Anyway, my first definitive lifer of the weekend was actually the Black-billed Magpie, a beautiful bird that we saw several times while driving and about which I am still kicking myself for the repeated phrase of, "No, don't stop. We've seen so many, I'm sure I'll get another chance to photograph it." D'oh!
However, the second lifer of the trip pretty much demanded that his picture be taken. As we stopped for a picnic lunch about a half hour inside the park, we could hear plenty of bird life surrounding us. Hawks cried from somewhere above, chickadees and other unrecognized passerines chirped and sang from within the full green branches, and a small woodpecker taunted us from the deep shadows of a nearby trunk. But almost before we had even managed to unpack our fruit and sandwiches, this handsome fellow came a'calling.
Steller's Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri)
With his coal black eyes and head and crest of charcoal, this western jay is quite striking. The white streaking above and below its beak and around the eyes lend it an almost malevolent air.
And yet its other end almost glows in contrast, with the gleaming blue wings and tail and the softer blue of its undersides.
As bold and tenacious as the blue jays or grackles of home, this Steller's Jay became our constant companion ... for as long as we had food in sight. In fact, it scolded us rather soundly when Cowboy "accidentally" dropping a handful of grapes in the direction of our other companion, a fat little chipmunk that had also taken up sentry duty near our table.
My first instinct was to label his attitude "imperious," demanding his rightful share of the glorious bounty we had brought. But looking at the deep burning embers of his eyes in that shot, I'm beginning to agree with my sister's more instantaneous reaction of "demonic." I certainly wouldn't want to meet this guy alone in a dark alley...
For more great bird photos from around the world, check out Bird Photography Weekly #45.