A juvenile raven comes calling

A family of ravens lives in a tree down the street from me.  I have often seen what I believe to be the same pair overhead for the past several years, often just enjoying flying around.   There are other ravens around, of course, and I often see them overhead or in the trees in the bush park near my house.

On July 11, while on a walk in the bush park with my camera, three ravens flew overhead. Then this young raven, flew down to a branch near me,  frequently calling for its parents while they remained high above in the tree tops.

 

The young raven samples some witch’s hair.

A juvenile steller’s jay learns to crack a nut

 

Updated

I am lucky enough to be surrounded by the magnificent steller’s jay.   A group of them live in a tall conifer across a small park from my house.  (Unfortunately BC Hydro contractors opened up one part of the tree while rewiring the neighbourhood so the steller’s jays in that tree may be vulnerable.)  Others frequently visit (and may be living–I am not sure) in the cedar trees that mark the boundary with my neighbour’s house.  So the steller’s jays are frequent visitors to the feeder on my back deck.

I’ve been photographing steller’s jays on my deck,  in my backyard and in the bush around Kitimat for the past eight years. So I must have thousands of steller’s jays photos spring, summer, fall and winter for those eight years.

Friday night was a beautiful summer evening. I spotted three steller’s jays in the grass of my backyard.  I grabbed a camera, stepped out and saw–and heard–something I hadn’t seen in eight years.

For my feeder I used a wildbird mixture that it is mostly sunflower seeds, maize and shelled peanuts.  Although steller’s jays love peanuts I have never left out peanuts in the shell. But one of my neighbors does and I have seen from time to time a steller’s jay with a peanut in its mouth, usually on the ground before flying off into the trees.

What I saw Friday night (again Monday night) was entirely different.  One steller’s jay had found a way to crack the nut case in my old rotten fence.   Tonight there were two at it.

First about the fence, it’s old, probably original to the house when it was built in 1960, with parts rotting away and falling apart.  I had planned to replace it this summer but then I had to pay for major car repairs. Before that it was a new roof and a new furnace.

Steller’s jays, like all corvids, are highly intelligent birds.  It seems that scientists studying corvid intelligence, when they are not studying ravens and crows, concentrate on the scrub jay, which means British Columbia’s beautiful official bird doesn’t get much scientific respect with only a few university researchers looking at the bird (at least that is what I could find out in an online search.)

On Friday evening, that one steller’s jay found the perfect place to anchor a peanut in the shell.  My rotten old fence.

I asked Professor Jeffrey M. Black who does study steller’s jays at Humboldt University in Arcata, California what the jays were doing:

All three jays in these photos are of juveniles; note the fluffy grey chests and behind legs, and the yellow skin at the corner of the mouth. You may have noticed them giving odd raspy juvenile type calls too. Sometimes the young jays at this age, which come to feeders with peanuts, ignore peanuts and sample the seeds instead. It seems they get ‘turned on’ to peanuts through ‘social learning’ – meaning they observer others and learn there’s food inside. Seems like the young jay in the photos was new to the task. Experienced jays seem to extract the nuts from peanut shells quite quickly with deft strikes and prying movements (unlike the young bird in the photos). I agree, the youngster seems quite clever to have pushed the nut against a crack to hold it in place before aiming blows. As for the hammering sound. I suspect that was the beak coming into contact with the wooden fence. Incidentally, hammering on wood (knock, knock, knock) seems to be a behavior used in frustration or perhaps to signal a threat during aggressive encounter.

So here is the complete sequence from 18:47:53 Friday, July 13, 2018 to 18:49:39. All images copyright Robin Rowland 2018.

The steller’s jay is wrestling with the shelled peanut.

It seems to have done quite well demolishing the shell, in a gap against the old fence post. But apparently half the peanut shell was a hard nut to crack.

The steller’s jay takes a look….

 

I turned away for just a few seconds, and took a shot of the jays on the grass, with corn in their beaks. While shooting the jays on the grass I heard a “knock, knock, knock” sound, looked up and saw the steller’s jay working with its beak to crack that shell which was now anchored against the fence post.  Smart!

With the peanut shell firmly anchored against the wood and held tight in its feet, the steller’s jay repeatedly taps with its beak against the shell.

It keeps trying.  You can see part of the shell (or perhaps the peanut) on the beak.

 

A bee flies by…

… as the steller’s jay pauses for a second or two.

Finally success! It has the peanut out of the shell.

It enjoys its meal.

