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Noisy dynamism of the jackdaw kings of the castle  

Harlech The ragged corvid mass is impressive against the light, but lacks the choreographed sky-balletics with which starlings weave at dusk

A cacophonous, crepuscular circling of jackdaws around the towers and ramparts of the castle caught my attention. From every cranny in the ancient walls and nearby chimneys more crowded in to augment the sooty horde as it swirled and shouted away, streaming to its roost in conifer plantations behind the dunes. The gathering’s a first subtle sign of the year’s turning towards autumn. The dark and ragged corvid mass is impressive and dynamic against western light; yet it lacks the fluidity, the illusion of choreographed sky-balletics, with which starlings at dusk weave patterned elastic complexities across the wind.

I sat in a garden to spectate. In his delightful autobiography, Wildlife, My Life (Gomer, 1995), the late Country Diarist Bill Condry tells how he “watched this multitude with total astonishment” as a five-year-old on holiday from Birmingham. That was in 1923. Seeing it myself nearly a century on, I wondered how many generations had witnessed it. This cohabitation of jackdaws and humans was already strong in Shakespeare’s time. Their squalling cries surely impinged on Owain Glyndŵr’s consciousness when he took the castle in 1404. As the 13th-century masons of Master James of St George laid the last lofty stones, these curious bright birds searched out nesting sites, fetched twigs from the oakwood bluffs. Pair after bonded pair billed and preened along parapet and rocky eminence throughout history and even mythology.

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