Friday, 24 February 2012


"My friend saw a pair of dead jays on the Downs when she was out running. Can you go and rescue the blue feathers? -they were lying next to a pile of garden rubbish in bin bags, next to St Monica's Trust".

It was an unusual request, but I wondered why there should be two dead jays together on the Downs. One would be unremarkable; two could mean nefarious. 

And blue jay's feathers are beautiful. Some years ago, Katie and I were admiring fishing flies in a shop window in Hay on Wye, and shortly afterwards we found two of the feathers, in the hedge, at White Castle. So we made a fishing fly with them, using bits of wire for the hooks, and hung it in the window, and very nice it looked too. And an object that posed no threat whatsoever to the fish population.

I cycled around the Downs, and finally found them. 

They weren't jays, as you see.


  1. We used to get regular supplies of birds like these often from friends who had received them as gifts but had a horror of dealing with the reality of their food...

    The last one we got was lying in the road outside the house, must have been hit by a car. I should not have hung it, it quickly went bad because of it's injury!!

    Interesting law says that if you run one over with for car you can't pick it up and take it home BUT your friend in the car behind can...

  2. sad how few bird names are known properly now

  3. Someone somewhere went hungry when they were dropped.

  4. I spent hours and hours cleaning and plucking a pigeon I'd shot, once, Caroline, while referring to the relevant page in Seymour's 'Self-Sufficiency'. The meat was tasty. and amounted to about half a mouthful. I decided not to bother doing it again...
    It *was* a bit surprising to find that she'd mistaken a pheasant for anything else, Gwynneth! Though a neighbour expressed wonder that I managed to recognise a blackbird by its song. And I thought, "How can you *not* know a blackbird's song?"

    It was in the richest part of the city, Anji- I'm guessing someone was given them and felt rather daunted by the prospect of doing anything with them. The posher butchers have taken to dangling pheasants outside their shops; I imagine it ties in with the clientele's huntin' and shootin' fantasies.

  5. Quarter of a million feathers on a pigeon! A can in front of me on a motorway hit one and it was like a whiteout blizzard.

    Our garden shed used to look like St. Trinians had been having an exotic pillow fight by the end of the winter then we discovered peeling everything off like a jacket and using some bacon to replace any lost fat.

    Six pigeons in a caserole, marinade with wine and juniper for a day before cooking...

  6. peeling everything off? -I've seen a rabbit skinned in a moment by someone skilled- I imagine I'm never going to get enough practice to become proficient, and would continue to make a nauseous mess if I were to try...

  7. Anyone who can play with trunnions can skin a pheasant, it is like taking off a glove. Skin is hardly attached to the meat and just slides off. Look forward to posts on cooking pheasant...