Feeding rush

The winter is coming and the garden is now almost bare of herbaceous plants, with only a few tough stems still poking out of the borders. We've had a number of frosts over the past few weeks which has brought insect hunting to a standstill, but there are a few winter gnats around. So the choice of hunting will be narrowed considerably over the next few months.

Had an invasion of Jackdaws into the garden this morning. Almost like a scene from Alfred Hitchcock's "Birds". I had noticed that the small feeder in the garden was emptying faster than normal, and I now think this might be the reason. The footholds on this feeder are larger than the other one, and allows larger birds to cling on and feed. It's not uncommon for me to see a pair of Jackdaws in the garden, and there are a few pairs in the neighbourhood, but this is the first time I've seen so many in the garden at once. The photos show the queue building up for the feeder.

The collective noun for a flock of Jackdaws is 'a clattering' or 'a train'. I prefer a clattering of Jackdaws, contouring up their calls as they gather on the chimneys and trees surrounding our garden.

The Welsh name, Jac y Do, is not dissimilar to the English name. The English common name jackdaw first appeared in the 16th century, and is thought to be a compound of the forename Jack, used in animal names to signify a small form (e.g. Jack Snipe), and the archaic native English word daw. The metallic chyak call may be the origin of the jack part of the common name,[10] but this is not supported by the Oxford English Dictionary. Daw, first used for the bird in the 15th century, is held by the Oxford English Dictionary to be derived from the postulated Old English dawe, citing the cognates in Old High German tāha, Middle High German tāhe or tāchele, and modern German Dahle or Dohle, and dialectal Tach, Dähi, Däche and Dacha.

Looking closer at the lawn I think there is evidence of their feeding behaviour there as well. Small clumps of moss and grass have been pulled up all over the lawn. There must be some invertebrates in the thatch on which they are feeding. Unlikely to be worms, as they do not pull them out of the ground, but they often feed on worms disturbed by ploughing.

Jackdaws have increased in abundance since the 1960s and more recent BBS data from the BTO suggest that the increase is continuing in all UK countries. Part of this increase over the past 40 years may be due to a reduction in persecution.

The BTO Garden Bird Survey shows that jackdaws are common visitors to gardens, and their reported presence peaks during early summer and again in the autumn. In our garden they are present all year round. A pair nested in next door chimney. Luckily we have a guard over ours to prevent this. But it is not uncommon for the nest to fall apart and drop down the chimney along with the young.