Among my most treasured and favourite acquaintances, visitors always welcome, I would include Benedict and Mrs Corbie – a pair of crows who live near us and drop by every day for breakfast – and lunch and supper as well if they’re on offer.
Their society is a delight. I love crows. Intelligent birds, avid problem-solvers, they recognize human faces and allocate names to their human friends. They are masters of cross-species communication (both by telepathy and by gesture and demonstration), curious, friendly and loyal.
Just at the present time, things are tough in our garden for Benedict and Mrs Corbie.
A pair of jackdaws is vying for the spot on the old capped chimney where the Corbies were hoping to build their nest, and in recent times those jackdaws have stepped up their harassment – buzzing and dive-bombing incessantly – to a level that’s wearing us all out.
The jackdaws used to call by to bully the Corbies, but this weekend they have begun patrolling the roof with a vengeance,
striding along the ridge tiles
drinking from the gutters so they don’t have to leave
keeping vigil on the chimney pots
The Corbies don’t stand a chance.
A pair of herring gulls living on the roof next door also competes more fiercely than before for any corvine tidbits put out for the Corbies. They have a good reason, though.
And the seagulls are courteous and patient about helping themselves to food.
asking nicely and approaching cautiously. I let them have something even though it’s really for the Corbies.
After all, since the jackdaws are right there on the roof the minute the seagulls go out for their groceries, it’s better if Mama Gull has supplies near home so she doesn’t have to be away too long.
There are also sparrows who come and go under the roof tiles next door, but they declined to sit for their portraits today.
I hope in due course to be able to post photos of the Corbies, but with all the commotion and harassment involved in competing for a roost, Benedict spotted my camera, said “Whoa! What the hey?” and flew off without his afternoon tea.
This was the best I could do. Can you see him?
But though wary and shy, he is a good friend. He is well used to me and Hebe, and where Hebe goes the cats are usually not far behind. This morning early as I sat on an upturned flowerpot, guarding the Corbies’ breakfast from opportunistic seagulls and magpies, waiting for Benedict to turn up, suddenly came a short snarling row from the garden next door. In a flash, two things happened. The old dog fox (who also visits us most days, whose food we put out at dusk at the end of the garden in a private, secluded dell) jumped up onto the wall dividing our garden from the neighbours, still snarling over his shoulder at the adversary who’d startled him. On the instant, Benedict was there in the lowest branch of the nearest tree, roaring such threats and insults that Brother Reynard hurried away, intimidated. Watching down into the darkness under the trees beyond Komorebi, I saw a foxy face appear in the shadows, he still scenting the delicious smell of cat-food in the bowl on the grass. But he thought I looked dangerous – me and my corvine friend; so he withdrew, silently.
The adversary who’d startled Brother Reynard? Our black cat Miguel, who appeared over the garden wall once Benedict had scared off the fox, puffed out to twice his size and strolling up to the house with a nonchalant swagger.
Since the Corbies like to have breakfast shortly after sun-up, there’s usually no-one else around to take photos when they come by, but if I can I’ll get some pictures for you. They are the most beautiful birds, and dear friends. I hope despite the territorial war going on, they can find a nook of their own that suits them well.