- A particular colony of rooksA rook is like a raven, but the base of the adult’s beak is without feathers and is white like bone
found a tower in a field beyond Gloucester hospitable and made it the site of seven nests. They built them on the floor of the tower, around the perimeter, wedged against the parapetThe parapet is the wall atop a structure, in this case a tower. A battlement is a type of parapet, one which is crenellated–meaning it has merlons and crenels. Merlons are the parts of the … Continue reading. And there they waited, empty, while the expectant couples slept in the ash trees south of the tower, with the rest of the parliament.Recall that Corvids build nests for the rearing of young. Otherwise they sleep where they please.
- And that’s where this story begins, quite some time ago, when carts were pulled by oxen and when hunters rode on horses and when arrows were fletched with one feather from a cock and two from a hen. For those people life was the earth and the sky. They lived from the earth and prayed to the sky. Along the paths they set their feet, and in the fields they set their efforts, always on the ground, stepping even on the feet of their own shadows.
- On a certain damp evening in mid-February, when the air was dense and verdant, a caravan of people was passing through Gloucester, south of the tower, and the colony went to see what food they could getThis was when Gloucester was in decline, yet its inns were still frequented, especially by those who needed a place to sleep while awaiting their ship.. The sun was deep orange from its closeness to the earth. If you were walking by the tower at this time, following a path that leads to Gloucester, you would notice that two of the rooks had stayed back, and that they were perched on adjacent merlons.
- You might notice their diligence in monitoring what went on around the tower. The jackdaws, their neighbors, were returning home for the evening. The bark of their beech tree shining silver under the full moon, whose face brightened as the sun went to bed. The brothers tracked them intentlyLinnaeus called jackdaws Corvus Monedula. Raven who eats money, because they liked to snatch and hoard coins.
- And yet it is difficult to say what a bird is watching. Their attention flits from the general to the particular. They are always on guard and yet eager to eat.
- On the roof of the tower, where the nests were, a collection of acorns formed a circle around a rough-hewn chair, which sat in the very center, ignored by all but the brothers. The younger had taken recently to sleeping on it. He had formed this circle himself, or had started it. As the circle took shape, the elder began to aid him, fetching acorns, piling them on the seat of the chair, and then placing them, one by one, in defining the circle.They understood, if nothing more, that it takes three acorns to make a crooked line, and that a circle is a crooked line. The others ignored this behavior and the outcome. One wonders whether they did also ignore the younger brother as he perched on the back of the chair, sometimes for a stretch of an hour, and sometimes with his wings outstretched as if he were drying them, yet it had not rained.
- When the sun was touching the horizon, the younger alighted from the parapet to the tower floor and strode toward the chair, wings tucked against himself. He climbed the leg of the chair with talon and beak, finally pulling himself onto the seat. He picked an acorn and began breaking into it. The elder brother listened. Head cocked, beak open, left eye facing the sky, right facing the tower floor.
- He took to the adjacent crenel.This was an awkward maneuver for them. The crenels were narrow, and for the younger rooks this took two steps. First they would flap from the merlon to the floor, and from there hop into the crenel. … Continue reading The younger brother watched, beak empty yet smudged with acorn meat, the remainder lying in crumbs between his toes.
- With a loud call the younger queried his brother, who answered in agreement.Only born the year past, the base of his beak still sprouted pitch black tufts and not the bone-white of the elders. The elder crouched and took flight, landing on the merlon on the north side of the tower, hopping to turn in place and to watch the fields.
- The younger pecked at the crumbs of his acorn. Time passed. The wind tousled his feathers. To the southeast, a carrion crow left its perch on a solitary oak and flew south, away from them, flapping against the wind over fields of rippling fescue, under mountainous slate grey clouds.
- The wind blew the grasses, the cock’s foot and the brome. Farther, past the fences, fields of barley and turnips hibernated. At a distance to the northwest, ancient white cows grazed on fescue, eyeing a fox.
- The elder, watching the crow make his slow progress, cast his gaze and recast it. He hopped in adjustment, facing the west, so he could fix on an event to the north with his right eye. From his perch on the seat of the chair, the younger followed his gaze, first crouching, then craning, to see past the obstructing lower rail.
- A bird was approaching from the north. A black speck against the clear sky. Passing over the hills.
- The brothers quarreled. Younger proposed that the speck was bringing food or that it was food, while Elder argued it was bringing lice or that it was lice. Elder took to the back of the chair, croaking down at his brother, who cowered yet croaked back before retreating to the merlon on the east side of the tower.
- When Elder followed him there, he took flight again. Flapping above the pasture that sloped away from the tower. Heart racing.When the elder brother was in his first year, his song dreams were sometimes overwhelming, and several times he woke himself. This waking was always preceded by a graduating panic as he formed the … Continue reading
- And as he winged after his younger brother, he saw foamy water rushing over rocks — in, then out. Flapping is not discrete motions. It is one exertion, and corvids are more adapted to doing it than humans are to walking. But it is a skill one develops. As Younger pressed his ascent, Elder quickly overtook him, climbing above. Younger, having seen a merlinA merlin is a fast bird of prey, a species of falcon. do this to a young jackdaw before swooping on it, abandoned his ascent and dove. It was ungraceful, in part a fall. He landed hard and cried out before recovering, then cowered in the grass as his brother alighted next to him. And they held this attitude towards one another for what must have seemed a long time.
