Bloomingdale Bog, near Lake Placid, is the best place to see Gray Jay in New York’s Adirondacks region. Reader Doug Emlin made his first visit last October and found the bird above after hiking only half a mile.
Emlin, shown here in his snowy backyard in Parishville, New York, retired last year after two decades as a clerk for the U.S. Postal Service. Prior to that, he served for more than 15 years in the U.S. Air Force, mostly as a navigator and a navigation instructor. He has been an avid photographer since high school and now enjoys chasing birds and working on his life list.
As campers know, Gray Jays are famous for taking handouts, but watch them long enough, and you’ll realize how varied their diet is. They eat berries, eggs, nestling birds, and carrion. Slime mold and other fungi are on the menu, too, as are small mammals and spiders. The birds also store food to eat later, especially in winter.
Common insect prey includes beetles, wasps, moths, butterflies, flies, and grasshoppers. Less common are dragonflies, making Emlin’s photo all the more remarkable.
Emlin used the following equipment and settings to take the photograph:
Camera: Nikon Coolpix P520
Lens: Built-in 42x optical zoom
Settings: auto mode, 1/250, f/5.9, ISO 400, optical zoom 1000mm, digital zoom 2x
Adjustments: Minor cropping
More photos from our readers
A version of this article appeared in the April 2014 issue of BirdWatching magazine. Subscribe.