Friday, 22 May 2020

Colourful Crows And Musical Pigs

Ask most people about crows and they'll tell you that they're big ugly black birds that go Caw. Not everybody realises that there are several members of the Crow family and not all of them fit the description.


Magpie



For a start there's the Magpie that's clearly a black and white jobbie, though look closely in the right light and there are all kinds of azure and emerald tints in those black feathers. There has been an increase in the number of magpies seen around houses recently and I suspect it may be because of less road kill being available to them since there's been less traffic on our roads.

Magpies have never been among our favourite birds and folklore suggests this is because they refused to go into mourning when Christ was crucified, which seems a little unfair as it's certainly not the only bird that's not black. Even today people seem keen to blame Magpies for crimes such as the decrease in the numbers of songbirds, saying that they kill the young in the nest. While it's true that they do take some young birds, they are less harmful than domestic cats and there are many other birds which feed on eggs and hatchlings of other species; woodpeckers will even hack their way into your birdbox if they get the chance.

There are also old tales of members of the crow family holding "courts" to punish the misdemeanors of their fellows. Apparently they all gather in a circle around the accused bird and debate the matter, whereupon if found guilty the unfortunate individual is attacked and may be killed. It doesn't sound very likely, does it; but such stories turn up in many cultures across the world. And just once, when I was a teenager, I chanced upon about a dozen Magpies on a meadow, arranged in a perfect circle and spaced out as evenly as the numerals on a clock-face. I didn't see exactly what was going on as they spotted me as I spotted them, they hesitated for a few seconds then judge, jury and the accused flew off together.


Jay



If the Magpie's not colourful enough for you then the Jay must surely be. They are not easy to see as they live in woodland or large gardens and have a habit of flying off as soon as they're seen. This one regularly visits the grain that my neighbour puts out for Pheasants and can be viewed from my porch window.

Like all crows, Jays are intelligent birds and later in the year they gather acorns and hide them away to act as a larder to last them through the winter. The number of acorns they hide is huge and they seem to remember where they've hidden them, though some are obviously forgotten - or maybe surplus to requirements.

There's an old country saying that the thorn is the mother of the oak, which is usually used to illustrate that great things or great people can come from humble origins. And as I used to wander in the hills of Wales it was not unusual to see an oak sapling sprouting up through a low sprawling hawthorn, which had successfully protected it from the browsing of sheep. The "forester" responsible for planting these oaks must often have been Jays hiding acorns.


Musical Pigs

Some years ago I visited Ely Folk Festival and told you about The Hut People who consist of an amazing accordion player and even more amazing percussionist who even played the musical pigs. You thought I was kidding...



and on that cultural high-point I'll bid you farewell.


Take care.


32 comments:

  1. Well, lovely birds to look at - I have never seen those before. Lots of good info too. I did enjoy the video - the percussionist did a fun job of keeping the beat but I also liked the accordionist - his fingers flew across the keys! Thanks!

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  2. I didn't know that magpies had a such a bad reputation. I first started seeing them only a decade ago and thought they were beautiful. Love that Jay, what a beauty!
    Wonderful and creative music choice. Loved it!

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  3. Your Jay looks so unlike ours which are all blue with some white highlights. I always think of Crows and Magpies as being really smart.

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  4. I have lots of magpies in the garden who turn up in small gangs and strut around as if they own the place.
    Sometimes the Jays visit, but they are very timorous and fly away at the slightest distraction. However I love to see them, they are such pretty birds. Is the Jay at your neighbours feeder a young one? it looks quite small, but has a very fine set of beautiful feathers.

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    1. I think that's an adult bird; probably just the enormous feeder that made it look small!

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  5. I love magpies!I have a family living in my tree here It is amusing to see how clever they are!they even steal bling bling(sppons ,jewellery) to have in their nest!

    I like them and when they chit chat it is very Nice!

    The Jay bird I have never seen may be it is what we Call N√łtteskrike!

    Nice to know the stories of the crows!I did not know they have Council and even kill the one they dont like!

    But I think the Raven and the Hooded crow are even more intelligent!They take care of their elderly even feed them :)))

    wish you a good Friday!

    Much hugs!

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  6. We see lots of magpies, or ‘eksters’ as we say in Dutch, here. There’s a nest in a tree near our back garden, and we witness how they defend their territory and scare away crows. Quite impressive!

