I just helped a friend to produce a rather late edition of his company calendar for 2022. We’d been working on it for a good hour when we spotted the start date – January 2021! We’d been meticulous in making sure the photos were right, the company logo was in the correct place and all fonts were standardised but, somehow, we’d missed the most important detail which, if we had not spotted it, would have rendered the whole project a nonsense.
And we certainly didn’t need fifty obsolete calendars to remind us of 2021 for obvious reasons – covid and its implications, rising prices and supply chain issues to name but a few but sufficient reasons for us to want to forget that year. Even nature had its own unique problems in 2021. For example, the jay is looking back on the last few months with particular unease…
By means of introduction, I’m a crow really but I’m the smaller, good-looking one with a bright blue flash on my wings and a fancy scientific name. You’ll often see me knocking about in oak woodland because I love acorns. I do eat other things when they’re available, like fruit, bats, and other young birds and their eggs – sorry – but that’s life in the natural world. In the Autumn, I collect thousands of acorns which I carry off to bury in the ground. I can remember where I cache most of them so, in the winter and spring when food is scarce, I can dig them up and eat them.
In 2020, nature had something called a ‘mast year’ which is when, every five to ten years, the oak trees produce lots of acorns, so many that, when they fall, they carpet the ground and you can’t walk under the trees without stepping on them. It was fantastic! I collected loads. There was even enough for those pesky grey squirrels, and a few nuts probably survived to grow new oak trees. I can carry around eight in my crop at any one time so I was busy hoovering them up and stashing them away. At Christmas, I had a right feast. The trouble is that ‘mast years’ are often followed by years when the trees are considerably less productive. Now I know you had problems of your own in 2021 but so did I – no acorns! What a disaster! A classic disruption of the nutty supply chain and no fruit, young birds or eggs to replace my winter diet.
Anyhow, we birds are nothing if not adaptable so if our normal supply chain fails, we look elsewhere, and that elsewhere turns out to be your garden. On my frequent foraging trips, I sometimes have a browse around your little plots of land and I’ve discovered another source of food which you call ‘peanuts’. I’ve seen other birds nibbling on them but, frankly, I prefer them whole, so if you would leave a few out of those feeders for me, I would be very grateful. Obviously, they’re not as big as acorns but, as you folks say, ‘beggars can’t be choosers’.
With your help, I might get through the worst of the cold weather. In return, I’ll give you a flash of my beautiful blue wings and white rump to make your day. ‘Quid pro quo’, I think you call it.
I am a bit shy but do keep any eye out for me. Maybe, I’ll see you around.