Sunday, 25 November 2012

Jack Crow

Apparently the name Jackdaw comes from Jack meaning Small and Daw meaning Bird.  The Jackdaws formed early as a species, becoming distinct from other Crows.  Some even argue they should be in their own family, Coloeus, but to me it fels like they are still part of the clan.  When I see my Magpies, Crows and Jacdaws feeding together, with the very occasional Rook, they are definately the younger, junior cousin, but they are still part of the clan.  Seven of them come to feed.

There are four subspecies of Western Jackdaws with varying territories, Monedula live in Eastern Europe but sometimes winter in England and Spermologus live in England but winter in the Canary Island and Corsica.  Spermologus do not have a white border to their grey nape and are darker in colour, so I would say that my Jackdaws are Spermologus.

Spermologus have a purple sheen to the crown, forehead and secondary feathers and a blue green on the throat primaries and tail feathers.  I think I need to spend more time looking at the Jackdaws next Summer because I have never noticed this.  The sheen is more pronounced just after moulting which occurs between June and September.  The Jackdaw is mostly slate grey with lighter grey on the cheeks, neck and nape and the legs and bill are black.

The most striking thing about Jackdaws is their eyes.  Those of the adults appear white and their stare can be un-nerving. Young Jackdaws have bright blue irises but these fade to silvery white or light grey.  But to me, against the black and grey they lok white.

Jackdaws are excellent fliers, as they are highly manoeuverable and they can glide and tumble.  They glide at about 6 - 11 metres per second, decreasing their wingspan to fly quicker.  They have jerky wing beats and look similar to Choughs and Pigeons when in flight.  Their wingbeats are deeper and faster than other Corvids and they fly in tighter flocks.  On the ground they strut, upright.

Jackdaws communicate a lot.  They make greeting noises as they fly which are described as a metallic tchaayk but I don't think that is quite right.  I can't describe their call  either though! They also have a call to summon their young or mates to food.  Females will beg for food from males and their call when doing so is similar but more drawn out.  They will cahtter together as they roost and a large flock will make a cackling sound.  When they are a week old they make a soft cheep which becomes louder until at day 18 it becomes a penetrating screech.  At Day 25 they become silent if they hear unfamiliar noises.

They like mixed habitats with a mix of large trees, buildings and open ground.  They leave wooded areas to the Jay and completely open areas to the Rook.  They have a central roost and the flock returns their each night.  Their numbers allow them to defend their nests from other corvids, who would steal eggs, but they often congregate with Hooded Crows and Rooks. 

Within the flock males and females pair-bond for life and remain together within their flock.  There is a strict hierachy within the flock.  Males establish their status before they bond and then the famles shares the same status.  Un-mated females have the lowest status.  Higher status birds will peck lower status birds and have first access to food and shelter.

They decide their status by fighting, threat displays and supplanting where one bird is displaced from a perch site.  Several threat positions have been described, bill up, bill down, defensive threat position and forward threat position.  When they fight they they launch themselves at each other and wrestle with their feet entwinned pecking at each other, other Jackdaws will gather and watch.  Another behaviour occurs within pairs where they ruffle their feathers and show their napes to encourage their mate to preen them.

Bill up - bill and head upwards with plumage sleeked.  This is used when entering a feeding flock to show assertiveness and appeasement.
Bill down - with the bill down the bird raises it's neck feathers and may slightly raise it's wings.  This is used in a stand off with another bird until one backs down or they fight.
Forward threat- pushes head forward to the bird makes a horizontal position and they may ruffle their feathers and raise wings and tail too.  Used when competing for females or nests.
Defensive threat - lowers head and neck, spreading tail and raising feathers.

Pairs are entirely faithful  and if the relationship lasts more than six months it will likely be life long.  They stay together even if they can not successfully breed.  Widowed and separated birds often fare badly as they are pushed out of thenests and territories, having to rear young alone.

Nest sites within a colony are occupied for most of the year and are made my heaping sticks into a platofrm which may become very large.  The nest is lined with hair wool and dried grass.  They will defend it from predators and other pairs.  A wide variety of places are used, trees, cliffs, aandoned buildings, chimneys, church towers, even old woodpecker nests and rabbit burrows.  The common feature is that the choosen site is sheltered.

