Column: Rowdy jays issue raucous seasonal reminder

  • Micki Colbeck. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

  • ** FILE --- HOLD FOR RELEASE UNTIL 1 p.m. EDT Wednesday May 16, 2007 ** A blue jay is shown on the ground in South Easton, Mass. in this 2004 file photo. Birds that had been the mainstays of suburban skies - including the robins of spring, the bluebirds of happiness and especially the scavenging crows - have been decimated by West Nile Virus, a new study has found. Only the blue jay and house wrens bounced back in 2005. The research, published Thursday May 17, 2007 in the journal Nature, quantified what had been known in anecdotes by comparing 26 years of bird breeding surveys. (AP Photo/ Robert E. Klein) AP — Robert E. Klein

For the Valley News
Published: 10/30/2021 10:20:12 PM
Modified: 10/30/2021 10:20:12 PM

Bounding across the frosty pale green early morning fields with two little brown dogs — the LBDs — the girls and I are confused by many of the little brown birds — LBBs to birdwatchers — gleaning insects, seeds or fruits on their journey south.

Unless we spy the patch of yellow on the yellow-rump warblers or the rusty crowns on flocks of little chipping sparrows or see the white bib and cap of the white-throated sparrow or the familiar streaky breast and freckle of our ubiquitous song sparrow, we will mark it down as just an LBB.

No longer does the soft warbling of colorful males fill the morning air, but rather the raucous screams of the large-chested blue-and-white jays, corvids that remind me of teenagers gone off to camp, grouping up, arguing, flying with purpose straight across the sky from one tree to another in their distinctive heavy-body style. Called the policemen of birds, they will readily alert the community of any intruder, be it a sharp-shinned hawk near the bird feeder or an intrepid photographer stealthily creeping up for a closer shot.

We know that when we hear the blue jays calling it is almost time to put out the feeders and call in the chickadees, nuthatches, finches and titmice.

It is time to clean up the sunroom and carry in the houseplants. The jades and figs have put on weight, as they do every summer, reminding me of the importance of core work. The geraniums must go down to the basement window, where they somehow manage to live with almost no care. The succulents finally get to come indoors, where they recover from a summer of too much water.

The jays also remind me it is time to bathe my eyes in the reds of the Virginia creeper and the yellow greens of the hayfields, for soon all will be white and gray.

It is time to breathe deeply into the face of any flowers still blooming in the yard, hoping to carry that memory through the drought of winter’s smells.

Trading in a daily swim across a clear, clean and always cold pond, with loons nearby, for laps across the local indoor pool puts me in a funk until the jays remind me to smile.

For soon the LBDs and I will be skiing across those same fields with cold rosy cheeks to the encouragement of the winter birds who never left.

Micki Colbeck, of Strafford, is an artist, a conservation biologist and a member of the Strafford Conservation Commission. Write to her at

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