A jay visits our gardens. With lockdown 3 here is a challenge.
Photograph the garden jay in good light, all aspects and details of plumage.
Is it the same jay who comes to the garden?
The breeding season is not far off. Will this bird find a mate and raise young here in our gardens?
Find where he spends the night.
Unlike the flock of jackdaw, he is solitary. Being a canny bird, he might have a cache of wizened fruit stashed away somewhere he can return to. He must be resourceful, self-reliant, resilient. It's a harsh life.
So whatever we feel about lockdown 3, I tell myself I have it easy compared to the jay. For thousands of years mankind struggled through the hardships of winter. And through recurrent pandemics without the hope of a vaccine. Full compliance now and there is hope with the coming of spring.
The jay is scavenging for food and I'm cosily indoors waiting for good light and willing him to come close into shot and pose for the camera. With Christmas chocolates for a diversion through garden-watch. City dwellers rarely notice the jay's striking plumages, says my Collins Bird Guide. I always pore over my own photographs and, this time, his moustache shows well. And the striation of crown feathers which he can raise when excited. Those beautiful turquoise feathers are his primary coverts. The male and female jay plumage is essentially the same. I know his squawky call but I don't know the song, a squeaky cluck. I'll listen carefully through spring.
Before lockdown 3, I ventured forth to see where fresh snow had fallen on the fells, and where it had not. And to consider the orographic cloud which forms over snow-clad fells and the pastel shades of sunlit cloud reflecting on snow. The Howgills in every aspect. Yesterday, the sun caught the wind turbines of Lambrigg Wind Farm so I can match photograph against the map.
Staying at home, there's garden-watch. And listening for bird song. February 14th is Saint Valentine's Day for birds too, so said the poet Chaucer. Back in the 14th century, before Climate Change, birds were embarking on song and the breeding season. So let's look for fine plumage and courtship song.