Between 2 and 9 eggs will be laid and take 17 - 18 days to hatch as a naked chick.  They then take about a month to fledge, or grow feathers and then they are fed for a further four weeks.  The last chick to hatch will often die and if food suplies are low then the parents will not invest much time in feeding their young.  Cuckoos will lay their own eggs in Jackdaws nests and Crows, Tawny Owls and Weasels will steal eggs.

Jackdaws forage on open ground, eating small insects, snails, spiders, ocasional rodents, carrion, eggs, chiks, seeds (cultivated seeds, weed seeds, acorns...) and fruit (elderberries, cultivated fruits....).  Their diet consists of 84% vegetable matter, unless they are breeding, when they rely on insects.  They will turn over clods, peck, jump, dig, scatter and probe the soil to find food.  They spend more time exploring and turning over with their bill than other Corvids.  They also ride on other animals, pecking off ticks.

Unusually, Jackdaws share food.  This is initiated by the donor, sharing more of preferred food than less preferred food.  This is not solely about courtship or as parents and there is much higher amount of food sharing than in other species that do this.  It maybe that there are benefits to the flock as a whole for co-operating, it may allow the avoidance of harassment or that the favour is returned.  There may also be a status element.

In the UK, Jackdaws have in the past been heavily persecuted, for their perceived role as vermin of grain crops and fruit, as well as for nesting in belfries.  They can still be trapped in the UK, along with other species of Corvid, because of the belief that they raid the nests of other birds.  They can also be used as a decoy bird to lure other birds.  Personally I belief if people are really upset about the death of other birds, then maybe there should be a reduction in the number of domesticated cats.  I do not see why Corvids should be persecuted.  In this day and age there is more than enough roadkill....

Perhaps because of this persecution, Jackdaws are wary of people, often feeding where people will be in the early morning or evening.  Jackdaws raised by humans are tame however.  Of all the birds who come and feed on my bird seed, jackdaws are the most nervous and it took the longest for them to settle in my presence.  Even so, I often see them there at other times of the day, rooting out the seed that got missed.  I see them all over the place and I know of one local roost.  It seems to me they often call greetings as they fly overhead...

The Jackdaw to me seems to be most comfortable with it's own kind and has a rich social life, with deep connections to loved ones.  The are caring co-operative birds but at the same time they are nervous and more than a little quarrelsome with each other.  But they live within the rules of their society and they know where they are at and who they are.  They are clever and vocal with an understated beauty.  There is something about their eyes and their stare... but they also have good binocular vision for foraging and searching things out, which they love to do.  And they love shiny things and will even share them too

The reverse of affirmation is submissiveness and these birds represent both sides of this moon to me.  They know when to be submissive and when to affirm themselves and maybe that is what they are all about for this Moon, knowing how to balance both sides and maybe that is the best way to be, and being happy with your position.  But their intelligence and searching ways, and their vision and penetrating gaze are gifts too as is their generosity and caring.  They very quickly learn when to sing their hearts out and when to keep quiet.  They are not the biggest baddest beast on the block but they are one that gets by, by depending on their clan and co-operation is key.  I don't think being the lowest ranked member of a clan that likes to share would be so very bad....


So since writing more about Wasps, they have not left me.

I saw quite a few on warmer days in October, but now they are either dead or hibernating.  One of my colleagues was out in the warehouse, tidying up and moving pallets to spring clean.  He was very surprised at how many Wasps they found and he assumed they were dead.  I wondered if they were hibernating there, thinking they were safe and if now they hibernate in landfill, buried until Spring comes....

I wondered if any had found my outhouse and hide safely there.  They will not be disturbed and they could get in, under the the edges of the wavy plastic roofing...  I like to think of a few out there, safeky dreaming the Winter away and then come Spring they can go and build nice nests on th ebanks of the railway track where they would also remain undistubed.

The other night, Wasp flew into my dreams again.  They were sleeping soundly amongst the bird seed I was keeping in an old bird house for my feathered friends and my activities drew them from sleep so that they buzzed around.  Then for some reason there was some sleeping in the purple crocs I wear round the house.

