Blue Jays are capable of an extraordinary variety of sounds. The most familiar call is the loud and raucous jay-jay, given in a variety of situations. But Blue Jays also produce piping, musical notes and other odd sounds that may surprise and delight the ear.
It’s always been a challenge to get a good soundscape portrait of Blue Jays, but I finally got lucky on the second of April in 2006. I was in Shindagin Hollow, a state forest tract near my home of Ithaca, New York. At the break of dawn, I was walking along a narrow foot trail in thick evergreens (Balsam Firs) when I heard several subtle jay notes. I quickly set up my mike, crossed my fingers, and started recording. Over the next few minutes, a number of jays chimed-in, first giving commonplace jay-calls, but then switching to piping garbles, soft clicking churrs, and bell-like notes. The entire display lasted only a few minutes (I am tempted to lengthen it by gently cross-fading it into another jay recording that I gathered minutes later at a nearby location—it is included below).
A group of Blue Jays waking up in the morning in a thick patch of evergreens. Around 7 am, 2 April 2006, Shindagin Hollow, near Ithaca, New York. Recorded by Lang Elliott.
While this recording certainly qualifies as a single species portrait (except for a few robin calls), it involves five or more individuals and there is a wonderful spatial spread of sound, the mark of a true dimensional soundscape. It is engaging yet relaxing, with interesting tonal variation. None of the calls yank too hard at the ear. It’s the ending that I like the best, where several individuals repeatedly call back-and-forth with rich musical notes . . . magic bells in my mind’s eye.
Whatya think? My only regret is that it didn’t last longer.
A SECOND RECORDING:
I captured another Blue Jay performance during the same morning in Shindagin Hollow. It features the same group of jays. The location was perhaps fifty feet distance from the first recording, on the edge of the evergreen patch. This one is a little busier than the first one. About a third of the way through, it features the jay’s “squeaky pumphandle call”—screek-squeak—which sounds like a metal joint in need of some oil:
A group of Blue Jays giving a variety of calls at the edge of a thick patch of evergreens. Around 7:10 am, 2 April 2006, Shindagin Hollow, near Ithaca, New York. Recorded by Lang Elliott.
Note: A robin sings in the background during parts of the recording.