The Florida Scrub-Jay is a Federally threatened species endemic to Florida. It is the ONLY bird that occurs just in Florida. It has lost over 90% of its 1970’s population due to the development of its habitat (scrub-oak, sandy soil). Only a couple thousand exist. In other words….this bird is SPECIAL! Conveniently, I was in the Palm Beach area over President’s weekend. February 15…..placed right between Valentine’s Day and Nina’s birthday…presented me an opening to chase this bird 20 minutes north in Juno. Undaunted by the unusually heavy rain, I walked the 50 acre nature spot with my iphone in hand, projecting the call of a male Scrub-Jay thru my “bird app”. Two hours later my list comprised of exactly one catbird and a little blue heron. Not the most productive morning. Actually, an expensive morning! Too consumed by the potential sighting of this 11 inch rarity….I forgot that iphones do not tolerate rainstorms…it died before I reached my car.
Not to be discouraged, my notes indicated that a few miles further north, the Jupiter Ridge Natural Area was known to harbor a pair. The Jay would be hard to miss as it looks and acts like our Blue Jay. Amazingly the rain subsided and an hour later I was wandering an even larger swath of nature…thankfully protected from the encroaching breeding populations of Hess gas stations and Denny’s fast food establishments. With only thirty minutes to explore several hundred acres I headed to the spot that looked most like the text-book area for a Florida Scrub-Jay. Within three minutes I heard the diagnostic call and saw a speck of a bird on a distant telephone wire along Highway 1…about a mile away. My heart raced and incredibly the bird alighted and flew towards me into the preserve. It landed ten feet from me!! Where’s my camera? I had left it in the car since I thought there would be little chance for the bird and even less of a possibility for a photo. I’ll use my iphone. NO! It died, remember?! But who would believe me without a photo? I hustled back to my car, slowed down by the sandy soil and the fact I have not run very much lately. Five minutes seemed like an hour but I returned to the spot and TWO jays were displaying typical behavior. One perched like a sentinel watching for predators while the other foraged for stored acorns in the sand. Amazing!