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Climate and Environment

Jack Chuter

Co-host of the Episode Party podcast, author of Storm Static Sleep: A Pathway Through Post-rock, editor at ATTN:Magazine.

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piqer: Jack Chuter
Thursday, 02 May 2019

The Casual Birder: Petulant Jackdaws And Garden Squabbles

It's impossible to talk about birds without talking about the natural environment. Our brutish treatment of the natural landscape – through mass deforestation, excessive pesticide use and noise pollution, amongst many other factors – has dragged countless bird populations into alarming decline. Yet conversations about birds also lead to many other territories: the presence of birds within folklore, the sentience of animals other than ourselves (such as the ability of crows to utilise tools), and most compellingly into the realms of poetry, as we try to describe the plethora of mannerisms and sounds that distinguish bird species from one another. The Casual Birder is a loving and accessible exploration of all of the forces that draw us toward birds, from scientific concern to heart-led fascination.

In truth, there's nothing casual about the relationship between host Suzy Buttress and birds. While many episodes of The Casual Birder centre on talks with experts (such as the interview with the RSPB about helping restore populations of the common swift, or an explainer by the BTO on feeding garden birds) this episode on corvids is driven by Buttress alone, as she dives deep into the biological characteristics of crows, choughs and beyond, while pulling on personal anecdotes of encountering ravens on winter walks in Banff and observing the squabbles between corvid species in her back garden in London. 

She has a wonderful way of articulating how birds walk and talk. The cries of Jackdaws are described as sounding "petulant, like they're upset that things aren't going their way". The upright posture and confident ambling of carrion crows makes it appear as though they're "taking inventory or inspecting their surroundings". Buttress speaks about birds with the same enrapt adoration as found in J.A. Baker's seminal nature work The Peregrine, all while stoking the curiosity of listeners who are still at the start of their ornithological journey.

The Casual Birder: Petulant Jackdaws And Garden Squabbles
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