Bird's Eye View of Bute

The Jay

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(5) Jay

 

 

The Jay

Over a year ago I brought to your attention about the arrival of quite a few 'Jays' to our Island, and I promised you that I would do my best to get you a photo of one if I could, well here you are as promised, albeit a bit late.

Now, believe it or not, this colourful bird is a member of the 'Crow' family!


There have been from time to time one or two Jays on Bute, but were seldom heard or seen, and it’s possible that they were passing through
There was a pair of them feeding on some carrion in a field at the Kirk Dam a few years ago, but by the time I was informed about their whereabouts, they were gone, but the following year there were many arrivals with the bulk of the taking up residence in Mount Stuart grounds. I say the bulk of them, but in fact there was between six and eight that I counted, with the others moving to other wooded areas around Bute in one's and two's. There was even a pair in the Skippers Woods so you may have heard them but did not know what they were?

They are more often heard rather than seen as they like to keep high up in the canopy of trees, and their preferred trees are 'Oak' as that is their main diet, although they eat a great variety of foods. They are responsible for the large scale dispersal of acorns in the autumn, probably involving several thousand acorns per bird. This helps sustain the birds, and is also vital for the future survival of oak woods, as they hide excess acorns underground to be retrieved at a later date, and the one’s that they don't find will possibly germinate in the spring, so they are more of a help than a hindrance as once was thought when they were persecuted many years ago, but this was because they, like the Magpie, eat nestlings in the spring.

Jays are absent from the northern and southern counties in Scotland, (so the good book says, 1998) but occur in a band from Argyll to the east coast, this I can agree with as each time that I do the West Highland Way, I see many of them at around the Balmaha area, and more as I travel west, but huge movements of them were recorded in the autumn of 1983 because of the widespread failure of the acorn crop, both in Britain and the continent. The same scenario in a smaller scale may have been responsible for the arrival of them on Bute at the same time as the Redwings and Fieldfares? The Redwings and Fieldfare went back from whence they came, but the Jays stayed put, which you can't blame them as there are plenty of oak trees here to supply them all winter with hidden acorns, plus other foods that take their fancy.
Their call is a skraaak-skraaak, which is loud and raucous.
Flight pattern is undulating.
A pinkish brown body, and white and blue wing patches that are easily seen when at rest, and when in flight, look out for the white rump which is easily seen as they will be flying away from you. They are about the same size as a jackdaw, but have broader rounded wings that make their flight very quiet, so quiet that if you had your eyes shut, one could pass you quiet close and you would not hear it.

They are lovely birds, and although they like acorns, they enjoyed the bits of bread that I put down to them.

First published in the Buteman 07-07-2006,

Norrie Mulholland




 


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