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An embarrasing encounter with a Blue Jay (1 Viewer)


Photography and birding enjoyer
United States
I went out to the woods behind my house to photograph some birds. I didn't bring my binocs since I wasn't really birding, just trying to get some photos of birds. Plus, the neckstrap for my binoculars recently disappeared in the middle of a hike (no idea how it went unnoticed, but it somehow did.) so I wouldn't have anywhere to put them when holding my camera. I got some photos of a male and female Rose-Breasted Grosbeak. I saw my first Hermit Thrush of the year and got a bad photo of it. Lots of nuthatches. And then I saw movement on a branch, maybe 20 feet away. But from where I was, it looked to be about 35 feet away. I could only see the outline of it from a distance, but I snapped a photo of it.

There were lots of branches in the way, so the picture was out of focus. But I could see the base patterns of it. It was yellow with a dark blue back and wings. It looked to be the size of a warbler. (keyword: looked.) I spent maybe ten minutes flipping through all the warblers. But I couldn't find one in range or season with all the right markings. I was stumped.

I took one last look at the photo and noticed something. The yellow on the bird looked much less fuzzy than the blue. Almost as if it was closer than the rest of the bird. I went back to the tree I saw the bird in. Then I went to about where I took the photo of the mystery warbler. I discovered the embarrasing truth. I had made a terrible ID mistake. There was no yellow on the bird. I had taken a photo of a blue jay, but accidentally focused my lens on a yellow leaf which perfectly covered the bird to look like it was part of it. The blue was fuzzy, so the crest didn't show up. And the branch the leaf was attached to looked like it was part of the same branch the blue jay sat on in the distance, creating the illusion that it was a much smaller bird.

I ended up deleting the photo in anger, but it is still burned into my memory. And I will never get that half hour back. The lesson today is to always consider foliage when identifying a bird in a photo. And never use size to identify unless necessary.

- Joe
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