Thursday, August 21, 2014

Happy About the Blues

The blue jay has always been one of my favorite birds, though when I was a kid and they insisted on perching outside my bedroom window every summer morning at 6 a.m., I may have thought differently. After moving to the west, however, and leaving the blue jay's range, I learned how much I miss them - even their arrogant attitudes and raucous voices. When I was in Michigan several weeks ago I did have the opportunity to enjoy blue jays again, and even to get a photo - not the best, but still the best I've taken of the colorful corvids.

It's not as though living in Utah is without jays, however, and I've come to love my western scrub-jays just as much, if not more because of the intimate experiences I've had with them. Each morning I fill an appropriately blue dish with peanuts, and in time I can hear the squawking and scrabbling as the neighborhood jay family argues over who gets what nut in what order. This year the family has at least four siblings that are just now establishing dominance over one another. One of them is exceptionally loud - we call that one Mouthy - and another is exceptionally quiet. One is more aggressive than the others, and another - Hoppy - bounces enthusiastically along the deck rail and into the feeder at each visit. And of course there's Billy, an older jay we've seen around for at least two years, whom we can identify because of his broken upper bill. It's just a stub, but it hasn't slowed him down - he just turns his head sideways to pick up seeds and peanuts, and he's adapted just fine.

I don't take enough photos of the scrub-jays, but whenever they visit I'm much more interested in interacting with them than struggling with my lack of photography skills. I talk to them, and they recognize my voice (at least they recognize the voice that accompanies the peanuts). I put peanuts in different places on the deck, not just in their dish but on the table and chairs so they can play a bit more, and they inevitably find every nut I've laid out. It's fascinating to watch them choose just the right nut, then bury it in the yard (despite my pleas that they choose another location - Not in the grass!), adroitly covering it with a leaf, a billful of grass clippings, or another bit of camouflage, and hopping from side to side to be sure it's properly concealed. And of course, the more nuts they cache, the more I put out! There will always be more peanuts waiting for my jays, whenever they visit.

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