Literally within a handful of days the baby blue jays went from looking like baby pterodactyls with see-through craniums to looking like baby, well, birds. Complete with downy fluff and the emergence of blue feathers. Amazing. Over the past few days, I've kept a close eye on their progress. (Too close, at times, including the time I pulled a chair over and stood on it, peering into the nest and was dive-bombed by one of the parental blue jays, who made actual contact with my hair. Message received.)
A couple of days ago, the most advanced of the bunch was tottering on the edge of the nest. Another followed suit and in the past 48 hours they've all tried their hand at flying. I watched them as they took their first tentative steps, hopping from one branch to another, unsteady and wobbling into branches. I watched as they practiced flapping their wings, sometimes comically as if they didn't have much control, getting them tangled up in leaves and if I'd been close enough I'm sure I would have seen their little birdy-cheeks turn bright red.
By Tuesday afternoon, all four had ventured out to varying degrees and to varying degrees of comfort. (Pictured at top is the early adapter, who was so exhausted by his/her progress that he/she fell asleep right on the branch, hanging upside down like that.) By yesterday afternoon, two of them had made it into branches on nearby trees. By this afternoon? Can't spot a one of them. No one's in the nest. No one's in the nearby trees unless they've made it to the highest-up branches.
Judging by the calendar, the babies are about two weeks old and are probably on schedule for fledging. I'm sure that, even if they do return to the nest tonight, it won't be long before the whole family is gone for good. And I know it's their thing. I mean, I know it's what they're meant to do. But it doesn't mean that I won't miss watching them.
On the other hand, I won't miss being dive-bombed on my own back deck, either. So have at it, nature!