Jay walking

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Florida Scrub-jays cooperated with our plan to watch them this morning on a guided Scrub Jay Walk at Jonathan Dickinson State Park.

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Mostly cloudy conditions, and the birds came out nice and BLUE in my photos.

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When they are banded, Scrub-jays usually get four bands, said Jim Howe, a state park volunteer who leads these walks a couple times a month (except for the hottest months of the year).

But they do sometimes figure out how to remove some of the bands, being the smart little corvids they are.

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These Scrub-jays are a federally-designated threatened species. They live only in Florida, have specific habitat needs, and their habitats are shrinking.

They live in the “scrub,” a high-and-dry type of landscape on sandy soil which is desirable for building in this populous state, especially compared to much of low-and-wet Florida.

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They are curious and not very afraid of people. We watched five or six in this one area, quite close, hopping on the ground, perched as lookouts in trees, or flying from shrub to shrub.

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Jay with tiny acorn.

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They gather acorns from the several varieties of low-growing oaks in the scrub. They cache them to eat in winter when there are fewer insects, said our guide.

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Hide now and seek later.

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There.

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A group project, I guess.

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I can’t tell if this bird has three or four bands.

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Plenty of dead trees around in this landscape that is regularly burned to maintain it as scrub.

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The Red-bellied Woodpecker is a common bird here at Jonathan Dickinson.

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Berries on the saw palmetto are favored by raccoons, said Jim.

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We walked out on this old Army road, leftover from the time Camp Murphy and its top-secret signal corps was based here in World War II. (That’s my husband John in one of his favorite geek t-shirts.)

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A short, slow, flat walk… birding doesn’t get much easier.

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At first I thought this was a small bird of prey.

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I moved to the left and saw it was that small but fierce predatory songbird, the Loggerhead Shrike, that kills its prey with hooked beak, or impales it on thorns or even barbed wire for later eating.

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Also known as the butcherbird. Also not too concerned with the small band of birdwatchers.

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The park has lots of “love vine” in some areas.

Cassytha filliformas is a parasitic native plant. It just looks invasive in the places where it’s all over everything. Wild South Florida says it’s the plant world’s version of a vampire bat, sucking the life out of its host. Halloween is coming in South Florida.

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Scrub view with a small lake beyond.

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Scrub view.

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Last bird of our one hour walk, a Northern Mockingbird, perched in a ray of sunshine.

I found out about this walk through the Happenings page of Audubon of Martin County’s website: HERE.

Be a bird geek and read more about this threatened species and the recovery plan HERE (U.S. Fish and Wildlife).

Get involved: Florida Audubon Jay Watch

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