Greetings to all from the big white tundra we like to call the Midwest. A bit of an icebox at the moment as we are dealing with ~12″ inches of the fluffy stuff. Add to that a layer of ice that accumulated overnight from freezing drizzle and you have yourself a recipe for hilarity. Case in point. Our dogs decided that 4:50am is a perfectly good time to demand I take them out. Wipe the sleep from the eyes, remind the legs they were designed to move me from one place to another, put some shoes on and leash up the dogs – you would think by their expression I take evil enjoyment out of cinching up their necks as opposed to the truth there are “eyes in ‘dem trees” that think 4:50am is a perfect time for an early morning snack. Shut the alarms down and take a groggy step off the porch onto the wet concrete. Except it wasn’t just wet, nope, black ice quickly causing my feet to go eye level and my eyes to go feet level. Just got my back all healed up and now I’m being snickered at by sure footed furballs. Later that morning, a semi ended up jackknifing by the main highway exit I use to get to work shutting down that access and choking up all the alternative routes (which had their share of wrecks as well). Some days were just designed to stay in bed and enjoy thoughts of warmer locations.
Like for instance the desert – specifically the Mohave Desert in Las Vegas. The Rock Wren was not the only bird hanging out at the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area back in November 2018. Unlike that bird (link here) and Abert’s Towhee (link here). that came before it, this bird possesses coloring that contrasts sharply with the desert floor. Yep, this one is adorned in a pretty blue and grey palette.
Hit the jump to find out what kind of bird this is!
This particular specimen is a Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay. Although not a new bird to my list, having appeared back in June ’17 (link here), I still think it is a pretty cool find. The Scrub-Jay species was split into three groups a few years back – the California Scrub-Jay, the Mexican Scrub-Jay and, of course, the Woodhouse’s. Species splits always gets birders excited since it brings with it the opportunity to increase their lifer bird count. Unfortunately, I still do not have the other two and thus the split has not resulted in any stat padding.
The pictured Scrub-Jay was found at the Red Rock Canyon Overlook pull off – same place where the Rock Wren was hanging out making for an easy +2 if you still need those checked. It was hanging out at the tops of trees and tall plants surveying the killing zone. Pity the lizard or small insect that unknowingly ventured into this area.
Eeesh, this one looks a bit pissed off – must have mistaken me for Ron (for some reason birds keep attacking him while we’re out on the field – not sure why, but quite entertaining). Oh, better not forget the other key angle or he’ll scold me again. Notice the grey back and the solid blue back of the head. The Woodhouse’s also sports a pretty long tail
Not much else to really provide in terms of interesting facts. They are deemed “mischievous” by Cornell which shouldn’t really be a surprise since they are part of the Jay family which includes one of my top five hated birds, the Blue Jay. On the other hand, Ron probably has this one on his top five favorite birds list solely based on their propensity to eat ticks off of deer. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
Time to go salt the driveway – can’t have my own dogs laughing at me.
8 thoughts on “Blue Tones in the Desert”
Well, the California Scrub-Jay I was taking pictures of that was perched at the tip-top of a super-high conifer in Riverside, California, did in fact take off and fly a long way to attack me. I barely fended it off with my camera. Then it went into the low branches of a bush right above my head and continued to scream at me. “Mischievous” birds, my foot. I now have my own Latin name for the California Scrub-Jay.
But I came to a slow realization about a year and a half ago. As long as I continue to point my zoom lens at the bird taking pictures, it can’t get to my head! Dynamic visual tracking and defensive shielding from the points of my camera hood–take that, Scrubby! Works pretty well in those situations unless you’re attacked by a whole tree of Tree Swallows–I ended up on my back on the ground from that onslaught. (Also, I’m ditching my yellow-on-black Nikon camera strap because I’m tired of being attacked by yellow-on-black bumblebees. And I’m avoiding fenced-in meadows so I’m never again chased across one by a whole herd of longhorn steers–scariest thing in my whole life.)
Which is a long way of saying I’m not going out of my way to get a Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay, thank you. I’ll just enjoy your excellent shots from all angles. Nice job!
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Seriously, you would willingly bring up in a public forum how you were attacked by harmless cows!?! That is some serious loss of creds buddy – just so everyone knows, Ron is not my brother. Sometime I’ll have to detail the story how you almost died while birding with me trying to help a lady locked in a pit toilet thanks to a bound up metal door. Oh, also liked how you worked in the fact you have a California Srub-Jay … a bird I distinctly pointed out I do not have.
Ok- laughed at this! Mostly due to Ron’s comments. I saw you guys got hammered with snow. Been keeping an eye on it as my youngest was heading from St Louis to Chicago for a wedding. Do you think he would let poor mom know where he was and was safe? Hell no! So thanks for the additional snow report on conditions that increased my worry. LOL At least the pretty jay and Ron’s adventures have returned me to a calm state.
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I heard I-55 didn’t have a bit of snow on it – some weather miracle where everything around it got covered by a foot of snow, but the highway itself was clean as a whistle (do lies make you feel any better ha). Hoping your kid made it safely, it was definitely pretty wicked out there – turns out we are going to get hit again tomorrow and then again on Saturday (the latter coming with 21mph winds eesh). By the way, I think we should all encourage Ron to get posting on his blog – I keep telling him people want to know all the crazy things that happen when we are out birding. Thanks for stopping by… and sorry for the extra worry.
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Beautiful images B, but I’m afraid I’m distracted by your brothers’s antics, attacked by swallows? seriously?
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Seriously, it is extremely weird – my hypothesis is in his past life he was a cat and this is all payback. Being attacked by harmless cows was the kicker for me. – you would think he was attacked by a pack of hungry cougars based on his elaborate story on how they chased (…right) after him and he barely got through a fence before they ….what.. squirted milk or spewed their cud at him. I think he put on too much bug repellent and it made him hallucinate.
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Yes, very surprising! A few years ago I was at McKee Marsh in Wheaton, Illinois, near me, and there was a very big tree just full of Tree Swallows making a real racket. When I walked by I started getting dive-bombed continuously by several of them at a time, and when they would be within about 15-20 feet of me they would start screeching in their high tone. I’m not sure what fraction of the total were involved and my saying I was attacked by the whole tree implies they all attacked at the same time and is in retrospect misleading (sorry), but it was bad. They were flying up very high and then diving at me. They got very close and they would have reached my head except I was waving my camera and zoom lens wildly at them. However, while backing up doing that I fell backwards to the ground on my back, which was embarrassing though no one else was around, and then I fled. I had to pass by that tree again later when I left, but I scooted quickly past without incident.
Interestingly, I’ve never had an issue with gulls (had a brief incident with a Black Tern) or Red-Winged Blackbirds, which hover and complain sometimes but have never come at me.
The worst of the snow was south of Chicago. I live about 35 miles directly west of “The City” and we only got a few inches.
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Ron lives in Chicago I mean “The City” , don’t let him fool you. Mind you there were no witnesses for the Swallow attack or the harmless Cow attack so lots of skepticism remains. The best news of all, when we are in the in field, I just walk near him until the critters attack and then back away to continue birding while he is ravaged by whatever happens to spot him from the weeds or trees.