ones or twos and, very occasionally, slightly bigger groups.

Rooks appear to be a lot rarer. Our Treasurer, John Agar, tells me that, at one time, there was a large rookery at Longford Park, in the Beech trees adjacent to High Lane. But this disappeared when much of the farmland at Chorlton and Stretford was tipped on or converted into sports fields.

Last year I spotted, what I think, might be a rookery near the motorway at Stretford (see photograph). Unfortunately, my binoculars aren't powerful enough to be able to see the individual birds clearly. Does anyone know if (a) these are rooks and (b) if 'yes', where do they feed?

I'm sure that there are lots of expert birders out there who can answer these questions better than I can. Comments and observations, please!

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