Thursday, June 4, 2015

Clark's Nutcracker on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

It's the first time on my blog, but not the first time I've ever seen a Clark's Nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana). I've known these birds since I was a teenager on my first backpacking expeditions in the Sierra Nevada. They are raucous members of the higher mountain elevations, familiar to anyone who ventures towards the treeline, the realm of the Limber and Whitebark Pines. It's the first I've been able to photograph with a good camera. I saw it while walking out to Cape Royale on the north rim of the Grand Canyon last week. It was chasing another Nutcracker through the trees.
The birds are a an important part of the high elevation ecosystem. They spend their days collecting pine seeds and burying them all over the forest, storing them for later consumption. They have an amazing memory for remembering where most of the seeds are buried, but they usually miss a few, and those are the seeds that germinate and perpetuate the forest.
It took me a while to realize it, but one of the two Nutcrackers chasing about the trees was a juvenile loudly demanding food from mother. I guess teenagers are the same all around, no matter the species.

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