IKNOW they’re coming—i could set my watch by them and have taken to stopping my car in a small layby near East Tisted in Hampshire to wait. The anticipation in the gloaming is immense. Half an hour before sunrise, as if from nowhere, a black cloud looms out of the night. The rooks are on the move. It’s one of the greatest, most spectacular and underrated wildlife sights in Britain. This whirling, cackling, nightmare body, unified in purpose, sweeps across the heavens. It looks as if all Hell has broken loose. The noise from the thousands of excited birds is deafening.
The rooks perform extraordinary loops and dives as if part of one giant body and then, en masse, collapse into the copse of beech trees and along the telegraph wires. It is a tumultuous gathering. Ian Francis described it as ‘like one of those childhood snowstorms, only in black’.
As the sun slowly rises, small parties head off in different directions to feed in the fields. At the end of the day, the same black madness will be repeated as they return to their roost with another crescendo of noise and acrobatics. It’s as awe-inspiring as anything you will see in the British countryside. MH