Sunday, 18 June 2017

Spook the Rook: The Return

Some of you may remember my stories about Spook, the rook that fell out of the nest and that I raised while living with my parents a couple of years ago.

Well, the last time I saw him was February 2015, when I was looking after my dad’s sheep while they went on holiday. I was out feeding the sheep in the bottom field when I heard him. His call had become distinctive to me, and I looked up to see three rooks flying overhead. I shouted his name in greeting “Spooky!” and one of the rooks separated from the others and circled over my head several times, looking down at me and shouting in return. He then re-joined his companions.

The next summer we all kept an eye on the rookery, but there was no sign. Whenever I was home and heard a rook I would shout a greeting, but there was never any reply from the rooks.

And so time passed. We would still talk about him at times, and always the conversation would come back to the same thing: I saw him in February, he must have survived that winter, he must be alright, but moved on elsewhere. I have loved rooks ever since Spooky. For my 30th birthday my parent’s had a ring made for me with a rook on the front – a totem animal, they’re special to me.

I never thought that the current situation would change. It was 2014 that I found Spook, he was last seen in early 2015, and there was no sign of him for the past two summers. I thought that we would never know how this story ended. That was, until I received a letter from my mum that went like this:
“…a rook by patio door making a racket – flew away but that’s the third time it’s happened. I wonder if it’s Spook??? I really do!” There was a bit added afterwards saying “It is Spook! He pecks the window and poos everywhere!” This continues in the letter where she says “You will have opened the card and read the news of Spook. He is definitely back, and what a noise he can make! I think he likes to tap on patio door windows when no one is in as he flies off when you walk through. He produces masses of excrement!!! He has a VERY loud voice indeed. We are not going out of our way to encourage him as it could get very messy indeed!!! But it is amazing to have him around and to think of him with his own family, and yet he still remembers his upbringing!”

Since the letter was written on Monday, he has stopped appearing so much. Mum thinks the eggs have hatched.

We never knew if Spook was male or female, deciding to call him “him” as it made it easier than saying “it”, however the fact that he was not incubating the eggs would imply that he was male – only the female will develop a brood pouch, and I am so proud that he has returned to the same area where he grew up. What a bird.

He’ll be three years old, with a birthday around about now. What has he been doing for the past couple of years? What has he seen? And to have returned to the nest now that he’s required (if the chicks have hatched he’ll be busy on feeding duties) after having said “hello, I’m back” is just incredible: it makes him seem very human.

Although we try not to anthromorphise animals, this is one example where a bird is showing capabilities far beyond what we would normally attribute to them. It shows loyalty, great skills of remembering, familiarity, but also knowledge of what’s to be done. He was raised by humans. We fed him tinned cat food by hand while he would stand on the ground. But it sounds like he has the knowledge of how to feed his youngsters, despite the fact that that was not taught to him.

This, more than anything, has really brought it home to me how amazing animals are. They're capacity for remembering, learning, developing is far higher than we give them credit for, and it's just utterly wonderful to have been part of such an intelligent birds life. 

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