This guy decided to visit one morning while we were making breakfast in a campground in Yellowstone National Park…
Steller’s and Blue jays are the only North American jays with crests. The Blue Jay is expanding its range westward. Where they meet, the two species occasionally interbreed and produce hybrids.
Steller’s Jays have the dubious honor of being one of the most frequently misspelled names in all of bird watching. Up close, the bird’s dazzling mix of azure and blue is certainly stellar, but that’s not how you spell their name. Steller’s Jays were discovered on an Alaskan island in 1741 by Georg Steller, a naturalist on a Russian explorer’s ship. When a scientist officially described the species, in 1788, they named it after him – along with other discoveries including the Steller’s sea lion and Steller’s Sea-Eagle.
The Steller’s Jay and the Blue Jay are the only New World jays that use mud to build their nests.
The Steller’s Jay shows a great deal of variation in appearance throughout its range, with some populations featuring black crests and backs, and others blue. One black-crested form in southern Mexico is surrounded by eight other blue-crested forms.
Steller’s Jays are habitual nest-robbers, like many other jay species. They’ve occasionally been seen attacking and killing small adult birds including a Pygmy Nuthatch and a Dark-eyed Junco.
An excellent mimic with a large repertoire, the Steller’s Jay can imitate birds, squirrels, cats, dogs, chickens, and some mechanical objects.
The oldest recorded Steller’s Jay was 16 years 1 month old.
With half of the earth’s geothermal features, Yellowstone holds the planet’s most diverse and intact collection of geysers, hot springs, mudpots, and fumaroles. More than 300 geysers make up over one half of all those found on earth. Combine this with more than 10,000 thermal features comprised of brilliantly colored hot springs, bubbling mudpots, and steaming fumaroles, and you have a place like no other. Geyserland, fairyland, wonderland–through the years, all have been used to describe the natural wonder and magic of this unique park that contains more geothermal features than any other place on earth.
Yellowstone’s hydrothermal features would not exist without the underlying magma body that releases tremendous heat. They also depend on sources of water, such as from the mountains surrounding the Yellowstone Plateau. There, snow and rain slowly percolate through layers of permeable rock riddled with cracks. Some of this cold water meets hot brine directly heated by the shallow magma body. The water’s temperature rises well above the boiling point but the water remains in a liquid state due to the great pressure and weight of the overlying water. The result is superheated water with temperatures exceeding 400°F.
The superheated water is less dense than the colder, heavier water sinking around it. This creates convection currents that allow the lighter, more buoyant, superheated water to begin its journey back to the surface following the cracks and weak areas through rhyolitic lava flows. This upward path is the natural “plumbing” system of the park’s hydrothermal features.
As hot water travels through this rock, it dissolves some silica in the rhyolite. This silica can precipitate in the cracks, perhaps increasing the system’s ability to withstand the great pressure needed to produce a geyser.
At the surface, silica precipitates to form siliceous sinter, creating the scalloped edges of hot springs and the seemingly barren landscape of hydrothermal basins. When the silica rich water splashes out of a geyser, the siliceous sinter deposits are known as geyserite.
For more info on Yellowstone’s geothermal areas, please visit here….
On our last day of camping in the Tetons, we hooked up to our camper, headed down the road and had to make a decision as to which road to take to go back to Yellowstone. We decided at the last minute to veer closer to the mountains in hope of seeing more elk. While driving we saw a cow and calf elk come running full tilt out of the trees, we quickly pulled off the road and decided to wait and see what else would come out…
Here comes the rest of the herd…
With a nice bull…
We were definitely happy campers seeing these beautiful animals our last day in Tetons!
On our recent trip to Yellowstone, we stopped to have a bit of a break and a picnic on the Firehole River….
The kids were able to explore the river and splash around a bit…
A curious on-looker begging for food….
Even a chance for a nap…
A “Camp Robber” decided to check things out too…
Otherwise known as, Clark’s Nutcracker, they are friendly, curious little guys…
The Clark’s Nutcracker has a special pouch under its tongue that it uses to carry seeds long distances. The nutcracker harvests seeds from pine trees and takes them away to hide them for later use.
The Clark’s Nutcracker hides thousands and thousands of seeds each year. Laboratory studies have shown that the bird has a tremendous memory and can remember where to find most of the seeds it hides.
The Clark’s Nutcracker feeds its nestlings pine seeds from its many winter stores (caches). Because it feeds the young on stored seeds, the nutcracker can breed as early as January or February, despite the harsh winter weather in its mountain home.
The Clark’s Nutcracker is one of very few members of the crow family where the male incubates the eggs. In jays and crows, taking care of the eggs is for the female only. But the male nutcracker actually develops a brood patch on its chest just like the female, and takes his turn keeping the eggs warm while the female goes off to get seeds out of her caches.
Not only do the lives of Clark’s Nutcrackers revolve around their pine seed diet, but the pines themselves have been shaped by their relationship with the nutcrackers. Whitebark pines, limber pines, Colorado pinyon pines, single-leaf pinyon pines, and southwestern white pines depend on nutcrackers to disperse their seeds. Over time this interaction has changed their seeds, their cones, and even the trees’ overall shape in comparison with other pine species whose seeds are dispersed by the wind.
The Clark’s Nutcracker tests a seed for soundness by moving it up and down in its bill while quickly opening and closing its bill, in a motion known as “bill clicking.” It also chooses good seeds by color: when foraging on Colorado pinyon pines, it refuses all but dark brown seeds.
Ounce for ounce, the whitebark pine seeds that many Clark’s Nutcrackers depend on have more calories than chocolate.
Clark’s Nutcracker is in the crow and jay family—but the first time Captain William Clark saw one, in August of 1805, he thought it was a woodpecker. He and Meriwether Lewis collected a specimen in Idaho on their return journey a year later. Clark’s Nutcracker was one of three new bird species brought back from their expedition, all of which were described by the naturalist Alexander Wilson.
The oldest Clark’s Nutcracker on record was at least 17 years, 5 months old.
Trying to fathom that something can be tens of millions of years old is hard to do. Well, that is how old the Petrified Tree is. This now solid rock was once a giant redwood tree surrounded by a forest of trees just like it. During violent volcanic eruptions millions of years ago, mudflows and volcanic deposits rapidly filled the open pores of the tree , solidifying it into the rocky trunk that you see today. Where there was once two there is now only one petrified tree left standing. In the earlier days of the park, visitors and explorers took pieces of the second tree until there was nothing left to take. A fence surrounds the remaining tree so that it will be left alone and still standing for generations to come. Read more here…