Alone with the Jackdaws

And the down side of being a children's illustrator...there is so much work to do roughing out the book bits that there is no time for an impromptu holiday. Which is why Andy is having a lovely time camping in Wales, and I am living a somewhat bacherlorette lifestyle, working all day and grazing on bizarre little meals. Unfortunately it is just one of those things, and I'd far rather he was off enjoying himself up mountains than sat moodily at home while I slog away at a large bundle of work. But I kind of wish he wouldn't ring me from sunny Barmouth to tell me that he is sat on the beach about to go paddling...

The one distraction has been the jackdaws; now that the fledglings are beginning to emerge from the chimneys, they are noisier than a bunch of pensioners on a day out in Bournemouth. I've been hearing loud cheepings from the wall and the couple who nest in our chimney have been calling and peering down into their sooty home.

Unlike the cartoons where a cute little fellow nervously flaps about on a branch before being pushed off and finding he c
an fly, he can fly, jackdaw youngsters spend a while on the ground, learning to fend off beetles and grubs, watched over by anxious parents who may still bring it the odd titbit. At first it cries loudly, and its' mother and father answer back - jackdaws have a variety of cries, and can sound like rooks if they are warning you off. This is when teenage Daw is at its most vulnerable, especially to cats. Yesterday there was an horrendous cackling and cawing; the birds were going crazy - mobbing something in the lane. I knew exactly what was happening and dashed out. Sure enough, next door's cat had trapped a young bird, but luckily had not had time to hurt it; it was unharmed but in great danger - there are 8 cats in our little lane. I eventually put it in the shrubbery garden of a neighbour who has a cat-hating collie dog; it is a foolish feline indeed who ventures in there.

Several times that morning I ran out, often to false alarms, summoned by the hysterical shrieks of massed birds. Twice a big jackdaw came and called in from the telephone wire outside my studio window, as if making a personal appeal. I love the Corvid family. Beautiful, dignified and intelligent, they are such loyal family creatures, and always stick up for their own - the welfare of one fledgling is the concern of them all. As I returned up the lane later, I spotted the parents, now perched on the dog-owning neighbour's TV aerial. They had finally located their baby, obviously still safe under the bush where I left it. They cawed raucously at me, and I told them not to be so ungrateful. I reflected that it was a good job the lane was deserted, as I was, to all intents and purposes, talking at chimneys.

It's interesting being 'Home Alone' - I don't have to worry about getting meals ready and have discovered that left to my own devices, without having to think about anyone else, I tend to stay in the studio from 9 till 8. Snacking on cold chicken bits and yummy Mr Kiplings Lemon Viennese cakes (which I can highly recommend as being delicious). The bathroom remains spotless and there are no trails of discarded clothes. I find that sleeping on my own I throw the quilt off in my sleep and wake shivering. It will be nice to have him back.


Gail said...

Your story reminds me of a couple of years back when we had a baby crow in the garden. Every morning we'd lie in bed waiting for his calls, although he was noisey it was always a relief to hear he'd made it through the night ;)

His parents were pretty good at watching over him and seeing off the local cats too.

I love the Corvids too - they seem so 'knowing' if you know what I mean.

Glad to see you're getting by alright on your own - sometimes it's good to have a bit of space without the other half ... but oh so good to have them back home afterwards ;)

-Gail X

Gretel said...

Hi Gail! They are VERY noisy, arent the? Even I have to shut the bedroom window at dawn...good to hear from you, O silent-blog one...

Gina - RoseThistleArtworks said...

I just LOVE how life in the country helps people to slow down and actually notice the animal life and death dramas around them. You're a bird hero! I love how you reflected after your conversation that it's good the area was deserted. I'm grateful for space, too, when I have conversations with the creatures around me. I have a mustang who knows where I am in the house, finds the closest window or screen door and stands in front of it whinnying if there is a pasture emergency. He's never frivolous about it.
I really enjoyed your blog today! I hope you have a happy reunion with hubby soon. :)

Morag Lloyds said...

You just had to do a link to those cakes didnt you! and there was me trying to find out why you had been talking to chimney and the next moment Im staring at cakes!
Love the story and hope to hear any news about the little un!

Frances said...

Hello PG,

Can you imagine it, my neighborhood market often gets in some Mr Kipling stuff around Christmas. Have never had the opportunity to sample anything beyond that season.

Update. When I went to my wonderful, anachronistic library today, returning a few books, I did leave some info with the reference librarian for him to take to the Children's librarian, about your publishing house, and in particular, Varmints.

I will follow up with the library about whether they have any books from the publisher, or will be ordering Varmints. This is all some preliminary work ... so that when your next book gets published, they will just have to order a copy or two. (This library is in the heart of NYC's poshest neighborhood ... across town from mine ... and the place where the literati go to borrow books, and sometimes in the upstairs study rooms, actually write them.)

I will keep you up to date.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

So funny, I had just posted a bit tonight about the birds at my window the past few weeks and thought I'd check yours before turning out the light! Here you are writing about birds, also. Although yours sound a bit more exciting than mine.

