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Author Topic: Perfect Match  (Read 1006 times)

Arlen

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Perfect Match
« on: July 25, 2021, 11:33:12 pm »

I am no expert on the subject, but one thing I know for sure about our local hummingbirds. They love Crocosmia flowers like no other.


   
   Rufous hummer, female.  f/4, 1/1600, ISO 3200


And the flowers seem to love them back, if you look at their design: long and tubular, with their high-energy nectar hidden away at the bottom. It’s as if these flowers and birds shared a
mutual exclusionary, evolutionary pact to work together: nectar in exchange for pollination. Few beasties without the hummingbirds’ long bill, and even longer tongue, can reach the prize.


   
   Rufous hummer, female.  f/5.6, 1/5000, ISO 6400


But no. Hummingbirds are exclusively native to the Americas, having lived nowhere else for at least about 22 million years. Whereas Crocosmia plants are native to Africa, and were brought
to the New World only relatively recently. Just how recently, my searches have so far failed to reveal (any help with that would be appreciated), but it can’t be more than a few hundred
years. Too little time for much evolutionary coordination to have occurred. So this seems to be an accidental, opportunistic situation. Crocosmia undoubtedly favored another specialized
pollinator in its original environment.


   
   Rufous hummer, female.  f/4, 1/800, ISO 3200


Thanks to my master-gardener wife, our western Oregon yard is full of flowers by July, at which time the Crocosmia reach their peak bloom. That’s also when hummingbirds show up in force;
usually Rufous males and females. Each bird stakes out a patch of Crocosmia and guards it fiercely from a nearby perch. This year, the patch where I chose to lurk was initially claimed by
a Rufous female. Any hummer interlopers are typically attacked and sent packing before they can insert beaks into flowers. The trespassers thus quickly learn to stay low, concentrating on
the more hidden blooms in the thicket.

All of which makes the life of a would-be hummingbird photographer very difficult. Usually, before you can aim and focus, both birds are playing chase in the trees. And if not, they are
hidden in the thicket of stems and leaves, darting about, seeming to avoid an autofocus lock like a jet fighter does a missile.


   
   Rufous hummer, female.  f/4, 1/2000, ISO 2000


So when possible, it’s sometimes better to aim high, to clear the obstructions. Note the spot of iridescent color on the throat of the Rufous female below, which only “glows” when the light
angle is right. Throat iridescence is mainly associated with mature male hummingbirds, but immature males and females sometimes claim a little dash for themselves.


   
   Rufous hummer, female.  f/4, 1/400, ISO 3200


Another issue when photographing hummingbirds is the high speed of their wing beats. If you want to freeze them—which really, I don’t think is always necessary—it requires a high shutter
speed. Checking the appearance of the wings and the associated shutter speeds in the pictures here will give some idea of what happens at different settings. Those higher shutter
speeds also necessitate high ISO values, depending on lighting conditions. Good noise reduction during post processing thus seems to be required most of the time for flying birds, in my limited
experience with them. Considering the available light, its always a balancing act between depth of field, stop motion, and noise, as controlled by aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. And one
is torn by the best quality of light, yet the least amount of it, generally occurring during early morning.

I saw just one Rufous male this year, and only briefly. But what a sight he was. He performed a spectacular aerial mating dance in front of a perched female, swinging back and forth in the
air as if on the end of a pendulum. Then he disappeared, and if there was a follow-up, I didn’t see it. So I don’t know if he won her heart.

That Rufous female initially claimed the patch of Crocosmia that I was monitoring, but didn’t get to keep it very long. After two or three days, a male Anna’s Hummingbird showed up, and
following some frenzied battles, became king of the patch. The Rufous female still hung around—she may have had a nest somewhere nearby—but she was now reduced from her status as
the chaser, to that of the chased. Interestingly, a female Anna’s hummer also appeared on scene at about the same time. Anna’s hummingbirds are supposedly common in our area, but it
was the first time we’ve seen them around our house. Below is a picture of her, from a similar angle as the Rufous female above, for comparison. Notice that she has none of the rufous
(rusty red) coloring, and her underside is gray with weak darker spots instead. She does have a dollop of color on her throat, but not the whole grand outfit like a male. Her back also iridesces
green in the right light.


   
   Anna’s hummer, female. f/5.6, 1/1000, ISO 8000


Interestingly, the male Anna’s hummer tolerated her presence, not chasing her away from the flowers, and even occasionally sitting within a couple of feet of her on the deer fence
surrounding some roses. And as you can see below, in this lighting her throat spot became a little more impressive.


