Journal Entry from the Countryside: An Unusual Observation, Spotted Amidst the Steam of My Coffee | Written by Claire Stares
Although it is hard to resist the temptation to stay indoors and be comfortable, I make an effort to go outside into the garden most mornings. I enjoy breathing in the fresh air and if I am lucky, I can feel the gentle touch of the winter sun on my face. If the weather permits, I will sit peacefully and observe the birds. Sociable long-tailed tits, blue tits, blackbirds, and robins seem unbothered by my presence, but as the temperature drops, more timid species have become braver and come out from under the bushes to find food.
As I hold a cup of coffee to warm my hands, a small bird moves through the branches of the potted fir tree next to my chair. The tree, which was once adorned with festive decorations, is now covered in delicate spider webs. The webs are a source of food for both the spiders and their trapped prey. A type of bird called a dunnock, which usually hides under my bay tree, emerges from between two metal planters. It scurries around my feet, its wings and tail twitching nervously as it pecks at tiny seeds on the feathery seed heads of the self-sown Panicum capillare grass that grows between the paving stones on my patio.
I glance over to see a sparrowhawk flying above the garden and I am surprised. I am used to seeing pinkish wood pigeons sitting on the fence, so it takes me a moment to realize that the bird I just saw through the steam from my mug is different. It is a slim bird with a unique wing pattern – a turquoise blue patch with black markings – it is a jay! Despite living here for 27 years, we have never had a jay visit our garden before.
These animals are shy and prefer to live in the forest. They are cautious about entering gardens, even small ones like mine. Although they are known for their fondness of acorns – their scientific name, Garrulus glandarius, reflects this by meaning “talkative acorn-gatherer” – they also eat a diverse range of foods like other birds in the crow family. I believe this particular one has been drawn to our garden because of the extra walnuts and hazelnuts we put out for the squirrels during Christmas.
As I turn back, the jay startles and flies into my neighbor’s yard. By the time I reach the top of the fence to look over, all I can hear is the echoing sound of its sharp call while flying away.