Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay In Flight In Ophir Canyon (updated)

Blue on blue.

My recent posts have been long and wordy, probably to a fault, so I’ll try to make up for it today with a more concise edition of Feathered Photography.


1/4000, f/6.3, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

Woodhouses Scrub Jays (previously known as Western Scrub Jays) have always been an evasive quarry for me. In some urban areas, especially near feeders, they can be relatively easy to photograph but I prefer to catch them in natural habitat and in those areas I find them to be very difficult to approach.

Yesterday morning I spent considerable time looking for them in the west desert and found a few in Ophir Canyon but this jay was the only one that gave me a reasonable chance and I almost missed it anyway. While perched it was too small in the frame but I got lucky and caught it soon after takeoff with a nice wing position and those open wings helped to fill the frame. I do wish the underside of the tail wasn’t so deeply shaded but this canyon doesn’t get much light until the sun is higher in the sky – thus the shaded ventral parts.

Blue on blue may not appeal to everyone but it works for me, especially since the green junipers help to soften the blow and frame the bird. The jay is centered so I could include more of the juniper on the right.

Otherwise there was just too much blue for me.


Note: When I originally published this post early this morning I’d forgotten that last year the name of this species was changed from Western Scrub Jay to Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay. I’ve now edited the post to correct my error. Thanks to Mark Amershek for bringing it to my attention.



36 comments to Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay In Flight In Ophir Canyon (updated)

  • Charlotte W. Norton

    Fabulous flight shot Ron!


  • Tack sharp feather detail and love the blue tones.

  • What a glorious thing. Love the echo of the sky on the plumage. Megathanks.
    And, just so you know, I am pretty certain that you could put up a post the size of War and Peace and we would read it, learn it, and benefit. An illustrated War and Peace of course.

    • Ha, If I ever decide to do a version of War and Peace I’ll make certain I illustrate it, EC!

      Can you even imagine how many mistakes I could make in a tome like that!!!

  • Joanne OBrien

    Beautiful bird and a beautiful photograph!!

  • Alice Beckcom

    Ron, yes we see the Woodhouse scrub jay at our feeder and in the back yard. Martha’s description of their behavior is quite interesting and some of it I’ve observed.

    I understand that they like to steal food from other bird’s nests. They are also very noisy [maybe nosy too]!!

    I like your ‘natural’ shot with the blue sky and junipers as well as those beautiful wings. Thank you, Ron

  • April Olson

    Nice blue sky, were you able to get out of the haze? I have been staying in and enjoying my coffee with my birds at home the last few weekends. I need to get out but that haze is do daunting.

  • Shirley

    Good morning Ron! Not finding your posts too long at all. You are allowed to express yourself and we will read, we have had people scare off the birds when we have our cameras aimed, I guess my 150-600mm not big enough to see when ignorance is involved. Beautiful shot of the Jay, so well displayed, very much appreciated as that species is not seen here in BC. When was the name changed on this species? Stokes pocket guide of North American birds printed in 2014 it was still called “Western Scrub-Jay” and another book printed in 2016 is still called it “Western Scrub-Jay”, mind you a lot of years of research is involved before the book goes to print I would assume. Now look who is getting “lengthy”!

    • “When was the name changed on this species?”

      Shirley, They changed it in 2016, July I believe. The Western Scrub Jay was split into two species – Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay and California Scrub Jay.

  • Mary

    I love the gray wings! This is a favorite of mine, particularly as a Florida girl–I see blue jays often, but never western scrub jays.

  • Judy Gusick

    Beautiful whatever it’s called…………:) Not too much blue for me and one of the reasons I’m enjoying the Blue Jay we have in residence at the feeder of late. They are watchful and noisy when something captures their interest. Yesterday 3 grey crowned rosy finches hit the window in quick succession. One didn’t make it and the jay talked for a LONG time even after I removed it. The jays in the San Diego area would dive bomb cats.

