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The ultimate in courage and spunk . . . not your usual sighting followup

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  • Lowell Young
    I received several kind comments about the jay and the gopher story that I wrote. As a result one of them, the following was generated. I thought that you
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 29, 2008
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      I received several kind comments about the jay and the gopher story
      that I wrote. As a result one of them, the following was generated.
      I thought that you might be interested in it.

      Lowell Young
      Mariposa, CA


      Your e-mail about the relative weight of a gopher and a Western Scrub-
      jay really piqued my curiosity. I had never given a thought to how
      much a gopher or a jay weighed. So, thanks to you I did a little
      research and the following is what I have learned.

      The gopher that occurs in the Sierra below 5'000 feet is the Botta's
      Pocket Gopher, Thomomys bottae, which is also know as the Valley
      Pocket Gopher. The Peterson Field Guides to Mammals states the
      following about this species, "Throughout its range this pocket
      gopher is extremely variable in size and coloration: small on some of
      the southern desert mts., large in the valleys; . . . ." The field
      guide also says that the gophers weigh from 71g to 250 g. The Sibley
      Field Guide to Birds puts the jay's weight at 85 g.

      The gopher that I saw, and we see a lot of them here in the foothills
      of the Sierra, was not the biggest nor the smallest that I have ever
      seen. If we assume that it was average in size it would have weighed
      in at about 125 g. which is 147% of the jays weight.

      Bev. Brock, a very astute birder, had the following comment about the
      jays feat, "Amazing story! If that jay has fledglings, it could
      explain it's determination to get such a big meal. My resident jays
      occasionally attack and kill goldfinches at my feeders in the nesting
      season. A couple years ago I watched it happen, and now recognize the
      telltale signs of pink on the breast of the adults during the nesting
      season. I don't think they would bother with such big prey any other
      time of year."

      To hitchhike on what Bev said, I saw a Western Scrub-jay take
      fledgling White-breasted Nuthatches out of the air as they came out
      of a nest box.

      Lowell Young
      Mariposa, CA


      The ultimate in courage and spunk . . . not your usual sighting
      followup
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