By Steve Terr
Every morning has its share of routine chores: get-newspaper, retrieve-garbage-cans, check-weather, wash-breakfast-dishes, etc., etc., etc... But then, there are mornings when chores get interrupted by the force of an unexpected event… as recently happened to me on a November morning, not long ago.
I wake up on the early side. Still in automaton mode, as the last vaporous remnants of sleep slowly evaporate, I open the squeaky front door to my house. (The one I am supposed to oil someday) I step out into the crisp autumn air to fetch the daily paper dozing on the driveway and retrieve the empty garbage pail, patiently waiting by the side of the road. A lone blue jay hops by. Upon noticing me, it flies into one of the two large oak trees growing on my lawn and perches on a branch.
I continue to shuffle down the driveway and happen to notice a group of 6 jays, higher up and deeper within the fall foliage. While I bend over to pick up the paper, 4 more jays glide by and land on my lawn. As I follow their flight I notice a congregation of 13 of these colorful birds cavorting about the sunlit road in front of my house, sporting their strikingly beautiful blue-black-white plumage. An additional, larger, assemblage of jays is busy bustling about, investigating my neighbor’s driveway. For no apparent reason, with a sudden whirring of wings, this flock takes off. I follow their rushed flight over the roof tops of nearby houses. Continuing to gaze upward, as they disappear, I see a scattered spray of many small dark spots undulating in the hazy blue sky distance. As these specks fly closer they morph into a loose flock of, at least, 20 more jay birds.
The irresistible force that magnetically attracts this aerial invasion is the cornucopia of acorns hanging from the branches of two large oaks trees and strewn in abundance upon grass, driveway and road. With wings widespread they acrobatically wheel about, swoop and glide into the canopy of colorful leaves from which to harvest nuts. Others descend directly to ground to gorge themselves from the conveniently dispersed bounty. Many of the nuts have been crushed by cars or cracked open by squirrels. These are easy pickings for the horde of jays as they hop about.
During past sightings of jays, I have observed individuals eating acorns. Typically, if they are on the ground, they fly up with the nut in their beak and perch upon a bough. Once there, the acorn is held against the surface by their feet and hammered open by their strong black beaks and the contents are consumed. As this event unfolds, it surprises me to see many jays take an intact acorn in their beak. Then, with a simultaneous widening of their beak and deft upward toss of the head, entirely swallow whole the briefly suspended nut.
In this way jays can gather up and store a number of acorns in their throats and, at the same time, carry off one or two more in their beaks. Some acorns will immediately be eaten; some will be cached to be consumed in leaner times. This feeding frenzy forms a flapping flow of famished jays arriving, as others depart, loaded with nutritious cargo. I find myself transfixed within a gigantic bird feeder.
Later on, while lying upon my couch and ruminating upon how the normally sleepy morning had been jolted awake by the endless extravagance of energetic jays; helter-skelter everywhere hopping, walking, flying, up, down and about, continually arriving and departing. I surprised myself by the realization that I had not been conscious of how quiet this multitude of jays had been. During all the time I spent observing these otherwise famously raucous birds, I realized that only once or twice had I heard their well-known, loud, shrill and repetitive call. The scene before me had been so visually loud that it had drowned out the virtual silence.
Best of all, as I continued in this pensive mood, I re-lived this astonishing morning, which had brought me so much pleasure, and realized it was a direct benefit provided by my procrastinating nature. For the seasonal chore of raking up acorns had yet to be done. I am now firmly of the opinion that the acorn raking chore is a sin and the supposed sin of procrastination is a blessing. For what shall it profit a man to fill up garbage cans with acorns, if that act allows even a single blue jay to go hungry? Now, if I can only find that can of three-in-one oil, I’ll finally lubricate the front door…tomorrow.