Blue Jay Comes To

Blue Jay comes to the big feeder and bosses everybody around.

But he is afraid of Woodpecker.Blue Jay


How do I know?

He’s more jittery around the black and white striped fellow. And it takes more bluster to get Woodpecker off the big feeder, whereas, the little guys frighten easily at the least flutter or squawk. In an attempt to get Woodpecker to shove off, Blue Jay flaps and caws. The feeder swings crazily like boat on a stormy sea.

From my desk, I call at him, “Stop that. Go away!” Three times I admonish.

Blue Jay flies to a nearby branch to spy on his enemy. And to try to shut me down, he tilts his head and directs his left eye at me, the source of rebuke. I speak more kindly to him now, from my seat inside by the window. I remind him of the other, smaller feeder. Tell him he doesn’t have to share. Tell him he can have his very own feeder.

He flies deeper into hiding in the tree’s leafy middle where I am unable to see him.

I imagine he is feeling chastised, and so, irritated with me. I figure he thinks I just didn’t understand his importance and why he, not Woodpecker, should have the feeder Woodpecker was hogging. By rights, shouldn’t Blue Jay have the bigger feeder?

Tufted Titmouse suddenly lands on the roof of the second, smaller feeder, now unafraid of Blue Jay hanging back in the tree. And then Squirrel takes small squirrel-sized leaps in slow, careful, motion. He looks around nervously after each jump, as he heads to the base of the feeder where a carpet of sunflower seeds awaits. Evidence of many feeder squabbles. Seed spillage is the day’s main course for many visitors.

And then comes Blue Jay. Which I like to imagine is because I told him so.

He flies to the smaller feeder and I feel gratified.

Woodpecker continues tapping at a spot on the big feeder, heedless of nearby activity.

And suddenly a whoosh, another whoosh, and three of Blue Jay’s relatives join him at the smaller feeder. All goes well. And before too long, those in attendance disband.

Minutes later, Blue Jay alights on the east side of the larger feeder. It rocks gently and Woodpecker, already there, stops pecking. Focused and unmoving, he eyes Blue Jay briefly. Woodpecker then turns back to his work to extract seeds from the feeder.

The two are on either side of the large feeder but Blue Jay doesn’t make his usual, noisy squawk. Rather, he sits there silently glaring at his black and white striped nemesis. Woodpecker stops now and returns the glare with indifferent curiosity.

They are still for thirteen, then fifteen, seconds.
And then sudden movement when they both begin tapping their beaks into the feeder with vigor. There seems to be some kind of resolution. An unspoken agreement to disagree. Maybe.




I’d just had a great shit, was feeling good and preparing to stand and flush, when I saw a carpenter ant on the floor near the base of the toilet.

Averaging about a half-inch long, carpenter ants are black, usually larger than sugar ants or red ants and, in my experience, don’t bite as often as any other ant.

While carpenter ants find their favorite food outdoors in the form of “honeydew,” a substance found on certain plants, they seem quite adept at finding their other necessities, water, nursery space and the like, indoors or out. When the clan needs a new home, more food, or water,  “scouts,” the ants charged with this quest must leave the colony in their search, for the good of the tribe.

Many times in the past twenty years living in this house, as Winter has softened to become Spring, and Spring has heated up to become Summer, I have spied “scouts,” moving swiftly on counters, meandering behind table legs, climbing across a bathroom floor, or sneaking behind the sink’s backboard. In their tireless work, the “scouts” busily follow their cousins’ scent-track or start their own, they adjust a back leg, take an infinitesmal sip of water from on a tiny blob of water, or do other sorts of ant-related activities. Their segmented, curvaceous, shiny, black rice-grain-with-legs bodies zip around searching for victuals or nursery space.

Sometimes, when I’ve felt warm-hearted and have the time, I have carried the errant creatures beyond the walls of this house myself. Pinched carefully between thumb and forefinger or held loosely in my fist, I have flung them gracefully from my second-story window, from the breezeway door, or from the downstairs bathroom window into the great beyond. Our house is surrounded by evergreen trees and bushes, and sits at the edge of the woods, so the ants I’ve tossed over the years have more than likely landed on the branch of a bush or tree or on the side of the house where they quickly return through some mysterious entryway someplace.

Most often, though, I have dropped the invaders into our kitchen compost, flushed them down the toilet or down the drain, and, on very, very rare instances, have even stepped on them, smashing their petite, crunchy bodies an ant paste shmear.

But killing them, hell, killing anything, has not been my preference.

My preference has always been that the ants would get it together and just leave; promptly, peacefully, and of their own volition, I would like them to voluntarily pack up and move to where they belong: not in my house.

I have, quite truthfully, had conversations with my crunchy friends one-on-one as well as in groups, stressing to them that the trees, plants, bushes, grass, and logs are really their rightful home. I have asked them kindly, to leave.  I have told them plainly, I don’t want to kill them or, like I said before, anyone. There is enough space for all of us here on the earth, but I don’t want them in my house. I’ve told them I do my best to stay out of their homes, too, but sometimes that has been tough for me and it’s probably best left to another essay.

Meanwhile, in the story at hand…

…it was just as I turned to flush the toilet, not yet standing, but still rising from the throne that I spotted the “scout” ant ambling around my bathroom floor. I acted quickly, before fully thinking things through and snatched up the ant, who we’ll call Elroy going forward, and tossed him almost thoughtlessly into the shit and toilet paper-filled bowl whose contents had begun swirling in the direction of the pipes leading to our septic tank.

Thoughts of my many ant assassinations bubbled up in my mind. All my ant murder memories filtered into my thoughts, piling on fast and quick, one right after the other, each one supporting the one thing: I was an antocidist and needed to make right my most recent wrong move.

I watched myself bend over, reach out my arm and its corresponding hand, extend the fingers of said hand. And then, quick as lightning, I saw my own thumb and forefinger make a pincer-like motion as they swiftly plucked out a confused-looking, wet-toilet-paper-plastered Elroy; an ant wet-t-shirt contest winner. I carefully peeled the sodden toilet paper from him which seemed to inspire Elroy to return to his more familiar quick, ant-style movement. I matched his speed, and cupped my hands around him.

I walked briskly, holding Elroy loosely but trapped in my hollowed fist. With my spare, left hand, I lifted the window and thrust my right arm, the one with the hand holding the  squirming ant in it, out the window, splaying my fingers open as I did. And Elroy took flight.

In the bathroom behind me, the flushing toilet gurgled, signalling the end of the flushing cycle. I wished Elroy the best as I closed the window.