When we came here 15 years ago we were told the terrible tale of how the baby rooks were shot out of their nests in rookery wood some time in the 60’s. The adults left and did not return for many years. When they did eventually return, they nested in the poplar trees to the west of the farmhouse and not in the wood.
At present, the main rookery continues to be located in the poplar trees with outlying nests around the garden, and usually one or two in the wood. I do not know how long there has been a rookery here, but judging by the fact that the house has always been known as Rookery Farm, The Rookery, or The Rookery Farm, and was originally built around 1700 probably a very long time indeed.
The wood is classified as ancient woodland and must have predated the farmhouse. I know arable farmers do not like rooks, but as someone with cattle and horses I regard them as the farmer’s friend. We like to make sure the pasture is grazed low in early spring and left to rest. The rooks come onto the land to feed and thoroughly cleanse the grass by eating worms and other parasites, and also harrow the droppings, saving us a job.
*"Arable farmers and rooks have been enemies for a while now, but it wasn’t always that way. When rooks are pecking in arable fields, sure they can eat plenty of seed, but once the seeds have germinated, they don’t eat them anymore, and favour instead the various insect “pests”.
I know some organic arable farmers that are grateful for the rooks’ help, although I doubt there’s a farmer out there that’s too keen for them to eat the seed. There used to be a planting rhyme though:
One to die
One to grow
One for the rook
One for the crow
But I guess these days, with financial considerations greater than anything else, such as sharing nature’s bounty, they’re not so keen for only a quarter of their scattered seed to grow. "
There has only been one incidence of any interaction between Merlin and the wild rooks. In our garden [it being Rookery Farm] we have a pair of model plastic rooks, which have never attracted any interest from the wild rooks, nor very much from Merlin. One day back in September I heard a lot of cawing from a tree quite close to the house not normally frequented by rooks, Merlin became quite agitated, cawing quite frantically and then attacking a plastic rook viciously, climbing on its back [difficult as his feet kept slipping] and stabbing furiously at its head! The wild rooks went back to the rookery and have not attempted any further social interaction!
*special thanks to Sam Malone at Rooks.org.uk