The man with a crow on his shoulder
We, husband, grandson and self, were most intrigued. Walking back towards Barrow Boating one day last July we met a man with a crow on his shoulder. Long John Silver lives again! What’s more the bird was being allowed to poo all over the man’s red T-shirt; grandson was amazed. We stopped for a chat. There and then Liam kindly, and knowledgeably, answered questions about his crow, Hooch, and the wild life around him, but sensing a story for Barrow Voice I later visited him at his Meadow Farm Marina moorings to find out more.
Hooch was a rescue bird and about three months old when I took this picture. He had probably been thrown out of the nest by the mother bird and had a disabled foot and wonky tail when found. (Hooch had to wear a splint for a time.) To prevent the bird from getting into more danger, when still young and unable to look after itself, Liam had trimmed the tail feathers so that it could not fly off, allowing him to feed and care for it. You can see a cage on the narrow boat’s roof where Hooch was placed at night. He was certainly well looked after.
I learnt from Liam that his interest in crows started at least ten years ago when a crow ‘skied’ down his tent in Wales. For pure pleasure this crow slid down the tent side, flew away, returned and did it again. Crows (which are in the family of birds known as ‘corvids’) are it seems, intelligent, sociable and know how to play. After this Liam read Esther Woolfson’s ‘Corvus’ on the whole corvid family and gained more practical knowledge from helping someone rear a ‘rescue’ magpie.
Surprisingly, having a dependent young crow on his shoulder for weeks on end helps Liam with the serious side of his life. This is because the bird is a good teaching tool for both adults and children as it can open up a dialogue about nature; questions are asked about what the bird eats or how long it lives. This live visual aid also encourages people who have difficulties talking to strangers to open up. Liam is the director of the charity Creative Futures Midlands which works with different groups in the Leicestershire community. They could be adults with poor mental health or disadvantaged groups within the Indian community, or young offenders. The charity aims to improve their lives through teaching heritage crafts such as drumming, whittling and campfire cookery, growing vegetables and herbs in polytunnels and on allotments which leads to discussions on healthy eating. They also organise community events such as canal boat trips at which groups who otherwise would never meet can mix and make new friends. And nature; there’s always a big emphasis on understanding the natural world and living in sympathy with it.
To Liam this way of life, living simply on a narrowboat, helping wildlife as much as he can, and working for a community-based charity, means that there is no separation between his ideological beliefs and the way he lives. Very few of us can say that.