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A Parliament of Rooks

Richard Bell’s Wild West nature diary, Friday,  22nd May 2009

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Shepley farm
blue tits in the nestbox

NOW THAT’S SOMETHING I’ve never seen before - rooks at the birdfeeder. Not just on the ground below but one or two actually perched on the feeder itself. We count about 20 in all - I think the collective noun is a Parliament of Rooks. The similarity to Westminster is striking! Those black wings again, as in my friend Elizabeth Butterworth’s haunting studies, which, by the way, are still on display at the Redfern Gallery in London.


No, the Parliament metaphor isn’t fair on the rooks. At a planning meeting at County Hall a politician once challenged me about a bird record - a surprise visit by a wintering bittern to a quiet local stream-side meadow earmarked for residential development. At the time I was very upset that the politician, in his powerful position as supposedly impartial chairman of the meeting, emphasised that he didn’t believe my record - the implication being, so I felt it, that I was liar. Now that more has been revealed about the endemic dishonesty of many of our politicians I feel that I can wear that slur as a badge of pride. I wouldn’t want a seal of approval from a politician!


Having had the experience of trying to be honest and truthful in the face of party politicians and vested interests I have a greater understanding of how politics work and the current revelations about the less than honest use of expenses by some of our elected representatives come as no surprise to me. The surprising thing is that, despite the inbuilt flaws in the system, politicians do quite often end up making - in my opinion, for what it’s worth - the right decisions, often tough, unpopular decisions, in legislation on environmental issues.


We’re here at Armitages Garden Centre in the 1842 café, overlooking the farmland around Shepley so we’ve got a chance to catch up with progress in the blue tit nestbox on the CCTV; we count six hungry chicks in there. Hungry despite frequent visits from the parents.

Farm near Shepley