Rook – some historical notes

Corvus frugilegus – YDFRABreeding resident

Bertram Lloyd: visited a number of colonies between 1928 and 1938. Mostly he classified them as small or large, and occasionally provided nest counts.

1928: A widespread colony stretching to the trees on the edge above the Nevern River, at Berry Hill. It is the biggest in this rook-rich county, I think.

1934: one of the biggest in the county I guess is at Berry Hill Farm, Newport. 100 is perhaps a low estimate.

From Pembrokeshire Birds Archive


ROOKS IN WEST WALES IN 1955

A rookery in St. Ishmaels, Pembs., where there were 94 nests on 3rd April was completely deserted by May 16th. I have since heard that it was raided by boys, but they could scarcely have robbed every nest. In 1953, the rookery had 124 nests, the most it has ever had and there were 120 in 1954. The average for the past seven seasons is 104 nests. Some young were reared in a rookery about half a mile from this one, but my informant did not notice whether or not the number that fledged was normal. A little more than a mile from these there was a small rookery of 15 nests in 1954, but it was not occupied this year.

The breeding failure of the Rooks that nested near my home caused me to look out for young ones foraging in the fields, but I saw none, and others in the district noticed their scarcity.  Lifting of the potatoes in a field near my house began on 20th June, and I saw upwards of a dozen Rooks there every morning, and on 25th June I counted thirty-three, but I saw no juveniles. The Jackdaws with them were both adults and young.

I am indebted to J. A. Phillips, the County Pests Officer, for the following note on the general decline in the population in Pembrokeshire:  “There is evidence that Rooks are fewer this year. We find that out of a total of over 150 rookeries in the county (censused a few years ago) some have disappeared completely whilst others are much reduced in size … At Cottesmore where there used to be a very large rookery; General Massy tells me that hardly any were hatched, and the number of nests was the lowest ever …. My foreman reports a Buzzard attacking a young Rook on grassland, and quickly killing and eating the bird.”

I have been told of young Rook plucks attributed to Buzzards on hay cocks in a field in Marloes. A neighbour noticed two Rooks’ nests, and young birds just out of the nest, at Mullock Bridge on 26th June. The nearest rookery is the one that failed completely this year, about three-quarters of a mile away. Rooks have not bred at this site before. H. R. H. Vaughan finds a remarkable reduction in Rooks in the upper Towy Valley around Rhandirmwyn, Carms.

T. A. W. DAVIES Nature in Wales 1: No 3 p141-2


A Pembrokeshire Rook Survey 1971

In 1971 281 rookeries were located in Pembrokeshire containing a total of 10 109 nests. The average size of Pembrokeshire rookeries in that year was 36 nests, ranging from several sites with only a single nest to the largest, that at Llanychaer Court SM990358 with 265 nests. Half of the rookeries contained less than 25 nests while only 21 were encountered with more than 100. As seen in Table 1 most of the Pembrokeshire Rooks nest in small colonies, even our largest rookery being of a modest size when compared to some elsewhere in Great Britain.

David Saunders. full report – Nature in Wales, Vol 14. No3, March 1975


Nevern Church rookery – Margaret Patterson

1986: On the boundary of SN0840 & SN0838. This, at first rook count (Atlas), nests were all crowded in a cluster of Scots Pine by Nevern Church Hall. These trees are dying. Some rooks moved across the road to lime trees. Now the last 2 cold late springs have killed off the tops of these trees, and some rooks have spread to 1) an oak by the old school, 2) two tall conifers (one Scots Pine and one spruce) at the east end of the old churchyard, so the rookery now spreads to 4 groups of trees. There is another rookery about 1/4 mile east.

From Pembrokeshire Birds Archive


Rising Sun rookery (Pelcomb Bridge) – GC & KJ Thomas

1987: No sign of a rookery when present occupiers moved in – 1984, but nests increasing annually afterwards. High winds of autumn 1987 cleared all nest remains so that new building would be necessary in 1988. The first nest was observed on 17 Feb. By 6 May a count of 50 nests was obtained by ‘walk about’ as by this time rookery had extended to trees on the opposite side of the road. In view of increased foliage by this date, the number of nests could have been 60+.

From Pembrokeshire Birds Archive


David Little and David Levell have been counting rookeries in south Pembrokeshire every five years since 1986. The results are written-up here


References:

DAVIES T.A.W. Rooks in West Wales in 1955, Nature in Wales Volume 1, No 3, p141-2

LITTLE D,.I LITTLE A.E, & LEVELL D 2001, A review of Rook status, with new south Pembrokeshire data, 1986-96. Field Studies 10, 37-56. Field Studies Council.

REES G.H. Pembrokeshire Birds Archive

SAUNDERS, D.R. 1975. A Pembrokeshire Rook survey 1971. Nature in Wales 14: 190-195

More about the Rook in Pembrokeshire