Date: 1/22/20 7:32 pm
From: Jerry Zatorski <jerryzat...>
Subject: Re: ESbirds: north Mono Co. scrub jays
A note about the Owens Valley
I work in Independence and there are easily identifiable CASJ regularly in
town and north to about the Thibaut Springs area (N of Fort Independence,
between the LA Aqueduct and US 395); I also work in the Owens Valley year
round. Beyond this Independence to Thibaut area the occurrence of scrub
jays is very rare in my experience, likely due to the lack of trees just
beyond this hotspot.
Some personal records for this area since 2008 are: 2008, 17 records; 2009,
19 records; 2010, 18 records; 2011, 10 records; 2012, 35 records; 2013, 23
records; 2014, 36 records; 2015, 31 records; 2016, 27 records; 2017, 25
records; 2018, 16 records; 2019, 32 records. In contrast for this same
time period (2008-2019) I have had 12 Owens Valley records outside of this
area from The Buttermilks to Sage Flat, mostly on the west side of the
Valley. Also of note I have had 3 records of WOSJ for this same time
period (2008-2019), all in the Independence hotspot. The CASJ are pretty
easy to ID in the field and show the expected field marks. The WOSJ that I
have found also have had the correct field marks and I was pretty confident
with my ID.
There has not been any mention of juvenile birds in this discussion. I
have seen what appear to be juvs based on behavior, time of year and nearby
adult birds and use caution when claiming WOSJ and now possible hybrids of
the two species. These likely juv birds don't seem to show some of the
expected field marks as an adult would, and as mentioned I use behavior to
aid in ID.
Unfortunately I have not got around to getting my records in E-Bird, and
I'm working on getting this together.

Jerry

On Sun, Jan 19, 2020 at 12:39 PM Kristie Nelson <storm_petrel...>
wrote:

