I’m distracted from writing by a disturbance in the garden and suspect there’s something going on when I see two jays perched on the fence. Jays do visit but don’t usually hang around very long. These two are clearly up to no good.
Watching jays, it’s easy to believe that birds evolved from meat-eating dinosaurs. It’s the striking eyes, streaked crest and the way they tilt their heads in a slightly menacing way. It’s because their jerky movements and broad winged flight echo every CGI version of flying dinosaurs I’ve seen. Or perhaps it’s just that the dinosaur animators draw on birds like jays for inspiration.
One jay drops to the patio and I see its attention is focused on a young great tit huddled on the stone with one wing outstretched. Despite the disparity in size, the jay hops tentatively up to the smaller bird. The tit lies still and then just when it seems it must be all over, flapping and with gaping mouth it bravely attacks. The jay backs off but this can only be a brief respite. By the third approach, the tit seems out of energy, and the jay grabs it by the neck before flying off.
This crime takes place no more than two metres from the bird feeders where other great tits are feeding, unmoved by the fate of their unlucky sister or brother.