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Creek Running North
August 13, 2003
I ate breakfast in the garden this morning, standing as still as I could so that the jays wouldn't notice me. There were three of them, I think, or four, scrub jays, Aphelocoma californica.
One hopped along the ridgeline of the shed roof, dropped to the birdbath, and took four long slurps, tilting his head back to swallow. Sated, he climbed the rebar hop helix from the inside, two rungs at a time. Another landed on the rough bamboo trellis I'd tied together for the pole beans, holding something down with her foot to peck at it desultorily. A third assumed a post on the chain link just above the suet feeder, singing loudly. The maybe fourth - unless it was the first - came out of the oak to hop back and forth along the shed roof.
And then metal spoon tapped ceramic bowl
and all the birds froze, eyeing me.
Deciding I wasn't a significant threat, they warily and ostentatiously went about their business, slowly edging toward the property line, pecking at an imagined seed here and there on the way.
I've seen precisely the same affect a number of times from teenaged humans who've invaded some marginally inappropriate space like a children's playground. Balancing solo standing at teeter-totter fulcrum, left foot in the toddler swing seat, striding up the slide, hollered gales of laughter...
...and then a parent comes in with a three-year-old. And then it's like, we're all, OK, we'll leave, or whatever. But you don't scare us. We were leaving anyway. This place blows.
Posted by Chris Clarke at August 13, 2003 12:10 PM
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Our name for Western Scrub-Jays is "Thatchers"--a reference to the Iron Lady (brassy and thought herself a sovereign...). But I like your analogy too. These sound definitely like immature scrub jays.