Backyard observations

Mike RaykoviczHate to say it but while I’ve been walking around the neighborhood I haven’t been for a walk in the woods since deer season closed. Not that I don’t want to, mind you, it’s just that a busy work and family schedule hasn’t allowed it, at least so far. Taking a winter walk around my favorite deer stands with snow on the ground is always a pleasurable thing because the snow doesn’t lie. If a deer, coyote, fisher, or any other critter walked by I’d know it and it makes me feel good knowing we find a common piece of real estate to our mutual liking. There wasn’t much snow around here this winter and when there was, just as I decided to head out for a walk it rained. What I have done, however, pay more attention to the critters in my own backyard, including but not limited to the squirrels and birds who call the environs round our house home.

Every morning I put out a handful of shelled corn on the banister surrounding the back deck. It doesn’t take long for a squirrel or two to find it, and through the kitchen window I enjoy watching them politely, but not necessarily neatly, devour the morning buffet one kernel at a time. That is, I do until the blue jays appear. Over a winter of backyard bird watching I’ve concluded when they show up, mourning doves are the essence of quiet and reserve, while jays represent the epitome of sass.

With no manners whatsoever, our neighborhood blue jays think nothing of muscling out the smaller wrens, chickadees and finches and gorging themselves on the corn kernels they find outside my window. Pushing, shoving, and jostling other birds, the jays are the avian equivalent of playground bullies – and that’s not all. It seems the jays constantly scold the smaller birds and even the squirrels retreat when three or four of the raucous raiders appear.

Jays do eat a variety of insects in season, of course, and given the opportunity they will eat the eggs of other birds and even their young. Obviously, in the bird world blue jays are less than model citizens. We’ve all seen and heard blue jays in the woods but this bird is adaptable and seems to be perfectly at home in my backyard. My bird book tells me blue jays stay in their home range throughout the entire central and eastern part of the United States during the winter and, as a result, are perhaps the most recognizable and well-known bird species for most people.

Jays do have some redeeming value, however, because their wintertime repast consists of the nuts and seeds they find wherever they can. Blue jays are particularly fond of acorns and it’s said jays rival squirrels in the number of acorns they find and then hide, making them an important part in the regeneration of our oak forests. 

All life has value and the blue jay is no exception, but when it comes to manners and good behavior, like some people, jays just can’t help themselves.

Categories: New York – Mike Raykovicz

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