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GO WILDWITH ERIC PAYLOR.

IT'S not every day that you spot a jay on your garden bird feeders.

But Ron Firby had the pleasure of photographing this handsome individual on his allotment at Norton.

Jays are members of the crow family and are probably the most colourful crows with their pinkish-brown bodies and black, white and blue markings.

We don't see them too often because they do not imitate the blatant conspicuous habits of their cousins and are quite shy. You normally see them in the open only when they are flying from the cover of one tree to another.

Jays are readily identified in the air by their size and their rounded shape, while they have a distinctive white rump and black tail.

They are famous for their habit of burying acorns in the ground, or in holes in trees, with a view to retrieving them when times are hard.

They seem to remember exactly where the acorns are buried.

Jays have been recorded burying more than 1,000 acorns in a single autumn. In fact jays play a crucial role in the spread of oak woodlands.

They also take part in unusual gatherings in spring, which are known as "crow marriages". They gather in large groups in order to eye-up the opposite sex, with a view to pairing up for mating.

There are plenty of jays around us on Teesside, and they are happy in both conifers and deciduous woodland. However they are not usually spotted in coastal areas, mainly because of a lack of tree cover.

I've seen quite a few jays lately, during a few days' holiday in North-east Scotland.

I spent a bomb on bird food in the hope of attracting the rarely seen crested tits to the feeders outside my woodland lodge. In the event I had to settle for jays, great spotted woodpeckers, siskins, coal tits and chaffinches, plus our friends the red squirrels.

The siskins were relatively regular visitors to my feeders. They were a delight to see, being one of our smallest finches, with quite a few males still retaining their striking bright yellow and black breeding colouration.

Siskins have become increasingly common on Teesside over the last few years although they are normally spotted here during the winter months when they visit our garden feeders.

I may be fortunate to spot some of my Scottish siskins on my own garden feeders this winter although not the jays, which tend to be sedentary.

CAPTION(S):

Ron Firby spotted this jay at his Norton allotment

Lilian Pearce, from Stockton, sent in this picture of the 99 steps at Whitby

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Sep 20, 2017
Words:433
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