...Notes from the Field


How Blue Can You Get? Steller’s Jay!

by | May 11, 2011

As promised, here is the next photo of a Steller’s jay from my trip to Washington State with a borrowed camera. The cool thing about being in Washington was having a very strange experience about the natural world. In Florida, I can sound off the name of every plant, insect, and animal I see – often giving the scientific name from the top of my head. In this very different climate and latitude, I knew less than 1% of what anything was. A fantastic and exciting thing to experience! Had I not thought ahead and brought a nature field guide with me, not knowing what bird this was would have driven me crazy! (I know anyone on the West Coast is rolling their eyes as they read this, just as I roll my eyes when people come to Florida and go wild over alligators and pelicans).

For days – before I missed my flight home (and had to wait until the next day to catch another plane) – I’d been seeing these big bright blue birds out of the corner of my eye as I was driving through Tukwila, Wa – and kept seeing them every time I pulled off of I-5. It was driving me crazy that I left my cameras home in Florida, and that even if I did have my gear with me, I was too busy on personal business to do any shooting. The extra day allowed me a chance for some free time, so a good friend and I headed to Mount Rainier with his camera and it was there that I got my first good look at the Steller’s Jay. Kind of similar to the blue jays we have in the East, the Steller’s jay is much easier to photograph, less skittish, and has the inquisitive nature of its less colorful cousins – the crows and ravens. It was the first time I used a Nikon D7000, and even though I didn’t know it as well as my D2X or D300S, it got the job done nicely!

Many thanks for the huge response to my Red Fox on Mount Rainier, the first post from this series. And again, many thanks to Bill Metek for being so generous with his photography gear. More photos from this unexpected nature photography day coming soon!

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Thank you in advance!



  1. Resa Honnen

    I had a similar feeling when I went to Florida for the first time, actually. I’m from Washington state, and can name off 90% of the plants and animals here… But in Florida, it was almost like nature’s version of culture shock. Very intriguing though.

    • RichLeighton

      “Nature’s version of culture shock” – I love it! You are exactly right!

  2. Liz

    Great photo Rich! As a fellow Floridian, I felt the exact same way on a trip to California last year. It was also a Stellar’s Jay that I saw everywhere and couldn’t identify!

    • RichLeighton

      Haha! I’m sure you were exactly in the same position I was! Isn’t that a cool feeling when everything thing is fresh and new?

  3. Bill Metek

    I guess missing that flight wasnt such a bad thing after all… Great blog post and sweet photography my friend !

  4. Trueportraits

    We have lots of these in the Everglades only bigger and we call them Blue Herons.


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