Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Skunky Surprise and the Mimicry of the Steller's Jay

Last night on Primos we didn't get any stupid little kids trying to steal the camera, and we also unfortunately didn't get any foxes, but we did get not one, not three, but TWO visits from a skunk last night!  I have absolutely no idea if the skunks were the same, or whether they were two completely different skunks.  Another, but slightly less alternative, is that there was a whole band of the little, sometimes stinky creatures, and they were all taking turns on jumping into the camera every 13 or so seconds.  (The camera takes 5 pictures in about two or three seconds for every activation of the motion sensor, and then waits another ten seconds before it will again activate).  Again, this hypothesis is slightly less likely, but not impossible.  So enjoy these pictures of the skunk/two skunks/band of skunks!  I also nabbed a picture of the "Least Concern" Steller's jay, a very attractive type of jay (hey, what Jay isn't?) native to the coniferous forests in and west of the Rocky Mountains in North America.

The Steller's jay is quite an interesting little creature, for many different reasons, so let's take a little look-see, shall we?  Let's start off with what I believe to easily be the most interesting tidbit of Steller's jay facts: it will mimic hawks!  The Steller's jay is omnivorous, eating about two-thirds plants, and the other third meat.  So when other birds are at an area where the Steller's jay wishes to feed, it will imitate the cry of the red-tailed hawk, or the red-shouldered hawk.  This, of course, would startle the other animals and cause them to flee, leaving the area devoid of competition from most other animals.  According to my bird book, the blue jay also "imitates hawks expertly."  Another excellent example of avian mimicry! 

The Steller's jay is also the provincial bird of British Columbia, in Canada, and is named for the Georg Wilhelm Steller, the German naturalist who first discovered the bird in 1741.  I wonder whether anyone ever told him that he spelled "George" wrong....

Steller has had numerous animals named after him, including: the Steller's sea cow (an extinct relative of the manatee), the Steller's sea lion, the Steller's sea eagle, and the Steller's eider (which is a type of duck).  He did much of his work in Russia, but is also considered to be a "pioneer of Alaskan natural history."  What a bro!

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