Coun­try Mouse

Rook rev­e­la­tion

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country -

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

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