> One more thing – especially relevant for eastside and Owen’s Valley
> birders. As most of you know - Owen’s Valley also has both species of scrub
> jay. I don’t think that area has been well studied by the published
> researchers, and I'm curious what local birders are finding.
>
> Gowen et al only had one sample location in Owen’s Valley. In western NV
> there’s that blend zone from CA to WO (that does at least somewhat line
> with oak to pinyon). What is the situation in Owen’s Valley? It seems like
> the two species butt up to eachother more in Owen’s but I’m defiantly not
> very familiar with it. I saw Nancy Overholtz had a checklist where she
> encountered some apparent hybrids. And I bet Tom and Jo have this dialed
> in. Do California and Woodhouse jays hybridize in the Owen’s Valley? If so
> (Nancy's checklist implies), what’s the distribution? Is the hybrid zone
> more limited there than in western Nevada? Or not?
>
> I’m really curious and encourage birders to document it well and look for
> blended looking birds (and enter them as slash species on eBird). One thing
> that puzzles me is the apparent lack of a barrier to speciation – except
> the oak-pinyon nut associations of the two species. Or maybe behavior. Are
> the pure CASJ in Owen’s Valley more associated with the canyons containing
> oak trees? Are jays in stands of Oaks the “purest” looking of the CASJ? Are
> there “pure” CASJ looking birds in the Pinyons? Or does the oak-pinyon
> thing simply not hold much water?
>
> Fun stuff – and worthy of a publication if adequate data are compiled.
> Kristie
>
> ------------------------------
> *From:* Chris McCreedy <cristofolos...>
> *Sent:* Thursday, January 16, 2020 4:21 PM
> *To:* Jerry Zatorski <jerryzat...>
> *Cc:* Kristie Nelson <storm_petrel...>;
> <easternsierrabirds...> <easternsierrabirds...>
> *Subject:* Re: ESbirds: north Mono Co. scrub jays
>
> One other point. I spent a fair amount of time researching this a couple
> years ago, as there were several *Aphelocoma *reports I had to work
> through for eBird. I recall (and it has been a while now, so treat this
> with a grain of salt) that birders treated Reno jays as safely CASJ, which
> mattered because some of the reports towards Topaz used Reno jays as
> references. But I recall thinking after I read some of the literature that
> even Reno jays might not necessarily be clean clear-cut CASJ. If one wants
> to make an argument that even if there is some mixing that the Reno
> phenotype/appearance is essentially CASJ, okay, I see that argument. But I
> seem to remember it crossing my mind that it might nonetheless be unwise to
> base assessments of Mono birds too strongly off comparisons with Reno
> birds, given the literature.
>
> Chris
>
> On Thu, Jan 16, 2020 at 5:01 PM Jerry Zatorski <jerryzat...> wrote:
>
> Kristie,
> Thanks for bringing this Scrub Jay issue to the forefront. I have had
> similar troubles in identifying the SJ in this area of Northern Mono and
> adjacent SW Douglas. The hybrid population here may shed a bit more light
> for many who claim to have one or the other species in this area.
>
> Jerry
>
> On Thu, Jan 16, 2020 at 2:03 PM Kristie Nelson <storm_petrel...>
> wrote:
>
> Continuation on the scrub jays – because it’s fun to nerd out on, is
> relevant for Mono Co. birders, and follows up further on the status of
> north Mono Co scrub jays.
>
> California SJ-like hybrids are more likely in north Mono County than
> pure, solid California Scrub-jays. They probably come from the Pine Nut Mt
> region of western Nevada: a narrow hybrid zone of California and Woodhouse
> scrub-jays. You can search Gowen et al. and find the research paper. Solid
> California Scrub jays are very rare in Mono County. As Chris mentions, that
> makes it difficult for eBird reviewers to evaluate CASJ reports, especially
> if they are not photographed.
>
> Traits I find helpful, and a claimed California scub-jay in Mono County
> should score well in each:
>
> - Bold blue coloration, bold necklace, and white underparts, including
> the undertail in California. Woodhouse duller blue and grayish below with
> blue tinged undertail. There’s a spur of pale coloration on the shoulder
> between the necklace and bend of wing I find helpful. It should be whitish
> in California, contrasting well with the blue necklace and brown back.
> Woodhouse is especially dingy gray on the shoulder spur, closer in color to
> the brown back. That and the reduced necklace make this shoulder spur less
> contrasty and not very white looking in WOSJ.
> - Bill size is helpful, but is variable in Woodhouse jays. But bigger,
> more hooked bill in California. White eyebrow is helpful too – bolder in
> CASJ. I think the back in CASJ is richer brown.
> - Behavior – CASJ approachable and look confident about themselves.
> WOSJ shy/reclusive
>
>
> There's probably more - and I'm always happy to hear from others what they
> think about scrub-jays! Photos are helpful, I continue to learn a lot by
> looking back though them. Woodhouse’s Scrub-jays are difficult to
> photograph and they pretty much never let you approach them. A few times
> I’ve had my camera ready and encountered some in Mono. They show fieldmarks
> I was describing:
>
> https://ebird.org/checklist/S49083432
>
> https://ebird.org/checklist/S63420866
>
> Those are typical looking Mono Co. ones. But sometimes they can look
> really different, almost like a Mexican Jay:
> https://ebird.org/checklist/S63452482
>
> Birding around Hwy 338 – the Sweetwater Road and adjacent canyons, the
> jays there are usually shy and Woodhouse like (which jives with the Gowen
> et al map, or the bird Chris describes from Eastside lane in past summers).
> Though once I encountered a pair on mile marker 6 of Hwy 338 (only 6 miles
> from Mono Co.!) that looked and behaved like solid California Scrub-jays.
> Then you hit Holbrook Junction, suddenly the jays are approachable and
> confident! That Holbrook Junction area contains birds on the California
> side of things but these defiantly are part of the hybrid swarm. Here’s a
> checklist with some examples of hybrid scrub-jays from there:
> https://ebird.org/checklist/S63421270
>
>
>
>
> ------------------------------
> *From:* Chris McCreedy <cristofolos...>
> *Sent:* Tuesday, January 14, 2020 3:00 PM
> *To:* Kristie Nelson <storm_petrel...>
> *Cc:* <easternsierrabirds...> <
> <easternsierrabirds...>
> *Subject:* Re: ESbirds: north Mono Co. scrub jays
>
> Thanks for doing this, Kristie. I have been hoping for years for good
> studies of the jays up there. It is an interesting question and also a
> difficult thing to review for eBird. I am grateful to those that submit
> photographs of their Aphelocoma jays on their eBird lists.
>
> One comment. I have tried to go up there in past years and I’ve found the
> summer jays to be very shy and unaccommodating for photographs, something
> that resonates with me when I read Kristie’s comments.
>
> Chris McCreedy
>
> On Tue, Jan 14, 2020 at 14:25 Kristie Nelson <storm_petrel...>
> wrote:
>
> Greetings all,
>
> I'm sure most of you have noticed the Pinyon Pines are having a big cone
> year in our region.
> Probably related to this I've been noticing for some time (since fall or
> so) large numbers of scrub-jays in the Antelope Valley area of North Mono
> County. A drive down Eastside lane outside Walker and they are atop trees
> and powerlines in higher concentrations than I can recall seeing in a long
> time.
>
> They are outwardly like California Scrub-jay - especially in behavior. But
> not 100% CA scrub-jay either. Blue undertail, fairly gray underneath. Bills
> variable but not quite as hefty as a good clean California SJ. I'm guessing
> these are extending south from the Pine Nut Mt region to the north - like
> Topaz Ranch Estates, for example, is a good place to see birds like this.
> It's usually not hard to find both bright white/blue birds with white
> undertail (CASJ) and gray/duller birds with blue undertail (WOSJ) in the
> same area. Fun to ponder and work through.
>
> https://ebird.org/checklist/S63290020
>
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