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.
Tag Archives: September
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.
“The most important thing we humans can do is to respect all life. The Hopi believe that to not do this is something akin to a mental illness”.
I think things happen for a reason, no matter how incomprehensible they may be at first glance. I think I was steered away from the Square Tower House tour toward the Mug House tour so I could hear the words of the Adopted Daughter of the Bear Clan and experience the kindness of the people around me.
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Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado, offers ranger-led, backcountry hikes to Square Tower House and Mug House during certain times of the year, with a limited number of reservations. I really wanted to reserve a spot for the Square Tower House hike because I think it’s a beautiful dwelling (as seen from the overlook), but the tour was offered aftermy stay in Colorado ended. So, I opted for the Mug House tour instead, having not a clue as to that particular cliff dwelling since there is no view area to these ruins.
The Mug House tour begins at the Wetherill Mesa ranger kiosk and lasts from 10AM to about noon for a 3-mile roundtrip hike on a “goat trail” over uneven terrain with some scrambles up and down rocks and boulders.
Our guide was Ranger Denice, an adopted daughter of the Hopi Bear Clan (which I thought was totally cool). Her (and her adopted families’) perspective on this hike offered thoughtful views that I actually remember (as opposed to other things which tended to go in one ear, swish around gray matter in my skull, and then exit by way of the other ear).
Along the route, Ranger Denice pointed out various plants that the Ancestral Puebloans would have used for food, building materials, medicine, basketwork, and ceremonies.
She also stopped and pointed in the distance to the cliff dwelling Lancaster House, which survived a fire that had swept across the Wetherill Mesa area during the not-so-distant past.
As you readers know by now, if you’ve been following my blogs, I’m not a huge people person; I prefer being as far away from crowds as I possibly can. I have discovered, though, when I am away from work and back out in the West (which doesn’t happen often enough for me), I am relaxed, happy, and more open to people. With that in mind, I write that the people who were on the Mug House Tour with me were friendly and so very helpful when it came to making sure a backpack-laden, slightly overweight, definitely out-of-shape (but eager and energetic) middle-aged lady didn’t fall and hurt herself during those scrambles up and down the boulders (I’m not the most sure-footed of creatures) and I definitely learned a lesson: my subsequent day hikes consisted of NO backpack – whatever I needed (snacks, water, memory cards, spare batteries) was stuffed into the pockets of my Domke photographer’s vest.
Our backcountry hike was a “three fer one”: in addition to visiting the main attraction, we also visited two other interesting little sites.
At first glance, all we really noticed were the soot marks on the rock and this red squiggly line we all assumed were mountains….until our eyes grew accustomed to the shade and we noticed one end of the squiggly line had a sort of face/eye. Ranger Denice also pointed out another, fainter red squiggly line facing the larger red squiggly line: two snakes. Water symbols.
The next small site visited remains essentially unrestored. They know a kiva is beneath the soil, and portions of some rooms have been excavated. For the most part, this site is left as is.
Mug House, itself, is a quiet place with a beautiful view (actually, all cliff dwellings have magnificent views). One feels the spirits of the past dwellers swirling around them. It’s also the place where three beautifully-decorated pottery mugs were discovered, tied together at the handles. Hence the cliff dwelling name.
Valley view from the cliff dwelling
Adopted Daughter of The Bear Clan
Part of the cliff dwelling
A “Mesa Verde”-style keyhole kiva
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If you visit the park and have the opportunity to take this tour, by all means do so. And hopefully you will be led to this silent place by the Adopted Daughter of the Bear Clan.
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!