Country mouse on jays

Two trees dominate the view from our kitchen: an ash and an oak. The ash has already lost all of its leaves like the oak, it is the last of our natives to burst into leaf in spring, but, remarkably, is always the first to shed them. Our oak is attracting huge numbers of pigeons which feed on the fallen acorns, as do a pair of jays. I adore jays. They have often been called, not unfairly, Britain’s bird of paradise with their pink bodies, black moustache, white rump and, of course, their striking azure and black primary feathers.

Jays bury the acorns up to 100 a day memorising their location for future use in the spring. A remarkable feat from one of the world’s most intelligent birds, but they do not remember them all and, in forgetting the odd few, are responsible for the planting of thousands of oak trees a year.

The jay, however, does have a darker side; it occasionally takes eggs and kills small birds, but is nothing compared to the magpie. Perhaps, in the age of global warming, countrymen should stop persecuting this delightful bird and celebrate it for the trees it plants.