Blue Jays and a few more

Northern Mockingbird

Note: WP occasionally shows you the post without pulling all the images. If you’re reading and it sounds like there’s an image missing, just refresh the window.

Let me start by saying these are not great photos. There are two reasons; well, two main reasons. One, the days was gloomy and rainy. That prompted me to shoot at a high ISO (1000 to as high as 5000). The high ISO was also driven by the high shutter speed, which was set at 1/1250-sec. Lastly, most of these photos (all, in fact) are crops of larger photos.

“Why shoot with those settings?”

Well, Bob, let me tell you.

Every once in a while, I get the urge to capture birds on the move.

“Why not wait for a nice sunny day?”

I can’t control the sun, you see. If I could, I would make sure the place where I photograph birds is always in full sun. No, wait . . . full sun but slightly attenuated by a thin layer of clouds to provide a strong diffused light.

Instead, the particular location where I’m shooting is normally a mix of shadows and bright sun. Very difficult to meter a single bird, so I prefer cloudy days. This was perhaps a bit cloudier than most (two days’ worth of photos, actually), but what I lose in vividness, I gain in details.

“OK, but why the tight crop?”

Bob, Bob, Bob . . . I know it seems easy, but these are birds. Small birds. Fast birds. So I tend to pre-focus over a large area and hope I catch something in focus in the frame. I mean, do you know how difficult it is to zoom in on a bird and then track it while it flies?

“No, I don’t, Disperser. But I know what a Blue Jay looks like. For instance, I know it’s not gray.”

Good catch, but let me give you a bit of background. Every morning, I throw out some shelled peanuts along with whole peanuts. The peanuts attract both Blue Jays and Squirrels that, in short order, proceed to clean them out.

What you see on the ground is “no waste” bird food from feeders that are not on the frame but mounted on the pole you see. That feed attracts all manner of birds, including a lone Northern Mockingbird that bullies other birds. In fact, there was a Blue Jay in the area . . .

. . . but the Mockingbird was the one in flight, so that’s what I cropped. Here’s the BlueJay taking off moments after the Mockingbird chased it.

Again, I don’t claim great quality in these photos for all the reasons I mentioned. The object was to capture birds moments before they land or moments after they take off. Even so, birds be quick.

I should mention one other thing . . . the yard is kind of messy. That’s because I’m surrounded by neighbors who don’t clean their leaves (and don’t take care of their yards as well as I would like them to), and said leaves end up in my yard. However, the weather has not been cooperating as far as giving me a few decent days to tidy up. Also, because it’s been rainy and wet, I’ve not cleaned the bird feeding area like I usually do.

Anyway, because I shoot a wider angle than usual, I can occasionally catch other birds in flight . . .

One thing that should be easy is catching the birds when they launch from the pergola. Obviously, the 1/1250-sec shutter speed wasn’t fast enough for when the birds divebomb to the ground.

Both of those are slightly blurry.

The Blue Jays do one of two things; they either get one unshelled peanut and head to the shrubs to eat it, or they jam their throats full of shelled peanuts and then fly off somewhere.

It looks like the guy on the right is eating, but no . . . look at its throat; it’s full of peanuts halves.

Here’s an example of each type of Blue Jays . . .

Look at the difference in throat sizes between the two. In fairness, I’ve seen some birds actually grab two unshelled peanuts, one in their throat and one held with their beak.

Here you can see one of the two squirrels that were racing the Blue Jays to pick up the most peanuts. The squirrels grab at least two peanuts at a time and then run off to bury them.

Cardinals also like the shelled peanuts, but they either break them up and eat them in situ or they fly off to a nearby branch to enjoy a single piece.

Can you figure out what’s going on in this next photo?

One Blue Jay leaving with a peanut, another Blue Jay landing, and some House Sparrows reacting to the traffic . . . here’s the scene 1/1250th of a second later . . .

Here’s a nice (in my opinion) sequence of a Blue Jay coming in for a landing . . .

Again, in these types of shoots, I’m mainly interested in freezing the action of the birds in flight . . .

On this particular day, I had a plethora of Blue Jays, hence while I was more successful than usual in getting action shots . . .

At times, it looked like they needed an air traffic control tower.

Here’s another sequence I like . . .

He zeros in on the target, grabs it, and he’s on its way as fast as a blink of an eye . . .

As mentioned, the Blue Jays aren’t the only ones I captured . . .

Here’s a near-collision . . .

As mentioned, sometimes the action required a wider crop . . .

And, we end as we started . . . with the bully flying in . . .

A short while later, after chasing a few birds off, it too leaves . . .

Anyway, there are 70 photos in THIS SmugMug Gallery. Again, not so much for the quality of the photos, but for the action, it might be interesting to watch the following slideshow.

I set the transition at two seconds, but you can pause it and scroll it manually if so desired.

Slideshow of Blue Jays and a few more SmugMug Gallery — 70 photos

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.


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