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River Road Ramblings 11/14

The season of good cheer, good food, including for some favored birds, and of yelling and waving at the bluejays and squirrels is here-oh joy.

In most recent years we have not seen the beautiful sky blue representatives of the jay family gobbling our (expensive) hulled sunflower seeds, which every creature from chipmunk to redpoll to evening grosbeak is happy with. Even the tiny finches, which cannot handle sunflower seeds with the hulls on, spread themselves out on our feeding area, a slanted metal roof covering the car, contentedly chewing the membrane off the seeds and eating the meat (no squabbling necessary!).

But while most birds take one or two seeds to eat or store, bluejays fill their crops (or whatever, I haven't been able to find out what their burglar sacks are like) while your back is turned for a second, fly off and dig holes to cache the seeds for a "rainy day." We have watched bluejays take seventeen whole corn kernels at once and are aghast at how many sunflower seeds must fit in there. I would buy some corn for them, but I don't need the 50 pound bag they come in.

Our bird feed purchasing agent hates bluejays for this propensity and capacity, but as John Eastman says in his excellent Birds of Forest, Yard, and Thicket, the same thieving scoundrel also is responsible for planting untold numbers of beech and oak forests following the glacier meltback of 10,000 years ago, and now after fires or clearcuts. Everyone appreciates oak trees, if only for their firewood potential. Of course that is not the birds' noble intention, but they forget or don't need all the acorns they stash in the fall.

The jay family, in our case in the Adirondacks the ravens, crows, bluejays and gray jays, is known for its intelligence. What inspired me to write this time was what seems to be an indication of something other than the fabled "bird brain."

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