This article captures a ‘slice of life’ moment and shows a Blue Jay choosing flight over fight.
A couple of days ago I was out at Hendrie Valley getting in some practice time with my Olympus OM-D E-M1X by shooting some Pro Capture runs. Some other photographers had left some bird seed on one of the benches. It was attracting some birds as well as a few squirrels.
I noticed that a Blue Jay and a squirrel were at opposite ends of the same bench. The Blue Jay was pecking at some seeds as the squirrel approached. Anticipating something interesting was about to happen I focused on the Blue Jay and waited for the action to ensue. It didn’t take long. The Blue Jay got in a threatening body posture and went directly at the squirrel. As the squirrel advanced undeterred, the Blue Jay quickly changed its mind and took flight.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
In our first frame we can see the Blue Jay exhibiting a classic bird aggression posture with its body down, neck extended and beak open. You’ll notice that it is stepping forward to challenge the squirrel that is approaching out of frame.
The Blue Jay continues to advance aggressively towards the squirrel.
The Blue Jay has just had its “Oh Oh!” moment and has realized that the squirrel has not been intimidated by its show of aggression. The Blue Jay stops dead in its tracks.
The bird’s flight over fight decision has been made. The Blue Jay begins to quickly extend its wings in preparation for take off.
The Blue Jay begins its first short downward wing beat.
The Blue Jay is crouching so it can launch itself into the air.
Body partially erect, the Blue Jay has finished its first quick wing beat and is lifting its wings for the next. The bird is pushing upward with its legs and body.
It quickly begins its second, short downward wing beat. The Blue Jay’s head is still pointed forward watching the advancing squirrel.
As the wing’s downstroke continues the Blue Jay begins to lift itself airborne. You’ll notice that its feet have left the surface of the bench. The Blue Jay begins to turn its head away from the squirrel.
Now completely focused on escaping, the Blue Jay turns its head firmly in the direction of its escape route.
The Blue Jay’s wings are finishing its powerful downstroke, thrusting its body at a 90-degree angle to the advancing squirrel.
The Blue Jay’s flight over fight decision takes on a sense of urgency.
Thrusting its wings sharply back, the Blue Jay fully extends them in preparation for its third wing downstroke.
The Blue Jay starts to gain speed as its flight over fight response takes it further away from the bench.
Its third wing downstroke almost complete, the Blue Jay is quickly on its way to safety.
The 15 Pro Capture mode photographs you just viewed were all captured in a total of 1/4 of a second. They demonstrate how quickly birds make their flight or fight decisions. As photographers it is important for us to be observant and to anticipate potential action. I was at Hendrie Valley for about 2 hours that day. The 1/4 second that it took to capture these 15 Pro Capture images was the highlight of my visit!
Without using my E-M1X’s Pro Capture mode, it would have been impossible for me to capture this flight over fight ‘slice of life’ moment.
Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. All images were produced from RAW files using my standard process. All images are displayed as 100% captures without any cropping.
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