At apple harvest time I'm reminded of a childhood pursuit called 'scrumping' - the act of stealing apples from an orchard or garden. Usually this applied to our own garden, or that of a relative or friend we were visiting. It seemed great fun, and always related to apples that had fallen and been left on the ground. (Scrump I think means something withered or shrivelled, and a scrumple a wrinkle or crease). Or did the word come from scrumpy?
My small apple tree, in its second year, has grown a lot and has quite a good crop of small, at the moment very sour apples. The geese have taken off all the ones from the lower branches, but I have noticed some part eaten ones higher up in the tree. It must be birds, and they don't seem to finish one apple, just half eat it and then move onto another apple the next time they visit. I don't mind at all sharing the odd one, but at this rate I won't have enough for even the smallest pie!
This morning I heard a clatter of wings and saw a Jay fly out of the apple tree, beak full of apple. A scrumping Jay. Caught in the act.
Jay oil painting by Bruno Liljefors
It is not uncommon for Jays to visit apple trees for a meal, but I have usually seen this later in the year, when food is less easy to find. Or maybe they've been too cunning for me in the past, and left before I've seen them.