I also can relate to your "bizarre little meals". I find when my husband is out of town, I become like Alfred Hitchcock. I read once that he tended to always wear the same thing and eat the same thing everyday. That's rather what I do when it's just me and the dogs.

tlchang said...

We have crows galore here in this part of the country. There are a pair of them that frequent my backyard - there are lots of worms and grubs and wriggly things in my soil - and they are not above picking at the dog's bones when he has turned his back.

Just last night, there was one on the back deck, eyeing the steaks that my husband was grilling. He'd left them out cooking on low and gone into the house for a few minutes, and the crow was obviously trying to figure out how to get one off the grill while not burning it's feet before he returned...

Caroline B said...

Glad it's not just me that runs to the rescue of baby birds! Our garden is a bit of a haven as our dogs scare off any felines that dare to poke a toe over the fence, so we've had lots of nesting activity this year.
It is nice occasionally being left to your own devices - clean house, making your own choices re food,tv,etc. but palls a bit after a while. My partner is currently working abroad - think I'd rather have the mess!

Anonymous said...

you want to try it when the house normally has two very busy under 5's in it - very weird, the silence is deafening.

more cold metal pics please
best wishes
the type nerd

Rima Staines said...

I love the foreboding sky behind these chaps :)
And there is something about the caw of a crow (or crow cousin) isn't there?
Enjoy your home alone time .. & sweet that you miss him so :)
xx R

d. moll, l.ac. said...

We have very, very large crows here. I have never seen a baby though, this lends to their supernatural nature, I suppose. Every other year a flock descends on the neighbor's persimmon tree and gobbles up the sweet, orange globes and we get none that year. Hope Andy gets back soon enough!

Sarah Laurence said...

Hi PG, Kate (smudges in earth etc) told me to check out your blog as I'm in Oxfordshire for the year, and I'm glad I did. I like the way you write, and your photos and illustrations are lovely. I went snap happy too during bluebell time.

It is sad about how cats decimate native bird populations - if only people could keep them inside. I love cats, but I can't imagine how I'd have one and keep it in with our dog going in and out. Maybe you need a dog to chase off the cats so you don't get interrupted?

I can relate to working long hours and grazing in an empty house. I get lots done when my family is away, but I miss them and forget to eat.

The post below this one on children's books was fascinating. I write adult fiction, and I'm also a watercolor artist and photographer. My agent would love me to do a children's book one day, but there is clearly so much to master before starting. I suspect I'll get to it by the time my kids grow up, and I get nostalgic. I loved those books in the box - my son would have too. It must have been fun for you to meet your heroes.

natural attrill said...

Hi G,
I love it when I go away, or if Laurence goes away, I really enjoy doing just what I want to do. But we are lucky, because we then have each other to come home to.
I hope Andy is enjoying his holiday. I wish I was paddling in the sea. Say hi to him from us 3 here in Tod.
Hope your work is going well.

Chris.P said...

There's a local cat called Poppy who has adopted us as her surrogate family as her owners are out all day. But now she is not welcome in our garden after snatching a young wren yesterday. I have been enjoying the song of the wren for the past few weeks so Iwas gutted at the pointless carnage. Cats never eat the birds, it's just sport.

I was walking along the beach yesterday evening when what looked like three black cloaks descended on to the edge of the cliff. When I got closer I saw three ravens. I have never seen them in the wild before. I was conviced they were cormarants given the size. It's little wonder they are the subject of so many myths and legends.

Soozcat said...

Corvids are wonderful creatures, really the Einsteins of the bird world.

When my grandfather was growing up an unwanted child in Sweden, he had a pet magpie that he'd raised from an egg. It would ride on the handlebars of his bicycle, and he taught it to talk--its favorite expression was "Hej, Kalle!" (roughly "Hi, Karlie!") He had to keep a close eye on it, as it would steal anything shiny to line its nest. Eventually it grew up and flew away with the other magpies, and then one spring as he was riding his bike it flew down, lit on the handlebars and said, "Hej, Kalle!" as though it had never gone.

Unknown said...

I'm alone for much of the week and also find I am more productive ;-) I also eat a lot less without my husband around ... I don't get lonely though - I rather like having the weeks to myself!

kate smudges said...

This was such a good post to read ... I liked reading about your warding off the neighbourhood cats - I do this in our back lane, although only when I'm in the garden.

It's interesting to read how you go into a different mode when Andy's gone. That happens to me when my son isn't around. I lose track of time - talk to myself incessantly & read until all hours. Then I begin to miss him and am always glad when he's back.

Too bad you missed out on the holiday - maybe when the work is out of the way ... a needlefelting sans slug kind of a holiday?

Elizabeth said...

Isn't jackdaw such a wonderful word?
Even if they are noisy and difficult.
Your post on the children's book illustrators is a delight.
I'm back in NY trying to get a proposal going for a book about Marrakech, but managed 3 days in England where I saw our daughter.
Did I tell you I met Penny j. and her family in Marrakech.
all best

Libbys Blog said...

Its amazing what you notice when home alone!! I am alone for 12 hours a day+ normally and how wonderfully tidy the home stays even if I spend the whole day in the garden. Add one daughter home from Uni and all I seem to do is tidy and spend no time in the garden!!!!!!!!!!!!! lol!