Crow Woes

Slow, hard, time consuming work.
Slow, hard, time consuming work.

The past few years have allowed me to make some real progress on catching crows, and although the late snows of 2013 made the birds behave very unpredictably, I certainly can’t complain. I have managed to keep on top of the jackdaws, and it is only since February that I have really seen any crows anywhere on the Chayne. A group of five non-territorial carrions descended on the inbye, and several other smaller gangs have been flitting about here and there. Although I wasn’t particularly worried about these birds originally, they have conspired to make things more and more complicated, and now form a kind of smoke screen through which actually getting to grips with problem birds has become extremely tricky.

The first nest appeared as if overnight in the ash trees above the farm, and I trapped a large cock crow off it on the first night. Despite trapping for two more days right under the nest, the hen sat tight and then abandoned it altogether. I went up and shot out the nest after she had gone, but found another nest appear a few days later within thirty yards of the original. I set the larsen and again, I had the cock crow the next day. The hen stayed sitting on the new nest, never coming down to the trap until she abandoned it altogether a couple of days later. I didn’t shoot out this nest, and now find that she has returned to it again almost two weeks later. I don’t know if this is the same hen who is determined to nest in these trees and is drawing in cocks to work with her, but she has to go.

At the same time, a pair of crows has settled in the woodcock strip and absolutely will not come down to the larsen. I’ve moved it, reset it, baited it with eggs, wheat and all the restricted selection of legal baits but to no avail. I waited until she got off the nest yesterday morning, then stalked up with the shotgun to ambush her on her return. Sure enough she came back, but swinging a shotgun in thick sitka is never easy and I am ashamed to say that I missed her altogether. Whether or not this failed ambush will push her off the nest and cause her to abandon it I can’t say, but the nest itself is in such a thick sitka canopy that seeing it is impossible, let alone shooting it out.

All the while, threes and fours of non-territorial crows are drifting around in the rushes, and I wonder if it is this abundance of immature crows that is making the breeding pairs so tolerant of intrusion. Perhaps they are used to having their territories invaded, so they don’t feel so strongly about seeing off my larsen call birds.

The real larsen hot-spot is amongst the hardwoods at the back of the farm, but when I went round to set a trap in the old shieling, I found a massive raven’s nest in a sycamore tree right above the best trap site. My first reaction was that I shouldn’t set a trap there in case I caught a raven, but watching the trees from a distance, I see that the ravens are so aggressive that they wouldn’t tolerate a crow to fly past them, let alone nest in the same spinney, so trapping would be pointless anyway. I normally catch half or two thirds of my crows for the whole year at this site, and having it “out of action” has confused the whole process.

In the meantime, I have been working my ladder trap on and off but without much success. I know that some of the non-territorial crows have been feeding at my wheat hopper inside the trap before it was fully assembled, but I am yet to find the crow that is daring enough to enter the giant cage when the funnel is on. I’ve had the odd jackdaw and a few pigeons which I have released again, but it has not worked as well as I had hoped it would.

All in all it has made for a frustrating trapping season so far, particularly because I found my first grouse clocker on the hill and I know that the all-important eggs are now out and vulnerable. The average hatching date for my red grouse here is around about the 27th May, which is quite handy because it’s a good way of remembering my girlfriend’s birthday. I must catch up with these rogue crow nests, because soon there will be greyhens starting to lay.



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