Even the smallest and/or prettiest of creatures can be territorial and exhibit more than just a little bit of visciousness in the daily fight for survival. Heaven knows I’ve experienced it within the human workplace, hence the sarcastic title.
Category Archives: hummingbirds
On my Facebook page, I have attempted to convey the sheer numbers of hummingbirds that visit the three feeders my mother set out (and that I refill) with words. While that is nice for the imagination, words just don’t convey what I see every weekend morning at 7AM, right on the dot (hummingbirds are – apparently – very punctual little creatures). So below are images I took this morning (9/29/2013) of each of the feeders at a little after 7AM.
This is the most popular feeder (for whatever reason). I counted 16 hummingbirds in this one image. There were so many fighting for a place at the feeding holes that they gently rocked the feeder back and forth with the force of their landing, perching, getting knocked off of, and/or colliding with, the feeder in a frenetic attempt to get in a sip or two before being chased away.
I counted 10 birds at this 2nd-most popular feeder . You must look carefully in order to find that bit of tail, wing, or head indicating the presence of a hummingbird to add your count.
I counted 8 hummingbirds in this image. And while I won’t call this the least-popular feeder, it is the less-visited of the three feeders. There are an inordinate number of bugs at this spot, which can be a bother, or – if the bug is small enough – an extra bit of protein for the little hummer, since hummingbirds feed on small insects and spiders in addition to nectar.
The air was thick with the sound of humming – because there were so many birdies zipping back and forth, the decibel level of the humming noise had increased, I kid you not. Hummingbirds would zip past me, sometimes less than a foot away from me. A few hovered near me to check me out, but upon deciding I was not nectar-worthy, they would fly away.
Of course, I witnessed more of what I jokingly call “corporate behavior”. These little “pecks” and “feather pulling” to the head were so quick, and yet to a 3.5-inch hummingbird (yes, that is how tall a ruby-throated hummingbird measures), those little pecks and pulls might have hurt just a little. I dunno. I *did* think it was funny to see so many hummers visiting the feeders that showed off spots of ruffled-up feathers on their heads and backs.
Most of the hummingbird photos you have seen on these blog posts are for sale as prints on my website (just click on one of the photos to get to the hummingbird gallery). I’ve also created a couple of hummingbird calendars for sale on my zazzle storefront (just click on one of the calendar images on the left column of the screen) as well as a number of neat book options (writing journals, address books, and 2014 weekly planners) – just click on the icons for those books on the left column of the screen.
For the past three weeks, I’ve been photographing the hummingbirds flocking to the three feeders in my mother’s backyard. During that period of time, I’ve gotten some really neat shots and have watched some funky behavior exhibited by these amazing little creatures.
Ever have one of those days?? Or maybe the caption should be “Quit Ruffling My Feathers!”
This seat is taken!
I Said, Back Off, Dude!
More to come. In the meantime, visit this link to see more hummingbird photos taken over the years. Visit my website and select from the menu items to see my hummingbird calendar (another is in the making) and the hummingbird-themed (and very useful) book products I’ve created (more to come here, too).
Today was the first time I’ve used a tripod to try and capture hummingbird images. I decided to pull out my other camera and tripod and get some “selfies”.
I wore red. I looked shleppy. But it worked.
Red shirt, red (wool felt) hat, and covered my lens with a red kerchief. It’s hot and humid in southeast Texas right now, and the sweat was rolling down my face and into my eyes (remember, wool felt hat). I couldn’t really *see* the hummers, so instead I fired off the remote shutter release whenever I *heard* the familiar humming sound of those tiny birds. Note that little green blur above the flash in the last image.
It’s September – that time of year again here in southeast Texas, when the ruby-throated hummingbirds make their way through my mother’s backyard on their migration route to Central America and Mexico.
So on September 7, I helped my mother hang out 3 nectar feeders. The next day, I went over to her house with camera and flash in hand. I didn’t see a thing at any of the feeders.
Then, I heard it.
That familiar little twittering sound the little hummers make. I looked over to one of the wire tomato stands used to prop up the tomatoes Mom had planted in her plastic tubs, and there he was, his ruby throat flashing in the morning light.
Since then, I’ve counted up to about 8 birds swirling and fighting around the feeders. The males arrive first to stake out their feeding/breeding territory, so I’m thinking the females aren’t too far behind.
In the 6 days I’ve been going over there for photos, I have captured more great images of this tiny bird’s ruby flash than in any of the other years of hummingbird photography put together. And this is only the beginning of the season!
For those of you wondering what I use camera-wise:
- The longest focal length I have in a lens, which is a Canon 100-400. The longer the lens, the less you will scare away the birdies.
- A camera with a fast fps (which is my Canon 1-DX).
- I put a flash on my camera, too. Flash is the best way to really freeze the action and to get the color and detail of their jewel-like iridescent feathers.
- I set my focus to Servo. Servo tracks the movement of your subject and keeps that subject in focus.
