Thursday, August 31, 2006

Let me introduce you to the loves of my life...


Bold, beautiful, brash... curious, funny, affectionate, feisty; I can relate to them well. I sometimes think of them as the "bikers of the bird world". They travel in gangs, are quite verbal with their every thought... often letting loose with a series of outraged, indignant squawks if spying a marauding cat or other predator. Being songbirds, they also do sing, although you must listen to them carefully to determine that it is indeed a song rather than a conversation. Jays are sometimes referred to as marauders themselves, as they will eat the eggs of other birds. They are opportunistic, never passing up the chance to get a free meal. My first encounter with a scrubjay was when I was 9 years old. As I was eating my lunch on the construction site of our family's new house in Malibu Canyon, CA, a jay swooped boldly out of the surrounding brush, grabbed my entire peanut butter & jelly sandwich out of my hand and flew away with it. I was enthralled... having never seen such a beautiful bird before. It was love at first sight, and my ongoing affair with them continues to thrive.

In 1985, after moving to the San Francisco bay area, I became the species manager for the jays at the Lindsay Wildlife Hospital, building an aviary in my yard and caring for jays of all kinds, sizes and ages. This included the little naked pinkies which have a feeding schedule of every 15 minutes, on up to the fully feathered and self feeding size, as well as injured or cat-caught adults.

Scrub jays are very intelligent. They store and cache their food, which, since they are omniverous, just about covers all the food groups! They will pick up and hide peanuts all day, ritualistically picking up & dropping each one, measuring its size to be sure to pick the biggest one before flying off to stash it. At home each day if I'm not up bright and early to put out their breakfast, I hear a huge scolding clamor, "Where's our peanuts?"

I'm also delighted to have the Stellars jays grace my yard. They are generally more shy than the Scrub jays, and prefer the conifers to the oak trees. Stellars are just as much into peanuts as the Scrubs, and will stuff as many as 3 whole peanuts down their gullet before flying off to hide them.

I always think of Bart Simpson when I see the topknot of feathers on their head. Their voices are harsh, but they also have a whole assortment of sounds they can make, ranging from the keening cry of a hawk to the quizzical trill of interest.

All of the Corvids (Jays, Ravens, Crows and Magpies) mate for life.

The babies are impossible to ignore, with their wide baby mouths open, wings fluttering wildly in an attempt to be fed.

They add much joy to my life.


Jeanne said...

Two really beautiful birds.

Birds are the only animals I dream about regularly. They seem to symbolize some sort of blessing- I am visited by rare and beautiful birds (imaginary birds, as far as I know) and can't believe my good fortune. I love those dreams.

I've got bread and butter pickles salted and under weight for the night. Your pickles are next on the list. The garden has offered up an unending supply of cucumbers, and all my christmas presents this year are going to be pickled.

javajazz said...

man, i love cardinals
and bluejays...
some colours huh?

Terry, you left Brian such a nice
comment on his website!
sooo sweet of you!
i keep telling him i hope
you guys meet this year...
besides, you have a better chance of seeing him
than i do, at this point!!
thanks for saying hi to him...
it made me smile and giggle
to see you there!
xoxo lisa

Keshi said...

baby birds r so darn cute! These pics r beautiful Terry.


K said...

These are incredible pictures!

Doug said...

We seem to have scrub jays for about a month. I can sit and watch them flutter around my pond for hours. I didn't know you did this for a living, that's a good life.

I have a feeling Minka will flip when she gets here.

Minka said...

Oh my cuuuuuuuute*high pitched sound inserted here*
I love birds and Iceland does have quite a few. Sometimes I spend time with dad and binoculars and we watch them.
But none of them compares to these. I have never seen colour like this on any bird wherever I have been.
Just amazing...georgeous...I just wanna come right over and just stare...
*and she´s flipping*

Mo'a said...