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  7. I didn't know that info about magpies, interesting bird for sure. I've heard crows and ravens are very smart birds. Wonderful video, I liked the accordian players, he's good. Have a great weekend!

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  8. On my first visit to Russia there were many Hooded Crows in and around Moscow.

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  9. We had a couple of collared doves in the copper beech next door and I'm pretty sure they were nesting there. A Crow pestered them so much that they abandoned the nest, so sad.
    Briony
    x

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  10. Our magpies are quite different to yours (a sad lack of imagination from the person responsible for naming them). I adore their warble which you can hear HERE . They also get a bad rap because the males will swoop people who come close to their nests.
    Love your jay. Thank you.

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    1. Yes, I had an unforgettable close encounter with a Maggy on my one and only trip down under!

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    2. I do hope it didn't connect. Just the sound of the wings and the clattering of the beak can be frightening enough.

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  11. I had no idea that magpies and jays are in the crow family. I'm guessing ravens too? Very cool musical pigs!!

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  12. I'm always a little wary of jays; beautiful, but vicious, creatures. And don't get me started on those bullying jackdaws, sitting up in the trees - I know they're talking about me.

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  13. You might like this video...and there are more videos about the Fable the Raven...there is one that they put a hidden camera in her living quarters and left it for an hour. She likes to practice her words, and though you cannot always see her, you can sure hear her. I don't know what there is about it, but I get so tickled at the Raven. And you have to listen closely, but there are two or three times that there is just little bits of her singing to herself.

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    1. I've just been over to meet Fable and Amy. Fantastic stuff. Thanks.

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    2. Glad you liked them...

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  14. Well that was very interesting - and toe-tapping!! Thank you! Here in town my bird list is very limited,(the occasional Raven) - but on the farm we used to see Jays often.

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  15. I enjoyed the music and the birds - thank you.

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  16. There seems to be more magpies around this year. We still see the magpie with some of its tail feathers missing, the wildlife camera recorded him being caught from behind by a fox but he escaped and left feathers behind. Musical pigs are great fun:)

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  17. The video was amazing. Our magpies look a little different but they are clever.

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  18. I’ve never seen a magpie or a jay like that. That you for sharing. The musical pig was hilarious.

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  19. Great bird stories. I miss seeing magpies - none here. Last time in Dublin there were so many in the parks, especially around the garbage cans! Much superstition surrounds this species - and saying Good Morning to a lone one is a good idea if one hopes for a good day! Our blue jays are much different - mostly blue and grey feathers, very noisy with their loud calls.

    I'm loving that foot-tapping music at 7:30 in the morning!! Has to be the best accordion I've ever heard - he sounds like an entire Irish group himself alone!
    Happy weekend - stay well John.
    Mary -

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  20. Nice comments on intelligent corvids, John. People should simply accept birds and their behaviours for what they are and not seek to impose human values on them. My goodness, if we examine all the nasty things humans do to each other, to the environment and to other creatures, we would all wish for Covid-19 to wipe us out.

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  21. Hi John - magpies - bullies! Beautiful photo of the Jay ... while those pigs - such fun to hear. While here we have the dreaded seagulls ... let alone the jackdaws ... thankfully the little ones are around too. Take care - Hilary

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  22. Fun entertainment, John, and who knew that there was such a thing as musical pigs! Also, i was unaware that jays were in the crow family. The explanation about the crows holding court was quite interesting and informative to read.

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  23. Ah, more musical pigs, please!!

    I can see the beautiful blues in the black bird - you caught it in just the right light. Your blue jays look quite different from the ones we have, and it's beautiful.

    I used to raise pigeons, who could be quite vicious with each other, even killing the babies. I had to rescue a few battered babies and care for them in the house until they were well and big enough to fend for themselves. They did all right when re-introduced.

    Happy weekend to you, John.

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  24. Magpies are stunning in their black and white garb. My dad used to call my little sister Magpie because she chattered so much. I’d like to see a Jay like the one pictured. Ours our quite different in the U.S.

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  25. We have magpies but no jays :( Thanks for the yarn about them!

    The musical pigs are a hoot!!!!!


    Feel free to share at My Corner of the World

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  26. Your birds are beautiful! I did not know that there were other kinds of crows, or that these birds were part of that family. Very interesting indeed. As for the musical pigs, I'll pass. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

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  27. We have crows living on our land, and we welcome them. I feel rather honored when birds come and stay. I have heard they are the most intelligent of birds.

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