January 18 ~ Sebastian, FL
Just like the White Pelicans at the fish market I love to visit the Florida Scrub Jays every time I'm in Sebastian. If you have never had the pleasure of seeing these wonderful birds in person you are missing out on an amazing experience. The Florida Scrub Jay is listed as a threatened species. They are found only in certain scrub habitat that has diminished over the years leaving them without many options for a place to live. These birds are also very unafraid of people and will come right up to you, I've seen them land right on people photographing them. I'm not sure if that has contributed to their decline but it would seem that their fearlessness may not be a positive survival trait. In any case that is a big part of what makes these birds so much fun!
There is a specific location not far from where I stayed that has had some Scrub Jays for quite a few years now. I love to take an afternoon to go hang out with them and watch their antics. Unlike most other birds species when I walk into their territory they will usually fly right over to check me out. They are incredibly curious and I never tire of watching them hop around from branch to branch or bounce along the ground searching for food.
I had chosen an afternoon with some thin cloud cover but the sun was still shining through. I hoped this would give me flattering light for my friendly bird subjects. The nice part about having them so close and that they are usually so reliable is having the ability to wait for a day with nice light before I go photograph them.
I parked the car and started walking down a sandy path into the scrub habitat they live in. Florida Scrub habitat consists of mostly low height evergreen trees and palm species. It is always a very sandy soil and from my experience not a lot of other birds hang out in these areas. In the past I have actually seen them while walking along the main entrance path which is less than 500 feet long, usually I have to walk off that path to find the Scrub Jays. On this evening that was the case and I made a left into the sandy brush area and started slowly wandering around.
It didn't take long before I spotted one of them through the brush so I found a nice opening in the scrub and sat down. Shortly after I sat a single Jay made an appearance in the opening, obviously scoping me out. Just a bit later a second Jay showed up and the pair began to fly, walk and jump around me. I had picked a good spot and occasionally one of the bird would end up out in the open and in some beautiful evening sunlight. At one point one of the birds landed very close to me on a branch and I couldn't even fit its whole body in the frame. I was having a blast and they didn't seem to mind my company either.
I spent almost an hour with the pair and they finally seemed to tire of me and disappeared back into the scrub. As you may notice these birds also have some pretty fancy leg jewelry thanks to them being tracked thoroughly by wildlife specialists keeping an eye on their population. From what I can tell by the band colors this is not the same pair I had previously photographed at this locationf. There are a few places throughout Florida to find these beautiful and curious birds but if you are ever in Sebastian definitely stop by Pelican Island Audubon’s Martha Wininger Reflection Park and try your luck finding them. The park is found at the corner of Barber Street and Empire Terrace. I'm sure you will have just as much fun watching them as I do.