Monday, August 27, 2012

Squirrels and Roses, Blue Jays and beeches

It seems the squirrels were reading this blog; a day after I wrote the previous entry they were hard at work eating the rose hips off the other clumps of R rugosa, and not wasting any time about it either! Within 3 days there wasn't a rose hip to be seen anywhere on the property.

Meanwhile, the question about beech nut ripeness has also been answered, with the return on Saturday of the blue jays' vocalizing during beechnutting (or whatever you might call it when they're up in the treetops eating beechnuts.) (American beech: Fagus grandifolia

Most people, think of blue jays as being raucous of voice with the typical "jay, jay" scream. That was certainly all that I knew of them before I came to this property so many years ago. And about 11 months of the year that's all I hear from them even now.

(well, there are also a few of them which have the multisyllable cry of "DO IT!! DO IT!!", which can be funny or annoying if one is standing around in the yard wondering where to start, or even whether to start, working at something. A few times the "do it" jay has galvanized me into getting started, and a few times I have just gone back inside and quit for the day.)

But then comes summer, and sometimes I'll hear a blue jay fluting, a melodic "toodloodloodloo" sort of thing, which seems to get more frequent as the season advances into August. Very rarely I'll hear this in winter and spring. Or perhaps they use the call more frequently all year round but further back in the woods where I don't hear them.  

Then comes the beechnut season. Suddenly the blue jays don't sound like themselves anymore, when sitting on a branch with nuts. Instead, they chortle softly, whistle softly a bit, sing quietly to themselves, often melodically but sometimes with a bit of a rough quality to the tone like a tenor who has just inhaled a couple of blackflies.  Again, I don't know if they do this at any other time or with any other food back in the depths of the forest, but the few weeks of beechnut harvesting is the only time I hear it! And it is truly marvelous to sit outside and listen to it.

Our beeches are not the most attractive tree, in some ways, as they sucker densely from the roots and the bark is affected by a disease which mishapes it grotesquely; and they hang onto their leaves long after other trees are bare, which makes for a continous raking project in fall if one is into the immaculate lawn culture (I'm not, since long ago). (Once one gets over the lawn litter issue, the beech leaves hanging around in winter is actually quite attractive, sometimes for the whole winter depending on the plant, with the dead leaves gradually fading from coppery brown to pale yellow and losing substance to an almost tissuelike quality). So I admit that a few years after I moved here, when I decided to start letting in a bit of light, beeches were among my target trees to take out. But I did leave a few, and am grateful for it because of the short season of blue jay concerti they bring. In my current tree-thinning projects I am leaving the beech alone, unless one is truly in the way or threatening to fall on me.

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