Of course I prefer not to photograph hummingbirds at feeders, but sometimes, in the limited time available in some exotic location, that is all you can get. I had only one afternoon, a few hours really, overlooking the gardens at Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge on the Manu Road in the Andes of Peru, between lunch and our appointment at the Cock-of-the-Rock lek, so I took what I could get. This is the Violet-fronted Brilliant and I never caught it perched away from the feeders. I think I have two males (or the same male twice) and a female. Sony RX10iv at 1200mm equivalent (2X Clear Image Zoom). Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr. If I were to do this trip again, I would want at least 2 nights at Cock-of-the-Rock, as well as time at both at the lodges at Wayqecha Cloud Forest Biological Station higher up and Villa Carmin Biological Station lower down. But then I am greedy! 🙂
Almost the first hummingbird I saw at the Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge feeders, on the Manu Road in southern Peru, and certainly the first hummingbird I really looked at that afternoon, was the Booted Racket-tail. It is, of course, a hummingbird I have wanted to see for years, spectacular in every way, but I was really surprised by how small it is. In the guides you see that great long tail and I somehow assumed that it was a much bigger bird. Without the tail it is not much bigger than a Ruby-throat and certainly not as big as an Annas, at least by impression. I did not have one in the hand to measure. It was certainly small compared to many of the other hummers at Cock-of-the-Rock, including the dominant Sparkling Violetear. After my first shots of the bird at the feeder, showing off both its color and its booties very nicely, I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to catch one away from the feeders. Not easy! Wherever they perched when not feeding, it was well out of sight from the porch of the lodge, and they only came swooping in for seconds at a time. Pepe, my guide on the Amazon Journeys Birding the Manu Road adventure, said that they are “submissive at the feeders.” Only when we were leaving, waiting up by the road for our driver to finish a pick-up soccer match at the staff quarters up the hill, did I find a Booted Racket-tail feeding in the flowers of the upper garden, and managed a decent set of shots. Sony RX10iv at 1200mm equivalent (2X Clear Image Zoom). Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.
On our way down from Wayqecha Lodge at 9500 feet on the Manu Road on the eastern slopes of the Andes in southern Peru, we stopped at Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge at 5200 feet for lunch, and to wait out the afternoon until our 4PM appointment at the Cock-of-the-Rock lek just up the road. Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge and the lek there are currently THE place to go to see Andean Cock-of-the-Rock along the Manu Road, but more on that when I post my Cock-of-the-Rock photos 🙂 Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge also has a well established garden with lots of hummingbird plants and feeders, so it is a great place to spend an afternoon. The Sparkling Violetear Hummingbird tends to dominate feeders, and each feeder at Cock-of-the-Rock had it’s own guardian Violetear. They perch away from the feeder and swoop in whenever another hummer approaches. The beginning of the afternoon was sunny, though clouds came in before our Cock-of-the-Rock appointment, and I caught this Sparkling Violetear in all its glory as it guarded its feeder. This is one showy bird! Sony RX10iv at 1200mm equivalent (2X Clear Image Zoom). Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.
The Rufous-capped Thornbill is listed as uncommon and rare over its whole range on the east slopes of the Andes from Columbia to Bolivia, but it is probably not so much rare as “rarely seen”. Pepe Rojas-Moscoso, my guide to Birding the Manu Road with Amazon Journeys, was certainly surprised to see both a female, on the trail out from the Wayqecha Cloud-Forest Biological Station’s Canopy Bridge, and, the next day and further down the road, a male sitting up and posing nicely for us. The female only sat for the 30 seconds it took me to fire off a burst, but the male sat long enough for me to get a whole sequence of poses. These kinds of hummingbird experiences, well away from any feeders, are rare enough in themselves to be pretty special, but on the Manu Road we had several every day. Not as rare as the Rufous-capped Thornbill, but each one special in its own way. Sony RX10iv at 1200mm equivalent (600mm optical plus 2x Clear Image Zoom). Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and assembled in FrameMagic.
One last shot of the “star of the show” at Wayqecha Lodge’s feeders: the Long-tailed Sylth. The Swordbilled Hummingbird that was coming to flowers near the feeders might have been the star, or at least shared top billing, but it never showed up while I was watching. Not that I was not delighted to see the Long-tailed Sylth, a truly impressive hummer! And I was very happy that it favored a perch away from the feeders. And while I am finishing up with Wayqecha hummingbirds, I will share a really not to great photo of a Tyrain Metaltail…the only shot I got of this bird…taken after supper as the light failed and after the clouds had begun to roll in over Wayqecha.
Still, it is the bird, and you can tell it is the bird, so I am not totally complaining.
