Monday, June 7, 2010

Monday's Millinery Musings - A confession

By guest blogger Jennifer
Jennifer's Etsy Store

It may have been the balmy evening spent under the arbor - the first dinner of the season enjoyed outside - or maybe the rich food, delicious wine and excellent company. Whatever it was that made me do it, I made this confession with no apologies: I like blue jays. I take that back. I love blue jays. To be exact I love the jays in my backyard: the Western Scrub-Jay, and the Stellar's Jays that Dave and I run into when we hike the hills around Point Reyes near our home in Northern California.

Now, I can hear the human cry go up, just like it did the other night at the dinner table. If you are appalled  by this confession you would be in good company. Mr. Audubon referred to the blue jay as a rogue, a thief and a knave. A knave? An unprincipled, crafty bird? A rogue? An unprincipled, playfully, mischievous scamp? Okay, okay, maybe there is a drop of truth to these accusations. As if all this weren't defaming enough, he accused them of mischief, selfishness, duplicity, and yes, malice! It certainly tarnishes their reputation. If they had one. 

Frankly, I'm a bit disappointed in Mr. Audubon's unfairness and lack of dispassion, if you consider him the Ultimate Birder. He did begrudgingly allow as how jays are beautiful and cheerful.
Jays in my garden
This is the very thing I love about them: they are cheerful. Of course they are beautiful, but looks aren't everything. I like to think of them as cavalier: haughty, arrogant, carefree and gay. I laugh at their antics every day, several times a day, and in this serious old world, to laugh every day thanks to a bird is a miracle. Besides, they are described as having "light gray underpants". Sort of fits.

It turns out that most of the charges leveled against blue jays are unfounded. The bit about eating other bird eggs (the main item that ruffles feathers so to speak) occurs only occasionally when their regular vegetable diet (estimated at about %75) of acorns, seeds and nuts is compromised. Of course, jays will eat almost anything edible: caterpillars, grasshoppers, and beetles. We have known them to patrol the plaza a few blocks from our house snatching tidbits (thieves?) from the tourists. One summer we found melting pats of butter in our rain gutter, still in their gold foil paper. In same rain gutter a small sunflower bloomed thanks to a blue jay.

Earlier this spring a family of jays made a home in our hedge. This rowdy band of adolescents have been hanging around our garden ever since. They are big teens now and hungry all the time but seem to lack gathering skills. Every so often the mother will drop a worm their way but she is trying to get them to be independent. Mostly they hang together as a gang, practice their hawk imitations (a practical joke they play on the other birds and they are good at it) fight over sticks and leaves, (as if there aren't a billion of those in a garden),  and make lots of boy noises: odd, raspy, scolding and/or weep calls at one another. In other words: a racket.

They jays have also befriended our garden Ganesh. It's a trying relationship for him.

Our long-suffering Ganesh is a pillar of patience with the jays. He allows them to sharpen their beaks on his hat. This is perilous since he is made of soft tuffa stone and tiny chunks of his ears routinely fall to earth. His hat/helmut is in a dreadful state. (You know how I would feel about that! ) They perch on his shoulder, and enter into countess scrapes and squabbles at his feet. Just yesterday a jay opened its beak wide enough for me to see its little pink gullet as it tried to swallow the spike on Ganesh's helmet! How ridiculous! How funny! Honestly, for sheer comedy I'll take a jay any day over a circumspect towhee or a mild mannered finch.

I know you have an opinion. Please do let me know if I have changed your mind even a millimeter about blue jays, and if not, I'd especially like to hear that too. Go on, I can take it!


My Computer Tutor said...

So glad you love the jays, Jennifer. I'm in UK where we only have one species of jay - they're quite shy, compared with yours!

Magpies are my favourite crow - they're really UK smart...and US smart, too!

Jennifer said...

I like Magpies as well - collectors of fascinating bits and pieces. You are right about the crow clan being smart. I suppose that's why they are so entertaining. We never know what they'll get up to next.

I'm, amazed to hear there is a species of jay in the UK that is shy! Thank you for letting me know.