I’ve taken pictures of these hummingbirds without using a flash, and sometimes accidentally without putting my focus on Servo. The photos generally end up totally worthless. As it is,because these little birds are so darned fast, probably 3/4 of my images are of a feeder with no bird at it because they’ve zipped away.
- 1 cup white sugar (do NOT use honey)
- 4 cups water
Boil the sugar and water together until the sugar dissolves and set aside to cool before filling your feeders. NO NEED to use red food coloring – besides, anything in there except the sugar and water is always subject to hurt the hummingbirds in some way.
To this end, make sure you change out the sugar solution and thoroughly wash your feeders every 4-5 days, as the solution can sour or ferment or get cloudy and mold spots can develop on the inside of the feeder – all of which can make the hummingbirds ill and even be fatal.
Hummingbirds remember where the good feeding spots are, so you definitely want to make sure you keep those feeders clean and full of fresh nectar solution.
I’ve created one of what will be a series of 2 hummingbird wall calendars for 2014. If you want to have something that keeps track of dates *and* is pretty to look at, then go check out my hummingbird calendar at this link.
If you would like to view *all* of the calendars I have created for 2014, please go to this link.
Or, simply go to my website www.rebeccalatsonphotography.com and select “Calendars” from the menu items.
FYI – I will soon be creating a 2014 weekly planner using this year’s batch of hummingbird photos, and I’ll also be creating a couple of photo journals with photos and blank, lined pages for writing. Keep checking back to my blog site and you will see photo icon links to these products once I have posted them for sale.
For the past month, now, I’ve been going over to Mom’s house (I live next door to her) every afternoon upon coming home from work. I’ve been changing out the hummingbird feeders since I don’t want my 87-year old mother getting up high on the step stool to do this herself. Instead, Mom makes the nectar solution.
So this afternoon, after a short visit with Mom, I was walking out the door and looked directly across toward one of the feeders, to see an unusual sight: a bright green Anole lizard sitting on the feeder, lapping up the nectar. Southeast Texas has a lot of these pretty little things, so I shouldn’t have been too surprised. But this was the first time I’d ever seen anything like this.
A few seconds later, a little hummingbird perched itself at the feeder and started sipping from the same siphon. International Amity….for a moment.
Shortly after the photo above, the Anole turned around and started crawling up the feeder, only to be buzzed by other hummers more than happy to send the lizard packing. While buzzing the lizard, they would alternately buzz each other. Sooooo territorial.
I titled this photo “Righteous Indignation”
The first time I ever really took notice of hummingbirds was when I was married and still living in Seattle some 17 years ago. My then-husband was looking for some recreational property and we took a boat ride with a real estate agent (who seriously believed he had the power to read minds and make people do what he wished…..) out to an island off of Anacortes. We were investigating a beautiful log house under construction at the top of a hill (while trying to keep our distance from the nutty agent), and I was looking out the huge then-glassless picture window. All of a sudden, I heard a loud buzzing noise which I attributed to a large bumble bee I couldn’t see. Like magic (practically scaring me out of my wits), this little creature with loudly humming wings zipped up and hovered a few inches from my face before just as quickly disappearing, leaving me enchanted.
Now that I live in Southeast Texas, I actually have greater access to these busy little creatures….in September (I’ve since learned they come across my area in the spring too, but I’ve never really noticed them before except during September). SE Texas is a sort of “stopover” for the Ruby-Throated hummingbird on their migratory trek from the far north of Canada down into South America.
By September, they are hungry, their energy reserves rapidly depleted but with still a very long way to travel. So my parents would set out two to five feeders filled with nectar (do NOT use honey and do NOT use food coloring). Anywhere from one to 19 birds would flock around the feeders’ flower-shaped feeding funnels.
I learned then just how territorial these little guys are. Often they would spend more time chasing away interlopers than actually stopping to sip from the straw.
Getting a great photo of these teeny little birdies is quite the trick sometimes, unless you are very patient and have lots of time to stand around or sit nearby a feeder. Hummers are skittish, but because they soooo want that sweet stuff in the feeders, they get over their shyness pretty quickly and will ignore you if you don’t move around much.
What I discovered during my various hummingbird photo shoots is that my two best friends are a telephoto lens you can handhold, and a flash. I’ve tried the tripod route, with some small measure of success, but handholding a lens with image stabilization allowed for a greater number of good photos. For me, a flash was necessary to stop the wing action and get a clear shot under normally shadowed circumstances, since my images were usually captured in the morning hours (one of the few times I actually like using a flash). Oh, and it goes without saying that fast shutter speeds are quite helpful – especially if you aren’t using a flash.
The images in this post were taken between 2006 and 2009. I didn’t take any photos during 2010 or 2011 (Dad died in 2010 and neither Mom nor I thought to set out any feeders in 2011). I’ll try to remedy that this year. One thing to remember if you are going to set out feeders yourself: change the sugar solution often (if it hasn’t been emptied out by hungry hummers, that is). The solution has a tendancy to go sour pretty quickly, which can make the little guys sick. Nobody wants that!
So read up on hummingbirds, look at other photographers’ images, find out the best places in your area to see these cuties, and have some photographic fun with them!