Country diary: sticks, moss and dog hair – the nest-building has begun

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Wenlock Edge, Shropshire: April is the busiest month for our chimney-dwelling jackdaws, but there is also a sad beauty to an abandoned blackbird’s nest

A handful of sticks in the fireplace: someone placing kindling, someone casting fortunes, someone marking a spot? The sticks, about 50cm long, are mostly ash, knobbly and without buds, dead wood gathered according to a standard: they measure the same length, diameter and straightness. There is something conscious about the selection of sticks, but their arrangement in the hearth looks random, as if they’ve fallen from above. Someone making a nest?

This is jackdaw work up the chimney. There have been April nests up there for much longer than we have known Aprils down here. Occasionally we meet when a fledgling follows lost sticks down the flue to leave sooty wing marks on the ceiling, before being caught and released to its clacking parents in the trees outside. This is where our cultures overlap. The jackdaws know the risks that go with chimneys, but they’ve occupied these next-best-things to tree holes for many generations.

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