This Scrub Jay came to us as a tame and inquisitive interloper. He landed on the bannister, then sat and looked in our kitchen window all morning. He’d obviously done this before. But … he’d landed at a kitchen fresh out of peanuts. He gave up.
True to jay form (persistence and sweat), he showed up again the next day. And this time, I had the goods.
He learned in a single day that his avian guilt trip produced peanuts — enough to stash for later in the roof gutters. That’s what jays do. They’re clever and sociable with people. And they’re resourceful, even stealing peanuts from squirrels after spying on their digs through the leaves. (Of course, the crows in the neighborhood watch the jays and steal their stashes in turn.)
Every morning, after the California Towhees forage in our planters and wash up in our bird bath, Jay shows up and hunkers down on the deck rail. He’ll wait until we wake up, wait for us to come home, watch as I finish the dishes. He sits like a powder puff, fluffed in the sun or fog. Then he sifts through the peanuts, taking the biggest heaviest ones first.
If you’ve watched Scrub Jays, they do seem to weigh the nuts in their beaks before deciding which one to swipe. Steller’s Jays, on the other hand, will stuff the peanuts, end first into their beaks and carry two at a time that way. The first time I saw a Steller’s do this, I freaked out, thinking he’d choke on his culinary enthusiasm.
It’s going to be a genuine heartbreak to leave Jay next month, as we traipse northward for a year or so in Seattle. Our neighbors are taking over the birdbath so maybe he’ll find his way to a new kitchen window and a couple of soft hearts. Until then, my morning routine starts with opening the blinds and shuffling out to the deck with a handful of peanuts. And then, appreciating this streamlined jet of a bird who navigates the sliver of space between our Holly tree and window without a nick in a feather.
Western Scrub Jay = Aphelocoma californica = Family: Corvidae
The first photo: I shot this with my Olympus E-520 and Zuiko 70-300mm lens. It was a darkish day, so I had to crank the ISO up to 800 in order to get a 1/500 shutter speed. My aperture was 5.6 to blur the background. And although the bannister is slightly overexposed, it creates an optical illusion whereby the bird looks like he’s cut out and pasted onto a background. Now that I see this effect, I’ll have to photograph all of my birds this way. Damn.