Nuts in October?
It’s not just families with children who will be gathering seeds this weekend, as part of Seed Gathering Sunday, lots of garden wildlife will be at it too. One of our more secretive garden birds, the Jay, is busy gathering seeds for the coming winter. The BTO needs your help recording the comings and goings of this beautiful bird as part of Garden BirdWatch.
Autumn is upon us and the nights are drawing in. We are getting ready for the winter months and so too are our garden birds. At this time of year, Jays become a much more obvious garden resident as they become more active in the run up to winter. These beautiful birds, with their raucous calls, are members of the crow family but are more garish in their appearance. In October they are busy preparing for the coming winter, collecting hundreds of acorns and other seeds. These are buried as a food store to get them through the lean winter months. Their ability to memorise the locations of all these items is one of the wonders of the avian world.
“Jays are often overlooked because of their secretive nature, but autumn is the perfect time to observe these birds as they get ready for the winter. People are often amazed when they get a good look at them, as their plumage is a beautiful mixture of orange, pink, black and electric blue,” says Mike Toms, Garden BirdWatch organiser. “It’s not only Jays that are making the most of this seasonal harvest, voles and the diminutive Coal Tit will also be cashing in on the abundance of wild seeds.”
There are about 160,000 pairs of Jays in the UK. Females lay 4-5 eggs and both sexes will incubate them for about 18 days. Jays normally start breeding when they are 2 years old. The oldest recorded individual was 16 years and 9 months old.
Seed Gathering Sunday is organised by the Tree Council and happens on the second Sunday in October and is a good way to get your children outdoors and taking part in a great initiative. [ For more about Seed Gathering Sunday visit http://www.treecouncil.org.uk ]. Why not also encourage them to enjoy and record the birds in their gardens by helping them take part in the BTO/CJ Garden BirdWatch scheme. By doing this you will be adding to our understanding of British birds and opening up the door for your children to the amazing natural world.
The BTO/CJ Garden BirdWatch scheme needs people to record the occurrence of Jays and other birds in their gardens. The survey has been running its since 1995 and has highlighted changes in the use of the UK’s gardens by different bird species. Some 16,500 participants currently take part in Garden BirdWatch and send in simple weekly records of the bird species using their gardens. To receive a free information pack, phone on 01842 750050 or write to GBW, Room 30, British Trust for Ornithology, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk IP24 2PU.
NB Its not just Jays which store food, a recent correspondent was telling me that feor the last week or so he had seen Nuthatches burying peanuts in their lawn. Fatbirder.