Saturday, 17 January 2015

The Illusive Jay

During the Autumn and Winter months of 2014/2015, I have endless sightings of jays on my local patch. Most frequently, I have seen them drop out of the trees or glide across the road as I have been driving down our country lanes. The flash of white on their rump and wings is unmistakable. They do often pay a visit to my garden and spend their time around the bottom of the feeding station, tidying up the discarded seeds normally tossed aside by the fussy nuthatch! On several occasions in the past months I have heard the jay's rasping call as well, which, for someone like me who only has a very basic knowledge of bird calls and songs, is an easily identifiable sound to hear. You'd be hard-pressed to confuse it with calls from any other fellow corvid family members; it is wonderfully distinct. You can listen to a sample of the jay's call here.

Any time I spot a jay in the garden, I instantly rush off to get my camera, which is, naturally, always at the farthest end of the house. As I'm hurrying back to the window, setting my camera to maximum zoom (I'm not fortunate enough to have a zoom lens for the SLR), I almost know without looking that the jay has already gone. It's as if they can sense what I'm doing and scarper before I have a chance of success. I can only assume they are not a fan of the paparazzi!

Nonetheless, I'm very glad to say I have managed to snap a couple of shots more recently. The trick is to move to the window very, very slowly as this bird as an uncanny ability to detect the tiniest movement, even from the upstairs bathroom window. Clever things. 
These are by no means good-quality shots (zooming and cropping were my best friends here) but certainly enough to satisfy my need to capture this beautiful bird on camera. I love the delicate, blue wing feathers. Today was a particularly good day for jays and was a first for me; I spotted three of them on the big lawn outside, all pecking away at the ground, presumably hunting for acorns buried by the squirrels! It made me laugh when I read a while ago that jays are known to follow the squirrels around in the Autumn, waiting patiently for the rodents to bury their hard-earned cache, then swooping in and promptly digging them back up again. Cheeky.

I managed to get a photo of the three jays together today but it isn't fantastic. I'm so pleased I spotted them though, as the most I've ever seen at one time is two and they generally don't hang around for long. These three, however, spent a decent amount of time foraging.   
Next weekend is the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch which I will of course be taking part in, to count and record the birds I see in my garden, but I'm not holding out much hope of adding even a single jay to my list this year; if a camera is enough to spook them normally, me sat outside with my notebook and flask of tea will certainly scare them off! 

**For more information about the Big Garden Birdwatch, visit the RSPB's website here:**

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