I can tell a few of the Jays that come to the garden apart from each other the majority of the time.
I have noticed that the Jays I presume to be the females have slightly paler heads. At least I assume they’re females based on the fact they’re the ones that screech to be fed during that time of year when birds are mating. I know they’re not juveniles.
But rather than a gender thing it could be an age thing (one year old, two year old etc not ‘new juvenile), but based on the fact the paler headed ones seem to come with slightly darker headed ones and beg them for food in the spring and even sometimes a bit before the spring has already started, I tend to assume she’s the female.
The Jay that has been coming since 2019 I imagine to be older than the other Jay that I assume is a male, just because of the differences in behaviour.
The 2019 Jay is quiet and reserved and there is a sense of quiet confidence, wisdom with him. Whereas the other male Jay always seems erratic and full of too much energy, almost ADHD like. Also a slightly paler head, yet just that little bit subtly less pale than the ones I assume to be female.
This could be a perception problem on my part, but I’m no scientist. Though I like to be as factual as possible.
I read something somewhere I can’t remember about how being an environmentalist and having a passion for nature can make you feel more content in life but also it can be full of grief.
The more you learn the more you realise the world really isn’t okay. The more you realise there is a huge gap in our collective memories about what the world could/would look like. We go back to our childhoods to measure the demise of now. We often don’t consider the generations before our own childhoods, and so we cling to those childhood images and impose them on the rest of the world. ‘Here is what the land should look like according to my memory of being a child…’
But there was damage done way before then, generations of animals already lost.
It’s not that we shouldn’t try to salvage what we’ve lost from childhood, I wouldn’t suggest that. But I’m just pointing out it’s a narrow part of time, it’s a blink in the eye of the damage that has already been done and is being done.
Yet it’s these little snippets of childhood wonder, of some semblance of ‘balance’ that we must hold onto, including trying to enlarge those areas in the first place.
Take the little wooded land next to where I live, I call it ‘The pathetic wood,’ because it’s stupidly small, not enough people pick up their dog’s turds, yet as pathetic as that ‘park’ is I am attached to it, it’s small but life exists on it. The ‘pathetic wood’ ends in a huge dip to a much better-looking wood not accessible to us humans. Well, I suppose a human could get down there and back up if she was healthy and used to that kind of exercise and used to trailing through hedges and nettles etc. Much to my disappointment though one summer when a rough pathway appeared I saw below me a ditch of wooded land that could be a haven only to be full of rubbish at the bottom. I couldn’t get down the rough path, it was too steep and it has since grown over again hiding the rubbish.
‘The pathetic wood,’ pathetic as it is is a place I go to often, I especially like to go to a particular bit not often walked on by dog walkers so I can be away from humans, or at least it gives the illusion I am.
The ditch of wooded land that could be a haven, and the pathetic wood attached perfectly capture our attempt at separating worlds. We keep the ‘pathetic wood’ or ‘park’ as others call it (I don’t like calling it a park for some reason), reasonably tidy, I mean compared to all the rubbish I saw down in the wooded haven! It still has rubbish in it and I swear most of the dog walkers don’t pick up their dogs shit unless someone else is there to witness them do it. Still, since people do attempt half-assedly to keep it somewhat ‘tidy’ (by tidy I simply mean rubbish and dog shit being picked up) the humans here have shown how alienated they are from the land that birthed us. The park is made for us, with a path and the sudden drop to a wooded haven is separate to us something we can push aside and keep for the ‘animals’ as if we too weren’t animals. Some feel they can throw their rubbish there and who will see it? The wildlife surely won’t care, they have no concept of a bin. I’d argue they do care because it damages their lives as well ours.
That ‘pathetic wood’ though is under threat. The council want to sell it off as it is apparently ‘surplus to requirements.’ Surplus to requirements for what? For humans? Because it certainly isn’t that, since plenty of humans walks their dog daily there and I use it often too and I’m apparently human too! And even if humans weren’t using it plenty of non-human life uses it.
But we have cast an illusion over ourselves that we are separate and the little sudden drop into a wood no human can touch but with their rubbish, is for ‘them’ the ‘others’ aka the wildlife and so the land attached to it is deemed ‘useless,’ we could apparently put it to ‘better use.’
And so I grieve for ‘the patheic wood’ A place that I feel I have earthed myself with because I live right next to it and as a man who doesn’t get out as much as some, as pathetic as it is it’s become something bigger to me. It’s a place where I feel like I ‘commune’ with the ‘others’ not because I talk to them (though I do sometimes) but because I sit there long enough and I am accepted into the landscape by the Jays and to my surprise once or twice now some woodpeckers and other birds.
The living things that don’t accept me as part of the landscape that looks at me oddly, they’re the humans.
I have gotten to know my local Jays and can identify them (though not 100% of the time) individually.
They have learnt to not fear my presence in the garden as long as I am not sitting or standing too close.
Due to not wanting to attract rats (I don’t want to be one of those people who demonises one animal just trying to survive but I live in a flat with a communal garden) the way I feed the Jays is what has essentially grown this ‘friendship.’ I only throw down a few nuts a time, so that they’re all gobbled up before any rats may become attracted. This means I watch out for the Jays and in turn, the Jays now watch out for me.
Of course, this means I have also accidentally ‘befriended’ some squirrels. And one of my favourite ‘friends’ is certainly the woodpigeon who occasionally comes on by for a few nuts, I have a soft spot for this particular woodpigeon, occasionally a juvenile woodpigeon turns up and my ‘friend’ chases him/her away.
A magpie watches the Jays from a distance but does not dare come into the garden when I’m there or at the window.
I watch out for the Jays, the Jays watch out for me, the magpies watch out for the Jays and I, in turn, watch out for the magpie, just to watch it, and to try not to encourage it to feed. Not because I don’t like magpies, I don’t hold the usual negative sentiments towards them like many people seem to. It’s more for the sake of caution.
Obviously, the Jays remain the main focus.
I am starting to feel a bit mixed about what I’m doing though, am I making the Jays too comfortable in a humans presence?
Am I risking them coming to rely on me? It’s been a tough year with acorns and so I suspect that is why I’m seeing them so much more than usual at the moment.
I know in the past they have periods where they seem to come a lot and it plays on my conscience only for them to not be seen for weeks and at times, even months. I then start thinking maybe they have left, maybe my time with the Jays is over but so far they have always returned.
And though I can’t say with 100% certainty, it appears to be mainly the same one. At the moment there are three, but generally speaking there is one particular Jay that comes almost all year round, with some gaps as mentioned above. That said I do hear the Jays all year round even when I don’t see them. It’s always a comfort to me to hear them when they are doing a disappearing act from the garden.