waking up in the redwoods

Is there anything that says, “waking up in the Redwoods” more than having a Steller’s Jay hopping around on the ground beside your sleeping bag as you open your eyes in the morning?

Uh-uhn, I thought not.

And, yes, I know, I’m jumping around a bit. Yesterday it was the basalt river-canyons of central Oregon, and today, it’s Steller’s Jays in the Redwoods. However, I was editing some trip photos and couldn’t resist putting this one up for discussion. Twinges of nostalgia, I guess. Seems there’s nothing quite like opening your eyes, only to find that you’re being carefully studied by an inquisitive bird. He’s hopping around less than arm’s length away, trying to decide if that might be some edible morsel on the pillow beside your ear. Next, he gives your rolled up socks a good looking over, and maybe even a little tug because, doggonit if those little flecks of beige wool don’t look like they might be bread crumbs. After making a circuit of your sleeping bag, you see him moseying on over to check out your fellow traveler. There he is, hopping over to the pillow to peer at your friend’s face from bare inches away. What’s he looking for now? Is he checking to see if your friend is roadkill and fair pickins?

Yessir, the unmitigated gall of these birds is something to see. In the morning, they sneak over and under the picnic tables, through the campfires and — if you happen to be sleeping on the ground — carry out a reconnaissance mission around your sleeping bag. But when confronted, or when angered at not finding some manner of tasty tidbits, they shriek and fly off to the next site all in a great huff. And when you’re trying to cook your dinner — don’t look away from the food for a second. I made that mistake more than once, only to find that there was a Steller’s Jay ripping its way through a tough brown paper bag to get at some bakery bread within. I shoo it away, and a minute later, it’s snagged one end of a cheese wrapper and is set to carry its prize off into the bushes. Another night, one lands in the middle of the picnic table among the chopped vegetables I’m preparing, starting an avalanche of overturned bottles and cooking pots. You warn it to leave, and it just flaps to the nearest branch and cranes its head to glare down at you, all the while, working out the logistics of its next foray.

Steller’s Jay — wily denizen of the Redwood campgrounds.

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10 Responses to “waking up in the redwoods”

  1. LauraH Says:

    They sound like wonderful camp companions! I’ve never met one, but recognize some similarities with the blue jays that scream outside my kitchen window for peanuts each morning.

  2. robin andrea Says:

    I was just watching a Stellar’s jay in our yard yesterday. We have several that cruise our place for food a couple of times a day. They make the littler birds scatter almost as fast as a hawk can. Not sure why that is. The jay I was watching was grabbing peanuts off the platform feeder and flying away fast, as if it had stolen something it wasn’t meant to have. They are really loud and raucous birds, and quite beautiful to have around.

  3. Wayne Says:

    HA! What fun, and what a handsome bird. It’s similar to our regular jays but much more devilish.

    And in contrast, not just to your Steller’s, but to the eastern bluejays just 15 miles away in town, ours out here are reclusive and shy. You never see them anywhere but in the topmost of trees, and they never, never come to the feeder.

  4. burning silo Says:

    Laura – They’re definitely what you might call “camp companions” as they’re never too far away, especially when you’re busy making a meal. They also make the rounds of campsites early in the mornings.

    Robin – The Blue Jays have much the same effect on the smaller birds around here. I have actually seen a Blue Jay strike its beak at a sparrow’s head, so I suppose there is cause for them to be somewhat fearful. Our jays act much the same as yours, furtively grabbing things and behaving as though they think they’re great thieves as they carry food off into the pine trees.

    Wayne – They are handsome birds, but I would agree that they’re a little more devilish. They seem willing to attempt bolder forays to steal food from picnic tables. They’re masters of the grab-and-run-for-it type of maneuver. The Blue Jays around our place do come to the feeders, but as Robin has described, ours grab food and behave as though they think they’ve stolen something of great value and have to race off with it.

  5. Anne Says:

    Bev–Now I can’t resist. I just need you to know that I check out your blog just about every day and thoroughly enjoy all of it. Your writing and the content is great. I grew up on a farm in Upstate NY and have taught for years now in urban schools in NY, MA, & CT. I have referred several English teachers to your blog this past year as I find the writing excellent for use w/ English classes–and the urban students enjoy the content as it is something they are not accustomed to. I thank you and keep up the great work you do. Oh yeah, and of course the photos are not bad either!! Thanks.

  6. burning silo Says:

    Anne – Thanks for leaving a note to let me know that you enjoy reading the blog. I know that there are quite a few regular readers “out there” but don’t hear from too many in the comments. It’s always good to get some feedback. Also glad to hear that students are enjoying reading some of these posts as well!

  7. Duncan Says:

    Reminds me of waking up early one morning out in the bush to hear a bush rat chewing away at my neatsfoot oil impregnated boots I was using for a pillow. Right beside my ear!

  8. burning silo Says:

    Duncan – Well, that would certainly be a unique experience! About the closest I can come to that, apart from the Steller’s Jay, is a few years ago when a Meadow Vole got into our house in autumn (there’s often have an influx of meadow voles and deer mice that try to get into the house through even the tiniest crack). As you probably know, voles are great ones for making hoards of food. Early one morning, I woke up to a strange crunching sound. It was a vole sitting up on its back feet atop the nightstand beside the bed, chewing on a piece of dog kibble while it watched me from less than two feet away. When I sat up, it hopped over to a nearby chest of drawers and went underneath. I opened each drawer and discovered a hoard of dog kibble in the bottom one. The vole had been climbing into the drawer by coming up from underneath. The same winter, a couple of friends who live on nearby farms had literally the same experience, so I guess it was one of those years in the cycle when voles are plentiful.

  9. Clare Says:

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane Bev. It brought back fond memories of a trip Janice and I took down the west coast. The redwoods are absolutely… words fail me… omnipotent.

  10. burning silo Says:

    Clare – Glad you dropped by and were reminded of the redwoods. Yes, I love them too. I hadn’t been out west in a few years and was really looking forward to being back among the redwoods. I’ve only been home for a few weeks and I’m looking forward to seeing them again! (-: