Blessed by a jackdaw

By John-Paul Flintoff

This afternoon, in an otherwise lovely cafe in Fowey, Cornwall, a bird did a poo on my head.

I had been drawing a seagull that rested on the roof (above), when I spotted a young gull perched on an inaccessible side roof. Though relatively large, the young gull was extremely fluffy and – as the following several minutes of observation made clear – it had not yet learned to fly.

Every so often, when the adult gull was looking away, a solitary jackdaw flew onto the ledge beside the young one and stole (I don’t know what) from it. So I drew that.

But then the jackdaw noticed that we were eating a cream tea, and swooped over our table – without quite daring to pinch anything. Not willing to give up, it took refuge on branches of the eucalyptus above us.

I was pleased to be so close to a corvid – a member of the crow family – having read Esther Wolfson’s brilliant memoir, Corvus, and having subsequently read the classic animal behaviour writings of Konrad Lorenz, which influenced Keith Jonstone’s status work in theatre. I took a photograph.

But I knew it was risky to stay directly under a jackdaw for long.

“Oh you don’t need to worry,” my wife assured me. “It won’t do anything.”

I was about to tell her that she was mistaken, that Esther Wolfson has to clean up after her birds all the time – when the jackdaw made any such communication redundant.

It was not pleasant, obviously. But because those writers are so good, I have developed a strong affection for the very idea of jackdaws – and I found myself feeling blessed. I felt like I had been recognised as a corvid expert.

Posted: July 21, 2014