Saturday, December 12, 2009

Digital Camera - Don't Leave Home Without It

As usual, Toby and I head out for our walk this morning. I'm not a couple hundred feet up the road when I hear something.

At first, it's normal blue jay vocalizations, but then it changes, into this strangled-sounding "JaaaayyyyJaaaayyyyy" that went on non-stop.

"That's interesting," I thought. "Could a cat have caught a jay?" (Unfortunately, our local feral cat population has risen dramatically this year.) Then a whole bunch of jays fly off screaming from the trees on the opposite side of the street from which the sound was coming: the rest of the family was getting out of Dodge. So much for familial unity.

I look over towards where the sound was and see a dark shape on the ground below a cedar. Upon closer inspection, it turns out to be a sharpshin hawk with a freshly caught (and very much alive) blue jay. I can see the jay's wing fluttering beneath the hawk. I keep walking, hoping for a better view (and mentally kicking myself for not bringing the camera, which I actually debated while donning hat, coat, mittens and leash this morning), and when I round the snowbank, apparently it is too much for the hawk. It flies up, apparently trying to haul its catch away with it, but at about five feet above the ground the two birds separate.

The hawk takes off eastward, and the jay struggles up into the branches of a young maple. It shakes itself, looks around, and takes off across the street in search of its traitor family. All that remained of the brief struggle was the imprint in the snow where the hawk pinned the jay to the ground (and if I hadn't seen it happen, I never would be able to guess it from the snowprint).

The moral of this story: always, always, ALWAYS take the camera with you! That's why you bought the bloody thing in the first place!!!


  1. What a lot of excitement for a daily walk! Maybe you should get a little pocket camera for just such excursions. Some are as small as cellphones and not terribly expensive and so easy to carry along.

    I've seen sharpies snatch mourning doves from our birdfeeders, but grabbing a blue jay takes a lot of nerve. As your experience demonstrates, they do put up a bit of a fight.

  2. I have a friend Anne who says all the time to bring your camera EVERYWHERE!

    Very cool story.

    I was camping in the back country of Yellowstone what I think was an osprey. He was eyeballing stuff in the lake (Shoshone). I should have gotten my camera out and put it on video mode right away. I missed him swooping down and grabbing a fish out of the lake.