Saturday, 30 January 2010

The crowded road to Crow Country

I LOVE the way that an isolated, out of the way place can suddenly become fashionable simply through the power of good writing.
Step forward Buckenham Carrs, a previously unheralded strip of woodland on the north bank of the Yare Valley, half way between Brundall and Cantley. Its unlikely rise to stardom started with the publication of Crow Country by Mark Cocker in 2007. Cocker moves to a house nearby and - as the book's dust-jacket says - soon notices that "twice a day flight-lines of rooks and jackdaws pass over the house on their way to a roost in the Yare Valley. Following them down to the river one winter's night, the author discovered a roiling, deafening flock of birds which rises at its peak to 40,000".
Since then it sometimes feels as if every bird-watcher and TV nature programme has made the same trip. In fact, a cleverer writer than me could talk of a roiling, deafening flock of birders competing in a cacophany of praise. ....As I say, someone cleverer than me.
The latest birder to pay homage is Simon Barnes in today's edition of The Times. On patrol with Cocker, he spots a peregrine falcon, but has to move on because "after all we had crows to look for".
"How fabulously funky - to hurry past a peregrine and barn owls to see crows, to see birds ignored by birders and despised by non-birders."
Now I'm no naturalist, but my reading of the book is that birders can often ignore the commonplace in their hunt for the rarities. Cocker argues convincingly that that's a mistake, because there is much beauty and mystery to be found in all of nature, even the noisy, ubiquitous corvids. So yes the numbers in the Yare Valley are particularly impressive, but if crows are so ubiquitous haven't we all got our own Crow Country just down the road from us?
It must just be the power of good writing that draws people to Buckenham Carrs.

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