The weather here in the Wind River Canyon has been exceptional for the past three months; haven't had the snowblower out since the middle of February! That in and of itself is a bit strange, but not that unusual in this century. Little old ladies used to tell me about snowdrifts over their homes. As kids they would sled down from the rooftops! But this was a hundred years ago. Now it is so warm that a little hummingbird is one of the first migrating birds to arrive in this golden canyon of Wyoming.
Sure, there are birds that migrate into and through the canyon sooner; huge Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura) always arrive in the Wind River Canyon the first week of April, but they are here to clean up nature's yucky mess.
Having learned long ago to put up the hummingbird feeders the last week of April for the Bullock's Orioles (Icterus bullockii); weather permitting. Late at night I would see a hummingbird darting around in near darkness, a ruby flash of a gorget barely visible. I would glimpse one this close to the night, but never really see one: I hoped to live long enough to photograph one here in the Wind River Canyon.
The days of May are warm in Wyoming; in the mountains 70's are like a magic trick. The nights even now are in the low 40's in the canyon, with deep snow in the high-country. You'd think freezing temperatures would discourage a bird as small as your thumb from even getting near Wyoming in the month of May, but you'd be wrong!
On May 8th @ 12:36 p.m. a Broad-tailed Hummingbird male (Selasphorus platycercus) was eating lunch on the nectar feeder by my bedroom windows. He hung around for a few brilliant days to "garbage up."
A few days after his arrival, a female was observed on another of the feeders. Even though this particular hummingbird species is the largest of the four that nest in the Wind River Canyon, they can be the most shy and are bullied by the others at times; is this why they need to arrive earlier than other hummingbirds?
It's a real challenge to photograph any living thing that is shy, let alone a bird that is faster than your car and smaller than a salt shaker. But hummingbird photography is what got me into documenting the wildlife in the Wind River Canyon in the first place.
It's amazing that a hummingbird that winters in Mexico even wants to come to Wyoming when blizzards can and do happen, but, here they are. This morning while having coffee, we enjoyed the company of a Black-chinned Hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri) male having his breakfast after a cold and very rainy night. The Broad-tailed now arrives before the buntings, the grosbeaks, the orioles.....even many of the Snow Birds!
Last summer, after nearly two decades, I finally got the photograph of a male Broad-tailed Hummingbird in-flight that was my fantasy. I got the picture of him from my favorite "high-hide." It's a secret spot that has yielded three first place awards at the annual Cody Art Show! I feel that it is a privilege to be able photograph these incredible hummingbirds, in this, one of their nesting places in Wyoming. He was imaged @ 1/2500, f/7.1, ISO 400 with my old-favorite Canon 70-200mm f/4L; a lightweight and super-sharp lens. Honestly, I've shot many hundreds of frames to get this one that I can work in post-production and love enough to put on my website HogbatsPhotography.com.
The other two hummingbird species traditionally have arrived in early in July; Calliope (Stellula calliope) and the Rufous (Selasphorus rufus). The Calliope Hummingbird (upper photo) is the smallest migrating bird in North America, the Rufous Hummingbird (duh, lower photo) is three and three-quarter inches of tiger attitude; hence the color, I guess. We won't be seeing either of these species till mid-June at the earliest. They have both been migrating into the canyon earlier than a decade and a half ago. Even at the smallest level climate change seems to be effecting the behavior of wildlife; these are my own observations in the Wind River Canyon.
For those readers that have never seen a Black-chinned Hummingbird up close and personal, here is my favorite picture of a male; remember that he is the size of your thumb!
To steal a phrase from a favorite film; hummingbirds are magical creatures and it is easy to become fascinated by them, and I hope you will, too.
Thank you for reading this week's Wind River Canyon Blog about a few of my favorite things. All wildlife stories and photographs are the creation of Michael John Balog and are protected by international copyright laws recognized by everyone but crooks.