Back to Nature (Published on - March 1, 2007)
Stormy the Blue Jay
A dreadful storm tumbled over the peaks of Lookout Mountain bearing down upon the unsuspecting valley below. Once finding its way into the deep gorge of the valley, there was little chance of its escape.

Like the hand of an angry god, the storm plucked ancient oaks from the ground as if they were so many pickup sticks. The winds raged for a frightening long time tossing roof shingles, sheds, chicken pens, garden furniture and flower pots. Inexhaustible lightning bolts stabbed at the rain soaked ground in rapid succession.

Then something unexplainable happened. I will never forget that moment. An unnatural, inexplicable calm befell the valley. The sky turned an eerie shade of grayish-yellow green. Neighbors trooped out into the streets … eyes upward upon the impending skies. It was in these supernatural moments that followed when the storm sucked in one last deep horrible breath and assembled itself while recouping all the forces of nature it could muster. Abruptly a shudder of lightning gashed the sky with blinding light, then proceeded to split a large oak in half right down to the ground. Screams swiftly followed. Hysterical children ran into the streets crying hysterically. Near the base of the old oak a woman lay still holding a bouquet of scorched roses and a pair of burnt scissors.

Dazed neighbors ran to and fro in the stormy streets and stood as if frozen, searching for purpose and reason. Their yells mixed with the howling winds, pounding rains, slams of thunder and staccato lightning as if Modest Mussorgsky had composed the arrangement himself. This truly was like a “A Night on the Bare Mountain.”

Soon an ambulance came and took away the mother of five, a friend who’d been there for many and a good neighbor to all. The silence that followed doused dreams and filled hearts with weariness. As I walked back home, the rearranged landscape appeared foreign, shattered and unfamiliar. I stepped over fallen branches and debris. Then I observed something move along my path. In the shelter of upturned roots and branches a small grayish fledgling huddled against the rain. Gently I reached down and cupped the baby Blue Jay in my hands. It shivered, but did not resist.

Wrapping my sweater around its tiny, frail body I carried it indoors. After a quick check, my mother announced, “nothing appears to be broken.” She dried the little bird off and placed him on a thick, terry towel in a box with a warm, light overhead. Carefully mixing a small amount of chick feed, she had me administer baby his first meal through an eyedropper. The fledgling quickly got onto the idea and began bobbing his head up and down, with mouth open. Appropriately we named him Stormy.

Stormy grew up to be a spoiled little brat that charmed his way into everyone’s hearts and arms. My mom used to say, “But oh, what a world it’d be without Stormy.” At the age of 9 years old, I became surrogate mommy to Stormy. I did my best to teach him how to fly and how to dig for worms and grubs. He’d follow me through the house and out into the garden. He’d chatter and complain from the low branches of the plum tree or wobble back and forth on the clothesline. As time went on he fraternized and squabbled with others of his own kind. With each day he ventured a little farther from home until the day came when he didn’t return home at all. We all missed Stormy very much, but at the same time we were glad Stormy had earned his independence.

There are many different varieties and colors of Jays in North America, which are of the same family as crows, Corvidae. There is the Scrub Jay, Gray-Breasted Jay, Pinyon Jay, Blue Jay, Steller’s Jay, Gray Jay, Clark’s Nutcracker, Brown Jay, and the rarely seen, Green Jay. The word Jay is based on the Latin word “gaia” or “gaea” connected with Mother Earth. Native Americans mythology believed that the Jay had the ability to move back and forth between heaven and earth collecting those energies.

Indeed, the Blue Jay is exceptionally energetic and has at times won him the reputation of being an aggressive bully. This can be true, but this survivor is a model parent, with both parents tending their brood. Their aggressive behavior is often associated with this parental instinct. This lesson is quickly learned by anyone who has ventured too close to a Blue Jay’s nest.

Although the Blue Jay’s territory is spreading farther northwest, they are most commonly seen year-round in the northeast and southeast. Although they migrate in large flocks, some do remain behind living in city parks, suburbs, and woodlands. Although I can’t prove they are the same birds, I have Blue Jays that nest in the same nest every year in my garden.

The boisterous, noisy Blue Jay loves to mimic other birds but the characteristic sound they make is, “Queedle, Queedle, Queedle”, “Thief, Thief” and “Jaaaye.” You will often see Blue Jays stashing food in their favorite hiding places, then staunchly guarding these hoards against intruders, including squirrels and family pets.

In Florida we experience an increase in population of the Blue Jay in the winter months, as they migrate to our warmer climate. Our gardens are suddenly alive with noise and backyard skirmishes, with streaks of blue darting in the trees, bathing in our bird baths and dominating our feeders. Some call the Blue Jay a nuisance bird, “but oh, what a world it’d be without them!”

Karen can be reached at

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