Birds on the Balcony: what watching yields

“Hear! hear!” screamed the jay from a neighboring tree, where I had heard a tittering for some time. “Winter has a concentrated and nutty kernel, if you know where to look for it.” -Henry David Thoreau, 28 November 1858, journal entry

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A pleasing avian symmetry yesterday: the day began and ended with the call of the pheasant.  My Cornish bird list, based entirely on sightings from the house, currently has 18 entries. 

We have jays here; a bird we saw only rarely in our old garden.  On our very first morning I watched a jay sneak onto the balcony and steal a large crust of bread left out before we arrived.  It must have been heavy but the bird flew away strongly, with its prize in its beak, handling the unwieldy trophy with aplomb.

Just a short while later I watched a pair of jays on the western lawn.  I had my binoculars now (note how I packed the most important things to take in my car with me).  I’ve seen jays many times of course, but somehow I’d never registered their chequered heads: recognizing them as a flash of turquoise amid soft buff plumage, with an intelligent, wily eye, a vicious-looking beak and a harsh screech for a call.  I watched for a while as one of the pair skillfully held what may have been a nut or a snail in its foot – it certainly wasn’t a slice of bread – and delicately extracted the goodness within.  The other jay observed, seemingly disinterested, and a great-spotted woodpecker flew across the scene to grip the trunk of a lichen-crusted tree.  (It was almost certainly a nut; I’ve since found plenty of broken nut shells in that spot.)

Standing quietly at any window in this house for just a few short minutes will yield constant scenes of delight.

Jay rspb

(Photo is not mine. Credit to RSPB)

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