Sony RX10iv at 1200mm equivalent (2x Clear Image Zoom). The Tyrain Metaltail is also at ISO 2500, which explains somewhat the quality of the shot…but the light we have is the light we have. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.
The Collared Inca is one of the most variable species of hummingbirds that I am aware of. Within Peru it has at least 5 color variations, each of which is distinct enough so that the uninformed birder might be forgiven for thinking each was a separate species. But no, the taxonomists say they are all the same species. This one, photographed at Wayqecha Biological Station and Birding Lodge high on the eastern slopes of the Andes on the Manu Road is distinct enough to have its own name: Gould’s Inca. But it is still, apparently, a Collard Inca. Go figure. I would have loved to have a day just to sit and watch the few feeders at Wayqecha, and to take a lot more photographs. As it was I only got to photograph hummingbirds on my way to and from meals at the dinning hall…I think I may have gotten photographs of all but one species that was being seen in July, but I would have loved to have gotten them in better light and better poses…etc…if you photograph birds, especially hummingbirds, you know what I mean. 🙂 And the bird I missed was the Swordbill…one of my most wanted hummers! (I did see one in flight from the Manu Road while walking, but no photograph!) Sony RX10iv at 1200mm equivalent (600mm optical plus 2x Clear Image Zoom). Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.
Moving on from the road-side stop between Cusco and Paucartambo, we arrived at Wayqecha Biological Station and Birding Lodge, at the upper edge of the cloud forest zone on my Birding the Manu Road adventure with Amazon Journeys late in the day. Photographing hummingbirds (or any birds) by natural light in the cloud forest on the eastern slopes of the Andes of Peru is not easy. Light levels are often low. There is often a lot of mist (not to say cloud…but it often amounts to to what you would have to call “cloud”) between you and the bird. And, of course, the birds do not sit still. This is, I am pretty sure, an Amethyst-throated Sunangel, seen around the feeders at Wayqecha. The clouds were moving in, and I don’t use flash for birds, so this is the best shot I could have hoped for. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr. (ISO 2000 by the way.)
The Bearded Mountaineer deserves another shot. This was from the same roadside stop on the highway from Cusco to Paucartambo that produced the Chestnut-breasted Mountain Finch, the Band-tailed Seedeater, and the Creamy-crested Spinetail. Good stop! I could not catch the gorget of the Bearded Mountaineer in all its colored glory, but you get a hint of the possible richness here. (I do have a fuzzy flight shot that shows the green.) This is a big hummingbird, by any standard (6-6.5 inches)…but it looked small compared to the Giant Hummingbird that was flitting in and out of sight from higher up on the mountain above us. Sony RX10iv at 1200mm equivalent (600 optical plus 2x Clear Image Zoom). Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.
We interrupt this parade of the birds of Magee Marsh and Ohio with breaking news from the backyard! Carol first noticed the hummingbirds coming to our ornamental cherry tree blossoms a week ago, just as the last light was fading. I had to run for my binoculars to see for sure that they were Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (the only likely hummer we have here in Maine, but never, considering the nature of hummingbirds, the only possible hummingbird 🙂 When we saw them again around the pansies on the back deck, we dug out the hummingbird feeder and I mixed up a new batch of juice and hung it on its hook in one corner of the deck. We have had occasional hummingbird activity in the yard in the past (enough to have invested in the feeder and some hummingbird juice mix) but this year we have two pairs of Ruby-throats…two bright males and two clean females…coming to the feeder every few minutes all day long. At first both males tried to defend the feeder…keeping even rival females away…but now they have settled in to more or less tolerate each other. The females often feed at the same time, and I have seen both males on the feeder during the warmest part of the day. As it cooled yesterday, they got fiesty again, pushing each other from feeding hole to feeding hole around the feeder, but they still managed to share the resource. I have seen the males displaying for the females, and have some hope one or the other pair will nest in the big pines along the edge of our yard. The shot above was taken just before sunset, with no direct sun, and does not show the deep ruby of the gorget. Still I was happy to get what I could, standing in the open back door. There is a bit of heat distortion due to the differential between the warm house and the cooling deck, but I did not dare to step further out for fear the bird would fly. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.
Anna’s Hummingbird, like this one photographed at Famosa Slough in San Diego, is generally the most common hummer in coastal southern California. This year there were almost as many, maybe more, Allen’s, but that is, in my experience, unusual. Famosa Slough is my go to place to photograph Anna’s. It is easy as there are generally at least 2 males on territory near the end of the trail on the north side of West Point Loma Boulevard, and sometimes one on territory in the little garden between the boulevard and the water on the south side. The trick is getting one to sit with the sun illuminating the gorget. This one cooperated for just long enough to snap off one burst, and then was gone again. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. 1/640th @ f4 @ ISO 100. -.3EV. Processed in Polarr.