[Tweeters] Jays lead me to a surprise

Rob Sandelin robsan668 at gmail.com
Tue Jun 14 16:36:22 PDT 2016

June 14th, Overcast with sun breaks, cooler with high humidity from heavy
thunder rains last night.

Doing a bit of trail maintenance this afternoon when the alarm calls of 2
then 3 Jays began. Since there has been a Barred Owl in the neighborhood I
figured the jays must have found it. As I got closer the calls were low to
the ground so in order to get a good look at the owl I snuck up on the area
the Jays were calling. At first I could see nothing and then, on a long bent
vine maple branch was something. It was the wrong size to be a barred owl,
much too small. My brain was expecting an owl so I kept trying to fit this
dark shape into some kind of owl but it just did not fit. Then as a jay dove
upon it, two hind legs slipped off the trunk and started flailing before
regaining purchase. Aha, clearly some kind of mammal, but definitely the
wrong shape for a squirrel, more like a small rabbit....OMG it's a mountain

I had read that Mountain beavers sometimes climb into trees but reading
about it and seeing were two different things. It was obvious that Mountain
beavers are not very adept at climbing, at least this one was not as its
hind legs kept slipping off. The little guy was a good 12 feet off the
ground and it was clearly a struggle, especially with the jays yelling and
diving at it. There was something endearing about this animals clumsy
climbing, reminding me of the cartoon Winnie the Pooh trying to climb a tree
to get honey. After about 3 more minutes the Jays came at the intruder from
two sides at once and the little mammal fell off his perch. As it landed it
made an audible squeak. It then started gathering up the branches on the
ground and I noticed the stubs on the larger trunk where it had climbed up
and gnawed them off.

The jays departed, apparently satisfied that they had vanquished this threat
and I left the animal to its work.

Rob Sandelin
Snohomish County, WA

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