    • “The jays in the San Diego area would dive bomb cats”

      Judy, I’ve never seen jays do that but I have seen magpies do it and actually pull their tails. I could watch that for hours!

      • Judy Gusick

        Yes, the Magpies can get pretty aggressive also tho I’ve never seen them pull their tails! We had one cat, and only one, that would successfully hunt magpies.:) Nothing seems to want to eat a dead magpie however.

  • The image of the bird is just gorgeous–the composition ( to my eye ) couldn’t be better—looks like you “placed” all of the components yourself !

  • Susan Stone

    Wonderful shot! I like the coloring, including the junipers. Yesterday we did a tour at the park for two ladies who are also birders. One of them had your camera with a 100-400 zoom lens, and I was watching with amazement as she was taking pictures of White-throated Swifts, who were soaring around in the air. That she was able to capture anything amazed me, and made me appreciate even more what you are able to capture with your lens. Strange that we were also having a conversation about the Jay we were watching being a Woodhouse. I’ve not heard of that distinction before.

  • Around here (Mt. Tamalpais, Marin County, California), scrub jays have the habit of posting themselves as sentinels on bushes, low trees at the edges of clearings. They are self-appointed scouts, guardians, and announcers – when a predator-class intruder appears to the jay, either airborne or on the ground, the jay shouts the alarm, and other birds, deer, and small mammals in the clearing take notice. Often, the jays alert before a wind brings intruder scent to the deer. The ground feeding birds fly up to cover, unless the jay calls signify an aerial predator, like a Cooper’s hawk. All the birds then dive for ground cover. When I walk to a clearing edge, I wait. A jay will appear within a minute. It watches, waits. When I move, it announces. If I move quickly, it alarms. Watch the jay’s posture – it points its bill in the direction of the incoming threat. This is a good way to see where a fox or other interesting mammal is coming along, and prepare the camera. The caveat is that jays are mischievous liars and at times call the alarm for no reason. The birds all interrupt their feeding, dash for cover, and nothing appears. . while I find it amusing, I recognize that the birds are foraging for their lives, and it’s no joke to them. Scrub jays also have the habit of stealing acorns from one another. I’ve seen a local jay bury an acorn, mark the spot with a leaf, and fly off. Soon as it’s gone, another jay who was watching comes along and steals the acorn. They are smart birds.

  • Ron: A beautiful shot! The wings alone are gorgeous. As is the bird.

  • Dick Harlow

    Great shot Ron, love the image. I can understand why it might be too much blue for some, but not for me.

  • Marty K

    I’ll take this blue on blue any day! 🙂 The lightest grey on the primaries looks to be almost painted (or shaded with a colored pencil) on. Fantastic wing position too. I always enjoy your shots of “plentiful” birds!

  • Thise wings are so graceful and beautifful…and the soft colors of the bird agaist the bright, blue sky!!! A lovely image….

    • The blue on blue is OK with me…I might have added a little more th the left side…or croppped it so there was a little more sky on the left…adding sky doesn’t bother me because it was there and that’s what you saw…I like to see what you saw. If you add something that was NOT there it probably would bother me, be dishonest. The sky, obviously, was there….so, no problem…sometimes cameras “overcrop” an image just by what registers on them.

      • You don’t like blue so of course you would find it too much. I like the color, esp. Turquoise, which I find a “happy” color….

      • Patty, I didn’t have any more room on the left. I could have added canvas but chose not to.

        I actually do like blue in many cases – skies, water, flowers etc. I just don’t like my vehicles to be blue. Never have. Doesn’t make much sense I know but that’s the way it is. Obviously (for me) it isn’t a political issue… 🙂

  • Mark Amershek

    Ron are Utah Jays – Scrub or Woodhouse’s? I do not know the dividing line since they have been split up. The Colorado Jays are now Woodhouse’s.

    • Mark, you’re right. I forgot about the name change and screwed it up in my post. It should be Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay. I’m on the road so I’ll edit my text when I get home. Thanks.