One of the highest points of my life has been the time I've spent with the breeding hummingbirds of the Wind River Canyon. Hummingbirds aren't just special creatures that most people never glimpse except in the blink-of-an-eye; they are the closest thing to real magic that you'll ever know. The Calliope Hummingbird is the smallest, long-distance traveler in the western hemisphere, and they nest here in the canyon every summer. Nearly eighteen years ago I was up on a ladder when I saw my first one----it was the beginning of a quest for answers that I had not questions for.
We had two species of hummingbirds nesting in the Wind River Canyon at that time, the aforementioned Calliope and the famously aggressive Rufous. But very late in the evening, close to darkness in the dry heat of summer, I would see a Broad-tailed Hummingbird at one of my feeders. At first I wasn't sure if I was seeing what I thought I was seeing. It was all over too soon and I had to wait until next summer, ten months from then! You see, hummingbirds are in the Wind River Canyon for just two months, maybe a little bit more----it's a long wait. My fervent wish was that someday I could get them to nest here.
Then forest fires ran across southern Colorado and the Black-chinned Hummingbirds had lost their historical breeding grounds. Suddenly in June of 2013, early for hummers, a male Black-chinned Hummingbird arrived in the Wind River Canyon; I was beyond ecstatic. Every book told me they shouldn't be here, yet here they were drinking my home-made nectar! That summer I made friends with a breeding female Black-chinned. She trusted my presence and I made full use of her trust in me----her in-flight portrait won me 1st Place at the 2014 Cody Art Show: Her photo is the one on the right. Now, the Black-chinned Hummingbirds nest in the Wind River Canyon every summer, but the Broad-tailed hummers still teased my eyes so late at night.
The following summer my insane wish finally came true, along with the Calliope, Rufous and Black-chinned Hummingbirds, Broad-tailed Hummingbirds came, too! I couldn't believe it, but what got them to finally stay here and nest? I'd like to think is was the great conditions I provided for them to party the summer in the canyon....but I'll never know. As is usual with hummingbirds, a female was ready to have her picture took. She would come in for a landing at my favorite photography-hide and I saw the photo I wanted in my head long before I ever captured the file in question. Whether you use paint and brushes, or digital medium, the best pictures are those you "see" in your head; it's a kind of goal that makes for better art.
The photograph lacked a certain something, it needed a classic-look to make it timeless and not just some over-saturated file. After all, this was the very first female Broad-tailed hummer the canyon had ever seen. A rare, old darkroom technique called a selenium-print seemed appropriate----in digital, of course. She won me another 1st Place at the Cody Art Show last summer, but before that win the photo was mentioned in the March 2015 issue of Shutterbug magazine. This picture explains why some people are so crazy over hummingbirds----or maybe it's just us.
My goal was to photograph a portrait of a male Black-chinned Hummingbird; this means getting very close, and this takes patience and time. This was a curious male that had probably been breeding in the canyon for three years, and this meant he was aware of my presence.
Hummingbirds hate the click of a camera's shutter, this too takes time, and a faster shutter-speed, of course. He is smaller than a grown man's thumb, but just look at the confidence in that tiny bird.............
This week I had to write about the unique and valuable jewels in my life in the Wind River Canyon. If I could afford to, and I can't, I'd chase my hummingbirds up and down this western hemisphere, just so I could see the far flung places these little birds fly.
*The first Vulture arrived in the canyon just this morning----for their annual clean-up duty.
To see many more hummingbird photographs from the Wind River Canyon, Wyoming----visit www.HogbatsPhotography.com
All images in this Wind River Canyon Blog by Michael John Balog, Hogbats Photography, Wind River Canyon, Wyoming----all rights reserved.
Next week, in part 3 of Unique Birds of the Wind River Canyon, we'll be discussing the Wild Turkeys that I made friends with a couple of years ago, and then they vanished! And no, I get my turkey from Oscar Mayer; less feathers, less attitude.