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Philly Bluejay

I could write something here about me, but I prefer to write about the blog itself. Specifically, you may be wondering about the title “Philly Bluejay”. What does Bluejay have to do with Philadelphia? Am I Roy Halladay? Sadly, I am not.

I moved to Philadelphia in 1982 at the age of 11 from Israel. I remember being struck by many things when I first moved here, snow, television commercials, highways, subways, English, non-Caucasians (I don’t mean this to be obnoxious, but Israel was a very ethnically homogeneous country when I was growing up there). But the thing that struck me first and most strongly was the greenery and the wildlife. Especially Bluejays. If you have ever been to Israel, you know that it isn’t a green country. The predominant color there is brown. Even the broadleaf trees, like olive and eucalyptus, have brownish leaves. And what few animals and birds there are are drab. And so I was very taken with American birds in general (my fifth grade teacher who was an avid birdwatcher cultivated this) and Bluejays in particular. Not only are they blue, but they are also intelligent (relative to other birds) and not afraid of humans. They are essentially blue crows. But mostly, they are blue. Like any 11 year old, I didn’t like living in a new country at first, but I did like living in a place with Bluejays.

I left the Philadelphia area in 1990 and returned in 2001. The Bluejays were gone. I used to see Bluejays every day. I have seen three in the last nine years. About a year ago I decided to do some web “research” about where the Bluejays went. As I said, they are intelligent, did they move to Silicon Valley during the dot-com boom? Were they killed off passenger pigeon style? Did they go nocturnal? Unfortunately, the answer was nothing this dramatic. Strangely enough, Bluejays migrate on a need basis. They have a permanent home and they migrate south if it gets too cold in the winter. The Bluejay population in the mid-atlantic states was not a permanent population, they came down for the winter from Canada and New England. Between 1990 and 2001, Canadian and New England winters warmed up just enough that the Bluejays didn’t need to migrate south anymore. And so they simply stopped. I can’t imagine that migrating is easy. It makes me tired just thinking about it. If I were a Bluejay and I didn’t have to do migrate, I wouldn’t either.

The fact that Bluejays have left Philly is my iconic image for climate change, one of the issues that is most important to me. In the grand scheme of things, Bluejays “moving” north is a small consequence of climate change—and who knows, perhaps we will all be forced to move north at some point—and there are other changes that I have personally noticed and that have convinced me that climate change is real and that we are headed for a semi-apocalypse unless we do something yesterday. But the Bluejay is the central image.

So there it is. I see we’re out of time.



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