Flanders Moss NNR
Even after being around for a bit these reserves can still spring a surprise on you.
Walking through Ballangrew wood on the west side of Flanders and suddenly there in front of me was a scattering of treasure lighting up the woodland floor. A jay had met its end, most probably at the talons of a sparrowhawk which had plucked it and carried the carcass off to eat while leaving the feathers. And in amongst the scatter of feathers were the strikingly attractive blue barred wing feathers of the jay.
Jays are very colourful members of the crow family. But the most striking part of their plummage is the beautiful vivid blue wing patches. The blue colour comes not from a pigment but actually from light interference by the sponge-like nano structure of the feathers. The feathers have tiny holes in their structure and feathers and the smallest holes scatter a narrow wave length of light so giving a blue colour. You can test this by crushing a jay’s blue feather and when that structure is damaged it will no longer look blue.
As they live in dense woodland they may use the bright wing flashes to keep in contact or communicate when in thick cover. Whatever the purpose finding these feathers was the highlight of an already good day.
Here is a picture jay caught to be ringed at a different site but included so you see the plumage intact and the wing flashes in place.