Jays always seem like exotic birds to me. They’re pink! They have a crest! They have blue and black feathers! They look as if they belong in the sub-tropics and not here. How odd that their nearest relatives in the UK are the black Raven, the Carrion Crow, the Hooded Crow, the Jackdaw, the Chough and the Rook.
Forty years ago I saw a Jay and went home full of excitement to record it in my nature notebooks:
My Orkney guide, ‘A Comprehensive Field Guide to the Birds of Westray’, doesn’t list the Jay. It has entries for incredibly exotic brightly-coloured species such as Bee-eaters and Rollers but no Jays. Maybe that has something to do with their diet being predominantly acorns, as Oak woods in Orkney are scarcer than hen’s teeth; or is that Jay’s teeth? Forgetful Jays have been one of the most important ways of spreading Oaks. They go hand in hand, dependent upon one another.
The Jay’s scientific name is Garrulus glandarius. Garrulus means noisy and glandarius means acorns. It’s a noisy acorn-eater.
In the oak woods in Devon I spy a Jay. They’re secretive and skulking birds, often only glimpsed momentarily as they fly away. They are easier to see at this time of year as there are fewer leaves on the trees and they are busy trying to bury and hide vast quantities of acorns as a food store for later months. How tragic that the Grey Squirrels will find and eat much of their larder.
Today, forty years later, I go home full of excitement to record it in my blog.