Rook Rivalries

Fuse / 3rd April, 2014

raven-and-skull-louis-agassiz-fuertes-285Rooks, are a member of the Corvidae family, one of the first bird to nest and raise their young, a sure sign of Spring’s eventual arrival even in mid-winter.

In February, they rebuild their twig fortresses high in the tree tops, eggs arrive at end of the month or early March and youngsters hatch 16 days later.

So why my Irreverent Interest in Rooks?

Well, I once went to view a beautiful rural dwelling that my mother was interested in buying the only obvious fault with the house was a rookery in the back garden – a rookery that was so close to the house that the patio at the back was a visual testament to the daily barrage of rook poo ! Any sustained time outside on this paved area would require nerves of steel and a giant umbrella to serve as protection!

The other obvious irritation is the decadent noise of the ‘Corvidae Mafia’ they are able to bleat in a pitifully raucous manner at a continuous high decibel level enough to drive a common man insane.

And it is true over the course of time. In Macbeth, Shakespeare makes reference to the crow as an instrument of darkness:

“Light thickens; and the crow
Makes wing to the rooky wood:
Good things of day begin to droop and drowse;
While night’s black agents to their preys do rouse.”

P1020136So history has recorded that these birds are harbingers of gloom and impending doom. But I also have unredoubtable modern day evidence to support the view that ‘Rooks et al’ can make a grown man weep.

At a Lincolnshire wedding some years ago I sat in a marquee on a circular table with a mixed gathering of guests, none of whom I had ever met before. Next to me was a man in his 50’s well spoken and immaculately attired, a Director of Scottish & Newcastle brewery, for some strange reason we stumbled upon a jocular tale that prompted some mirth. He was a dead shot – a man at home with handling a gun. His property had a rookery in the garden and for him the “Caw Caw” of the assembled throng was driving him mad. He decided that direct action had to be taken. So,’with broken gun in hand’ he stepped out silently from his house & the rooks immediately took to the skies in a cacophony of noise. They seemed to know what a gun was ! He tried many times, to steal out unnoticed but they always spotted him – a sentinel rook was always on guard !

Finally, he decided on a new approach upstairs in the bathroom he gently opened the velux roof window and poked his gun skyward “Ahh he thought I’ve got em now” but almost immediately the air was filled again with the noise of ‘crowing rooks!’ as they rose into the air as one. He retired a beaten man !

UnknownPerhaps, he should have adopted Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall approach with his ‘Rook Breakfast’ filmed in the series ‘A Cook on the Wild Side.’   I remember him explaining the ‘ancient ways’, how from medieval times lightweight youngsters would climb trees and tie young fledglings to their nest so they could not fly away. They would then return when the birds had reached maturity and harvest their catch.

I am sure the man from Scottish & Newcastle would have approved of Rook Pie being on the menu and then taken the late Iain Banks The Crow Road to bed with him – an absolutely fabulously read and wonderful BBC screen adaptation.


Posted by: Fawkes