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Diversionary Tactics

Oh dear. I seem to have gotten myself involved in an act of theft – at least as an accessory. You see this morning I caused a diversion that allowed a theft to take place. I had not intended to; but rather bumbled into a situation where a cunning and daring thief was able to use me as a diversion to commit his crime. Perhaps worse, the victim was a visiting tourist, while the criminal was one of the local St Albans bad boys.

Obviously this was not a real crime, but otherwise the facts of the case are as described, Your Honour.

It may surprise some people who live in St Albans that despite the amount of algal bloom and various acts of bread feeding the lake in Verulamium Park has a fair amount of life in it, including some impressively large freshwater mussels (but they are detritus feeders so maybe we should not be surprised). If you walk down in the park fairly early at this time of year there is often a lot of shell debris from some of the more unfortunate of these molluscs. They have been devoured by some of the larger winter visiting gulls, particularly Herring Gulls and Lesser Black Backed Gulls, who seem to have the knack of fishing them out of the water and are strong enough to break into the shells. For them, this is a good meal.

Well, one gull was happily tucking into its prize yesterday morning as I ran by. However, it had an audience, of one of the parks resident crows. The crow was standing as close to the gull as it could get while remaining out of pecking range and was completely focused on the other bird feasting in front of it.

The seagull on the other hand was suddenly more concerned with the bulky human trundling towards it. Of course I would have happily ran round the bird – I like gulls – bit it did not know that and made the mistake of fluttering a couple of feet away, at a safe distance from my clattering trainers.

The crow of course, giving out a caw of delight and triumph (OK, I made that bit up) hoped directly into my path, anthropomorphically slipped me a wink and picking up what was left of the mussel and was off.

I felt a little guilty and sorry for the gull, but you had to admire the wiliness of the crow in stealing a substantial breakfast. They are tremendous opportunists and extremely bright birds, and I think they are quite beautiful. No, really. When you see a crow in the next few days – especially at this time of year when they are in breeding plumage – give it a second look. Assuming it is a healthy one you’ll get the full effect of that glossy, multi toned dark plumage. The same with most of the other crow species at this time of year; the magpies are feeding each other as part of their courtship (very sweet to watch), the jackdaws are paired and fighting over nesting holes (or, more likely in towns, a convenient chimney pot which does just as well). And if, as we are, you are lucky enough to have Jays come into your garden – well, I am always amazed that a bird with such bright pink, blue and white plumage does not get the attention it deserves among all the dull brown stuff. Yes they can be annoying – I have an ongoing battle with a pair of crows over their attempts to ransack the bird feeder, long after I was able to defeat the squirrels, because, to be frank, I’ll take the clever bird over the stupid mammal any day. Love our crows, don’t stone them.

Mind you… Rooks are pretty ugly. But then there is always one that was at the back of the line…



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