Being out in the countryside with my dogs gives me time to think. I’ve learnt the pleasure of solitude without being lonely, and that’s a good feeling for me.

Welcome to "Man with two dogs" - the family website for dog owners and dog walkers.

This is my countryside diary which appears each Saturday in the Dundee Courier newspaper.

Feeding frenzies

July 7th, 2007

WE'RE DRIVEN demented at the moment by jackdaws. There are plenty in the beech trees round the house and the dogs and I know, when we hear their  chack, chack' calls to each other as we set out for a walk, that we are under surveillance.

But they are corvids and that means that they are chancers; always on the lookout for the easy option and quite without conscience if they can swick a smaller bird of a juicy morsel. And that's the problem.

We've had our bird table for about five years and it has taken until now for the jackdaws to work out how to hang onto the mesh of the nut dispensers and feed on the peanuts. Which means of course that the garden and song birds and (which really aggravates the Doyenne) the woodpeckers too, all have to wait until the uninvited visitors have had their feed. It's not that we have anything against jackdaws, but they need to learn their place.

I've been trying to track down a type of bird feeder that seems to have gone off the market. Just the normal wire-mesh peanut feeder but with four thick wires attached at the top and the bottom and bowed outwards to give the outline shape of a globe. This would ensure that only the small birds would be able to get at the nuts, and even the woodpeckers should be able to get their share. I should be pleased to hear from any reader who knows where I can buy one of these feeders.

The woodpeckers are quick enough to chase off the smaller birds when they want to feed. But they are handsome, bonny birds compared with jackdaws and we do enjoy watching them. Especially at this time of year when they bring their young to the bird table, and the fledglings climb up the pole to get to the food because they haven't learnt how to fly in and land on the swinging feeder.

While we were away in Connemara a woodpecker took the opportunity to attack the roof of the nesting box on the top of the bird table. Doubtless he hoped there were young birds inside (in fact it's empty this year) for they are partial to chicks for a snack, and he has chopped and chiselled a hole which will let the wind and rain in.

All this got me thinking what is the collective name for jackdaws? I could find a murder of crows, a clamour of rooks, a chattering of choughs – even an unkindness of ravens. There's a logic behind these descriptions as there is in a crash of rhinoceroses and an exaltation of larks. But a drift of pigs and a fluther of jellyfish have me flummoxed.

So what about a “puckle jackdaws” when you see them in the plural?



A book of “Man with two dogs” has been published (184 pages).

This is a collection of the best weekly articles which have appeared in the Dundee Courier with additional anecdotes and reminiscences, and including the Doyennes’s recipes for elderflower cordial, chocolate cake, bramble jelly, Roadkill Pie (tastes much better than it sounds) and more   Graham Lang’s witty illustrations complement the stories.

Available from the publishers



Written on Saturday, July 7th, 2007 at 4:31 pm for Weekly.