A jay has been seen on several early-morning occasions, hopping about just inside the reserve’s main entrance.
Although they are the most colourful members of the corvid family, jays (Garrulus glandarius) are usually quite difficult to see. They are shy woodland birds, that rarely move far from cover but if this one has a nest nearby with hungry hatchlings, its need to find food for them might have brought it out into the open.
Jays are omnivores. This bird might be hunting a wide variety of invertebrates in the grass, searching for a cache of acorns it buried near the oak tree after last autumn’s bumper crop or picking up the shrivelled haws from under the hawthorn hedge.
Like their magpie cousins, jays are opportunistic predators that will take eggs and young from the nests of other birds: there is a pair of blackbirds that nest in the hedges around the car park, and several different kinds of tits raising families in the oak trees at the bottom of The Arboretum. Jays have even been known to pursue and kill smaller birds, bats and small mammals, and the reserve has many species of those: excellent protein to fill the ever-open mouths of nestling jays.
We love to watch a busy pair of blue tits successfully raise a family, or baby field voles venture out of the safety of their nest, and we treasure the thirteen species of bats that feed and sometimes roost in the reserve but a healthy ecosystem must include predators and scavengers.
The reserve seems to be supporting several pairs of jays, a testament to the biodiversity we work so hard to maintain.