When we first moved to our house in Anchorage a little over a year ago, I was amazed that the Steller’s Jays that came to our feeders were so tame. The first time I held out my hand holding peanuts in the shell, one of the jays hopped to my hand to take a peanut. Of the little flock that periodically visits our yard 2 or 3 are willing to take a peanut from my hand, particularly when it is not winter and they can immediately stash the peanut in the grass on the lawn.
Because I have often wondered whether most Steller’s Jays are so tame, I have for a while recently taken a baggie of peanuts along in my pocket when going out birding thinking I might try it. A couple of days ago I threw some to a magpie which flew down and got the nuts, but until today I had never tried it with non-yard Steller’s Jays.
This morning I went to the Campbell Creek Estuary Natural Area, one of my favorite Anchorage birding places and walked the trail. This was the site where I saw my first Steller’s Jay after we moved here, and they are often around. Although there was a theoretical chance I could have added a year-bird there today, I did not do so. What I did do is try out the peanuts when a flock of seven Steller’s Jays came flying through the trees. As soon as I got out the baggie, three of the jays circled back and flew down to branches above my head. When I threw some of the peanuts on the ground a couple of feet from me, without hesitation they flew down to get them.
Then I tried putting some peanuts in my hand, and I had a taker, and then another one. I got out the camera and got a few pictures. I’m not sure why it is such a thrill to have a “wild” bird sit on my hand, but it is. Who cares that there were no new birds today?
BUT WAIT – I had just written the above when Aaron Bowman called and said that the Red-winged Blackbird female that he’d seen yesterday with some starlings near his yard had returned. So I hopped in my car and skidded on the ice across Anchorage to Aaron’s house. Of course the birds had departed when I arrived, but soon thereafter Aaron and Tim Stevenson, who arrived shortly after I did, refound the blackbird. Tim called me from where the bird was south of Aaron’s house, and I went over and saw the RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD!