Apr. 15 - The arrival of the Rufous Hummingbirds is always a joyous time as it signals many hours of observational pleasure as well as some fun photography. My currant bushes are now in full bloom, and there is a sprinkle of blooms on the salmon berry bushes. A bouquet of bulrushes sits in a bucket of sand out in the yard, and four nectar feeders are half-filled with the 1 to 4 sugar mixture. If Cam Finlay's formula of 50 hummers to one cup of nectar is correct then I had 250 hummers at the feeders today. I didn't keep any records last year, but I think I've got more hummers at this date now than I had last year. Last year I peaked at about 8 cups a day near the end of the month. It'll be interesting to see if there is any increase this year.
Despite one of our harshest winters on record, the hummers and currant bushes seem to be right on schedule. In fact, I was just down Victoria yesterday in time to photograph a recently fledged Anna's Hummingbird and to revisit the nestling Great Horned Owls. Both nested during the winter and reproduced successfully, as did the Bald Eagles in Sidney. The Bald Eagle eggs hatched in the past week for all to see on the eagle-cam set up by David Hancock. The success of all these events is a testament to the amazing resilience and vitality of nature.
A week ago, Harry, my dominant male was busy guarding the feeders which were all clustered close together by the kitchen window for my benefit. It might have been an advantage for Harry as well. A few days ago I moved two of the feeders to locations further away. Since then there hasn't been any guarding of the two remaining feeders. It has been one big, happy family with all the males and females getting along famously. I know that might change soon, but for now, there seems to be four or five males and all the females that don't mind sharing the two main feeders. My theory so far, is that the dominant males are busy guarding the two satellite feeders.
One other observation is that all the hummers seem to still come to the two main feeders. There are 6 feeding stations on each feeder which is room for 12 hummers, but I've seen up to ten on each feeder as they sometimes double up on the same station. I know the flock might be conditioned to coming to the same feeder, but my theory is that they are very social, and they like spending some time together before the gals are busy with their brooding. All the jousting and confrontations is just their form of social interaction.
Another observation is regarding the female nesting preferences. I read an article that mentioned that the hummers like to nest anywhere from 8 to 12 feet off the ground. If that is the case, then I have a subspecies of high-altitude nesters. I sat at my bulrushes on Saturday and watched about 20 hummers taking down from the bulrushes then flying at lest 30 to 40' high into the tall firs. In 5 years of looking, I still haven't found a nest in my yard.
There isn't anything I can say for the next few hummer pictures that I haven't said in the past. For those of you who are interested in photography, make sure you get some bulrush stalks for your yard. A currant bush would also be very handy as well as a host of other hummingbird attracting flowers.
The males have their spectacular full gorgets, but the females don't have to feel discriminated against. Their shiny neck feathers glisten like sparkling jewels. I was going to try to record all the different females based on their mini-gorgets, but decided it wouldn't be possible if there were a few humdred. I also wanted to see if any of the females had similar neck feathers or were they all different just like fingerprints? Here's the first few I started and ended with. My only question is with the last one. It looks like it could be growing into a full gorget like a male. Could it be a slow-developing male? How long does it take for a male to develop anyway?
Happy is one of my other males. He seems to have sttled into guarding the feeder in the garden. The problem is that there is no other hummers to guard it from. Everyone seems to prefer the feeders by the kitchen window. However, that didn't seem to bother Happy. Oh, how can I tell Happy from Harry? Easy. All the males seem to have a few green spots on their backs. Harry has a lot, but Happy only has a few.
Happy is guarding his feeder in the garden, but there are no other hummers to guard against.
Happy is being patient. He knows that there are still a lot of hummers coming.
Happy wasn't busy so he decided to check out the currant bush.
This was Apr. 10. The top row of the currant clusters had just opened.
The currant nectar was a sweet treat for Happy even if it left a mess on his bill.
Here's another male hummer. Notice the pattern of green feathers on the back. There's a lot but still not as many as Harry.
Yes, this is yet another male. I've seen as many as five different males at the same time, but there could be more.
Bill problems. A sticky bill soon gathers a lot of debris.
More debris - one of the hazards of gathering nest material.
Of all the settings I use for photographing the hummers, the currant bush is my favorite.
It's now three days after the pictures I took of Happy in the currant bush. The blossums now extend down most of the cluster.
I always wait until I see a hummer at the currant bush. Then I sneak up while it is busy with the nectar.
You have to be quick because it doesn't take long to reap the harvest of nectar from the tiny blossums.
I love standing out in the yard in the morning and listening to the various bird songs. The Cassin's Vireo and Orange-crowned Warbler just arrived two days ago, but my pair of Yellow-rumps have been around for at least three weeks. I finally caught up with Mrs. Yellow-rumped while she was busy foraging in a nearby willow tree. Mr. Yellow-rumped was beside a robin on the grass but too far for a picture.
Thanks to a book order from Volume I Bookstore in Duncan, I had an excuse to revisit the owlets in Victoria. Ted Ardley had found one of the babies on a lower branch two days ago so I was afraid I they would be gone, but there was no need to worry. The babies were all back in the nest when I arrived, and i had the usual problem with the sun. When one of the owlets was standing up and posing, the sun was behind a giant fir. When the sun finally shone on the nest, the babies were sleeping. Apparently, the right time was late afternoon when the whole nest was active.
When the sun was finally on the nest, everyone was sleeping.
When one of the babies was posing, it was in the shadows. Only one out of about fifty shots was worth printing. On all the other shots, the eyes were like little black holes.
While my timing at Beaver Lake was completely off, my timing at Swan Lake was perfect. Ted Ardley was just pointing his camera at a newly fledged Anna's Hummingbird when I arrived.
The newly fledged hummer was patiently clinging to a little branch close to the nest.
It was waiting for Momma Anna's to come back from her shopping trip with lunch.
Mom was finally back. Good thing as the baby was very hungry.
What happened? When Momma landed on the branch, their bottom halves disappeared from sight.
They're back. Momma flew up from the branch. Unfortunately, from my angle, she was in a shadow. If you want to see some great shots, check for Ted's photos on flickr. You can link from the birdingbc website.
Happiness is a well-fed baby hummer. I think its still a baby because its not ready to fly and it still needs parental care.
My posters are on display at: Victoria - Swan Lake Nature House; Nanoose Bay - Credit Union; Courtenay - Graham's Jewellers