Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Wednesday Vignette: Right place, right time, right lens

Certain hummingbirds are year-round residents in coastal Southern California, most notably the Anna's and Allen's hummingbirds.  They're a constant presence in my garden.  Flowers that appeal to them include those of the Arbutus, Callistemons, Cupheas, and Grevilleas.  They adore the large-flowered ever-blooming Grevilleas 'Peaches & Cream' and 'Superb' and, fierce as they can be, they will wage war for territorial control over those plants.  As I rounded the corner of the house yesterday, I discovered two of the tiny birds locked in battle over the largest Grevillea 'Superb'.

This is the plant in question

I ducked back into the house to get my camera fitted with its telephoto lens and returned to start shooting.  As common as the birds are here, I have a terrible time getting good photos of them.  Maybe I just don't have the patience to follow their rapid movements.  And then I don't usually have a telephoto lens in hand either.  These are the best photos I managed to take.  I believe all are the same bird, as he managed to keep his competitor at bay.

My skills in bird identification are severely limited but, after checking The Cornell Lab's identification pages, I'm fairly certain this is an Allen's hummingbird (Selaphorus sasin)

Allen's hummingbirds bear some similarities to Rufous hummingbirds (Selaphorus rufus) but Rufous have orange backs and they generally pass through California between mid-February and mid-May so the timing doesn't fit yesterday's sighting

The flashing red-orange color on the bird's throat clearly identified him as a male

Once he'd pushed off his competitor, he gave up surveillance and returned to feeding



I tried to get more photos a little later after checking the quality of those I first shot but the hummer didn't cooperate.  I could hear him chirping away but, as stealthily as I tried to move, I failed to get any more photos.  It's all a matter of timing - and luck.

For more Wednesday Vignettes, visit Anna at Flutter & Hum.


All material © 2012-2021 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party


25 comments:

  1. When I see those tiny birds fight for territory I think to myself: there's enough on this shrub for both of you... why spend precious energy on battle...
    You have really lovely shots of this colorful little bird, especially the one where the light hits the "flashing red-orange" on his throat.

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    1. Territorial behavior seems to be deeply ingrained in their genes. It seems to come down to establishing and defending an area for the male bird's mates to safely nest and raise their young. However, I read that they can be forced to share feeders if multiple feeders are placed either in areas not simultaneously visible to the dominant bird or grouped close together such that the bird can't defend all of them at once.

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  2. You got some really lovely shots, Kris! Hummers don't make it easy, do they?!
    We've had some arrive in past few weeks here. I hear them more than I see them, though I was privileged to watch a courtship display the other morning. We seem to mostly get Anna's and Costa's, though there may be more variety at our new home - once I get enough hummingbird plants in!
    I can imagine they think your Grevilleas are prime territory!

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    1. I've yet to see their courtship display, Amy. I'm sure that was fun.

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  3. Based on how challenging hummingbirds are to photograph these turned out amazingly well. Beautiful little bird. Gotta wonder how they find time to eat when they spend so much time battling for territory.

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    1. I took a ridiculous number of photos to get a handful that turned out well, Elaine. Luckily for me, the dominant bird set up his viewing station in one spot so I was able to train my camera on that spot as he darted here and there chasing his competitor, knowing that he was inclined to come back to it.

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  4. The original "angry birds"? They sure do fight over 'Superb'.

    Great photos! You did good. Every bird picture I've ever gotten was accidental or luck.

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    1. 'Superb' certainly deserves its name. Even though 'Peaches & Cream' also blooms year-round, it can't beat 'Superb' on the sheer number of blooms.

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  5. So glad you provided the Cornell bird ID link -- I'm equally challenged by identification! Wonderful photos.

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    1. The Cornell site is great for helping to identify avian visitors. I miss sending pics to my mother-in-law for rapid IDs - she could even identify birds from their vocalizations without seeing them - but the Cornell descriptions, photos, and sound tapes are very good.

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  6. Great photos Kris! Such a special experience to know these hummingbirds!

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  7. Oh my goodness, now I'm really envious. I so miss the hummingbirds during the winter. I remember all the amazing species out in California when we've visited. Thanks for sharing your fabulous experiences and photos!

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    1. You're most welcome, Beth. I'm glad I actually managed to get a handful of decent photos of those tiny birds.

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  8. Ours are gone for the winter - wise birds! I think your photos are quite marvelous, Kris - they sure don't sit around waiting for a portrait shot very often.

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    1. That hummingbird was in surveillance mode and repeatedly perched at what I assume must have been an optimal viewing location.

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  9. Great photos Kris! That shiny red neck is remarkable isn't it? Yesterday I watched a pair of humming birds and three or four other small birds all working over my towering Mahonia 'Charity' blooms. It was amazing how they ignored each other and just went to work.

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    1. While I've never seen a hummingbird face off against any of the smaller birds in my garden like the ever-present finches, I did once witness two hummers harass a hawk (!!!). My guess is that they were protecting young in a nest.

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  10. Great, clear photos, Kris! Hummers are feisty little competitors, for sure. I don't keep sugar feeders because I can't stand their squabbling! But they seem to find plenty of flowers in the garden and they are spread out enough so they don't seem to bother each other too much. They are only with us May-Oct. heading south again when it gets cold.

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    1. I abandoned hummingbird feeders when we renovated our kitchen a couple of years ago and elected not to reintroduce them when that project was completed. Keeping them clean - and more importantly, free of ants - was a constant challenge. And, as you concluded, my garden also has a plentiful supply of nectar sources without them.

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  11. Birds are so hard to photograph - they are so quick!! I'm in Ohio visiting my mom and step-dad, and he just presented me with a telephoto lens. Tried capturing some birds both today and yesterday, and I still don't have anything to show for it. I think your shots are lovely, so kudos to you, Kris!

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    1. Well, catching them on camera is still a lot easier if they're not moving continuously, Anna. Keep your eye out to spot the places they use to rest. Enjoy your trip!

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  12. If you want cooperation, you have to spend time with them, especially with Allen’s. Even if you don’t provide food they will get to know you and become more comfortable with your presence. Talk to them. Be their company. Time and place? They go to the same places all the time.

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