Moss Rocks: Wildlife Wednesday, June 2019


We recently realized that our pond was leaking–not too much, just enough.  The pond leak isn’t a first, it’s happened before.  The most likely place for a pond to spring a leak is at, near, or around the waterfall, so unplugging the pump and dismantling the rocks which make up the waterfall are steps one and two for diagnosing a disappearing water act.

A slight slippage of pond liner, coupled with inappropriate rock placement, allowed for some (well, more than some) water diversion into the bordering soil and away from the pond.  We repaired the liner, re-stacked the rocks, and the pond is back in action and holding a constant level of water.  The fish are happy and swimming, the pond flowers are lovely and blooming, and the pond is no longer wasting water.

After we turned off the pump and removed the rock around the waterfall to watch for  water level change, I observed this Blue Jay, Cyanocitta cristata, hopping around the disassembled rocks, pulling up bits of moss from those that had been in water.

That the jay was interested in the moss is a curiosity.  Blue Jays are omnivores and eat a variety of things:  seeds, nuts, grains, insects are all on their favorite foods list, but they sometimes steal nestling birds and dine on small animals (mammals and invertebrates).  As well, they’re known to occasionally scavenge dead birds and animals.  I don’t know that Blue Jays like salads, but this jay wasn’t eating the moss, nor can I find information that Blue Jays partake of this particular green in their diets.

Blue Jays do use grass for nesting, though;  might they also use moss?  Males are typically the gatherers of nesting material, while females are the builders of the nests.  Could the jay be in the process of gathering nesting material?  Yes, that’s certainly a possibility, though it seems a bit late in the season for family planning and house building.  Blue Jays only produce one brood per year and when I’ve observed Blue Jays and their nests, the babies fledge in May, or early June at the latest.  That said, Jays will abandon nests if a predator attacks or if some other calamity befalls the eggs or nestlings.  This spring has seen some spectacular thunderstorms with high winds and driving rains, perfect for dislodging nests–and nestlings–from trees.  Additionally, owls and hawks live and hunt in our neighborhood, so it’s reasonable to think that this bird’s first brood didn’t fledge successfully and he and his partner are in the family way again.

Mr. Jay was choosy about his moss.   He plucked moss from a rock, then dropped some of it. He bounded around to other moss rocks, snagging more in his beak, dropping that, then gathering other bits.  He acted as if he was looking for just the right sort of moss.

After a time and done with the moss-work, he flew away.

My best guess is that he was helping his mate build a nest–maybe their first, probably their second. There are no occupied Blue Jay homes in my trees, so I’ll never know for certain if the plucked moss is destined to feather a nest.  Maybe in a month or two I’ll see a fledgling Blue Jay, nearly as big as her parents, ruffling her feathers, squawking impatiently, and begging for food.

How is your wildlife?  Are they foraging in your foliage or feasting at your feeders?  Are the wild things in your garden chasing competitors, wooing mates, or raising families?  Please share your wildlife garden stories and remember to leave a link when you comment here–happy wildlife gardening!

27 thoughts on “Moss Rocks: Wildlife Wednesday, June 2019

    • Thanks–the lilies don’t bloom quite as much, as my back garden becomes ever more shady. I think the birds must like the softness of moss and the like for their nests, it makes sense.

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  1. He’s a very colourful and handsome bird. Our birds are pretty colourful too, and have been visiting our garden a bit more now that winter is here.

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  2. How fascinating! We have lots of moss in the backyard…in fact it’s taking over some of the lawn, which is OK by me. I’ve also noticed plenty of Blue Jays–I’ll have to watch to see if they go for the moss. Cool.

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    • I’ll bet if you have chickadees and/or titmice, they also use moss. I’d just never seen a blue jay pull up moss like that. Then again, I don’t usually have the rocks stacked outside of the pond. 🙂

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    • Yes, I was in California just a few weeks ago and saw some lovely Scrub Jays. I love Stellar Jays, though didn’t see any on this trip; I’ve seen them on other trips to western states.

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  3. Pingback: Wildlife Wednesday – Water: The Great Attractor | Frogend dweller's Blog

  4. It was interesting to read about your liner problem. Our small pond with the waterfall seems to be losing water too, but I’ve so far put that down to the growth of blanket weed which spreads up the sides and distributes water over porous rocks, which then get covered in moss which further soaks up the water and takes it to the surrounding soil. I don’t fancy re-building the fall, but you’ve done a fantastic job and look at the results! I would have guessed the blue jay to be taking nesting material, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you seeing babies shortly.
    Here is my link: https://wp.me/pM8Y1-7pH
    Sorry I am a day late though!

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  5. No apologies necessary, but so glad you joined in! We had to rebuilt our waterfall about two years ago. Mostly we canted the soil under the spill pan toward the pond, with a re-lay of the pond liner. We didn’t (mostly do to laziness, I must confess), purchase more liner. We had some left over from the original purchase–just enough for a re-do–and it was one of the pieces which had slipped. We’ll need to keep an eye on that, because it could happen again. That said, it was an easy fix.

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    • I think life is hard on birds, in general. 😦

      I’d contend that overall, day-to-day and week-to-week, I probably spend more time in maintenance of my various bird baths than the pond. There’s one long day in (usually) early March for the annual clean-out and then occasionally repairs of varying sorts. If I ever have another garden, a pond is the first thing I’ll put in, it’s been a wonderful addition to my garden.

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  6. I adore bluejays, and they’re one of the birds that I can attract to my balcony with peanuts in the shell. I can’t help but think the same pair have been coming for a couple of years, or maybe three. Perhaps they’ve passed the word to the kids: “There’s food over there!” In any event, they show up around November or December, and then again in February or so. I always know when they’re nesting or caring for young, because the flights to and from the balcony multiply exponentially: there’s so much coming and going, you’d think it was O’Hare. I may be seeing some fledglings now. I’ve not had a good look, but it sure seems to be that, despite their size, some of the birds are young ones. Watching them is great fun, even though the peanut bill is going through the roof!

    I’m glad you got your pond fixed, but I’m even more glad you got those wonderful bird-with-moss photos. They really are charming, and quite an unusual look into bluejay life.

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    • Jays are wonderful to watch. They have it all: beauty, brains (well, bird brains..:) ), lots of personality. I’m spending more on the peanuts too. It was fun to watch the jay with the moss. I have to assume this has happened before at my pond, it’s just that it’s a first for me to see it.

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    • The Cornell site is my first go-to, always. I was just so surprised to see Mr Jay and his beak-ful of moss! It’ll be interesting if I observe some fledglings in late June or early July. There has already been one crop of babies learning the feeder ways.

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