Hummingbirds

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!

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9 Comments

Filed under hummingbirds, nature, Photography, wildlife

9 responses to “Hummingbirds

  1. chriscampbellphotography

    Amazing shots. I’ve never seen a hummingbird in real life but would love to. These shots show just how colourful and agile they are. Great work! 🙂

  2. That’s so pretty! I wish they were flying in my garden, but as it is too cold, I have only sparrows and blue tits 🙂

  3. I love hummingbirds. Isn’t it amazing how they will zip up in front of your face for a second or two and then take off? The first time that happened to me I was dumbfounded! My best memory is from last year. I was bending over watering a plant in the late afternoon, saw a shadow to my left of a hummer right behind my shoulder. Oh how I wish I could have captured that in a photo.

  4. These are the best hummingbird pictures I have seen on the web. Love that in flight action. Stunning.

  5. Great Shots! We have four feeders set up around the house. We orifinally had only two, but one bossy little female would run the males off when they would come in to feed. So the hubs decided we would give them alternate source of water. The males prefer to show off for the girls and tend to take their chances with the two original feeders. Go figure!

  6. Long ago as I was picking up a red candy wrapper up off my deck that my daughter dropped, I leaned over to look at the garden below with that red wrapper in my hand, I heard that threatening stinging insect-like sound and was amazed to see a hummer trying to poke his beak into my hand attracted by the red. I froze! He then (I’m guessing) felt insulted that it wasn’t food, and got in my face to pip pip at me personally and flew off. I’ve been hooked on those cuties ever since but have never been able to get a decent shot with the camera. Thanks for the tips and I love your expert photos. I can’t believe the numbers at your feeders either! I wish you could come to St. Louis for Bald Eagle season. I saw eight of them yesterday.

    • What a great story! I got a good chuckle from it. And I wish I could see the bald eagles as I have only seen one up close once, about 17 years ago while on a 9-day kayak trip out in British Columbia. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me that day (and it was a film camera, which I didn’t use as well or as much as my now-digital cameras).

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