DEAR JOAN: I'm curious about my resident scrub jay pair and their babies. What is their nesting procedure? I am looking forward to the parents bringing their fledglings and juveniles into my yard.
The male comes around for peanuts every day; the female less often. How can I tell if they are feeding their young? My neighbor said they have a nest in one of her trees. I see them flying in the opposite direction with the peanut pieces.
I have known the male jay since about 2003. He has a stump foot, eats tossed nuts from the ground 2 feet away from me, beaks a peanut-in-shell from my outstretched hand during a flyby, knows how to get me to come out of the house to provide nuts and other endearing things. I am grateful for every moment I see him.
Tania H. Selden
DEAR TANIA: How nice to hear from someone who actually likes the Western scrub jay. I admire both their lovely blue plumage and their insistent calls. Of course, I like mocking birds, too, so maybe I'm just drawn to loud, pushy birds.
Right now, the jays are simply hanging out, looking for food and ways to annoy cats and squirrels. Come March, however, they'll start building their nests and preparing for a family.
It takes about 10 days to build the nest, which is basket shaped and made of twigs, lined with animal hair, fine strands of plant fibers and small roots. Both the male and female work on the nest, which will be about 6 inches across when completed. They are well hidden from view to help protect the eggs and the young.
The female will lay up to five pale green or gray eggs at a time, and incubation is about three weeks. When the chicks hatch, they will be naked and helpless.
Mom and Dad both hunt food for the little darlings, bringing home insects and other young birds. Some folks hate scrub jays for that, but it is part of nature. The jays are keen observers of other birds and they often figure out where the other nests are and when the parents are away. In their search for protein for their offspring, they are ruthless.
After about three weeks, the youngsters fledge -- leave the nest -- and the parents go back to dining mostly on seeds and fruits. They have terrific memories. They not only can remember where they have hidden away food, but they also keep track of the expiration dates, eating the more perishable food first.
Your elder jay's long life is impressive, to survive that long and with just one leg. The oldest known jay in the wild was almost 16 years old. The average age is 8.
DEAR JOAN: My wife and I ride our tandem bike with our 10-pound shih tzu. We frequently ride past Lake Elizabeth and the other day we saw something we have never seen before.
We saw several circles of ducks, 12 to 20 in a group, going around in a pretty nearly formed circle with the heads in the water and making some noise. We also saw a circle of coots.
We would like to know what is going on in the circles, so hope you can clear it up for us.
DEAR CHARLIE: The short answer is that they were feeding. By swimming together in circles, they stir up algae.
Scientists have also noticed this behavior before a weather change, signaling colder temperatures or, please, rain.