Looks like it’s finished because…


The steller’s jay discards the peanut shell.

 

 

And flies away.

 

A long shot of my fence taken the next morning.

 

A closer view of the area that the steller’s jay used to crack the nut.

 

And an even closer shot showing all the possibilities for an intelligent bird to anchor a peanut.

 

I just happened to look tonight (Monday July 16) and the steller’s jays were back at the rotten part of the fence.

This steller’s jay was back close to the spot where the peanut was cracked on Friday night.

 

No sign of peanuts tonight, so it was probably looking for bugs.

This is the tree where I’ve seen the steller’s jay living for the past eight years. You can see how BC Hydro contractors cleared a whole section of the tree to install new power lines that you can also see in the imagine.

A soggy day in Kitimat harbour as the spring migration comes north

On Thursday, April 19, was a soggy, to say the least, with wind-driven, cold, pouring rain when I went down to Kitamaat Village and Kitimat harbour to photograph the spring bird migration.  The highlight were the snow geese I saw both at MK Bay  (above) and at the Kitamaat Village soccer field. (Robin Rowland)

A bald eagle, drenched in the pouring rain, at the mouth of Whatl Creek near MK Bay Marina. (Robin Rowland)

A crow takes off from the sea grass in pouring rain near Kitamaat Village. (Robin Rowland)

Snow geese feed at the Kitamaat Village soccer field (Robin Rowland)

A snow goose at the Kitamaat Village soccer field. (Robin Rowland)

Snow geese fly past MK Bay. (Robin Rowland)

An Oregon junco on the waterfront. (Robin Rowland)

Mallards take to the wing as a bald eagle passes overhead (Robin Rowland)

 

A gull passes two bald eagles in the low tide puddles of Whatl Creek near Kitimat Harbour (Robin Rowland)

Two bald eagles in the low tide puddles of Whatl Creek near Kitimat Harbour (Robin Rowland)


Raindrops fall on the head of an American robin who posed on a log beside my car just as I was getting ready to leave. (Robin Rowland)

 

Bald eagles battle over a duck

Two bald eagles battle over a duck at Kitimat harbour. Images taken off the shoreline of Kitamaat Village.

A bald eagle flies over Kitimat harbour (Robin Rowland)

(Robin Rowland)

Another bald eagle watching from above. (Robin Rowland)

Splash!  The first eagle swoops down and grabs a duck (hard to see in this image) (Robin Rowland)

The second eagle heads skyward with its eye on the first (Robin Rowland)

The first eagle is heading away with his catch (Robin Rowland)

 

The second eagle swoops down to attack.  (Robin Rowland)

 

But the attack is unsuccessful and the first eagle escapes with its meal still in its talons. (Robin Rowland)

Birds in the fog on a sunny morning in Kitamaat Village

Fly past. A bald eagle passes some mallard ducks in flight over Kitimat harbour. (Robin Rowland)

 

A flock of mallards fly over Kitimat harbour. (Robin Rowland)

A “murder of crows” fly toward Kitamaat Village from the Kitimat harbour. (Robin Rowland)

 

A crow comes in for landing on the shores of Kitamaat Village. (Robin Rowland)

 

The beach at Kitamaat Village as the tide begins to recede with the sun shining on the fog in Kitmat harbour. (Robin Rowland)

A pair of bald eagles find perches on a old snag on the Kitamaat Village waterfront. (Robin Rowland)

 

A sparrow hides in the long grass and wildflowers in the Kitamaat Village seawall (Robin Rowland)

Cackling Geese at Whatl Creek and more

Cackling geese skim over the mouth of Whatl Creek, MK Bay, Kitimat, BC (Robin Rowland)

Cackling geese (Branta hutchnisi) make look like Canada Geese, but they’re a separate species, smaller (close to the size of a mallard duck) with a shorter neck, rounder head and a stubbier bill. The west coast species often spend summers in the Aleutian Islands and then fly south to the Central Valley of  California, so these probably stopped in Kitimat on their way south.

 

A cackling goose. smaller than a Canada goose, hides in the grass along Whatl Creek. (Robin Rowland)

 

A bald eagle keeps an eye on the flock of cackling geese at Whatl Creek (Robin Rowland)

The bald eagle at Whatl Creek. (Robin Rowland)

 

A raven flies over Kitimat harbour (Robin Rowland)

A flock of about 50 mallards along the waterfront of Kitamaat Village. (Robin Rowland)