- The elder pecked at a mote in the soil. The younger regained his legs. In the shadow of the tower, they walked, cocking their heads alertly. The elder took flight in the direction of the ash trees. The younger followed a short distance behind. They perched on separate branches then groomed as the sun finally set, and then fell into sleep, yet the intruder approached.
- The elder awoke from his syrinxthe syrinx is the avian voice box contracting. He gasped and regripped his perch. He looked for his sister. Thick clouds rushed overhead against a bright and argent moon. The colony had not returned.
- Nearby somebody was playing a lute, some simple pattern circling repeatedly. This made the cool air strange. Elder cawed and shook then looked for his brother, who also was not there. He cast his gaze at the tower and waited for the moonlight to break through the clouds. When that happened he saw Younger perched on the back of the rough-hewn chair, his wings outstretched and unmoving.
- Elder took flight for the tower. The lute faded. He landed next to his brother, who folded his wings. There was a brief exchange of croaks, but then they took to cawing.
- Elder cawed and looked to the ash tree, yet Younger looked at the floor of the tower.They were expressing their panic, one at the emptiness of the tree, the other of the floor.
- Elder aggressed Younger until Younger left him and landed there, on the bare stone. Elder followed and then sprinted after him, but then he, too, directed his attention to the floor. Then he cawed and hopped along the parapet, searching the floor It has been observed that birds use their right eye to focus on a precise location, for example a seed; they use their left eye to take in a larger view, for example when watching for predators., tucking and then flapping his wings in turn. He looked to his brother, who had returned to the back of the chair. Younger looked at the seat of the chair, and then Elder flew there.The circle of acorns was gone, yet the small pile remained on the seat of the chair.
- Seven days passed. On the first day the brothers stayed near the tower and ate from the cache of acorns. On the second day, after drinking the frigid morning dew, they flew northwest to the pasturing cows, and they communicated with them in a way and ate from from the grains there.
- On the third day, they flew in spirals, searching for their kin and colony.
- Elder searched in particular for his sister. Three of her secondarieswhen a bird spreads its wings, you see the big feathers near the end, those are the primaries; the smaller ones, in the middle-wing area, are the secondaries were white. He saw whiteness everywhere. The whites of eyes, a bone sticking from the soil, a bit of fungus growing on a log. When he closed his eyes, he saw white patches like ripples when you drop a stone into the water.
- Younger began forming a circle again from the acorns, but the brother aggressed against him severely and he stopped.
- On the fourth day, they flew towards the town.
- As they approached, they smelled the Severn. A raven perched on the Abbey of St Peter was cawing. Younger smelled bread baking. They passed the abbey. The paved roads of Gloucester were warm under the sun, and the brothers found heat pockets to float in, circling one another and searching for signs of their colony, the sun making silhouettes of them to the townspeople.
|↑1||A rook is like a raven, but the base of the adult’s beak is without feathers and is white like bone|
|↑2||The parapet is the wall atop a structure, in this case a tower. A battlement is a type of parapet, one which is crenellated–meaning it has merlons and crenels. Merlons are the parts of the parapet jutting up, protecting those behind it; the crenels are openings, which allow one to return fire. Imagine teeth jutting straight up, but every other tooth is missing.|
|↑3||Recall that Corvids build nests for the rearing of young. Otherwise they sleep where they please.|
|↑4||This was when Gloucester was in decline, yet its inns were still frequented, especially by those who needed a place to sleep while awaiting their ship.|
|↑5||Linnaeus called jackdaws Corvus Monedula. Raven who eats money, because they liked to snatch and hoard coins.|
|↑6||They understood, if nothing more, that it takes three acorns to make a crooked line, and that a circle is a crooked line.|
|↑7||This was an awkward maneuver for them. The crenels were narrow, and for the younger rooks this took two steps. First they would flap from the merlon to the floor, and from there hop into the crenel. Yet with age they learned to flap without progressing, and to drop from the merlon into the crenel without bumping their heads against its vertical plain.|
|↑8||Only born the year past, the base of his beak still sprouted pitch black tufts and not the bone-white of the elders.|
|↑9||When the elder brother was in his first year, his song dreams were sometimes overwhelming, and several times he woke himself. This waking was always preceded by a graduating panic as he formed the pattern of the song with his beak in silence. As he struggled from the ringing depth, his wings engaged, too, in the restlessness. The pattern deepened as he ascended, and the pressure from above dissipated. In a gasp he broke the surface and, flapping and cawing in a singular pattern, startled his older sister, awake. |
In his adolescence, he would wander above the fields, sinking and climbing in a rhythm that seemed to come from the weight of the air, as if some pressure in it, graduating as he descended, pressed back at him. He came to know this pattern, and this knowing informed other knowing. He could feel the next crest approaching.
|↑10||Flapping is not discrete motions. It is one exertion, and corvids are more adapted to doing it than humans are to walking. But it is a skill one develops.|
|↑11||A merlin is a fast bird of prey, a species of falcon.|
|↑12||the syrinx is the avian voice box|
|↑13||They were expressing their panic, one at the emptiness of the tree, the other of the floor.|
|↑14||It has been observed that birds use their right eye to focus on a precise location, for example a seed; they use their left eye to take in a larger view, for example when watching for predators.|
|↑15||The circle of acorns was gone, yet the small pile remained on the seat of the chair.|
|↑16||when a bird spreads its wings, you see the big feathers near the end, those are the primaries; the smaller ones, in the middle-wing area, are the secondaries|