Maybe some small Waspish ideas of mine are happily taking flight from their long hiberntation in the before, when they were not Queens and Mistresses of their own fates.  Maybe it is their time, now to go into the world of Welcome and become.

That morning I looked at my emails and discovered one from Suzi entitled Wasps.... It contained a link to the most amazing post, full of close up pictures of Wasps and a defunct Wasp nest.  Cabinet of Curiousities is a Blog I shall be exlporing much further....  Itself links to this article which describes, poetically how Wasps lost the War this Summer.

...  Which they did.  I didn't see very many at all and this article sadly describes how the nest had many cells that had never had a larvae in them and sad pictures of larvae that had died or never managed to complete their change to Wasp.  The cold wet Summer really did not suit them and I hope that even so, there are plently of ladies in waiting to become Queens, dreaming in safe places.


It all began with a dream, very early this year, maybe even the end of last year.  I was in a valley and there was drumming and I could feel the drums all through my body.  Florence and the machines Drumming Song was running around my head too and it was all very loud and very beautiful and very much about the drums.

This was significant because I had just started drumming and I very much wanted a drum of my own but Lisa had written on her blog that in order to own a drum, you should have a drum dream first.  I wasn't sure this counted so I waited and then I had a second dream.

'I had another dream there was a dead reindeer, a young one I think as it was small with no horns. I was told in the dream that I was allowed to have it's skin to make my drum.' Was what I wrote about it...  The animal was lying down and there was a man kneeling at it's head and although it was dead it was peaceful and everything was fine.  The man who spoke to me is my Ancestral Guide, but I had not really met him at this point.  The only other thing I remember was that there was white, it may have been snow, but I assumed it was a whitish cloured Reindeer.

At this point I spoke to Lisa about a drum and very quickly we hit a stumbling block - no reindeer hides.  Now I really strongly felt that the animal I had seen in the dream was to be the animal that my drum would be made from.  So nothing happened, not for a long time (and I am really surprised at how patient I was!)

In August, for the Blue Moon, there was a huge gathering in Canada, which I could not go to.  I was very disappointed because the Blue Moon is an important time for us, a time when gates open and passed through, if you pass the tests.  I didn't expect to pass any gates, I wasn't sure how, by myself, so I left it to the Dreaming.

The week before I dreamt that I was back at my old school and I was in one of the classrooms sitting an exam.  Nothing was said about passing or failing, I guess it was more about showing up, or I passed and did not know it.  Afterwards a man came into the room and gave me a hide for my drum.

The night of the Blue Moon, F and I were meeting with members of our Cornish Drumming Community, to walk fire.  This was an amazing day, beginning with a season sound and chants and ending with the Firewalk.  Before the walk we had a session about how to do it and confronting fear.  It was a very powerful day and I knew I was where I was supposed to be, even if I had wanted to be elsewhere...

The week following the Blue Moon I had two further dreams.  Firstly I had a dream which made it very clear that I had passed the Spider Gate, which deals very much with Fear.  I think it likely that this was my exam.  The thing about fear, is you can't beat it, you just have to show up and do what you wish to do, despite there being fear there.  I did it.  I walked the fire several times, and believe me, the second time was the hardest.

The second dream was very long and detailed but the final section of the dream focused on my drum.  An Elder came and started stretching the skin for my drum over a frame, but the frame was from an even older drum that needed mending.  It had seemed important, even while I was dreaming the dream that I tell Lisa, so I did so.  It turned out that at the Blue Moon gathering she had been given a Caribou drum and she would sell it to me!  I was so excited!

Lisa decided to make me a drum stick so I had to wait some more.  Only while I was waiting, it turned out that the drum was not Caribou but Moose!  I was in no doubt, I had been waiting for this drum and Lisa would not have mistaken it for Caribou if I was not supposed to have had it, it was meant to be, and maybe all the mistakes were so I would not get the wrong drum....

I was curious though and went online to look at Moose and discovered that I didn't really know much about them and that I certainly could have mistaken a dead Moose lying on the ground for a Reindeer.  No one ever told me it was a Reindeer and Reindeer was never mentioned within the dream, that was all me....

So eventually the Drum left Canada!  After nearly a year since it all began it was finally on it's way.  I knew not to expect it too quickly but two and a half weeks away there was a drumming circle and somehow I always knew it would arrive for that.  Thursday I received the Customs letter and I sorted it out straight away and delivery was to be Monday, unless I paid a little more for Saturday delivery...

