Blog Archives

For Love of Hummers

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It has been over two years since I last posted a blog. I’m not sure why I lost interest in blogging, and I’m not sure why I’m back again, but perhaps that doesn’t matter anyway. I am here because I have an urge to write and post some photos. It is going to be light this time, nothing deep or philosophical, and I figure what better way to start than to blog about hummingbirds.

We have two regular species of hummingbirds here on Vancouver Island, the Rufous and the Anna’s, and it is warm enough in the winter that the Anna’s overwinters as long as there are hummingbird feeders to help them out. Even though I live in a townhouse with a very small backyard, I regularly get Anna’s Hummingbirds through the winter, and the Rufous visit the yard during both spring and fall migration. This year for the first time since I moved here seven years ago I have had Anna’s coming to the feeder all summer long. So here are some photos of these birds from both last year and this, with some comments about them.

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I found this little beauty last year in a friend’s front yard right beside the driveway. It is a female Rufous Hummingbird, and the delicate little nest is made of lichens and spider silk. Because she was so close to the driveway, she was quite tolerant of human presence. At this point she was sitting on eggs

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Five days later and the eggs had hatched and the young were already a fair size. Here you can see one of the young begging for food.

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Here mama is feeding one of the young, an act that any sword swallower could learn from. Although there were two young it was clear that one was the dominant bird and was getting the lions share of the food. Only one bird successfully fledged and we later found the other young dead in the nest. This is a common strategy amongst birds as it allows both young to survive when food is plentiful and still ensures that one will most likely make it when food is not so plentiful.

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I had at least three Anna’s visiting my feeder this past winter. This is a subadult male showing rather distinctive plumage

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The same hummer stretches it’s wing while guarding the feeder. This was the dominant bird at the feeder all winter long, and would often perch on a branch of the lilac bush that is right beside the feeder

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This is a different male Anna’s guarding it’s chosen territory early in the spring. It is in the process of repositioning itself on the perch, hence the body contortion. As tiny as they are, hummingbirds can be ferocious birds, chasing away much bigger birds than themselves if they are perceived to be a potential threat.

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My friend Carla has a wonderful backyard for hummingbirds, which she allows me to use for my photography. In fact the first image at the beginning of this blog is a female Rufous Hummer at a fuschia taken in her yard. Here a male Rufous hovers in front of me, giving me the once over.

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Still in Carla’s backyard, this female Rufous hovers in front of Crocosmia looking for a drink.

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What are you doing? You get at the nectar from the other side! Actually, we figure that this female Rufous is picking off tiny insects from the backside of the Crocosmia.

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Even birds get itchy and have to scratch. This is a young Anna’s in my backyard taken this summer. Her throat feathers are matted and I suspect that it might just be the sugar water from the feeder. Even young birds can be messy eaters.

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This male has dominated my feeder all summer long, terrorizing any other hummer that tries to get a drink when he is around. I have to wonder if it is the same male from last winter. I just love the variety of colours in his gorget.

I absolutely love hummingbirds. They are amazing jewels with an attitude and ferociousness that belies their diminutive size. But they are descendants of the dinosaurs so maybe that’s where it comes from.

If you want to see more of my photos, including many species of hummingbirds from Costa Rica, please visit my website at :terrythormin.smugmug.com/

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An Adventure on Christmas Hill – Annie Pang

 

This blog is a bit late in coming but I’d like to post it for you to enjoy.  It is short and sweet!  Enjoy.

On May 26th, my confinement to the house had become unbearable so, at the first hint of sunlight, I decided that I must try very hard to get to Christmas Hill.  The last time I’d gone had been by myself and it held many sad memories for me.  Still, I was driven to face my demons and to embrace the hill again.  I was convinced there might be some Western Elfins there but the weather had been damp and cool.  Even though the sun was out at the house, when I finally arrived at the hill it was quite overcast. But I was determined to pass the time in the healing of nature, and so I climbed the hill once again.

What a daunting task it was and what made it more so was finding nothing at all other than some bumblebees, and not even very many of those.  Not a single butterfly could be found.  Yet I didn’t feel it was a waste of time or energy because I felt better this time.  I was alone, weak, dizzy and light-headed, but I was doing it.  I noticed things – really saw them.  I didn’t take any pictures of the vegetation but the Yarrow was out and most of the Camas was spent and going to seed.  How much I had missed!!

I did make it to the summit and only found a family of parents with their two children at the top.  It was cool and breezy and, finding nothing, I decided I’d better head back down.  On the other side of the hill I checked for Western Elfins.  Each dwarfed Garry Oak was examined but there were no butterflies.  I was so discouraged but soldiered on and decided it was time to throw in the towel.

Near the bottom of the pathway, however, a surprised awaited me.  A hummingbird whipped around my head in the shaded light beneath the Arbutus and Douglas fir trees.  A shot seemed hopeless but when I saw it was nectaring on Western Trumpet Honeysuckle I managed to get a silhouette shot.  I thought “Better than nothing” and kept watching and listening.  Then, to my astonishment, the wee bird landed on a branch very close by and it allowed me the opportunity to get a few shots.  I knew that at least one of them had turned out and suddenly the world became a different place altogether.  Gone was my weakness, my pains, all thought of worry.  I was elated!

Such is the healing power of nature and my delight was complete when I came home and saw that indeed one shot had turned out perfectly and the silhouette leant itself to being lightened up with a bit of software as you can see.

P1190661 original silhouette cropped

P1190661b Hummer in flight

I was inspired to write this poem, half of which was written in my car on the spot and the rest just now.  Today I am exhausted from my exertions, but I have no regrets and I wanted to share this special moment of healing in nature with you with these pictures and this poem.    Like many, I do not know what lies ahead for me in life, but for an instant in time, it didn’t matter because Nature had given me the present of Now.  And Now is all we ever have.  I think hummingbirds and all of wildlife know this and they make the most of the time they have.  I could learn a lot from them.   Two poetographs follow the poem.

 

A Hummer Hummed…

 

I searched the hill for butterflies in flight,

but to my disappointment I found none.

Then, waiting for me in the forest light,

a hummer hummed “Your life is just begun.”

She flew about my head with buzzing wings

and nectared on some honeysuckle sweet.

This miracle of nature’s wondrous things

seemed destined that the two of us should meet.

What joy!  Upon a branch she chose to land

and quietly I moved in for a shot,

my camera slightly shaking in my hand –

yet luck allowed her likeness to be caught.

I climbed to find a dream upon a hill,

but something waited on the way down

that was better still…

P1190664 May 26 2013 Hummer Xmas Hill

P1190669 Western Trumpet Honeysuckle

 

© Annie Pang May 27, 2013.