Thursday, September 17, 2009

Gray Jay

Last Saturday while Judy and I were coming down Mount Elbert in Colorado I had a fun experience with a Gray Jay. I'd taken a detour off the trail to photograph some colorful bushes at the base of a pine tree. A gray jay flew into a pine tree near me and I took its picture. It then proceeded to circle around me, flying from pine tree to pine tree and several times to the ground. It got quite close.

I started this blog thinking it was a Clark's Nutcracker, a bird I've seen many times, usually at high elevations in the San Bernardino Mountains. But I've also seen them in the Sierras, the Tetons, and the Uintas. I was going to comment that the Clark's Nutcracker is usually quite wary and I'd never gotten so close to one. However, I noted that this particular bird was missing the dark black wing and tail feathers of the Clark's Nutcracker.
A quick turn to the Field Guide to Western Birds revealed that it was, instead, a gray jay, a bird that I don't recall encountering before. They are not found in Southern California, but are found in the mountains of Colorado. The gray jay has a white forehead or crown and a black patch across the back of the head.
Fun to run into a different species of bird without even realizing it.
In August 2013, while hiking up to Quandary Peak, outside Breckenridge, Colorado, I had another encounter with a gray jay. I was with Judy and Andrew and two of them got very close to us and seemed to follow us for a distance.
Gray jay near Quandary Peak

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