Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Hummer Chase

The definition of insanity is said to do the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. The same could be said of someone trying to take hummingbird pictures with a point and shoot camera.

Earlier this month, I was preparing supper one evening when I glanced out the window and saw movement in the garden. I grabbed the camera and charged out onto the deck. Six mourning doves who had been quietly eating at the deck feeder immediately took flight. The whistling of their wings as they erupted in turn startled me, and I nearly dropped the camera. When my heart rate returned to normal, I began to look for my visitor.

I don’t have hummingbird feeders in my yard. What I offer is a hummingbird garden, with masses of flowering plants chosen with them in mind. The star of the garden is the Monarda, or Scarlet Bee Balm. Each August during the fall migration I get one or two of these zippy visitors spending a week or so feasting on the multitude of blooms. This year I decided I should take some pictures. 

Mindful of the birding basics, I got the binos first to see just who my visitor was. I was delighted to discover I had a female Rufous Hummingbird – yard bird #109! Normally I get Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, so this was a real treat.

These little flying miracles hover, fly backwards, shift sideways and fly straight up and down. Everything in their lives is quick, including eating. No sooner did I manage to find the bird with the camera than it was gone. I won’t even tell you how many fuzzy hummer pictures I ended up with, or how many birdless flower shots I had to go through when editing. 

Every evening for just over a week I spent hours on the deck, often blindly firing off photos when I thought I saw the bird. Persistence paid off though, and I did eventually manage to get some photos of Ms. Rufous that are actually in focus.

Finally she alighted on a branch to have a long 10 second nap and then a good preen. My shooting finger was sore when she finally flew away, and I swear my camera was smoking.

During my deck sojourn I realized I actually had three hummingbirds. At one point a male rufous took a flying bath in the sprinkler, and although I wasn't aware of it until I started editing photos, this obliging female Ruby-throated actually sat still for a photo op.
I may have to dig out my husband’s vegetable garden and plant more bee balm. This is FUN!


  1. I enjoyed your story AND your hard acquired photos. I insanely wish that One of these days I might see one.

  2. what a fabulous time you would've had with your camera and these fascinating little birds; wish they were closer to home here on the other side of the world to you. Beautiful photos (and hummers)

  3. Sweet pictures sometimes I patience does pay off.

  4. Awesome post filled with terrific photographs of these fast moving birds! A real treat for you having Rufous Hummingbirds in your back yard.