Cheetle-Jay

Hello everyone! I am back for a likely brief period of time while I’m waiting for some props to finish drying. First off, I wanted to thank you for the warm welcome you gave Brad on his first guest post. Definitely helping me out while I try to get things under control at the home base. There will be more coming from him in the future – in fact he already has some ready to go. Will try to spread out the sugar, don’t want anyone to get over-sweetened and tire of the standard fare ha!

Really good news on the running front as well. Finished my 50K simulation run last week on the approximate course the 100K will be held. Not sure what happened over there, but the CoE site looked like a tornado hit it – downed trees everywhere. Some still over the trails turning it into a wilderness obstacle course. Other areas had been cleaned of the down timber, but so many branches and wood chips were left behind I had hunt/guess to find the path at times. Will be impressed if they get all that scrub taken care prior to the race (in a shockingly short 3 weeks). The simulation did successfully remind me the actual race is not going to be “pleasant” until the moment I cross the finish line – was definitely feeling the last couple of miles of the simulation and that only gets me HALF way there – will thankfully be cooler then.

Enough of that, let’s get to the part you come here to see – the featured feathered friend of the day.

Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay found at Red Rock Canyon, Clark County, NV in February 2020

Hit the jump for more of my Vegas tin.

Needless to say, during the run I had a lot of time to plan out the next couple of posts. Today’s feature was a no-brainer. With all that scrub I was maneuvering through, it was an easy decision to go with the Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay.

Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay found at Red Rock Canyon, Clark County, NV in February 2020

This particular Scrub-Jay species is not a new bird to the blog. I brought you one from Red Rocks Amphitheater back in 2017 (link here) and although a bit of deception, also featured it back in 2014 (link here). Back in 2014 it was still referred to as the Western Scrub-Jay. Turns out the Ornithological organization(s) that manage species distinction decided that the Western was really two different species and separated them into California and Woodhouse’s around 2016.

Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay found at Red Rock Canyon, Clark County, NV in February 2020

Fortunately, the two species have a pretty narrow overlap. The California hangs out mostly in .. wait for it.. wait for it… anticipation building .. California – specifically the more western regions, but does come into the western part of Nevada and more north pretty much following the coastline. I will tell you I just made a note to check if I tinned any Scrub-Jays on our trip to Tahoe as they apparently overlap with the Woods around there. Beyond that, the Woods tend to stay further east of those regions roaming into Colorado, Kansas and then down into New Mexico, Arizona and a smattering through Texas that leaks into Central America.

Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay found at Red Rock Canyon, Clark County, NV in February 2020

For the curious (and those that happen to find themselves in the narrow overlap regions), the Woods are a bit duller than the California through the breast area, the blues are not as deep and more distinctly the blue necklace is more defined. I, of course, had to rely on Cornell for that comparison as I have never seen a California (that I know of – fingers crossed on Tahoe).

Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay found at Red Rock Canyon, Clark County, NV in February 2020

What I do know is you can locate the Woods without much trouble if you happen to be in Las Vegas or outside Denver. I’ve tinned them on every trip to those destinations and this particular specimen was found at the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area – specifically at the last pull off before exiting the canyon. I was busy entertaining myself watching the local varmints trying to clean the fluorescent Cheetos dust from their face (officially called Cheetle by the way). Likely a result of a coordinated take-down of a small child duped by the promise of free candy painted on the side of their cargo van. “Hey, there’s a little human with a bag of those tasty orange crunchy things – drive the van out and see if it will fall for it. When it gets close everyone jump-em!”

Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay found at Red Rock Canyon, Clark County, NV in February 2020

Clearly it worked as about half the Antelope Ground Squirrels in the area appeared to have recently ran an orange color-race 5K. While watching the squirrels just grind the fluorescent dust deeper into their fur, I looked to my left and noticed this Scrub-Jay also enjoying the comedy. Actually, more liking studying them closely to attempt to steal their precious morsels. As he was ready to make its move, it gave me a good look at its back.

Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay found at Red Rock Canyon, Clark County, NV in February 2020

They have a nice slate grey back that coordinates well with their blue feathering. I will note that this particular specimen was duller than the usually specimens I see. I did do some quick research to see if there were any juvenile/male/female differences that would account for the difference. Apparently not. The juvs will have a greyer head, but beyond that they are similarly clothed.

Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay found at Red Rock Canyon, Clark County, NV in February 2020

Didn’t want to overlook another similar looking bird with regional overlap, the Pinyon Jay. I do not currently have the Pinyon checked off my life list and there is a letdown every time the ID comes back as a Scrub. Cornell points out the tail difference (Scrubs longer) and difference in blue hues (Scrubs brighter) which are great if you have the two birds sitting around a table playing poker, not so helpful the rest of the time. They failed to mention the key characteristic I use in the field – the white eyebrow. Spot that and resign to a continued search for the Pinyon.

Just a few quick interesting facts to close out the post – then back into the Nightmare Lab. Unlike others in the Jay family, the Woodhouse does not have a crest. Their bills are sharp and thin allowing them to reach into Pinyon pine tree cones and extract the nuts. I chuckled when I read this line on Cornell’s website – ” [They] have a mischievous streak, and they’re not above outright theft. They’ve been caught stealing acorns seeds and pine cones from Clark’s Nutcrackers”. Should let them know that includes Ground Squirrel Cheetos! Lastly, they are also partial to eating Ticks off of Mule Deer – clearly gaining Ron’s admiration.

Take care folks. I will be very spotty over the next couple of weeks (both posting and reading). Look for another guest post from Brad as well.

15 thoughts on “Cheetle-Jay”

  1. Nice Jay. You have identified many of the ID problems with LBJs, would be a lot easier if they were side by side. Careful training, we, the readers, need our posts.

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  2. As I was reading this I was thinking of a Mountain Blue Jay… not sure that is a bird… but it is what I called the blue jays when I lived in Jackson Hole. I just remembered how blue and different they were from the Midwestern Blue Jays I grew up knowing.
    Best of luck on your endeavors.

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    1. Howdy CJ – so far all the projects.. including the running.. are coming along pretty much on schedule. I do not think there is a Mountain Blue Jay .. at least not one I am aware of, although there are, as you would expect, Jays that live in the mountainous regions. You may be thinking of the Mountain Bluebird. The males are stunningly blue and do look like these Scrubs, but without the bib and eye crest. Jackson Hole does have the Steller’s Jay which is pretty cool as well. Take care and I’ll be bringing you the sights from the haunted trail soon after the event – last year I waited waaaaay too long.

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        1. Ah, the Blue Cardinal ha! Are you giving clues to your pumpkin design pick for this year or do we have to wait to see the finished product!?!? If I remember correctly, you did multiple pumpkins last year.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Hahaha! Nope, no clues. But found some pretty large pumpkins in local farm that have my name (only in my head, not physically… yet…) in them. Talked with my brother who is one of you crazy Halloween types and he wants a soul sucker prop for his display?! Really? Who thinks this stuff up? Don’t think I could pull one of those off on a carved pumpkin so it will be more of the same from me.😬😱

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    1. Autumn is definitely arriving. Been downright cold at nights here (still balmy compared to an Illinois winter night, of course). A welcome transition for my training run days – a few days ago I ended up putting a light long sleeve shirt on to take a bit of the nip out. I am not a fan of the Blue Jays myself, but the other ones are definitely a joy to watch – especially in Vegas ha. Thanks for dropping in Sandra, appreciate it.

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  3. Growing up in Colorado, I saw Western Blue Jays, Pinion Jays and Stellar’s Jays, guess I’ll have to get re-acquainted after the name change. Their flashes of blue, and their bold thievery both appealed to us kids.

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    1. The good news is you get an easy new lifer just by seeing the same bird!! They are definitely conniving little devils and those Blue Jay that hang around our neck of the woods like waking me up with a racket that could raise all the dead zombies that show up in our woods this week. Thankfully, this specimen was a quiet one – picking its moment to go for the Cheetoh ha.

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  4. I really enjoyed these Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay photos, Brian. Chuckled at the cheetos and squirrel observations. I have not seen this Scrub-Jay since the split…which means a lifer awaits me. I liked your photos for the details they presented, much smaller white eyebrow. We have the Calif. Scrub-Jay in No. Calif., and the Steller’s Jay too. They’re busy with acorns now and the juveniles are getting more sassy and bold. I saw pinyon jays in NV once–thrilling–and was surprised to see them in large flocks. Congrats on completing your 50K run. Nice post.

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    1. Glad you liked the shots Jet! I always get excited when I hear about a species split – usually means a free check on the list ha. I have yet to see the California variety (although I still need to go check my Tahoe shots). I do love those Steller’s and a bit jealous you have easy access to them – I call them the Fighting Cardinals (‘cuz they are black and blue ha). I feel a lot better about the 100K now that the 50K test is out of the way. Will still be a test of wills, but now can put more focus on planning out the back half. The things we do for fun, I tell you. Have a great week, always good to hear from you.

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