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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Western Scrub Jays

Summer is a dull time bird-wise here in San Francisco. We have a wider variety of birds here in winter, as some species winter here at the coast and then move up to higher elevations for the summer. One of our year-round birds is the Western Scrub Jay. These birds are closely related to the more familiar Blue Jay east of the Rockies.

One pair of scrub jays nested two yards over in our neighbor Denny's impenetrable thicket. They visit my feeders on a daily basis and boss the smaller birds around. Jays are smart birds. They figured out how to feed from the suet basket, which is designed for smaller clinging birds like chickadees. It's funny to see these large blue birds hanging upside down pecking away at the suet cakes.

Now there are four. The scrub jays have been bringing their babies over to the yard this week. They are not the only ones...lots of birds are coming back with the latest crop of fledges. It's hard to tell the juvenile scrub jays from the parents. They are the same size now. The babies have the greyer heads and some of their feathers aren't grown in all the way. They are a bit fluffier looking and occasionally they will start begging one of the parent birds for food. They open their bills and rapidly flap their wings in front of one of the parent birds. They also act a little goofier.

Here's a baby on the bird bath.

Here's one of the parent birds on the alpine strawberry pot. Right after I snapped this shot, the bird gobbled one of my tiny strawberries.

Some people don't like jays. I think they are handsome bold birds and I enjoy their antics.

I can't believe it's August already. Soon it will be fall migration time and then these jays will be joined by our returning winter birds. The seasons are much more subtle here, but it's rewarding to take notice of the little changes.

On a different note's definitely TOURIST season here in San Francisco. The lines for the cable cars snake around and all the way up to the next block. Sales of Alcatraz Swim Team sweatshirts are brisk, along with the cold damp winds. I have to say I can't remember when I have seen so many of them here. Steve's hotel is booked 100%. It seems like every other person downtown is consulting a map. Good for our economy, I guess. Many of them are speaking different languages. We are the "bargain basement" for European tourists these days.

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