I just heard about the Scrubjays on PBS radio the other day...I came on the tail end when they were talking about how many song birds they eat...I was puzzled but now I know what they mean. They are beautiful birds.....are they smaller than the Blue Jays we have on the eart coast?
Is it possible that resent visitors to our bird feeder are the Stellars Jays? I have seen a bird that looks like the one on the photo, only not quite so blue.
Our bird book is somewhere in a box in the there a web site where I can look up birds, when I am puzzled by one of my visitors?
You are amazing and as I get another little glipse into your life I admire you more and more.

tsduff said...

Jeanne - I would love to have such lovely dreams... I just love birds period.

Your pickles are next on my list! It is a mixed bag in my family with the taste for sweet or dill pickles being split down the middle.

Lisa - howdy (waves~) I saw my first cardinal when I went to Arkansas to visit my sis several years ago. We don't have them out here in the west. As for the Jays - they ALL have pizzazz.

Your Brian is well on his way... I'll look back years from now and say I new him before he got famous...I'd really love to hear him play.

Keshi - I'm sure you have some gorgeous birds like the Kookaburra among others... Mom used to sing a song to me about that bird when I was young.

Hello K! Thanks for stopping by and welcome. I didn't know there were such good baby artists, and writers in NY... :-D

Doug - You have a pond? Lucky beagle you! Your "month" of jays is most likely in the springtime or early summer when the fledglings are beginning to explore, or else you have a good food source nearby. They don't migrate, and are around their homebase all year round. I bet you have some awesome birds out there like the California Thrasher.

Oh, and unfortunately, I don't do that for a living... my work at the wildlife hospital was all volunteer. I do have a paying day job... but it is much less fun! My degree in ornithology was never finished :-(

Monika - I love fellow bird lovers :-) How is your little blue guy by the way? I was enchanted with your "krya" or black headed laughing gulls when I was in Iceland. Also - saw and heard a real Snipe... giggles... yes, they really DO exist folks!

Mo'a - "How many song birds they eat?"! What kind of barbaric show was that?! Did they also inform viewers of the fact that squirrels prey upon songbird nestlings and eggs during their whelping season? Or did they perhaps detail the fact that there are also small young birds preyed upon by the beautiful but much revered raptors such as kestrels and falcons? (can you see I get rather defensive about my jays? yip yip) I hope the program also touted the delightful and beautiful aspects of the Stellars and Scrubs. They all have their natural lifestyle, and it is all in balance.

Back east, your blue-colored birds are more than likely the actual Blue Jay . We don't have those out here in the west. Or, you may be spying an Eastern Bluebird. Okay, that's the bird lesson for the day :-D To look up more birds online, try here

tsduff said...

Oh, and "rabbit rabbit"!

Mo'a said...

I came late into the show and they may have talked about all other criters that pary on song birds....well that is how life is and the food chain.....but I do think they could have said it more delicately and accurately.
We have lot's of Blue Jay's that come to our feeder sadly no Eastern New York we used to have boxes for them and they were a great joy to see.
These are quite different....I will see if I can get a photo of them....I saw three of them together the other day.
Thanks for the url. I am sure I will use it often.

Trée said...

Terry, never heard of those birds before but they are absolutely gorgeous. Have a great holiday weekend. :-)

actonbell said...

Rabbit, rabbit! (first things first)

Wonderful post-gorgeous pictures! A couple years back, visiting relatives in Northern California, I believe I saw these scrub jays--I assumed they were a variation of our local Blue Jay. I don't know a lot about birds, as you do, but I could watch them for hours, esp. in such an amenable place. You have a great job!

Anonymous said...

WOW TsDuff, loved your "bikers of the bird world"! You have a relationship with them like I do the Lorikeets, but don't have to feed babies every 13 minutes! Thanks for linking to here :)

Anonymous said...

I meant '15' minutes! But you need a couple of seconds to get there hah? Although, I would end up staying put by the end of the day :) Great birds!