Nesting Instinct

First, the ramada is ours — Hank and our helpful son, Zack, built it last year. But now we have squatters. A piñon jay couple has a nest tucked beneath the ramada’s eaves.

Earlier this spring we — and our cat from our kitchen window — watched as a jay carried straw from my garden and

Eggs in the nest

other bits of dried vegetation to the ramada. It’s a good spot, high and hidden from any predators. Certainly no ravens or magpies could get at it.

But then the dilemma. The ramada’s purpose is to give us humans shade in the treeless mesa. We wanted to use the ramada, too, as the winds died down, finally, and the weather warmed. Mother piñon jay wasn’t too pleased. She and her mate watched us from our home’s parapet. At times she flew in to settle onto her nest, which was okay as long as we kept still and didn’t speak, and if we made noise, she fluttered away.

A few days ago, the jay was more patient. She put up with more activity from us. When she left briefly, I brought a stool over and held my phone above the nest to take a photo. Yes, the nest now has eggs.

We discovered piñon (sometimes spelled pinyon) jay when we moved to Northern New Mexico. A neighbor, who has since moved, put out seed for them and a noisy flock of 50 or so jay flew around, making a ha-ha call that sounds as if they’re celebrating. The males are a vibrant blue so it is quite the sight.

My understanding is the jay usually nest in piñon trees but this couple felt our ramada was a better alternative. So for the next several weeks, we will share it with wildlife. I am interested in the experience.