Judge not …

Ed Smith
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I don’t like blue jays very much. In fact, I have a profound dislike for them. It amounts to a fundamental hatred of the little beggars.

Actually, I don’t hate any living thing, although mosquitoes and jays come very close. To really hate any living thing is to show disrespect for the Creator of all things. In that sense, I’m with the Hindus. I often wonder why the hell the Creator would invent such things, but I think it must be one of those mysteries we’re not meant to understand.

Blue jays arouse my ire. My father, when he got upset beyond the ordinary, used to say that “It’s starting to get on my angore.” No one ever knew what Father’s angore was, or where it might be when you wanted to find it. No one in his right mind, of course, ever wanted to find that elusive “whatever” when it was upset, but I think it must be very similar to my ire.

When one dislikes something as intensely as I dislike those little blue feathered devils, there has to be a reason. Where jays are concerned, there are several reasons. These are not given in any particular order.

Sufficient to say, any one of them would be enough to get on Father’s angore and rouse my ire.

One of the most irritating of jay characteristics is their tendency to chatter. They natter away at each other incessantly, and anyone else who comes within earshot. While the language of p’d-off jays isn’t well understood, not even by me — and I’m something of an expert — I do recognize bad language when I hear it. One does not have to be an expert in the field of swearing to know when one is being sworn on. It’s all in the tone.

Experts in communication tell us that the tone of voice is the most effective factor when giving each other a message. You can say “Good doggie” to your faithful canine companion all day, but if your tone does not match the intent of your message, the poor animal will never know what you’re saying.

Likewise, if the tone you use to say to your other faithful — or otherwise — companion, “That was the best I’ve ever had!” is the same as when you’re muttering into your pillow, “I’ve had better,” chances are next time you’ll have to do it yourself. One has to be careful when commenting on a Jigg’s dinner.

Body language

The second most important factor in communicating is body language. Shouting “Nice doggie!” with your hand raised above your head with a stick in it will not send the right message. I’ve said as much as I’m going to about the other example.

Actual words in any language are the least effective factors in communicating with each other. But you already knew that.

Another terrible characteristic of jays is their attitude towards other birds. Jays are bullies of the worst kind. They won’t allow littler birds to share the feeding platforms. And they fight off every other kind of bird that dares invade their airspace.

They are costing me a fortune. They will not eat ordinary birdseed but instead insist on sunflower seeds or bits of roasted peanuts. If a birdhouse by mistake gets filled with a mixture of different types of bird food, the jays will systematically dig out every bit of feed they don’t like, and flip it over the edge of the feeder.

The sparrows and chickadees have figured it out, however. They wait until the jays have completed their campaign of terror and destruction and have taken off for greener pastures or drier seeds. Then they fly down from where they’ve been hiding and systematically feed on the smaller seed all over the deck. The jays, despite themselves, become unwitting accomplices in spreading food all around for smaller brethren.

Perhaps most devastating of all, certainly for OH, is that every year they systematically pick every single cherry off the cherry tree on our deck. We’ve tied tin plates to the branches so the noise and the brightness might frighten them off.

We’ve even covered the tree with fine netting. Sometimes we wait a little too long for the cherries to ripen and the jays get them all. OH does hate them — with a passion!

The outstanding thing about them is that they are probably the greediest of all God’s creatures. OH, son and I watched with delight one of the more outstanding examples of that just the other day.

Son took several slices of old bread and tore it into small pieces. Then he tossed them out onto the deck. The pieces were too big for sparrows but should have been about right for jays. We thought that would take the jay’s minds off the bird feeders.

Four jays went to work systematically. First they chased away all the smaller birds, then they landed on the deck and advanced on the bread pieces. That’s when it got interesting.

Each jay was just capable of picking up one piece of bread. Sometimes they could get two pieces inside their bills. But would they stop at that? Not on your life. They tried to cram more into their bills each time, but would succeed only in dropping what they already had there. They got more and more frustrated and more and more exasperated, but would they fly off with only an individual portion? Can the dog whisperer tell a great Dane from a poodle?

It was great fun to watch, but at the same time we realized we were watching the human race in microcosm. Individually and as nations, we try to cram more and more into our collective mouths, more than we can reasonably ever use, until the whole thing collapses in upon itself, economically and socially.

Who are we to be criticizing blue jays?

The pot calling the kettle black.

Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale.  His e-mail address is   edsmith@nf.sympatico.ca.

Geographic location: Springdale

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