the Rookie Birder

I have watched birds all my life, but after reading "The Big Year," "Grail Bird" and especially Kenn Kaufman's "Kingbird Highway," plus Santa's timely stocking stuffer of "Sibley's 2003 Eastern & Western Field Guides," I made the decision to become a rookie birder beginning January 1st, 2006.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Lynne saves the day, we find Gray Jays

Hoosier Pass Pullover
Colorado, Hwy 9 south of Breckenridge at 11,000+ft

January 2nd, 2006, 3pm

I am not sure that most serious birders would have slept in as late as I did this morning with so many new birds to discover and ID, but we were on vacation and it was our goal to do little and enjoy some time together as a family while we were in Colorado. Our day got off to a slow start, but we did make one nice bird find before our day was done.

After we finished up at the Cherry Creek State Park yesterday, Lynne and I drove with our family from the south side of Denver where it was 55 degrees and sunny at 430pm, to Frisco Colorado, via I-70 and the Eisenhower Pass, 83 miles away, where it was cold, snowing and just under 20 degrees 85 minutes later. That's Colorado.

Once Lynne and I got the family moving the next morning, we wanted to drive past "our mountain," Mt Quandry, on the south side of Breckenridge, to see the place where we shared our nuptials 4 years earlier in September, and then drive up to Hoosier Pass to look at some of the four 14ers of the Mosquito Range that we had hiked to the top of in the past; Mt Lincoln, Bross, Democrat & Sherman.

While we were parked at the pull over at the top of the pass, I noticed a jay like bird flitting about on the other side of some park cars. I immediately grabbed my western field guide and turned to the section on jays. But I couldn't seem to find the birds we were looking at, an unbashful group that had no problem gliding right up to the side of our car. They were about the size of a Blue Jay or Stellar's Jay, but were light grayish white overall, with a mostly gray/white head, dark eyes and short dark bill. These birds did have a slightly darker gray nape, and I thought they might be GRAY JAYS (photos Jeff Skrentny). But in my field guide, the Gray Jays were darker in color. Yet, they made the right weeeoo whistle, and sailing glide while in flight, but they were just too light compared to the drawings in my Sibley's.

I waited patiently for one of them to get close enough to photograph for later ID while Lynne read the description of the Gray Jay over again. Thankfully she was paying attention and noticed on the bottom right of the guide drawings for the Gray Jay, there was a different head for the Adult Rocky Mountains birds. It was a group of Gray Jays playing about, but they were a slight color variation found only in the Rockies. I had bird number 7 for the year, the Gray Jay with the Rocky Mountain coloring.

#7 GRAY JAY Rocky Mountains coloring


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