Two things made me write this story of a blue Jay. I just finished reading one of Mark Twain’s great short stories, the tale of the blue jaywho couldn’t figure out where his acorn went when he dropped it into a hole on the roof of a nearby cabin. Next, I read a report by the University of California stating that Rachel Carson was last week honored by College Eight at UC Santa Cruz when they named the place after her. The famous conservationist who played a large part in the banning of DDT gained her Masters Degree at John Hopkins University and the mascot of that University is the Blue Jay.

So it was rather apt that what follows is my own recent experience with ablue jay. As I do most days after work, I take a few minutes to check the magical world of my back yard. We have birdbaths and feeders with sunflower seeds and suet. I use the term ‘magical’ because a whole different community from my own is taking place inches from my office.

A story of a magical few minutes that took place out back

Most evenings the whole area is filled with the usual suspects… birds and squirrels who, like humans, are going about their day hunting, gathering and squabbling as they get ready for the night.

Thinking about the time I saw one of the squirrels sneaking away from the others with a peanut I tossed in his mouth, when, astonishingly…he tripped! I swear. He actually tripped. I’d never seen such a thing. Animals, on their own, don’t trip. Do they?

Yes, animals do trip

It's just that they are able to make it look like they meant to. Hoping to see some such magic as the tripping squirrel, I keep a few peanuts in my pocket.

I opened the deck door and began to toss them to whatever was looking for a special treat. Ablue jay happened to be flying by and when he saw that peanut land on deck he ducked his right wing like a falcon would do, cut power and dropped onto the deck a foot from his goal and looked at me.

Blue jays are beautifully marked, with a thin black mask under a magnificent blue crest. The males are splendid looking brigands with an irritating screech.

They also take on the role of the back yard muscle the squawking blue jay (until a cat wanders buy). Well then, after assuring himself that I was no threat, he hopped over and claimed his peanut and took off for a more private place to work on his snack. Birds, because they have wings instead of hands (that's a tradeoff I'd consider), hold the seed or, in this case, the peanut, between their feet and peck it until it opens and gives up its treasure. I watched as he flew happily to a nearby small evergreen just a few hundred feet from the deck. He landed on a limb about half way up the tree where he busied himself getting everything situated.

He looked around to see that all was quiet and it was safe for him to concentrate fully on getting that peanut out of its shell and into in his belly. Then, bending to his task I saw his head bobbing up and down as he pecked. Peck, peck, peck, peck... baloooie! the peanut, shell intact, shot out from his hold on it and went between his legs landing about two feet behind him and down on the ground. Did you ever see a blue jay bend over and look between its legs? I have. Then, realizing he may have an unwanted audience, he looked up, first at me, as if to say "What the heck???" Stunned that such a totally unexpected and exceptional occurrence should have happened to him he took a few seconds to rearrange his dignity, pretending all along that “What?

Peanut? What are you talking about? I haven’t a clue what you are talking about.” And so on. Once he was sure I, at least, wasn’t going to start laughing, he then hopped down, limb to limb trying to act nonchalant like "Oh my goodness…hey, look I found a peanut! Yeah, right here on the ground... now where the heck did that come from?” This little farce, I suppose, was put on in case other blue jays had seen this embarrassing affair and were laughing behind their pinfeathers. Magical.

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