Friday, February 20, 2009

Gray Jays at the Sax Zim Bog

I spent last weekend birding up north at the Sax Zim Bog Winter Birding Festival. Unfortunately birding festival are frequently not the best venue for people who are trying to photograph the birds. The problem is that photographers and birders usually have different requirements and agendas. Photographers usually have to take into consideration things like light, back ground, weather and distance in order to get descent shots. Where most birders are happy just to see the bird and sometimes even just hearing it.
Even if you don't have the opportunity to get that great pic festivals are still a lot of fun. It is a refreshing change of pace to hang around with people who are interested in birds and nature. Most people in my normal life do not pay any attention to the birds, although I am working on trying to change that.
Since I was not sure if what kind of photo opportunities that I was going to get at the festival I did go up early on Friday to have some time to shoot on my own as well as making a couple of trips up to the bog in January. These pictures where all taken on January 10th.
One of the more common birds that you can find in the bog most winters is the gray jay. This member of the Corvidae family can typically be found in the boreal forests of Canada and Alaska as well as the upper elevations of the Rocky Mountains. There is usually a small population that comes down from Canada in search of food and spends the winter in northern Minnesota.
The gray jay is able to survive the harsh winters of the north by caching food. They use their saliva, which is sticky, to glue food, which consists of carrion, insects, berries, nestling birds, mice or other small mammals, to hiding places in the trees.
If the temps get to high much of their cached food will get rancid which is probably why these birds stay in habitats with a cold climate. So while many birds have to fly south during the winter in order to find food in warmer climates the gray jay depends on the cold in order to keep a constant food source available to them.


Kim said...

Such an adorable bird and wonderful pictures.

PSYL said...

Hard to imagine this cute little fellow as a dangerous omnivore to mice or other small mammals.

Great photographs!

Anonymous said...

This post caught my eye for two reasons. I've turned from power birder/photographer to photographer/birder. I fully understand both sides of the equation.

Second is the Gray Jay, A.K.A. Wisky-jack. I used to photograph these in the Colorado Rockys. They have such a baby face, and the first time I saw one, I thought it was a juvinile! They are very tolerant of humans and present great photo ops. This is a fun post and makes me homesick for the Rockys.

FAB said...

Great post & informative as usual.

Yes a dilemma - I,m a watcher at heart now trying to capture some images but often falling between the two.

This comment has been removed by the author.

Gorgeous bird - and great closeups of it! You can almost count the feathers!
(if you wonder, I am the one who removed one comment, my english didn't quite come up right!)

Adrienne Zwart said...

Fascinating post! I've never even heard of the gray jay before. (I need to invest in more field guides so I know what to look for when I travel.) Beautiful bird!

Jane Hards Photography said...

This has to be one of the sweetest birds I have ever seen. The grey jay is new to be too.

Jane Hards Photography said...

This has to be one of the sweetest birds I have ever seen. The grey jay is new to be too.