Rooks are pests so close to food outlets

THE letter from Jane and Alex Binda – Northumberland Gazette, Thursday, May 3 – is so full of inaccuracies and assumptions that I feel I must reply.

First, I am not suggesting that the trees in Rothbury High Street be felled to get rid of the rooks.

What I have suggested is that, while the parish carries out the crowning of some of the older trees, we should also pollard them (reduce their height) so that the rooks don’t want to live in them.

Second, while I accept that the trees are beautiful and older than I am, I would question the Bindas’ statement that the trees have a better right to live here than I do.

Admittedly, my association is only by marriage, I was born and raised in Devon, but my wife’s family is first mentioned in parish records when her great (times quite a lot) grandmother married in Rothbury Parish Church in 1791.

The trees weren’t planted until the 1850s and most of the rooks’ forebears only moved in about 15 years ago when Rookery Wood, half-way to Thropton, was felled.

Anyway, 15 years as a Duke’s tenant at Low Hesleyhurst, 10 years as opening ‘turn’ at the Charleton Party, eight years on Garleigh Road, plus five years on the parish council and never once has a member of the public complained about my sanitary habits.

I think I’ve every right to live here.

Third, rooks are not ‘nature’s undertakers’. They will take discarded food but they rarely eat carrion.

Indeed, most rooks will fly some two-three miles from their homes before feeding on insects, grubs and seeds.

Last year, the only carrion I saw, and personally removed from, under the trees were decomposing dead fledglings blown from their nests by strong winds in spring.

Fourth, rookeries do present a health threat, especially when they are only 10m away from a whole line of food outlets, and it is no laughing matter.

Furthermore, to suggest that I believe an ‘alarmist bit of nonsense’ will be ‘accepted immediately and acted upon willy-nilly’ is not only insulting the intelligence of my fellow councillors but also untrue.

Had the Bindas been at the last meeting or even read the readily-available minutes of past meetings, they would know that no-one is rushing into anything and the increasing number of rooks in Rothbury has been on the agenda since Pontius was a Pilot!

Fact – rooks carry diseases.

Fact – rookeries harbour flies, ticks, mites and lice. And all within a few metres of the front door of our award-winning Co-op!

Nobody is suggesting an outbreak of SARS, but we should consider the possibilities.

When the trees were planted, all our major cities had overcrowded disease-ridden slum areas. I wonder why they were called ‘rookeries’?

Finally, and some will find this hard to believe, I’m not anti-rook.

I just firmly believe they shouldn’t live in the middle of a small market town and make a mess that has the potential to do harm to the human inhabitants.

Mark Gilson,