A couple from Miami traveling in an RV arrived at their campground outside Yosemite last week, and a pair of Steller’s jays immediately began building a nest on ladders attached to the back of their motorhome.
The birds have produced three eggs in the past three days, and they expect the jays will have five eggs in their nest by Mother’s Day morning.
Mercedes and John Condon have been trying to learn as much as possible about Steller’s jays and their nesting habits and how they raise their newborn.
Now they want to stay at the Yosemite Lakes Thousand Trails campground off Highway 120 until all the eggs hatch and the young birds learn how to fly.
The Condons have asked to extend their reservation indefinitely until the Steller’s jays and their young are ready to leave their nest, but their request was denied earlier this week, the Condons say, because the campground management says they’re expecting to be fully booked with prior reservations by next Thursday.
“We don’t know what to plan for at this point,” Mercedes Condon said in an interview Friday, speaking via mobile phone from the Rim of the World vista on Highway 120. “We feel an obligation to protect these birds. We’re not going to allow harm to come to these birds.”
Management at Yosemite Lakes Thousand Trails campground did not respond to requests for comment.
RV Odd Couple
The Condons are traveling the U.S. with their 3-year-old daughter, Sage, and their chocolate lab, Skippy. They say they’re new to RVing, they started a YouTube channel called RV Odd Couple five months ago, and they now have more than 17,000 subscribers. They also have a website and a Facebook page.
It seems like a lot of their fellow RV campers at Yosemite Lakes Thousand Trails campground already know who the Condons are because of their internet celebrity, the Condons said.
“The word is getting out about the birds” among other RV campers at the campground,” John Condon said. Asked how other campers feel about the Condons’ concerns for the nesting Steller’s jays and their eggs, he said, “It’s 90 percent the birds should be allowed to stay. Ten percent is call fish and wildlife and have somebody come and remove the nest.”
The Condons say they’ve learned and they believe that only a licensed professional with a permit, or someone with state or federal Fish and Wildlife, can legally move a Steller’s jay nest with eggs in it.
“We will not leave unless a professional removes the nest and eggs with a permit,” John Condon said.
Based on their research so far, the Condons estimate that if the Steller’s jay nesting on the back of their RV have five eggs in their nest by Mother’s Day morning, the parents will stay with the eggs until they hatch around June 1, and they will stay longer to feed to their young until they can leave their nest. The Condons said it’s unclear how long it will take the hatchlings to learn to fly.
Not endangered or threatened
According to The Birds of North America, a collaboration between the Academy of Natural Sciences and the American Ornithological Society, Steller’s jays are well-known birds at feeders, picnic areas and campgrounds, where their noisy calls announce their presence. Males and females form apparently monogamous, long-term pair bonds.
Scientists with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology say conservation concerns about Steller’s jays are low. Steller’s jay populations remained relatively stable between 1966 and 2015, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey.
Partners in Flight researchers estimate Steller’s jays have a global breeding population of 2.8 million with 70 percent occurring in the U.S., 9 percent in Canada, and 18 percent in Mexico.
“Surprisingly little is known about the basic breeding biology and demography of this relatively tame, common, and widespread species,” Birds of North America editorial staff say.
Staff with California Fish and Wildlife said Friday that Steller’s jays are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, and there are strict rules about how humans can interact with nesting Steller’s jays. A state Fish and Wildlife spokesperson referred questions to federal Fish and Wildlife staff, who could not be reached.
Hoping for cancellation or partnership
The Condons say they’re not mad or disappointed with management at the Yosemite Lakes Thousand Trails campground. They say they’ve paid $9,000 to Thousand Trails for the right to use their campgrounds nationwide for their lifetimes.
Mercedes Condon said they are trying to bring the plight of the nesting Steller’s jays to public attention. Perhaps word will spread among the nationwide RV community online, and someone will cancel a reservation at Yosemite Lakes Thousand Trails campground so that the Condons can stay until the jays’ eggs hatch and the young birds learn to fly.
“First off we have offered part of our membership perks, because we don’t want to displace anybody who may be traveling for their family vacation,” Mercedes Condon said. “Hopefully we get a cancellation. What we want the public to know is this is a really unique opportunity to learn more about these birds, because from inside our RV you can see inside their nest and view their behavior. We hope this can be an opportunity to collaborate with the Audubon Society or the Sierra Club.”
To view the Condons and the Steller’s jays building their nest on their RV, visit their YouTube channel online at www.youtube.com/channel/UC4xN2fR45tG0M2Fm1w4PPTg. For photos, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/rvoddcouple/. To contact the Condons, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Contact Guy McCarthy at email@example.com or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.