The other day we went to Harewood House, just outside of Leeds, for a potter round the bird sanctuary and a spot of lunch on the grass next to the lake. Truth be told, however, we were there predominantly to find out how our favourite bird was doing.

The first time we met Calcifer (real name ‘Colin’) was last year when we visited Harewood for much the same reason as this time around: to have a picnic and bask in the sunshine. But as soon as we happened upon a solitary crow who was housed in a medium-sized enclosure just off the main path, it was pretty much love at first sight for my bird-obsessed partner. Growing up, Ralph’s parents ran a bird sanctuary out of their Whitby home. He was surrounded by feathered friends from a young age and at one point even had his own pet rook. All members of the crow family (which include crows, rooks, ravens, jackdaws and magpies) are very intelligent, and it was immediately evident – even to me – that the Harewood House crow was looking a bit bored. We ended up playing with him for a good half an hour, and made a promise to come back and see how he was doing.

At the time of our first visit, Calcifer didn’t have any identifying information on the outside of his enclosure, so Ralph named him after a character from one of our favourite films: Howl’s Moving Castle. However, apparently he was named Colin quite early on in life and is able to recognise and respond to this name, so on our second visit we begrudgingly used it to get his attention. We’re not sure if he remembered us from the first time, but Calcifer/Colin clearly appreciated our second visit. Cue much stroking of beak and head, a bit of feeding through the bars and playing with sticks, which he absolutely adored. I’m not a ‘bird’ person myself (my only interactions with them being limited to rescuing the occasional sparrow from Remi’s clutches and a visit with Ralph’s mother’s parrot and parakeet) but even I would have taken Calcifer home in a heartbeat.

I wouldn’t recommend going to your nearest bird sanctuary and sticking your fingers through the wire of a crow enclosure. Their beaks are strong and can deliver a pretty nasty nip. Ralph knows what he’s doing and could tell when Calcifer wanted to be stroked, and when he’d had enough. But when he did want the attention … oh my. I’ve never seen anything so cute in my life.