A Sunny Walk in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery

New growth on the weeping willow

Dear Readers, there was a definite touch of spring in the air this morning, so off we went for our usual trot around the cemetery. I always love the entrance with its cedars of Lebanon and stately weeping willow. Apparently the cemetery used to have a lovely lodge which was demolished in 1850 and replaced by a very functional brick building. The quest for modernity in the 1960s and 1970s seems to have involved many acts of vandalism, but at least the trees are still here. They make me feel more peaceful as soon as I see them.

One of the gravestones along the first path that we walk has fallen over, and turned into an impromptu birdbath. I often see crows taking advantage of the shallow water.

The spring weather seems to have kicked off a whole lot of corvid activity. There was a family of magpies in the ash trees, calling to one another and cheerfully picking through the twigs. I imagine there are lots of little insects who are having their hibernation brought to an abrupt end.

And then further on, I see a pair of crows, one of whom has what looks like a chocolate brownie in his beak. At least I hope that’s what it is. I suppose it could be something more unpleasant, but I don’t know of any animal that produces rectangular droppings, so I’m going with the brownie theory.

Down by the eastern entrance I notice a parakeet, perched up in a high branch. There seemed to be a lot of these birds around today, enjoying the sunshine.

Walking along Withington Road within the cemetery, I was struck by how the sun illuminated some of the angels.

And suddenly I had a sense of being watched.

And yes, it’s the statue of the Scotsman that I’ve mentioned before. He must only be visible from this point at the very turning point of the year, when all the leaves have fallen but the new growth hasn’t got going yet. There’s always something new to see here. And how splendid the rosehips are looking! There are still so many redwings here that I’m surprised there are any left at all.

Earlier, I’d seen two or three crows chasing the poor old kestrel. But as we were leaving there was a right old ruckus, with crows flying in from all points of the compass. Nowadays I always look up and try to get my camera ready.

And there, right in the middle of the whirl of wings was the buzzard. Poor thing, I am beginning to feel almost sorry for it. It’s the bird in the lower centre with the paler mottled underwings. The angle is deceptive, but it’s at least half as large again as the crows. I still haven’t worked out where it roosts, but I can’t imagine it’s popular in the cemetery.

The crows, on the other hand, seemed to be having the time of their lives. They’ll fly at anything – kestrel, sparrowhawk, buzzard or their particular favourite, the heron (which of course looks like a gigantic bird of prey in flight. As far as I know, none of these birds will take crow eggs or nestlings, so it seems almost visceral. Plus, crows generally hang out in family groups or pairs and aren’t supposed to be particularly social: however they’ll happily join in when a mob starts forming. I wonder what studies there have been? Let me know what you’ve noticed, readers: I’m intrigued.

2 thoughts on “A Sunny Walk in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery

  1. Fran & Bobby Freelove

    We often watch Crows mobbing Buzzards as well as the Red Kites. Crows are extremely territorial and don’t have a lot of predators, Buzzards although large will avoid confrontation wherever possible rather than risk injury. We’ve also seen smaller birds join in a mobbing.

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  2. SilverTiger

    Disused burial grounds can be both atmospheric (good for dramatic photos!) and a happy hunting ground for nature lovers. I think that if I knew that my gravestone would one day become a bird bath, I would be well pleased!

    As always, I love the photos of corvids. These birds can behave like brigands but I so admire them!

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