In my wildest dreams, it would not have been possible to imagine Black-chinned Hummingbirds migrating into, and nesting in, the Wind River Canyon. You see, they're not supposed to be here at all, so I never thought I'd see one except on someone else's website. All of the bird-books have maps that will tell you that Black-chinned Hummingbirds are not nesting here. That would have been the case, except for the forest fires that ravaged southern Colorado years ago.
Everyone in the country saw the fires rape the land that year down there. It devastated beautiful pine forests and homes; destroying prime habitat for many wild animals. People will rebuild, but where would the wildlife go? Forests take many years to reach a point where they can support certain bird species again----and I wondered.
I didn't have to wonder for very long where the hummingbirds would migrate. One day in the month of May a little male hummingbird showed up; on the surface not too surprising. But our hummers (Rufous and Calliope) don't arrive until the very first week of July! He sat on the electric wire to our little cabin here in the canyon, not far from a popular feeder for the Orioles. I looked up as he looked down, then he broke the sound barrier as he came over to get a little of my home-made nectar.
It must have been some sight as I sat there with my mouth hanging open. I'll never forget the rush of emotions as I sat mere feet away from the very first Black-chinned Hummingbird to ever visit the Wind River Canyon! What startled me was that this tiny little hummingbird, the size of my thumb, had no fear at all of me. He wasn't afraid and we slowly got familiar with one another; it was a magical summer, that's for sure.
Would they be back next year? Would they find someplace closer? Was the Wind River Canyon a favorable spot for them? I read that Black-chinned Hummingbird nesting and reproductive attempts fail nearly two-thirds of the time, mostly due to predators and people's cats. We saw the baby hummers on our feeders that very first summer----they were successful, but would this be enough to encourage them to return?
With many, many long hours at my favorite "high-hide" photographing hummingbirds, I got an amazing image "in-flight" of the very first Black-chinned female hummingbird to nest in the canyon.
This photograph took first-place honors at the Cody Art Show the following summer. The month of May, that same year, the Black-chinned Hummingbirds returned----they liked it here! and they have returned every year since. They are here, and nesting right now, as I write this week's Wind River Canyon Blog.
In my 14 years of experience documenting hummingbirds digitally here in the canyon, I find that of the four species that nest and reproduce here, the Black-chinned males are the most curious of the hummingbirds. This tiny, little piece of flying magic will dart right up to me, and look me up and down. This happens every year, and it's a startling experience to have this little jet airplane blast over to see me. Other people have experienced this here, too.
When a wild creature shows this much curiosity and lack of fear, it gives people a nice, warm feeling about Mother Nature. My wife says that they are trying to thank me for giving them a fine place to spend the summers. I like to think we started a trend; the picture above is a Black-chinned baby hummingbird---- the first born in the Wind River Canyon!
All photographs, wildlife stories, and the Wind River Canyon Blog by Michael John Balog, Hogbats Photography, Wind River Canyon....Wyoming; all rights reserved.
For many more award-winning hummingbird images, visit my website, www.HogbatsPhotography.com