Monday, July 6, 2009

Bird Photography Weekly: Birding Colorado

Last weekend, the kids and I headed to Colorado to visit my sister and her fiancé. We spent most of the day Saturday in Rocky Mountain National Park. (Most of the day, that is, until wimpy Dad got altitude sickness and the park rangers sent us scurrying down the mountain so I wouldn't pass out or toss my cookies all over their pretty little mountains ... but we won't bring any of that up, okay?)

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 - 6/27/2009
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.

Steller's Jay - 6/27/2009

And yet its other end almost glows in contrast, with the gleaming blue wings and tail and the softer blue of its undersides.

Steller's Jay - 6/27/2009

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.

Steller's Jay - 6/27/2009

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.

Bird Photography Weekly


mick said...

A very handsome fellow indeed! and I like your description of how he demanded food and attention.

Arija said...

Aww he probably has a heart of gold and is meek and mild as a kitten... Never judge a book by its cover, of course his hooked beak might have something to do with your first impressions as well. Great shots.

BirdingGirl said...

Great pictures! I was in Colorado in January and didn't see anything exotic. Altitude sickness can be bummer- luckily we were able to schedule our hikes for later in the week after we had adjusted.

I can't believe how close you were able to get to the Stellar's Jay!

Bob and Cynthia Kaufman said...

Thank goodness our Steller's are friendlier. It was the coyotes that got us worried. LOL.

Great story, Kyle.

MaineBirder said...

That's a fine looking Jay Kyle! Excellent series!

Jay Lee said...

What an interesting bird! I am so jealous!

DaveABirding said...

Too bad the altitude got you, the mixed blessing of RMNP. Glad you got to see the Steller's and BB Magpies though.

Anonymous said...

I love the jay - great photos, especially the close up of the head and eye. They do have a strong sense of entitlement, don't they?

dAwN said...

Oh..darn..altitude sickness..that happened to my husband once at a higher elevation..took him several days to recover.
Congrats on the lifer! a great looking bird..but watch out for it in knows your talkin about it.

Red said...

Obnoxious is how I normally describe Stellar's Jays, but I think demonic is rather appropriate as well. The are smart enough to realize people=food. They will screech at you even if (or maybe especially if) you don't have food. They'll also chase off the smaller songbirds that just want to flit around you.

But they are cool looking. I'll give them that :)

Amy said...

Lovely photos! I haven't seen a Steller's Jay in a very long time. (sigh) Thanks for sharing!

Hundewanderer said...

Thank you for these lovely photos. I was able to identify a bird that visits my porch to eat the bread I've left out for the birds. I'm from Arizona, visiting/working in Telluride, CO and have enjoyed the lovely black bird that comes for bread.