Wednesday, September 10, 2014


Recently I had the good fortune to sit near a busy Hummingbird feeder that attracted up to 5 individuals at a time.  I took an hour away from chatting with relatives to make the pictures you see here (all are Ruby Throats). This guy probably was recently fledged, and his type constantly blusters and chirps to take a sip.  Females are usually less aggressive, have no markings or color on their cheeks or throat, and their tails are rounded instead of notched.

Lots of hungry birds gave me an opportunity to practice making bird portraits.  One note of disclosure:  the real birders would not dream of hanging out at a plastic feeder.

The restrictions I faced were:
     available light on an overcast & dim Labor Day weekend in rural western Minnesota  
     70-200mm f/2.8 lens on D700 body, no tripod
The background for this shot is a good representation of my overcast & dim conditions.  Using ISO @ 800, shutter @ 1/640, and f/4.5 (all relatively fast specs) we can see a right toe tapping but the wing tips are fuzzy with motion.  The iridescent back feathers are soft due to the light quality (low and flat), f stop, and extreme crop.

After about 20 minutes the birds became accustomed to me, and I was able to move closer for the remaining images.  I slowed camera settings down to 1/500 and f/7.1, and I changed the shutter release to burst.  That meant I captured many sharper but poorly posed pictures, far left.  

I like the right image because it has more details (tiny claws and back feathers) and it reveals male markings (determining sex is a huge part of birding).

These next two birds I am labeling females because of their throat feathers.  The top one looks a bit raggedy (maybe a recent bath or worn feathers) and she is displaying the tip of her long tongue.  

The lower image has very clear primaries because the wings are preparing to fold up on the perch.

The last three pictures show the violent but non-contact dance of the FEEDER FACE-OFF.  Hummers need to bulk up for the coming migration to the southern US and Central America.

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