Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri)

The Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri) is the largest jay in North America measuring in at 12-13 inches. Like many humans, this bird knows it never hurts to have a few tricks up your sleeve. They have a few unique skills that might surprise you.

The Steller’s Jay is related to the Blue Jay but has a slimmer bill and longer legs. It is also the only western jay with a crest. The front part of this jay is black while the back, wings and tail are dark blue. This coloring helps the Steller’s Jay easily blend in with the evergreen forests of the mountainous West where it is typically found, although this bird is also known to frequent campgrounds, parks, and backyards.

This bird is very intelligent and opportunistic. Steller’s Jays usually travel in pairs or family groups. They have a complex social and communication system, with a variety of calls, postures and displays. For instance, a spread wing shows submission, and a raised crest might mean attack. Steller’s Jays may also mimic the screams of hawks and Golden Eagles. This bird feeds mainly on acorns and pine seeds, but will raid other bird’s nests for eggs and nestlings. They will also eat small reptiles, nuts, berries, fruits, and insects.  Curiously, these jays have distendable esophagi that they are able to use to carry acorns and nuts. These foods are often cached for the winter or saved for eating at a later time. What unique skills do you have up your sleeve?

Pacific wax myrtle (Morella californica)

Adaptability is a valuable skill to have in this day and age. The Pacific wax myrtle is an expert in adaptability and could teach those of us who want to improve in this area a few important tips. This evergreen shrub is native to the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington, growing from 10-30 feet tall and 10-12 feet wide. Pacific wax myrtles flourish along streams and sand dunes in this region thanks to their ability to adapt to a variety of environments. They can thrive in wet soil, but are also drought tolerant and can grow in sandy, loamy, or clay soil. The Pacific wax myrtle also transfers nitrogen and other nutrients to plants in its vicinity and is often used in habitat restoration for this reason.

The leaves of the Pacific wax myrtle are a bright, glossy green with black dots. The plant’s small purple berries ripen during autumn and fall to the ground in early winter, attracting birds such as flickers, finches, and robins. The berries are coated with white wax that can be extracted from the fruit and made into scented candles and soap.

Next time you find yourself in a challenging situation, think about the Pacific wax myrtle and its unique ability to thrive in a wide range of environments. It may provide just the inspiration you need to succeed in the task you want to accomplish.

Coos County Logging Museum in Myrtle Point.

Coos County was at one time one of the most productive timber-growing environments in the world as the area offered vast stands of old growth Douglas fir, cedar, spruce, and hemlock.

In the early 1850s, Euro-Americans visiting the Coos Bay area were impressed by the abundant forests and decided to capitalize on the growing demand for lumber products in California. These newcomers noted that the region contained the best timber in Oregon and compared the Coos Bay harbor as a close second only to San Francisco as a commercial depot. Its relative isolation from the rest of the state’s areas with the most commerce and largest populations allowed for Coos Bay to be tied to San Francisco both culturally and financially.

Investment in mining and lumber operations was so prominent at this time that capitalists from San Francisco and elsewhere controlled the entire southern Oregon coast economy by 1875. Investors from the Great Lakes region also sought to profit from the area’s natural bounty in the early 1900s.

As logging technology continued to revolutionize, the Southern Pacific Railroad announced its plan to construct a connection to Coos Bay and ownership of lumber mills and thousands of acres of timberland began to concentrate into a few large holdings, such as the Smith, Weyerhaeuser, and Menasha timberlands.

This is only a brief snapshot into the complex, multi-faceted history of Coos Bay’s timber industry and an extremely abridged account of the many diverse stakeholders involved. To learn more, visit the Coos County Logging Museum located in Myrtle Point. This museum is listed with the National Register of Historic Places and serves as a celebration logging industry’s rich history.

Here, you will find a plethora of photographs, records, and authentic logging tools that have been preserved over the years. The museum also displays a collection of nine large hand-carved myrtlewood panels by the renowned woodcarver Alexander Benjamin Warnock. These beautiful pieces capture the ‘glory days of the timber industry’ and are a symbolic representation of the era that so intricately shaped Coos Bay and the surrounding areas.