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My Life’s Birds: #372*

February 17, 2010

July 15, 2001 – Rocky Mountain National Park, Co – When you stop carrying binoculars around, the birds you see have to practically want to be seen.  Little warblers and finches floating through the treetops are off the radar.  Waterfowl beyond the range of the naked eye remain mysteries.  In fact, you may just drift on by for several years as I did without even thinking about birds until one so gregarious, so pushy that you cannot possibly miss it in a million years shows up right smack in the middle of your field of view.  Say, on a family vacation to the mountain west.

There’s scarcely a North American species that better fits that description that the Clark’s Nutcracker, particularly those individuals that bum food from soft-hearted tourists along Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park.  You can try to avoid them, to wrest yourself from their attentions, but like all jays this is not a bird with which to trifle.  It knows that the industrial wrapping surrounding that granola bar or that plastic baggie within which lies tasty peanut butter and jelly are beyond the grasp of even a corvid’s all-purpose bill.  This, however, is a bird that knows the value of the right tool for the right job and you, sir, look like a tool.

This bird knows your nature better than you know yourself.  It knows that you will soon tire of that apple core, or those chip crumbs, or those bread crusts, and they will eventually be tossed by the wayside for the Nutcracker to eagerly snatch up for enjoyment now or to be cached in some out of the way place for a winter that, in nearly the entirety of the species’ range, is harsh and unyielding.  But for now, in midsummer when visitors crowd the mountain roads, life is good and the Nutcrackers take advantage of it by hitting up every single tourist that gets out of a car to take in the scenic vistas, including a guy without binoculars for whom birds are just about the last thing on his mind.

Thank heavens, then, for pushy birds.


*Sharp-eyed readers will likely realize that this is the same number I attributed to the Evening Grosbeak a couple weeks ago.  There’s a reason for that.  Apparently, I can’t count.  Removing Greater Flamingo from my list screwed with my internal calibration and got me off by one.  But I’m back on track now.

photo by Black Thumb via flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

  1. February 17, 2010 8:59 am

    I got my life Nutcracker in the same place. I love that park.

  2. Nate permalink*
    February 17, 2010 9:48 am

    @Patrick- Yeah, it’s great. Those Nutcrackers are all over up there.

  3. February 17, 2010 10:33 am

    You’ve seen Clark’s Nutcracker?
    I won’t talk to you anymore.

    Well, at least for a while, like, until tomorrow.

  4. Nate permalink*
    February 17, 2010 1:15 pm

    @Jochen- I’d feel bad if I wasn’t nearly certain you’ve come across Eurasian Nutcracker once or twice. 🙂

  5. February 18, 2010 12:45 am

    The Canadian Clark’s Nutcrackers are no different. I had no idea that my lifer would be so easy. While I was taking in the breath-taking views of Lake Louise and Moraine Lake in Banff NP last year, the nutcrackers were readily taking handouts from tourists.

  6. February 18, 2010 5:43 am

    @Nate: yes, you are right, I might have seen one or two hundred Eurasian Nutcrackers. Hawfinches, on the other hand… oh wait, wrong comment section.

  7. February 18, 2010 7:00 am

    The Clark’s Nutcracker is still on my to-see list, and your description of its personality makes me want to see one even more! Sounds like a particularly in-your-face mashup (personality-wise) between an urban gull, an American Crow, and a Western Scrub-Jay.

  8. February 18, 2010 7:17 am

    @Felicia & Nate:
    Yes, particularly the sentence “This, however, is a bird that knows the value of the right tool for the right job and you, sir, look like a tool.” reminded me of the personality of indoor cats.

  9. Nate permalink*
    February 18, 2010 9:52 am

    @Bob- Yeah, they’re not hard at all in the right place. They’re completely fearless.

    @Jochen- I share your desire for any of the Coccothraustes finches. I’m not picky, and I’m a little disappointed I missed Hooded Grosbeak in Guatemala.

    @Felicia- That is precisely what they are. Not aggressive, but definitely in your face in a way that only Corvids can be, it seems.

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