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  • Writer's pictureKen Campbell

Jays and Bobcats

Updated: Nov 16, 2022

We see many birds at SoggyBottom farm. I have been noting all the different species sighted over the 1.5 years that we have been in residence. My list has grown to 71 species. Not all of these birds are equally common. Some entries in the list, i.e., Yellow-shafted flicker, represent only one sighting of a bird whose range is outside our area while other entries, i.e., Oregon junco, represent hundreds of sightings, sometimes 100 per day, of birds where SoggyBottom is smack dab in the middle of their home range. Those that have been sighted only a few times are not necessarily rare birds. Entries like the Western kingbird and the Lazuli bunting appear as a single sighting in the list even though they are not uncommon in nearby habitats; they just don’t venture into the local marshy/forest habitat of SoggyBottom farm.

One such species that is rarely observed at SoggyBottom is the Western Scrub-Jay. SoggyBottom is at the northern limit of this bird’s distribution range along the Pacific coast. In fact, the Scrub Jay is fairly common in the oak woodlands as close as 15 miles south of here around Tacoma. But we don’t have oak woodlands in the farm’s immediate vicinity so we have not seen a Scrub Jay here prior to this report.

This last week I was privileged to see a Scrub Jay on the ground under the bird feeder. It came to the bird feeder along with a bevy of Steller’s Jays. These last represent a group of five or more Steller’s Jays that hang out on the farm all year long. They are busy, noisy birds whose presence cannot be overlooked. Because there is so much in-fighting and displacement behavior among the Steller’s Jays, it was not clear to me whether the Scrub Jay was part of the Steller’s Jay group or was being treated as an outsider. In any case, the Scrub Jay asserted itself and acted as the dominant bird on the ground while it foraged for spilled birdseed.

Luckily, I managed to get the camera set up and took a couple of pictures of the Scrub Jay before it departed. I have not seen it now for the several days that have elapsed since its visit.

There are several behavioral differences between Scrub Jays and Steller’s Jays and the two species are normally found in different habitats - Scrub jays inhabit low-elevation woodlands consisting of broadleaf species and mixed conifers; Steller’s jays favor mountainous regions and coniferous forests. But the two are found together along a broad front where their habitats interface. Despite their differences, there is no mistaking that both these birds are jays and that they are closely related. To demonstrate anatomic and plumage similarities and differences, we offer the pictures taken of the two species during the Scrub jay’s visit.

We look forward to getting more visits at SoggyBottom by our itinerant Scrub jay.

While I was attempting to get photographs of jays, the trail camera, located where a game trail crosses the driveway, was recording the regular appearance of a bobcat. The images were taken over several days at different times of the day in differing light. Upon study of these images, we began to wonder if the camera was photographing one or, possibly, two cats. One set of images indicated that the cat was brown while another set indicated that the cat was grey. Was it just a difference in the lighting, or was it two different cats? We at the farm are leaning toward the two-cat interpretation but are willing to consider that it was just one cat under very different lighting conditions.


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