Crow Wars

As I sit typing this I can look out of my study window and watch a carrion crow proclaiming his rights of ownership to a tall, dense Norway spruce straddling the borders of our garden. This ex-Christmas tree was planted decades ago by our then neighbour and is now the tallest tree in the immediate vicinity. The crow is sitting on the topmost sprig straining forward to utter his croaking caw to any rival bird that may be interested. It looks like him and his partner, she who watches serenely from a nearby rooftop, plan to use the tree as a nesting site over the coming months.

This plan seems reasonable enough, if a little daunting for the other avian inhabitants of our patch, except for the irritating fact the magpies don't like it: they have built a nest in the tree before and clearly consider it their own. No sooner has the crow vacated the spot than a magpie has flown in and is nosing around to ensure nothing has been done to usurp him and his pied mistress. I feel there may be trouble brewing.

In fact there may be a three way battle about to erupt because not only have the corvids got to sort out who is king of the castle, but a grey squirrel seems to have taken a shine to the old magpies nest as a potential drey. I've watched her (I guess) plucking grass from the lawn, scurrying away with a mouthful to disappear into the mass of dark green needles pretty much where the magpies have left their untidy ball of sticks. This fluffy tailed rodent sits indignantly chattering on our old cherry tree when the crows are around, flicking said tail in frustrated rage. Something has got to give.

We also have jays screeching around the vicinity although I don't think they have designs on the spruce tree. They seem to prefer the quieter depths of tangled hawthorn and bullace that comprise the understory of our mini-jungle at the bottom of the garden. It sounds grand but it's not a very large area, in fact I'm not sure they actually breed there successfully although I have found half built nests before. 

Lots of predators in such a small plot. You would think the other birds would move out but not a bit of it. The robins, dunnocks, blackbirds and goldfinches are showing signs of settling down. I watched a pair of goldfinches, the flocks of deep winter having now dispersed it seems, inspecting the depths of an ornamental cypress a few days ago where they will probably build their intricately woven nest later in the spring. Blue tits and great tits are now obviously paired and the dawn chorus is slowly gathering momentum. I've even been able to listen to a songthrush stridently staking claim to a nearby territory. What with sparrowhawks, the odd kestrel and the inevitable array of moggies it really is a wonder any birds manage to raise young hereabouts, but they do - albeit at the third attempt in some cases.

So, I'm rather looking forward to seeing how the battle for 73 Blackwell Avenue pans out. And I've just realised that we have a fox who seems intent on digging a hole under our shed a mere 5 metres from the base of the Norway spruce, presumably as a den to raise her cubs. Interesting times ahead.



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