One of my targets for my recent trip to the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival was the Florida’s only endemic bird– the Florida Scrub-Jay, a social member of the corvid family. There are 2 other species of scrub-jay, Western Scrub-Jay which I’ve seen in Arizona, and Island Scrub-Jay, which is found on the Channel Islands off the coast of Los Angeles, and I have yet to see.
When we got back from the morning of looking unsuccessfully for the scrub-jay on Merritt Island, Jeff Bouton could barely look at me. He was absolutely horrified that I had managed to NOT see a single scrub-jay yet despite several hours of birding in decent habitat for them. This was absolutely unacceptable, a fact that Jeff reminded me of repeatedly. So unacceptable that he skipped out of the festival after lunch to take me to his secret spot where he said he could guarantee a group.
We drove in to Merritt Island, scanning both sides of the road to see if there was anything different in the flocks of coots and waders, and then made our way to Jeff’s secret spot. We hadn’t walked in more that 50 yards when a scrub-jay popped up in a small tree to check us out. Mission accomplished! The mid-day lighting was truly horrendous, but after I got a good look I had to get a shot of it with my Phone Skope gear so I moved around a bit to get the most unobstructed views of the scrub-jay.
Jeff pointed me to the perfect spot where I could use a pine tree as the backdrop which is what you see in the photo below. This scrub-jay just posted up on this pine, keeping a close watch on us as we watched it and another jay that kept itself out of view most of the time. Even with a good angle on the scrub-jay, the lighting was bad, but nothing that a bit of tweaking in Photoshop couldn’t recover.
And so I walked away with one less dip on the trip than I was expecting. I’ll probably still never hear the end of it from Jeff that I almost missed Florida Scrub-Jay in his territory. It’s satisfying to get good looks at a lifer, and even more fun to be able to take the time to get a good image of it.