Sunday, May 27, 2012
I'm in Wales at the moment. I've been working on a short story and trying to write a review but I've been very distracted - not just by the beautiful weather but by this nest of baby crows right outside the house and above my writing window (you can see two in the pic, but there were four altogether). We first noticed them on Thursday, the morning after we got here, and it soon became clear that the parents were keeping away because of our sudden presence. As the day progressed, the babies became ever more noisy calling out for food, and when John and I sat outside in the hot sun to eat our lunch, three of them were leaning over in a row and calling to us! Worried that they'd starve, we decided to try and keep a low profile but by late afternoon there was still no sign of the parents, and the babies were getting frantic and beginning to climb up onto the sides of the nest. I was afraid both that they'd fall out and that the parents had abandoned them altogether, but after we went off out in the car for the evening the parents clearly returned. They kept away for much of the next day, Friday, but did sneak back now and then and the babies were calmer. At one point the cuckoo that's calling in the valley all day long descended into the tree with a clear eye on the nest, and a black shape appeared and made an arc around the area, and the cuckoo flew off: the parent crows were obviously keeping watch all the time.
In the late evening a huge wind came up and lasted all night, and it brought home what the nursery rhyme Rock-a-Bye Baby really refers to. The tree, an ash, was whipping and swaying, and the nest with it, bits of it falling away. When the wind woke me in the the early hours yesterday I could see that the mother bird was more or less sitting on top of the brood to stop them falling out. However, although the wind continued all day the babies were left alone again and we began to realise that the parents' absence may no longer be motivated by fear, and that the babies were ready to fly. No longer focused on the house doorway as they had been, the babies were calling towards a tree further up the field, where the parents were obviously stationed. They kept standing and flexing their wings and once again climbing up onto the edge of the nest, and now and then one would climb out on to the branch before dropping back in again. There came a point when we realised that there were fewer in the nest than there had been. As the day wore on the numbers dropped, and finally, half-way through the afternoon, there was only one left, calling and calling and not seeming to dare even to climb out. It took a long time, but in the end, at five o'clock, as I was sitting at my desk, a black rag-shape dropped down across my window, and the last fledgling landed on the slates in front of the house. It stood, wobbled, fell, righted itself and looked around with seeming huge interest. It set off wonkily up the grass in front of a low wall, found it was going nowhere, looked puzzled, then perkily set off in the opposite direction, stumbling and righting itself, and in a miraculously short space of time found the strength of its surprisingly long legs and was gone at speed up the side of the house in the direction of the tree from which the mother was calling.
So the nest is empty, and I find I'm missing them. Still, I've finished my review...