aerial antics, set 2

July 31, 2017  •  3 Comments

The end of July into early August, the hummingbird population on the mesa is at its apex, with anywhere from 425 to 475 birds visiting our feeders daily. But this year, as was true last year, the numbers are fewer, which is worrisome. There are roughly 250 broad-tailed, black-chinned, rufous, and calliope hummingbirds here this year.  Could the lower numbers be because there are more blooms in the landscape, or more insects so that they don't need the sugar water many of us supply?  Was there some weather event during their migration that temporarily reduced their numbers?  Or is it, as some in the birding world and scientists say, due to a decline in the bird population as a whole?  That the birds cannot adapt quickly enough to the changing climate? All of these musings got me out with my Nikon D800 and 70-200 mm lens to photograph the aerial superheroes again, this time against overcast skies, using the in-camera fill flash.  I shoot a lot, hand held, so the only limitation is my ability to hold the weight of the camera and not get a hand or wrist cramp!

Once again, all of these photographs are of rufous hummingbirds, basically because they are aggressive and are continually guarding feeders and blooming plants. Which means they are almost constantly in flight.  I often wonder if they ever get to eat.  Obviously, they do, because I also see them at rest, in places perfectly suited to keeping their eyes on the situation.

One things that is fun at this time of year, is the fact that both newbies and adults are present.  The newer birds generally have shorter beaks and tail feathers, like the young male shown here.

Nature- birds - hummingbirds 4 second shoot 2017Nature- birds - hummingbirds 4 second shoot 2017

Compare him to the adult female below, that has a much longer beak.

Nature- birds - hummingbirds 6second shoot 2017Nature- birds - hummingbirds 6second shoot 2017


Nature- birds - hummingbirds 5second shoot 2017Nature- birds - hummingbirds 5second shoot 2017


It is always a challenge to try to photograph more than one hummingbird at a time.  Because they are traveling at different speeds and they are at different focal lengths, I usually get one in focus and one that is not, as is the case below.

Nature- birds - hummingbirds 3 second shoot 2017Nature- birds - hummingbirds 3 second shoot 2017


These birds sometimes seem to be in suspended animation.  The adult male rufous and female below are lovely examples.

Nature- birds - hummingbirds 2 second shoot 2017Nature- birds - hummingbirds 2 second shoot 2017

Nature- birds - hummingbirds second shoot 2017Nature- birds - hummingbirds second shoot 2017

Photographer Terry Thompson asked last week what shutter speed I was using. I liked last week's results, so I continue to use 1/400 second.  

Some time next month, the hummingbirds will begin their migration south. We always miss their presence in our lives and look forward to their arrival in mid-April, around tax filing time, when they come to mate and continue the cycle of life.

until next Monday,


a passion for the image@


Isn't it incredible that, though frozen in time in the photo, one still gets the feeling of action from the movement of their little wings? I daresay that I couldn't even come close to capturing these creatures the way you do. You have encouraged me to try, one day, though. :) My lens doesn't have that span of zoom, so it will probably take a remote shot with the camera on a tripod. I don't have feeders, yet, so I hear them a lot more often than I see them. I don't know much about hummingbirds and which ones travel the southwest/high rocky mountain areas. I could see you doing a book on them, with tons of photos. :)
Wonderful post, Daryl. Looking forward to next Monday. Blessings!
Wayne Gesterfield(non-registered)
Very nice. Good use of that 400 shutter speed. I would like to see your results at higher shutter speeds. Would be interesting to compare.

I like that you are able to get blank backgrounds so as not to detract from the great birds.
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