We arrived in southwestern Ireland yesterday, stiff-hipped and bleary-eyed, but happy to touch down. From above, the Shannon airport of County Clare cuts like a slice of asphalt in a blanket of green, peppered with bumbling sheep on both sides–just like you would hope. The weather is blustery… fitful and moody, misty and gray, windy and riling, punctuated with errant sunbeams–just as you would expect. But my first impression of Ireland had little to do with sheep or shamrocks, gingers or jigs… It had to do with birds. With rooks to be exact, and jackdaws, too.
Both birds are smaller members of the Corvidae family. Rooks are the Barbara Streisands of the corvid family, flashing prominent schnozes. Unlike some other rooks, these friends can move any way and where they want–up, down, diagonally. Jackdaws are small and portly, with gray hoods and bright, light blue eyes. This time of year they seem to hang out in big family groups (rookeries!), peering down through new-green oak leaves, making a racket, and adding a Hitchcockian element to the neighborhood. Actually, considering they kick it around the nearly 600-year-old Bunratty Castle, they remind me more of carrion crows gathering before a medieval battle than a creepy black and white film. That said, I love corvids–so cool–and am constantly trying to make friends with them. Obviously. Apparently groups of rooks can be called a building, a parliament, a clamor, or my favorite, a storytelling.
Like all corvids, these guys are avian geniuses, making and using tools and such, so you have got to remember to be careful of what you say out loud in their presence. They might be writing it down and informing the little people.
On an unrelated note, I have been singing, humming, and whistling Christmas in Killarney non-stop since we arrived, much to my sister’s mighty chagrin. I know. I’m sorry. I just can’t help it. The door is always open. That is one catchy jig.