Tag Archives: Jay

January 2019: Review

Patch Summary:

I didn’t write a review for December as my birding was limited somewhat by the arrival of my son. In January, the nature of birding has also changed: short trips rather than long patch walks are now modus operandi. I made 10 patch visits during January and recorded a total of 65 species of birds. As it is January, they were all year ticks (obvs!), but no patch life ticks.

Highlights were:

  • Re-finding the female Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (the one I first found in november last year) about 200 metres south of where I first found it.
  • Finding an interesting Chiffchaff by the stables on 25 January. My initial instinct was ‘Siberian’ (tristis) but perhaps more likely to be abientus race or even just an ‘interesting’ collybita.
  • Connecting with one of Tony’s first winter Caspian Gull on Alex on 19 Jan.
  • Finding Firecrest and Treecreeper in Bush Wood in two short trips on 2 Jan and 4 Jan respectively.
  • Record numbers (11 for me) of Reed Bunting on the deck in the birches in SSSI on 20 Jan.
  • Having some quality time with Little Owl in one of Copses on 20 Jan until a Grey Squirrel decided to jump almost on top of it.

Lowlights were:

  • Realising the Chiffchaff was probably not a ‘Siberian’ despite some initial excitement.

Highlights from elsewhere were:

  • Having a close encounter with a Sparrowhawk and an unfortunate Feral Pigeon on my next-door-neighbour’s door-step (see photo below).
  • Connecting again, this side of the New Year, with the regular wintering, now 5th calendar year Caspian Gull on the hyper-local, but just off-patch, Eagle Pond in Snaresbrook.
  • Finding Bearded Tit (Reedling), a local scarcity, at Dorney Wetlands near Maidenhead.

My birding month in five pictures:


One of Tony’s 1st Winter Caspian Gulls on Alex


Jay in Old Sewage Works


The ‘interesting’ Chiffchaff


Red Kite over the Jubilee River


Sparrowhawk and pigeon right outside my house

A Big British Birding Year: Part II

My journey to photograph as many species of British birds in one year as possible took me to ancient London woodland yesterday.

Queen's Wood

Queen’s Wood in Haringey is small – around 52 acres – but important. It is a recognised wildlife hotspot in the capital and contains rare species of tree (I shall perhaps return in warmer months and write more about these) and insect as well as supporting large numbers of birds.

Queen’s Wood is a fragment from a much larger wood that used to cover much of Northern London and Essex and it may be directly descended from the truly ancient Wildwood that covered most of Britain following the last Ice Age.

It is allowed to grow in a relatively unrestricted manner, although there is some tending using some surprisingly traditional methods to carry the logs:


But, I went to photograph birds. I was pleased to add four new species to my 2014 list:

Coal Tit (Periparus ater)

Coal Tit (Periparus ater)

Eurasian Nuthatch (Sitta europaea)

Nuthatch (Sitta europaea)

Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius)

Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius)

… and finally, I photographed one of the three species of Woodpecker known to reside in the Wood (the same bird is pictured twice below, amalgamated to show different aspects, as it was always partially obscured – an occupational hazard when photographing birds in woods):

Great-spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major)

Great-spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major)

There were other birds there that are already on my list from last weekend including an exceptionally tame Robin:

Robin (Erithacus rubecula)

Robin (Erithacus rubecula)

… and, lastly, I couldn’t resist this shot of a Grey Squirrel:

Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)

Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)

After two weekends into the year, my total stands at 31.

Eurasian Jay

I’m quite fond of the composition of this shot of a Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius) as it reminds me of Japanese art. For this reason, I didn’t crop it further.

As you can see, the Jay is beautifully coloured and marked. It is undoubtedly the most exotic looking of the British corvids (with the potential exception of the rare scarlet-beaked Chough). The Corvidae family also includes the commonly seen crows, magpies, rooks, and jackdaws. Some people see the corvids as aggressive, scavengers, thieves, noisy, pests, and even as symbols of evil. They can certainly be some of these things, but I am a huge fan. Corvids are probably the most intelligent bird family in existence…

Sequential tool use

…One type of crow has even been examined as the only bird species known to exhibit sequential tool use (i.e. using a tool to obtain or shape another tool thus displaying forethought and planning going well beyond basic animal instincts). Just check out this video of a crow using a stick to get a longer stick and then again to get a longer stick still so that it can reach food – I can think of plenty of humans who would be flummoxed by that challenge! I may have written that in jest, but some believe that Corvids display intelligence beyond almost any other animal except humans.


Another example of their intelligence is that Corvids are also excellent mimics. The Jay may have a loud rasping call of its own but it can also accurately mimic a number of other bird species. It has even been known to attack raptors such as Tawny Owls whilst precisely mimicking their calls. Just imagine how freaky that would be for the Tawny Owl – having a colourful bird flying at it loudly repeating what it had just been saying in precise replication of its voice?! In this video, you can watch the Jay mimic an angry cat – brilliant!

If you want to read more about the Jay in symbolism and life then this blog post is excellent. But, suffice to say, Jays and the Corvids in general are amazing creatures that deserve our respect.


Since posting this blog, I have now found an even more incredible video of a crow displaying tool-use intelligence. Just watch what happens when this bird can’t quite get its stick to pick up the worm … it only goes and bends the stick into a hook!