Updated 3rd April 2018
March Nature Notes
Jackdaws, outside of the breeding season, form large mixed flocks with Rooks and the two birds roost together during the Winter months. These flocks have now dispersed. Jackdaws have paired up and can be seen bonded together sitting near or prospecting a suitable nest-site. They can use vast quantities of nesting material often blocking unused chimneys. Eggs are not laid until early May.
The Rook is a very common bird throughout low ground in Aberdeenshire where the mix of small copses and stands of mature trees set in grass and arable land make it an ideal habitat. It is a western European bird and this area has the highest density of Rooks anywhere.
After the Second World War and for over a decade Hatton Castle Estate in Turriff had the largest rookery in the world with almost 7000 nests. The bird conflicted with some aspects of farming as they can feed on cereal seedlings and ripening grain crops. These very large rookeries were shot which of course had an effect on numbers. However dry summers, when food can become largely unavailable, have a large impact when many young birds die of starvation. The rookery at Hatton is still estimated at a quarter the size it once was.
Many rookeries are in traditional sites and are well known. Hatton might still be the largest but those at Arnage, Ellon and Straloch, Newmacher are very large also. They can occur in conifers and are not as visible as those silhouetted in the bare branches of deciduous trees in early spring.
In the copse of predominantly birch and sycamore trees opposite the entrance to the Golf Course is such a rookery now numbering over 70 nests which did not exist there six years ago.
The nests will contain 3 or 4 eggs by early April and fledglings will be born after 18 days incubation.
Unlike the Carrion Crow these Rooks have little impact on other birds on the golf course and help a little by feeding on leather jackets (daddy long legs larvae which feed on the roots of grasses) especially on the practice area.
Carrion Crows are numerous especially breeding in the conifers high to the right of the 12th fairway and annually make life difficult for our Oyster Catcher pairs. Their arrival from their winter coastal retreat was recorded by Head Green Keeper, Ross, on 9th March and their return accompanied by their noisy clamour herald the onset of spring along with the more tuneful Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and Chaffinches
We are usually treated to the summer presence of three pairs of Oyster Catchers but save for the pair which annually take up residence on the clubhouse roof few have successfully reared chicks in past years because of predation by Carrion Crows.
Let us hope for greater success this year.