Monthly Archives: September 2013

Hummingbird Goodness

Sharing Closeup

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.

The Diners At Feeder 1

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.

The Diners At Feeder 2

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.

The Diners At Feeder 3

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.

Pulling The Head Feathers

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.

Becky And The Hummingbird

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.

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Filed under birds, hummingbirds, nature, Photography, Texas, wildlife

Corporate Behavior

Corporate Behavior

Well, now I know: we humans are not the only species within the animal / bird kingdom to practice climbing over another’s back to get ahead at the office.

Ouch

Nor are humans the only ones to have a pecking order.

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Filed under Attitude, birds, hummingbirds, Humor, nature, Photography, Texas, wildlife

Hummingbird Funkiness

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.

Ruffling Feathers

Ever have one of those days??  Or maybe the caption should be “Quit Ruffling My Feathers!”

Sharing

Sharing

Pandemonium

Pandemonium!

This Seats Taken CROP

This seat is taken!

Back Off Dude

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).

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Filed under birds, Flash Photography, hummingbirds, Humor, nature, Photography, Texas

I Wore Red

Photographing The Hummingbird

Photographing The Hummingbird

Missed It

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.

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Filed under Flash Photography, hummingbirds, Photography

Hummingbird Season

A Flash Of Red

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.

Red-Flecked Throat CROP

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.

One

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.

Diagonals

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.

Tanking Up CROP

NECTAR RECIPE

  • 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.  Open-mouthed smile

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Filed under Flash Photography, hummingbirds, Photography, Texas

Behind The Scenes At Katmai–The Brooks Falls Platform

Stakeouts

Talk about iconic.

Gotcha

When I told people that I’d been to Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska, each and every one of them would give me a blank stare.  Whereupon, I would ask them if they’d seen photos of the bears standing at the waterfall with their mouths open, catching the salmon jumping up the falls.  Then, the light bulb would turn on for them.  Everybody is familiar with these iconic images, even if they don’t know the exact location.

Unless there is a sow with cubs at one of the other viewing platforms, the Brooks Falls Platform is by far the busiest, most crowded, most popular platform.  So busy, as a matter of fact, that there is a ranger there during peak hours, clipboard in hand, taking names and allowing 1 hour of viewing time before those names are called and people are asked to move to make room for others waiting their turn.

Brooks Falls And The Platform

The photo above makes it look like there’s not many people at the platform, but I can tell you for a fact that when this image was taken, both lower and upper tiers were crowded cheek-by-jowl with photographers, their tripods and their supertelephoto lenses.  It was only thanks to a couple of forbearing photographers that I was able to squeeze in to a spot between them with my own tripod and (rented) supertelephoto.

Alone In The Falls

My first morning at the falls presented me with just one bear and no salmon jumping.  So, I screwed my 4-stop ND filter onto the lens and got in a little “silky water” practice….handheld!  You see, the tripod bore the 500mm lens, so rather than take time to change out camera/lens combos, I just steadied my camera and 100-400mm lens on the railing of the platform and successfully achieved some silky-water shots.

Silky water shots aside, I definitely acquired my most dramatic bear images here at this platform.

Caught One

Portrait Of A Bear

Caught One

Caught One

My current plans – barring any unforeseen circumstances – are to return to the park in 2014.   I urge those of you who can, to travel to the wild, remotely beautiful state of Alaska and visit this park to see the bears for yourself.  It’s an amazing opportunity to view these creatures closeup and in their own environment (well, as close up as the National Park Service allows – if you are a photographer, a telephoto lens sure helps).

Oh, and if you are interested in knowing the details of where I stayed while in the park, go to this link.  If you want to know about my gear and also the best times for photography at Katmai, click on this link to go to the article I wrote for the National Parks Traveler website.  And, while you are at it, go to the Traveler’s Facebook page and Like them.

Becky At Brooks Falls

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Filed under Alaska, bears, Katmai National Park, National Parks, Photography, Travel, wildlife

Behind The Scenes At Katmai–The Riffles Platform

Out In The Riffles

A bear and a bird in the riffles downriver

My last “Behind The Scenes At Katmai” post highlighted photographs taken of and from the Lower Platform, just across the floating bridge from Brooks Lodge, in Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

This post shows you photographs taken from the Riffles Platform.  This place is sort of like the middle child of viewing platforms in the park.  Everybody either sees lots of action at the Lower Platform or the more iconic Brooks Falls Platform, so they may tend not to spend as much time at this platform, located just a few hundred yards downriver from Brooks Falls.

Looking Toward Brooks Falls

A Bear And A Bird At Brooks Falls

Looking upriver toward Brooks Falls

The Riffles Platform received its moniker from the numerous small, shallow rapids (riffles) in front of and to the sides of this viewing area.  Our photo tour leader informed us that this is the area where we would see sows with their cubs because, unless desperate for food, the sows would stay clear of the falls where most of the males staked out spots.  While I was there, I did not see any momma/cub combos – I saw those at the Lower Platform.  What I did see were younger, more inexperienced bears and older bears looking for easier fishing.

Bear On A Rock

Bear Water Seagull

What Are You Lookin At Buddy

Standing In The Riffles

To me, the Riffles Platform was analogous to an overflow parking lot at an event venue – when the Brooks Falls Platform got too crowded, people would come on down to this platform.

I didn’t see as much action at this platform as I did the others, but what action I did see yielded some very nice images.

Next post:  The Brooks Falls Platform

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Filed under Alaska, bears, Katmai National Park, National Parks, Photography, Travel, wildlife