   
   Anna’s hummer, female. f/5.6, 1/1000, ISO 2000


The tolerant relationship between the two Anna’s was likely not due to any ongoing romance. Hummingbird males are known as love ‘em and leave ‘em kind of guys. After mating, the sexes
usually go their separate ways. Females build the nests, sit on the eggs, collect the food, and feed the young. (I have a series of pictures of that from several years ago, from a camera
placed near a Rufous nesting site.) Recent mates often end up competing aggressively for the same food sources, like strangers. So it was interesting that these two were so mutually
magnanimous.

Next up is a shot, which I sneaked through some Crocosmia foliage, of the Anna’s male. He’s a handsome bird, even though from this angle and lighting his head and neck are almost
completely black, with just a hint of magenta iridescence.


   
   Anna’s hummer, male.  f/4, 1/1250, ISO 3200


But on another occasion, with a little different lighting, the neck area (called the “gorget”) starts to show a bit of magenta color, as does the head (crown); and some
green iridescence on the back and side begins to be visible, in the image below.


   
   Anna’s hummer, male.  f/5.6, 1/400, ISO 4000


And finally, in another peeping-through-foliage image, below, the light was right to show the male Anna’s gorget and crown in almost full shining magenta. I believe that the male Anna’s
hummer is the only North American hummingbird with a complete magenta/red crown.


   
   Anna’s hummer, male.  f/4.0, 1/1250, ISO 4000


OK, I know, I know, TL;DR.  This turned out to be a really long post, way more than I planned. But maybe a portion of the detail is less than extraneous, and of interest to some. And since the
forums have been rather calm lately, perhaps a little extra usurped space won’t be missed. If you did make it all the way through to arrive here, kudos for your perseverance.

Comments are of course welcome.
« Last Edit: July 26, 2021, 04:04:33 pm by Arlen »
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francois

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Re: Perfect Match
« Reply #1 on: July 26, 2021, 04:49:53 am »

Beautiful set. Composition, colors and postures of the hummingbirds are simply superb.
Thanks for sharing this long, interesting and descriptive story.
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Francois

Bob_B

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Re: Perfect Match
« Reply #2 on: July 26, 2021, 07:02:14 am »

Yes, well done Arlen!
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kers

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Re: Perfect Match
« Reply #3 on: July 26, 2021, 07:10:28 am »

well done and beautiful photos and subject...!
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Eric Myrvaagnes

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Re: Perfect Match
« Reply #4 on: July 26, 2021, 09:56:20 am »

Beautiful set. Composition, colors and postures of the hummingbirds are simply superb.
Thanks for sharing this long, interesting and descriptive story.
Francois said it perfectly.

The best set of images I've seen on the forum in a long time, and an excellent narrative.
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Rajan Parrikar

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Re: Perfect Match
« Reply #5 on: July 27, 2021, 07:17:39 am »

I rarely check this forum but I'm glad I did. Superb photo essay. Bravo!

David Eckels

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Re: Perfect Match
« Reply #6 on: July 27, 2021, 08:59:29 am »

Superb photo essay. Bravo!
Outstanding!!! Congratulations, too.
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David

Arlen

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Re: Perfect Match
« Reply #7 on: July 28, 2021, 11:42:42 am »

Thanks to each of you for your very generous feedback. Time now to get back to it again.
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Leszek Piotrowski

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Re: Perfect Match
« Reply #8 on: August 03, 2021, 11:46:40 am »

Thanks Arlen,  images are lovely and your narrative is appreciated, I now know a little bit more about even thinking of capturing the odd humming bird that visits my backyard.

cheers
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Arlen

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Re: Perfect Match
« Reply #9 on: August 03, 2021, 10:02:08 pm »

Thanks a lot for your thoughts, Leszek.
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Michael West

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Re: Perfect Match
« Reply #10 on: October 01, 2021, 08:17:08 pm »

The first image  based on the pattern of the "end of the feathers and the yet unopened blossoms..
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Arlen

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Re: Perfect Match
« Reply #11 on: October 02, 2021, 12:13:51 am »

I appreciate your input, Michael. It took an awful lot of waiting to get everything lined up perfectly like that.  :D
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Brad Smith

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Re: Perfect Match
« Reply #12 on: October 02, 2021, 09:28:03 am »

A very nice set of images and some well appreciated hummingbird facts to go with them. I don't know how I missed your original post but am happy that it is now revived.
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Arlen

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Re: Perfect Match
« Reply #13 on: October 05, 2021, 09:31:20 pm »

A very nice set of images and some well appreciated hummingbird facts to go with them. I don't know how I missed your original post but am happy that it is now revived.

Thank you very much.
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Michael West

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Re: Perfect Match
« Reply #14 on: November 28, 2021, 09:56:56 pm »

I appreciate your input, Michael. It took an awful lot of waiting to get everything lined up perfectly like that.  :D

i hesitate to imagine...

worth the waiting
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