BPW: Gray Jay

by John Briggs on May 31, 2010

in Bird Photographs, Bird Photography Weekly, Blog, Wildlife

Did you ever hear of the old saying, “We were so far back in the woods, they had to pipe in sunlight?” That’s about how far we traveled to add another bird to our life list, the Gray Jay. This bird has eluded us for so long and it was almost by chance that we finally got to see one.

Route 3 north of Colebrook, NH is a beautiful area running through the Connecticut Lakes Region to the Quebec border. Boreal forests. bogs and mountains make up the geography. You also pass over the 45th parallel, the half way point between the equator and the north pole. Attentiveness is a must! At any time, around a blind curve or just over the crest of a hill, a one thousand pound moose or a deer may be standing in the middle of the road.

Map is interactive. Hover cursor over markers for details.

We took a dirt logging road just north of the Second Connecticut Lake. After traveling for about one mile, the road came to a “T”. According to our maps and the GPS, the road to the left did not exist. We decided to take the left road. It was a lightly traveled, narrow dirt road with ruts and a washboard surface in places. Along the way, we saw Whitetail Deer, Snowshoe Hares, Porcupines and had a fleeting glimpse of a Black-backed Woodpecker.

On our GPS, the map was blank except for the marker designating our vehicle. It showed no roads or bodies of water, we were in the middle of nowhere. We had plenty of food and water, but we began to think about scenarios of our vehicle breaking down, flat tires or one of us needing medical attention. I checked coverage on my cell phone and there was no signal what-so-ever. We agreed it was a good time to look for a place to turn around. As we looked for a place to turn around, we noticed that the Canadian border was less than 1/2 a mile away. More than likely, there was no border station where we were, and even if there were, neither of us had our passports with us.

We came to a large boreal meadow bordering a bog. It was also a good place to turn around. Before we did, we paused for a while and listened. We heard, but could not see, Boreal Chickadees and several Yellow-rumped Warblers. A Spruce Grouse hurried across the road about 50 yards from where we stood. It was then that Sharon directed my attention to a broken off birch tree. Perched on the broken tree was a Gray Jay!

The following is an audio clip of a Gray Jay’s song and call. Click the play button.

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Gray Jay’s are a very curious bird. It wasn’t long before another one showed up. One of them nearly landed on my 400mm lens! I moved very little and the Jay’s landed near my feet, on a bush beside me and flew so near to me that I could have reached out and touched them. It wasn’t long until they flew off and were out of sight. It was an experience that I won’t forget!

Some of the following photos are tall. Tap your f11 key to open your browser to its fullest size before viewing. Clicking a thumbnail will open a shadowbox with a full-size view. All photos taken with a Canon 7D camera and Canon 100-400mm f/4 L IS lens.


Happy birding!



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