By C.L. Beck
For the past six months, two Steller’s jays have visited our birdfeeder. If you’ve never seen a Steller’s jay, picture Groucho Mark. Give him a topknot, wings of Prussian blue, and instead of those bushy, black eyebrows, paint them white. When he talks, have his topknot stand on end. There you have it—transformation from Groucho to Steller’s jay.
We thought it was two males visiting our feeder. On Saturday, we discovered differently. They were making a racket, and I looked out to see Corky Pokey Pie, our dog, chasing one around the pine trees. Only it was a much smaller version. It turns out our two boys were a romantic male and female … and they’d hatched four chicks. Chicks which were now squawking and hopping all over the yard. None of them had learned to fly yet.
Enter CAT. He’s a feral feline, turned pet, with a hunting instinct that’s primal. I wish he would catch big, ugly mice with buckteeth and fleas. Instead he catches beautiful birds with Prussian blue feathers—when he gets the opportunity.
I grabbed him and locked him in the garage. He managed to escape three times … but that’s another story. The point is he was no longer out there—at that crucial point in time—chasing the fledglings that were hopping like little jumping beans all over my yard.
With our three pets stowed safely behind locked doors, I tried to help the fledglings. Mom and Dad Jay scolded and squawked at the babies to get back in the tree. The babies scolded and squawked at me for coming too close. When I’d try to herd them to safety, they’d run the other direction, fussing the whole way.
By evening, the chicks and I were worn out. One of them had wandered off and, for all I know, was lost. Two of them had made it back into the tree, but the fourth fledgling just couldn’t do it. He'd flap his wings and leap for the limb that promised safety. Try as he might, he'd fall short. His parents and I shouted encouragement, and he’d leap again. And again … and again. The poor little thing drooped with exhaustion as he sat on the fence rail.
The sun was setting; dusk was falling. My heart was breaking and I knew if he didn’t flutter into the tree before dark, he was in peril of losing his life …
Did he make it?
Or did CAT get loose again and the chick end up as a midnight snack?
Stay tuned for next week’s blog and find out!