Visibly different, part 14

female ruby-throated hummingbird Archilochus colubris at flowers within NC Zoological Park
Our opening image comes from 2005, from within the Sonora Desert exhibit in the NC Zoological Park in Asheboro, thus it counts as ‘captive’ and/or ‘habituated’ even though, like many birds, it had the run of a large arboretum area – your call on how to classify it, if it’s important. I’d seen this female ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) visit these unidentified flowers briefly, and so I maintained a discreet distance and waited it out. Sure enough, it returned, and I got my first hovering and feeding hummingbird shots. Considering that this was with the fairly basic Canon 75-300mm, not stabilized or fast or anything, I was pleased, and the profile perspective is nice.

So now we see where this led:

female ruby-throated hummingbird Archilochus colubris at blue salvia flowers
Not… hugely different, to be frank. Certainly better detail and lighting, but this is also a tight crop of the original, while the one above it is nearly full-frame. It was only five years later, this time at the NC Botanical Gardens in Chapel Hill, but it’s not captive at all, and likely not habituated either – this was a wild specimen visiting the salvia plants. Again, I saw an initial visit and staked the plants out, knowing that hummingbirds tend to return within a few minutes. And the equipment isn’t significantly different either – Canon’s image stabilized version of the 75-300 this time, though on the Digital Rebel/300D instead of slide film. Being able to boost the ISO to 400 easily (without switching films) gave the most distinctive edge, but being in a much quieter area probably helped. I distinctly recall that it was something like 33°c out there, in patchy shade in August, and I was sweating copiously. Note, too, that hummingbirds tend to visit only briefly, and pretty much randomly, so autofocus was out (especially with that complicated background) and a tripod pointless, so I was pleased to nail the focus this well.

It’s funny that I haven’t advanced beyond this, despite numerous attempts. I have plenty of feeder shots of course, but that’s both kinda cheating and not terribly marketable nor fartistic, so my goal has been to get them at flowers, preferably with good surroundings. To that end I’ve planted countless varieties of hummingbird attractors, few of which have thrived, and none of which have actually attracted any hummers routinely. As I type this (possibly long before it actually posts,) I’m prepping for a large bed of cardinal flowers this spring.

But I’ll throw in this next one for giggles.

female ruby-throated hummingbird Archilochus colubris approaching feeder in front of Mamiya camera
When I was getting ready to sell my Mamiya 645E camera body, I needed some illustrative pics of it, naturally, and it was the right time of year to stage this. So I set it up on the tripod aiming the right way, took a seat with a good perspective, and waited it out. Cooperatively, it only took a few minutes before another female came along, and I snagged this frame, then simply cropped out the feeder – dramatic! I’m also still after a good shot of the ruby-throat that gives the species its name, but that’s only found on the males, and curiously the light angle needs to be just right, or the feathers appear almost black. And no, direct flash is not the right angle – I know, I tried.

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