Saturday, 5 February 2011

Jackdaw City!

My house is near to the Chorlton Ees and Ivy Green SBI and just outside of the the Chorltonville estate. I live on Brookburn Road - the extension of which becomes Claude Road in Chorltonville.

For some years there has been a flock of Jackdaws in this area and in previous years they have numbered between about 50 and 100 birds; but this winter (2010/11) the flock size seems to have exploded - and there now seem to be 100s of birds in the flock (perhaps as many as 1000). Every evening, about 4 or 5 pm, they start noisily congregating in tall trees along Brookburn/Claude Road and along Chorlton Brook which runs parallel to these roads behind the houses.

The Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) is the smallest member of the Crow Family (Corvidae). It is mainly black in colour with a grey nape to its neck. Its call is either a clipped, metallic ‘kow’ or ‘kyow’ sound or a softer ‘chack’ (which is probably the source of the common name). A big flock of these birds creates an amazing racket, which I find rather cheering – especially on a cold winter evening. Their flight and gait are much quicker and jerkier than other members of the Crow family.

Traditionally, Jackdaws have tended to prefer open and cultivated country with rocks, crags and old trees. They have also tended to be frequent on sea coasts and in towns and villages, especially around cathedrals, castles and ruins and to nest in holes in trees, rocks and buildings (ref. ‘The Birds of Britain and Europe’ by H. Heinzel, R. Fitter and J. Purslow, Collins, 3rd ed. 1974).

I have to say that none of this sounds much like Chorltonville – or much of South Manchester, for that matter. So I spoke to Judith Smith, County Bird Recorder for Greater Manchester who replied:

“Many thanks for this interesting record. There is no doubt that Jackdaw is a rapidly expanding species in Greater Manchester, utilising chimney pots as people have changed to gas/electricity from coal (but how they avoid getting carbon monoxide poisoning I don't know!). Not knowing the area particularly well, I can't really hazard a guess as to why the roost has suddenly increased so much ...”

Nevertheless, she also tells me that a local bird watcher is ‘on the case’. He believes that Brookburn Road/Claude Road is only a pre-roost site and he is trying to find out where the birds are going later in the evening. If I find out any more I will post it here.

Dave Bishop, February 2011

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