Once upon a time there was a man and his wife that were working in their garden, when they unknowingly, through their eager actions to create a lovely landscape, did a horrible thing… and were faced with the realization that it would be difficult to make good with the disaster that faced them… What should they do? Throw in the towel, and try to forget the murderous actions somehow? This is the story of a blue jay that wouldn’t give up…
I know that some people aren’t super fond of blue jays… they make a mess at the bird feeders as their ‘gang’ seems to show up together and scatter the seed to the ground, but ever since a summer, long ago, my feelings toward blue jays have drastically changed!
The man and his wife, were my husband and me. We were trying to create a lovely landscape design in the front of our former house. The previous owners had planted a couple of arborvitae bushes that were planted in very awkward spots in the front of the house and were in horrible shape.
This pictures shows the landscape after it was all done, so you will need to try to imagine for a second…
oh wait, here’s a picture of the house from the other side that shows just what we were dealing with:
It went something like this…
Yep, one spring morning my husband, upon my instruction, (I fully share the responsibility of our murderous actions) got out the chainsaw and chopped the overgrown, poorly placed, arborvitae down.
He then efficiently got the tractor and dragged the huge bush/tree across the front of the yard, over the driveway, dragging it around the shed and into the pasture beyond, and finally shoved it in the wood pile.
While he was doing that, I was inside the house tending to some things, when suddenly he came into the house, his face looking very solemn and said, “I’m not sure if I should tell you this or not.”
Argh! I hate those words… once someone says that, of course you must know, right?
“What?” I said, now totally expecting the very worse.
“Just come with me” he said, “I want to show you something bad.”
Oh boy, taking a deep breath and following him out to behind the shed, he again started to explain. It was obvious he was feeling very guilty and bad, even though neither of us had realized what we had done until it was too late…
He pointed. “There.” he said.
And there it was…
“Oh no…” my voice cracked a tiny bit, as I tried not to cry. I could see how badly my husband felt for his actions and knew that I must be strong for his sake.
A tiny baby bird, no feathers yet, just bare pink skin, hanging over the branch of the arborvitae that had just been through a rough trip across several acres of land. Although the baby bird was not in a nest, instead just sprawled out on the branch, it was still alive.
I instinctively scooped it up and made a ‘nest’ for it in the front of my t-shirt, holding the bottom of my shirt up a bit to create a place to set it.
Then I said, “Wait… there must be more birds.”
We found 4 total baby birds, all sprawled throughout the tree branches, having been dumped out of their nest through the horrible ride they experienced, but amazingly all still alive.
My husband just looked at me, now with 4 feather-less birds in my shirt, and said, “What are you possibly going to do with them? You won’t be able to keep them alive.”
I thought for a minute, and knew he was right. I’ve tried a few times before to nurse a bird back to health and it didn’t work… these 4 birds were so young, that I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep these ones alive very long at all. I didn’t even know what kind of birds they were, what if they were Starlings? I wouldn’t want to encourage more Starlings! For a second, I had the thought pass through my mind, should we just finish them off, putting them out of their misery… featherless baby birds look so pathetic anyways… it would be so much easier, quicker and no worrying about if they’re ok… but I thought, no way could I do that… I had to try… pathetic looking or not.
“Wait… these birds fell out of a nest. Where’s the nest?” I said as it suddenly dawned on me.
(here’s a picture of a blue jay family happy that we aren’t in charge of the landscape where they live!) picture source
We found the nest tucked in the crotch of the tree, in what would have been a very safe, secure spot if it weren’t for the fact that we chopped down the entire tree.
“Ok, now what?” my husband looked at me bewildered.
“Cut the nest out of the tree.”
He carefully cut the branches about a foot below and above the nest, with the nest securely in the tree branch crotch, but still, it was now just a 2 foot chunk of wood with only a nest. There was none of the original foliage around the nest, where the mother had built the nest, after the father blue jay would have traveled far and wide bringing her the proper materials for it. From what they had so consciously planned to be a wonderfully safe harbor to bring up their family, to what it looked like now, were two different worlds. But still, we had to try.
So off we went… me still carrying the 4 pink birds in the front of my shirt, and my husband carrying the sawed off stump of a branch with the nest still attached. Then back around to the front corner of the house. Now just a pile of rocks and leftover sawdust from the downed tree and a wide stump showing the remnants of what we had done.
“Where should I put it?” he asked me.
I directed him to set it as close to the original stump. He shoved it in the ground, piling the rocks around the base of the sawed off branch trying to keep it securely upright.
I placed the 4 baby birds inside the nest. I’d love to say they now seemed safe and secure, but it was actually the total opposite of that. There now was no shade, so these tiny birds, with not even a single feather to protect their skin, were totally exposed to the full southern sun shining down on them… and I thought, what about when it rains? or what if the neighbor’s cat shows up? or a hawk or… so many enemies, there’s no way these birds will make it through the day… And what about their mother? How will she ever find them? and won’t she abandon them anyway? We’ve touched them, and her nest, and moved it all, she won’t even be able to recognize it, or them, as her own.
But I must try… so pushing those buckets of horrible thoughts from my brain, I said, “Ok, now let’s get away.” Trying not to say aloud, “let’s leave them abandoned to the world to wipe their life away in a minute, and finish the job we started”
He went back to his work behind the shed. I went back inside the house. Placing myself inside the library, standing far enough away from the window, so as to hopefully not scare off the mother bird, and I waited, standing totally still.
I couldn’t believe it! Within a few minutes, a blue jay flew in and was hopping around on the ground around the nest. I wasn’t sure if she was there to kill the baby birds, or was their mother trying to figure out what happened. She then fluttered up to the nest, and it was obvious that she was their mother. She promptly nestled herself on them, spreading her wings to cover them. And soon, the father blue jay joined the reunion of the new location and continued his task of bringing food to the family while she warmed and kept the baby birds safe.
After that, we watched carefully from the library window, checking on them frequently throughout the days ahead as she continued to care for her brood. On one rainy day in particular, I remember seeing her wings were especially spread across the nest with repelling protection, herself taking the brunt of the water and shedding it away from the growing birds beneath her. It was a touching site, to see how a bird with a tiny brain, the size of the tip of my little finger, still has the will and desire to so deeply care for her babies, totally willing to sacrifice herself to do so.
Then one day, we watched as all 4 baby birds, now with those tell-tale bright blue feathers of their own, hopped out of the nest, being encouraged by their parents, and were gone. The parents did their job, now the babies, no longer babies, were ready to face the world on their own, strong and fully grown and ready to go make nests of their own.
Once I was totally sure the blue jays had all abandoned the nest, I carefully removed it from the branch and placed it inside a cloche to be saved with memories attached to not give up, no matter how pathetic things look, and be encouraged by the inner strength and perseverance of that little Blue Jay to provide for her family.
So, in honor of Mother’s Day, here’s to all the mother ‘Blue Jays’ out there, that have shown true strength, by sacrificing their personal comfort and desires for the good and well being of their children to raise them to go out and make nests of their own.
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