Background Switcher (Hidden)

Jemima Update: Enter Maybelline

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Do you notice blue jays more than you used to? When you see them, do you take the time to really watch them? Is there perhaps more affection and understanding in your gaze than usual?

Good. Jemima and I are doing our job.

While I don't expect Jemima's fans to undergo a full-blown BJO (Blue Jay Obsession) the way I have, a little obsession never hurt anybody. Everywhere I go, and I mean everywhere, I hear blue jays. I see blue jays. And when I hear blue jays, I grin from ear to ear. Because I don't hear birdcalls. I hear my girl yelling. I fancy I know what they're saying to each other. Thanks to having raised Jemima, I am hooked into the world of blue jays. And I am still an infant, still opening my eyes, taking most things in without knowing their meaning.
But I know a whole lot more than I did on May 15, the day before Jemima entered my life.

A beautiful jay in Mount Auburn Cemetery in mid-October. I walked around that place until I ran into some jays. And then I was in heaven, just me watching the blue people, doing what the blue people do. And them watching me back. Maybe seeing the pictures in my head of my Jemima, back home. Maybe getting why I was so glad to see them. I consider that a distinct possibility.

Here's the deal with Jemima as of November 13, 2017. She's still here.  I held my breath all through September and October and the first half of November, because that's when blue jays move, if they're going to move. And ours seemed to empty out. I'd hear jays in the woods, but the ones that had been coming to the feeders were gone, or otherwise occupied. It's hard to know with blue jays. 

The only two who stayed around the feeders were Jemima and the bird we call Maybelline. They've been attached to each other since they were both juveniles, in mid-August. And the fact that Jem and Maybelline stayed around, apparently for the winter, when the rest cleared out is no accident. That will become clear in my next post.

When you see two blue jays this physically close to one another, you can be sure they're close in a relationship way, too. 
"If you suspect something, it's been going on for a long time." (M.B. Zickefoose)

In this photo, Jemima's in the back. That's Maybelline in the foreground. You will notice how much black Maybelline has around his eyes, and on the side of his face and neck. Phoebe named him back in July, noting that he was wearing an awful lot of makeup. Yes. I just called Maybelline a guy. Wearing guyliner, I guess. Because I'm 99% sure he is. Just as I'm pretty darn sure Jemima's a female. And no, I'm not changing Maybelline's name to Maybe or Malebelline or anything like that. It's a perfectly good name.

Maybelline started accompanying Jemima in mid-August. Who knows when jays form their pair bonds? I do. While they're just a few months old, as juveniles, that's when. At least these two did. 
Maybelline, Aug. 26, 2017, waiting for Jemima to load up at the Secret Studio Feeder

I cannot tell you how delighted I am that Jemima found a friend, nay, a mate! in August, and that they're still an item in November, hanging even more closely together. I almost never see one without the other popping into view. It just makes everything better, so much better that they're together. 

Jemima is perfectly comfortable being watched and photographed from inside the studio. She's never known anything else. But she is no longer tame.  I remember when, if I left the screen out of the studio window, she'd come into the house and raid the mealworm bins! I remember stuffing her back out the window, laughing. Nope, nope, nope, you're not coming in any more. God, how I'd love to have that problem now! She'd never come into the house now.

 Such sweet memories. That was only July. A lot changes in a few months when you're wild. 

I've devoted most of my time since late June to writing Jemima's story. It has as many shades and intricacies as her exquisite plumage, twists and turns and subplots. 

I started writing for publication in 1986. I've been writing and illustrating my own books since 2004. But I've never had a project like this one. It is a great and delicious luxury to tell one bird's story. To tell not the stories of 26 species, as I did in The Bluebird Effect; not 17 species, as in Baby Birds: An Artist Looks Into the Nest; but the story of one singular bird. 

I get up every day and can't wait to get to my laboratory, where I sit and write and stare out the window and wait for Jemima. I hate going away. I even hate going into town. 

Don't want to close my eyes 
I don't want to fall asleep
'Cause I'd miss you, babe,
And I don't want to miss a thing.

Next: The Thing About Jemima


in Montana, we're having an "invasion" of blue jays right now. We're not in their usual range, though people have spotted them occasionally. Our FB page has daily photos from all around the state of blue jays at feeders. Unfortunately, where I live, the magpies devour all the peanuts I set out for the blue jays I know are in the neighborhood. For some reason, my town (Bozeman) is magpie central..

Hello Bozeman MT and thanks for checking in. It's been a banner year for blue jays in Ohio, too, for what that's worth. They are EVERYWHERE. Also--blue jays are one of the few North American species known to migrate latitudinally, meaning our eastern birds might move west rather than along the typical N-S axis. Sooo...migrants, exploring new territory. I do hope you manage to get a few peanuts into them. I've seen the magpie deal in Bozeman and it's something to witness.

I'm bouncing up and down in my seat! This post was the cherry on top of what was already a beautiful day! I'm so glad to read an update on Jemima -- that she is well and still in the area... and that she has a mate! Such incredibly wonderful news! And another Zickbook in the works, and on Jemima! I cannot wait to place an order! Sorry about all the exclamation marks, but this has been the best news I've heard in a long while. Thank you so much for bringing Jemima into our lives.

Truly, what an amazing writing and life experience Jemima is giving you - and us! I absolutely look at and listen to blue jays differently now. They make me smile in many more ways these days, though I've always been a sucker for all that blue plumage. Can't wait to see what comes next. Thank you for not changing Maybelline's name. It is perfect.

Jemima and Maybelline, sittin in a tree...K-I-S-S-I-N-G :)

Thank you Julie! I was having a crap day and this just turned things around. I'm thrilled to hear about Jemima and Maybelline. I can not wait to read yet another of your wonderful books. How soon can we pre-order? Lol.

I appreciate very much that you haven’t seen fit to mess with Maybelline’s name. And I need to express again how much I enjoy and learn from your posts about Jemima. Thank you!

I've always loved and looked for blue jays. I usually only see them on the really, really cold days at the feeder. The only difference is now I immediately think of Jemima and smile. Can't wait for the book!

A JEMIMA BOOK?!? I cannot wait.

Thought I heard a hawk screaming near my bird feeders. I was so glad to see two blue jays instead! Beautiful creatures!

I have a suggestion for Unknown in Bozeman. If you would like to see more Blue Jays at your place, try keeping a heated birdbath filled for the winter. Blue Jays love to bathe, no matter what the weather.

thanks flowerman, for the tip. Right now, reports are that my neighborhood blue jays are eating old apples still hanging on the trees. Not MY apples, however!. We have only one (I think) native oak tree and it's not one that has been planted in town ... so no acorns for them! When I lived back east, the oak trees were where I looked for the jays ...

[Back to Top]