Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency Year Three: Case File No. 04-108
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Where We Left Off:
The Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency encountered some spooky activity at the neighboring property. Gus investigated to see if a ghost moved a step ladder or if there was another explanation.
Blues in the Night (and Day)
As you may have noticed from our Instagram (@amberunmasked), the team has been trying to be kind to the wildlife and invite them into the yard by having some “bird” feeders (which the squirrels dismantle) and snack areas all around. The chipmunks have finally returned from hibernation and some baby squirrels are twitching around. We’ve also had a lot more birds enjoy the yard as intended.
Unfortunately that means Gus’ natural instincts kick in and he likes to stalk and chase them. So far this year, none were harmed. This is an improvement over last year. Maybe Gus is not as fast as he was last year. He does a tremendous amount of lying under the truck or on the trail compared to his more youthful always-on-the-go behavior last year.
As for the birds, there’s a mating pair of starlings in the chimney of the workshop now. They seem like a busy couple. Always out on short trips then zipping back to the nest. I’m not sure who is nesting in the burning bush hedges, but it’s also a hot spot. We’ve seen a pair of goldfinches that briefly stop on the wires going up the hill. The Cook spotted an indigo bunting — an experience to be appreciated, I’m sure. I was with Gus on the north trail one day and spotted two eastern towhees. There was also at least one red-breasted grosbeak feeding at the front porch feeder. Until this year when I started using Merlin ID from Cornell Labs, I never knew how many types of sparrows there are. Robins, woodpeckers, nuthatches, cardinals, crows, and blue jays a plenty as well.
Speaking of blue jays, their behavior came under suspicion one particular day while Gus and I were exploring. Everyone knows that blue jays are, shall we say, temperamental? They’re bold, quite loud, and have a reputation for dive bombing smaller animals. I’ve always been told to stay on their good side (if they have one).
Just because one of their sounds is a high-pitched infernal screech that sends a prickly wave down my neck, through my shoulder blades, and down my spine, doesn’t mean all their sounds are like that. Some sounds of cyanocitta cristata even sound disguised. I’ve personally mistaken them for hawk calls, but through the Merlin ID, I listened to more. There are a couple that sound like ducks. One sound is referred as their whisper song. The recording by Martha Fischer from 2009 (on the app) makes it clear that the blue jays are capable of more subtle conversations.
To be honest, most of the time the blue jays remind me of our neighbors down the street who have never spoken at a reasonable decibel in their entire lives. They yell everything. Absolutely everything. They are in fact, worse than the blue jays’ mightiest screeching call. You can imagine the unpleasant sensation I get when I hear them.
The neighborhood blue jays are more social than I expected. They don’t allow us to come too close to them, but they will drop down to grab a peanut and fly back up into the tree branches. They seem grateful for the treats. They’ve also taken to snacking in the fairy garden and haven’t vandalized anything there (I think it was someone else who knocked the roof of the fairy house down). The blue jays and crows like the skyscraping height of the pine tree in Gnome Grove.
Through all this observation, I had only seen the blue jays retrieve snacks in solo. Until, that is, this one day in May when they had a party. At peak, the party was six blue jays, I think. They moved enough that it was a bit hard to keep track. Four or five would gather on the ground at one time in close proximity. Gus figured something had to be going on. A deal being made, perhaps. We hadn’t been informed of any organized crime within the blue jay community before, so what were they up to?
Apologies as usual for my blurry surveillance photos. Zooming in without use of a tripod means photos are not going to be professional and sharp. I’m always following Gus so setting up a tripod seems cumbersome. I’ve been toting the gorilla-arm mini tripod around, but don’t end up with much use for it except when I want to take selfies.
Later on, Gus relayed to Oliver what we observed. He put the word out to the birds in the burning bushes (I think they’re finches). We had to wait for signals to come back and decipher what they meant. Were the blue jays simply having a party? Were they planning something criminal? What did it mean that there were so many of them in the yard?
Oliver did more digging into the blue jay community and their history. As a common bird of this area, they’ve been around just about forever. They don’t have the nicest of reputations. Aggressive. Assertive. Trickster god. Who knows how much of what you read on the internet is true? No one here has ever seen the blue jays stealing per se. They gathered because they took advantage of someone else’s heist which didn’t totally pan out. The someone else is likely Parker the Squirrel or one of the others. The bird seed cake was removed from the feeder yet again. It was moved across the yard a considerable distance until it was near the fire access trail. Oliver said this makes the blue jays more innocent and if they had to be considered criminals, it would looting to have a hearty meal. Bad, but not terribly bad.