Of course I did and it arrived at 11.00 and we left for Drumming at 12.00.

And it is beautiful!

It is a good size but so very light.  I will find it much easier to hold than many of the borrowed drums I have used.  I don't know what wood it is, but it is a lovely light colour as well as being very light and strong.  The frame is made from 12 sections, each of which curves gently.  The hide is also very light and with it being natural there is a variation of colour and texture with a darker line to one side.  Most of the 'imperfections' are on the reverse though, but something incredible happens when you hold it up to the light, you can see them through.  They are darker lines, in one half of the skin and to me they form shapes....  a person, I think a woman, dancing, and the front half of a deer type animal, walking onto the drum.

I had thought of painting my drum but having seen it, I don't think I ever could, those shadow shapes speak so much of the soul of the drum and my connection to it.

And of course it sounds amazing...  It has that lovely rumble you feel all through your body...

And then there is the drum stick.  Lisa took a birch stick and covered the upper handle and made the head from lovely soft leather with some beaded fringes at the end.  The neck of the stick is covered with wolf fur and then it is beaded up to the leather in white, blues, and pink.  It is very feminine and beautiful and must have taken some time to make...  The wolf fur came from a Grey Wolf who was injured in a Road Traffic Accident and taken to a vet on the res where it later died.

There are so many reasons for me to love my drum and my stick...  They are beautiful.  They were made for me and meant for me.  They sound amazing.  They feel like old friends....  I am very lucky and I look forward to working with my drum and learning more.

This is an end and a beginning, I have a long way to go....

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Testing Times

Well I didn't get another increase in medication, which I was a bit upset about.  I have been all over the place with my other hormones too but I am finally off the medication to reset those and really hope they will settle down now.  But I still feel tired.

This weekend I still had to nap.

I know I have got to get on and try to sort out other aspects of my health and see if it is easier to do so now, see if I can change things.  Because things need to change.

I am definately not feeling chatty and by the time I get in of an evening I don't want to do much and weekends I spend recovering.  So there is a list of things I want to write about but I just don't seem to get here to do it.  Things are still happening, I am still thinking and progressing, just by the time I get anywhere near a pc to write, I am beyond it.

I need to look at Jackdaw for this Moon of Affirmation.  I also believe Sparrow is my totem for the Moon of Reason, my current year.  Then I had some dreams this last week, of course I am always having dreams....  Except this afternoon when I asked for a healing dream, and I know I dreamt but not a trace remained when I woke...

Anyway, both these dreams were set at my old family home and Grandma Crow was in charge giving me tests.  The first night she was asking me questions and I had to say which plant symbolically fit.  I know I got the first two questions and I don't remember them.  The third she just said the name of the town where the college was that I studied my a-levels - and where I met my first love.  I was by the french wondows which have honeysuckle growing up one side and winter jasmine on the other.  I was trying to think of the latin name for honeysuckle.  I was unsure of the answer and guessed Honeysuckle.  I was wrong, but also the Winter Jasmine had been replaced by a huge white rose bush.

Now this got me thinking about the nature of my first love because honeysuckle is all about love neverending, entwinned together, well established.  White Rose is all about innocent, new, fresh love.  I started to worry about what that meant for that old love, and got thinking about past lives etc.  To be honest I got bogged down in the question and stopped thinking about the questioning.

So the second night I was back and there were more tests.  A whole load of people in mascot costumes dressed up as different birds.  I became a bit less worried about any messages about past relationships.  Tjose tests were definately not passed!  But I have much learning to do....

What has been obvious since the second dream is suddeny people are making it clear to me what some of their bird totems might me...

A bird flew into the warehouse and the only person to see it or hear it said it was a Robin but that they thought it was no longer there because they had been whistling with it and it was no longer answering.  It made me think about the Robin being this persons totem and it gave me an insight or too both ways, about the person and about the totem.

Then I had my had my hair done - blue black with green and blue bits, like a Magpie, because I like Magpies....  Except other people saw other birds in it and that told me things about them too....  So I guess this is a teaching thing, looking at symbolism and relationships between things....