Posted by: atowhee | July 6, 2019


Our dog hates fireworks even more than we do.  She can’t not hear them and can’t fight the panic.  So we took her, again, to a state park where fireworks are not allowed and only the rumbling cannonade from nearby towns gets into the cabin at night.

The first morning I put out a wire mesh feeder with a 4-inch square suet block about 8AM.  It was on a limb—six feet above the ground–at the edge of the forest. Two Steller’s Jays came to examine it within twenty minutes.  It was nearly four hours before they were comfortable hanging on the feeder, which would then swing on its hanger/pendulum.  That day and afterwards they came regularly. At times there were four jays present though only one was allowed on the feeder at one time.  With Bushtits there can be up to sixteen at once, size matters.  Within two days the male Black-headed Grosbeak was feeding there as well. The second evening I took down the feeder and put it into the cabin around 830PM, but before it was dark.  Immediately one of the Steller’s began a scalding scolding—long rasping calls.  “Bring back my suet!”  I took the feeder back out and the noise stopped instantly.  I left the feeder out all night.  Quiet reigned and no bear interfered.
One morning I put some partly stale hazelnuts onto the picnic table near our cabin.  This was at 11:22AM.  By 11:34 AM the boss crow of our end of the campground was taking the nuts.  I saw him eat one, the rest he carried off to cache in the tall Doug firs where the crows are busy and loud all day long, west of the campground.

The various sounds from the jays around the suet feeder:
1) The commonly heard shuk-shuk-shuk.
2) A long buzzy call like the buzz of the siskins.
3) A soft chime, single note, with a few beats before it is repeated.
4)The scalding scold I heard when I once removed the feeder from sight.
5) A questioning “wha-hwa-wha?” when a crow came to check out the action.  I did not see the crow bother to take any suet.

By the fourth day the Canada Jays had joined the parade to and from the suet feeder.  They often made their little “weep-weep” calls.

When we left this morning, the second suet black was placed into a notch between two convenient limbs and so the dining continued after we departed.  There was a dearth of insects.  All night the lights were on in the toilet building and the door left wide open…I found one moth inside. Gone are the beetle and nocturnal swarns of yesteryear.

That short orange indentation this grosbeak’s black crown indicates it is a first year bird.  He sure picked up on the suet thing in a hurry, copying the loud-mouthed jays, no doubt.GBH SUET UNDER (2)Click on any image to see it full-screen.

This was the most time I’ve spent with Canada Jays.  They seemed comfortable around their blue cousins and certainly earned their nickname, “camp robber”.  I didn’t leave out a glass of wine to see if they are indeed “whiskey jacks” of all trades.  They are shyer around cameras than the Stellers at Silver Falls but no less sure of themselves, even landing on picnic tables while a person is seated there.  Juvies are dark, the adults have more pale gray plumage.


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