Ian’s Bird of the Week: Clark’s Nutcracker

Clark's Nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana) by Ian

Clark's Nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week: Clark’s Nutcracker ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 10-14-10

My apologies for the very late bird of the week. My last week in California was very full, so the flight to Costa Rica last Sunday was the first opportunity to prepare the photos and, owing to internet problems at my first two hotels, I haven’t been able to send this email until now (Thursday) although I wrote it on Monday morning.

Craggy Trail-Lassen Volcanic National Park

Craggy Trail-Lassen Volcanic National Park

This is one of the birds of the week that gets chosen because there’s a good story to go with it. Clark’s Nutcracker is a mountain species, found near the tree-line in coniferous forest or rocky areas, that I’d only seen once before, in Colorado in September 1970 and and last week’s visit to Lassen Volcanic National Park in NE California was my third since 2008 to look for it. The first photo shows the craggy trail recommended by a ranger to Bumpass Hell (I kid you not) my sister, Gillian, and I took to look for it.

Clark's Nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana) by Ian

Clark's Nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana) by Ian

Clark's Nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana) by Ian

Clark's Nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana) by Ian

Eventually, we returned to the car park empty-handed and went to the rest-rooms shown in the second photo. After I’d emerged, I heard the call we had been listening for, and turned round the find Gillian looking for the source – a Clark’s Nutcracker calling mockingly at us perched the very top of the small pine tree right behind the building, third photo.

Restroom area-Lassen Volcanic National Park

Restroom area-Lassen Volcanic National Park

After a few seconds, it then flight right over my head and almost into the camera, fourth photo, to perch on a rock beside the car park, directly in front of the sun, thank you very much, fifth photo. I dodges the inevitable questions from a couple of tourists about the size of my 500mm lens to get in a better position before the bird flew, sixth photo, with its mate down into the very steep valley, never to be seen again.

Clark's Nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana) by Ian

Clark's Nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana) by Ian

Many birders will be familiar with the car park list, the ones you find waiting for you when you get back after a long and arduous hike and the rest-room list is a variation on this. And familiar with the advice to take your camera everywhere. EVERYWHERE! And with the settings ready to take photos of the unexpected.

My main target here is the elusive Resplendent Quetzal, so a collective world-wide prayer that I can serve it up to you as the next bird of the week would be greatly appreciated!

Best wishes,
Ian,

Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: +61-7 4751 3115
Preferred Email: ian@birdway.com.au
Website: http://birdway.com.au


Lee’s Addition:
I couldn’t help but chuckle about his being ready at all times episode. It reminded me of a verse in Daniel that says,

Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, … (Daniel 3:15 KJV)

I didn’t read where it mentioned the “Clark’s Nutcracker calling mockingly.”

As usual, Ian had another interesting birdwatching experience.

The Clark’s Nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana) are in the Corvidae – Crows, Jays family of the Passeriformes order.

See also:

a j mithra’s – Clark’s Nutcracker

Interesting Things – Birds With a Memory to Envy

Birds With a Memory to Envy

Who provideth for the raven his food? when his young ones cry unto God, they wander for lack of meat. (Job 38:41)

Clark's Nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana) ©USFWS

Clark's Nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana) ©USFWS

The shy bird, called Clark’s nutcracker, collects food during the growing season and stores it for the cold winter months. In one year, a bird will store between 22,000 and 33,000 seeds in as many as 2,500 locations, which can be more than ten miles apart. But does the little bird remember where he put all those seeds?

Biologists tracked the activity of Clark’s nutcrackers in the San Francisco Peaks in northern Arizona. A small army of researchers tracked the birds’ seed gathering and storing activities. One of the first things they discovered was that the birds quickly figured out that they were being observed. Some refused to store food when researchers were watching them. Others faked storing seeds when they were watched. Back in the lab, researchers studied the storing activity of Eurasian nutcrackers. After the birds stored seeds in a large sand floor, the birds were removed. Then the seeds they stored were dug up. When the birds were allowed to return, they quickly discovered that their seeds had been stolen, so they refused to store any more seeds. In the end, researchers concluded that the nutcrackers recover as many as two-thirds of their stored seeds within 13 months.

The remarkable memory of these little birds is their gift from God that enables them to be fed all year around.

Prayer: Father, I thank You because You are gracious and generous, not just to the birds, but also to me. Amen.

From Creation Moments©2010 – References: Science News, 2/14: 2004, pp. 103-105, Susan Milius, “Where’d I Put That?”


The Clarke’s and Eurasian Nutcrackers are part of the Corvidae Family of Crows, Jays, and Allies. The Passeriformes Order they are in has at present 123 Families (IOC 2.4).

Wordless Birds

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