Stacey Cole's Nature Talks: Some animals entertain, and some join the family

By STACEY COLE June 29. 2018 9:38PM
Blue jays like this one are not domestic birds, but decades ago, Nature Talks columnist Stacey Cole shared a letter from a reader about a blue jay who became a family pet beloved by many in surrounding towns. (Union Leader File Photo)

Editor’s note: The following column was originally published in the New Hampshire Union Leader on June 2, 1972.

I'm sure the raccoons on the hill back of the farm are delighted.

They watched me do the ploughing and they watched me do the harrowing. And, although I couldn’t see them as they peeked out of their den tree, I could feel their eyes on me as the tractor and I went back and forth doing our work. For the raccoons know that the next step is the planting of sweet corn.

As each year has passed, they have been more and more anxious to take their bounty. This last summer we hardly got a decent meal, for even before the corn was ripe they were in the field tearing away at the ears and eating the little “blisters,” not waiting for the kernels to fully develop.

While on the subject of these masked rapscallions, one of our reader friends in Exeter wrote about raccoons recently and enclosed some pictures she had taken.

“You’ll never believe our other guests on our small feeder shelf outside the back porch door — four-footed guests! This winter and spring we’ve had three raccoons here at one time. They are very clever. They untie the fisherman’s string net suet holders and remove the birds’ suet, clean out the long stick holder soft peanut butter, sometimes remove them from the branch and carry them away, also the wooden suet holders. We find them out in the corner by the fence. Evidently they find it difficult to get over the fence with them and must stop and have their party there.

“We’ve enjoyed watching them so much. We put out peanuts, raisins, walnuts, graham crackers; tried apple pieces but they don’t seem to like them. They love peanuts. We put the kitchen lights out, the porch light on, and we can enjoy watching them. I decided to try for pictures. I had to sit up till the morning hours a few times, 2 and 3 a.m. Other nights they came earlier, from 10 p.m. to midnight. And in the winter, earlier still. I was quite thrilled to get these pictures.”

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A feathered rascal — the blue jay — upon occasion, becomes quite friendly. Especially so when hand raised. An interesting tale on this subject came to us from Wentworth:

“Having read your pieces in the Manchester Union Leader for the past years, I’ve decided to write you a true story about a blue jay. We were visiting a neighbor one day and she said, “You would not want to raise a tiny baby blue jay?” That very afternoon a crow had destroyed a blue jay’s nest. She kept hearing this little noise up in the woods in back of her home. So, later she had found this little baby bird in the leaves, very cold but alive. At the time we could not tell it was a blue jay as it had no feathers, just a long neck that looked more like a worm than a neck and this large body, but she insisted that it was a blue jay.

“She gave it to our little girl as she said she had this big tom cat and was afraid the bird would get killed by him. So we took it home and kept it warm in a little box. I fed it dog food and worms, and he sure did grow. That summer our son had the misfortune of getting his leg broken, so he was all summer on the front porch in a wheel chair and crutches, with a cast from the hip to his toes. That little blue jay would never leave his side. He slept curled up by his neck where it was warm.

“What a little playmate he was! We called him ‘George,’ and how he knew his name. He would always fly home after he got older in the fall. We were picking raspberries, my daughter and I, and he would fly over our heads, talking all the time. One day we got away up in our pasture picking raspberries, and this was such a big patch of berries that I shall never forget it. He just did everything to tell us of the danger, as he could see this old bear the other side of these bushes. He just yelled his head off and kept flying back and forth. After several minutes I wised up and told my daughter we had better leave. As soon as we got just a short ways away, we heard this thump — the bear must have got our scent and taken off too. We were not long in getting away from there.

“Across the field from our home is the Morse Museum, Town of Warren. ‘George’ would fly over and tap on the kitchen window of the owners of the museum and they would feed him toast. Then he’d fly over to the museum and visit with the people who worked there. One day one of the girls offered him a little bell she was tying up a gift with and he ate this tiny bell, she thought. So she quickly called me and told me. I assured her that he had pockets where he stored things and that he would be all right.

“As time went on he would fly as far as perhaps 15 miles across to the Town of Orford and call at a big farm house for goodies. Nearly everyone around knew him and like him. Late in the fall he did not want to come into the house at night, so we made him a roost out in the woodshed and we were not supposed to know he was there, but we always looked for him before closing the woodshed shutter.

“One day he did not come home, and we learned that a young boy had shot him. Our hearts were broken for a long time. I have pictures of ‘George’ on our little dog’s back. He would also play with our old cat. They got along so well, the three of them — dog, cat and bird.”

Stacey Cole, Nature Talks columnist for more than 50 years, passed away in 2014. If readers have a favorite column written by Stacey that they would like to see reprinted, please drop a note to Jen Lord at jlord@unionleader.com.


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