UFD: Hey, Hoomin – Whatcha Doin?

You remember my luck with birds, right? I mean, normally the little bastards just hide in the trees and chirp at me merrily, knowing I can’t get a look at them, much less a good photo. They sing all the more lustily as my frustration winds to a fever pitch. Then they wait for me to give up and put the camera away. Once I’ve done that, they come sailing out of their hidey-spots, and flaunt themselves a bit as I curse and grab for the camera. Once I have it out and on and look up again, the buggers have vanished once again, leaving a trail of titters in their wake.

I did have a hummingbird buzz me on the porch a few weeks ago, even hovering patiently for a bit until I looked up, then hovering a bit more so I could admire it, before buzzing off. I think that happened because I didn’t have a camera at the time.

In other words, my luck with birds is generally rotten, and we only get to have this series because I’ve got a good zoom on this camera and can sometimes manage to ambush the little fuckers. But I rarely have an experience with a non-corvid or sparrow-type bird that I had at Mount Rainier in early August.

B and I had taken the Upper Palisides Lake trail down to Sunrise Lake, because vigorous exercise is just what the doctor ordered, and we do sometimes try to get the recommended dose. We’d admired the scenery, like so:

Image shows part of a pretty little mountain lake from water level, with tall fir trees and rugged mountain ranges framing and reflecting off it.
Sunrise Lake

and were just beginning to head back to the spur to the main trail when I heard a rustling near my head, and B remarked that I was being checked out by a curious bird.

I knew the little shit would fly off as soon as I made a move, because I had the camera out and on, but I turned cautiously anyway, and…

Image shows a fir tree with a very curious tan-chested bird with a dark bar across its eyes staring at us.

There’s this curious bird which was not a corvid or a sparrow, and rather smaller than the former but larger than the latter, eyeballing us intently. It didn’t care a bit that we were humans and that it was wild. It didn’t seem to grok us as potential predators at all. And it apparently hadn’t gotten the avian memo detailing what to do in order to make Dana do frustrated noises.

I got a couple of shots in, quickly, as it jumped to a higher branch for a more panoramic look at us, and then it flew away.

Image is a gif showing the bird on a higher branch of the same tree, then the tree sans-bird.

I had just enough time to begin the “Aw, shit. Oh well, at least I got a couple of pictures” inner monologue before it landed on the tree next to B for further ogling.

Image shows the same bird, now above us on an evergreen bough. It has a very short pointy beak.

I was so afraid it would fly straight off that I didn’t give the camera time to do more than focus on it. I snapped before I could adjust the angle enough to deal with the weird late-afternoon lighting conditions that caused the sky to turn white in the camera’s opinion. But it’s a kinda neat effect.

I needn’t have been so hasty, because our birdie stayed up there for some time, happily inspecting us. And this final shot, taken before its curiosity was satisfied and it headed off to do its own thing, captured its attitude perfectly:

Image shows the same bird in the same evergreen bough, with its head tipped on its side.

Isn’t that the perfect, “Hey, hoomin – whatcha doin?” pose?

I’ve had crows and jays land nearby, check me out, decide whether or not I could be persuaded to provide food and/or entertainment. I’ve been stared at by sparrows, who are plenty used to people but are usually still skittish. And, as I said, there was that hummingbird, which for all the world appeared to be there simply to show off to the nearest available human just how awesome its hovering skills were. But this is the first time a bird in the wilderness that was not any of those things has expressed this much fearless interest. I swear, if I’d had something to feed it with, we’d have had a veritable Snow White Feeding the Birdies moment.

I hope you lot can tell me what species it is.

UFD: Hey, Hoomin – Whatcha Doin?

10 thoughts on “UFD: Hey, Hoomin – Whatcha Doin?

  1. rq

    Haha, in that first picture, it looks a bit like a kookaburra (don’t worry, it’s not). The actual search turned up another Australian bird as first resemblance, the noisy miner (but again, don’t worry, it’s not!).
    What it is is a grey jay, and watch out, it’s deceptively cute! :)

  2. 2

    “But I rarely have an experience with a non-corvid…”

    And this isn’t one, I fear. It’s a corvid, a gray jay to be specific. It’s about as comfortable around people as any. The only other bird in my part of the world (Ontario) that’s as easy to have eating out of your hand is a chickadee.

  3. 4

    I am neither an ornithologist, nor particularly good at identifying birds. However, he looks like a gray jay to me too. We used to call those “camp robber jays” when I was growing up. Because they were very bold and would steal food right off your plate when camping/picnicking.

  4. 5

    And it is in fact a corvid, after all. Probably checking to see if you had any spare peanuts on you. I shared many a lunch with these guys, back in my Colorado days.

  5. 7

    Looks like a Grey Jay. Often known as the “Camp Robber” for their bold, thieving ways.

    If you encounter the birds again, try to remember to have some seeds of some sort with you. Relax, put your hand out, have your friend ready with a camera and stand perfectly still. You may be surprised by the results.

    I have a photo of me from a hiking trip last September (2013) with a Grey Jay on my hand. https://www.flickr.com/photos/bhlang/10483857836/

  6. rq

    Also, I forgot to add that your photo of Sunrise Lake is simply stunning: I love the mirror-stillness of the water and the feel of low-angled sun.

  7. 9

    Definitely a gray jay. Clark’s nutcracker’s colors are a little more sharply delineated. We had one hop right into our car looking for a handout one time.

  8. 10

    Definitely a grey jay. And I’m a little surprised that I’m going to be the first to point out that they’re also called Canada jays or whiskey jacks.

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