choughistry (30/May/18)

strap in, it’s a long (ish) one……

who knew!… so soon too, the end of May in sight, heaving around the headland like a lumbering Loch Ness monster clearly lost because this isn’t Loch Ness, it’s not even Scotland…… nevertheless, it’ll soon be Christmas……

… and another thing, I’ve known for a long  time cave sra enot just home to some bats but one or two birds too, namely Choughs… now there’s a bird, of the Crow family along with, well, Crows… it’s not rocket science is it, no, no, no, it’s ornithology…. apart from their brilliant name which I’ve commented on before in previous writings, if a steam train sneezed that the sound it’d make, chough!, followed coincidentally by the actual call of a Chough which you’ll understand I can’t replicate here due to the limitation of the medium, but if you’ve ever played the arcade game Space Invaders that’s as close as you get to its voice…… of all the Crow family their behaviour and lifestyle is most similar to Ravens having cliffs in common as preferred habitat, often sea cliffs which are perfect for their preferred chosen boudoirs… caves… and like ravens can be quite playful, believe me I’ve watched Ravens and they are cheeky and immensely playful and talented thin-air acrobats …… and of course Chough have bright orange-red beaks and legs which against the ultra-sleek black back-and sides sheen is startling… no, not Starlings, will talk about them another time…… and for all this their preferred food?… leatherjackets, basically, grubs for which they forage fields, heather moors and cliffscapes… yum-yum… or not… they will snaffle worms too.. more yum-yum!

… the time I truly fell for them was on a small Welsh island, again so it seems but there are a lot of small Welsh islands, where I’d discovered a cave behind a mountain at its foot where it dipped its toes into the crashing waves… a sea cave essentially… accessing it required a tricky corkscrew manoeuvre where one foot wrong, one grip ungripped would put me in the drink at the mercy of the unforgiving Strait though once inside it was worth the risk as I also had to almost bend over backwards to avoid a Chough nest, right there in the entrance to the cave, pinned safe and sound despite the heaving tides a few feet below it… it was haven personified to this bird, pretty much nothing could get at it… except me of course but I had no ill-intent so they seemed after a while tolerate my regular intrusions… to be that close to Choughs and their nest…… more was yet to come, as this cave was colloquially-named Seal Cave and indeed was where many-a seal would swim in underwater and haul out onto a rock inside ensconced in its almost impenetrable darkness for some peace and quiet away from the briny melee outside…. above where they reclined was a shelf, just wide enough for a person, in this case me, to crawl once inside and sit in absolute silence and absence of light but for a crack glinting its watery the entrance… once eyes adjusted as much as possible I watched, sat, watched, sat, barely breathing, mere feet above, they knew I was there and I knew they knew but both safely out of reach of each other, which suited us both…

… they let me stay presumably as long as I did no sudden moves, while at the entrance Choughs popped in and out carried on Space Invader calls to check on their nest…… how long I stayed each time was determined by the seals, often just one sometimes two or three, as once in there I couldn’t leave until they did as doing so would’ve been rude, and made them more skittish for next time… and there was a next time, and a next and a next………

© 2018 robert greig