In a magical golden canyon, far from the prying eyes of humans, a very small hummingbird is born from a tiny egg high in a juniper tree. The nest is so small you could almost touch your fingers around it, if you could ever find one. The Mother Hummingbird also made a nest in this same place last summer, and the summer before that. In fact, hummingbirds have been nesting in this golden canyon for as long as memory serves.
This tiny baby hummingbird is the smallest bird in the North American wilderness. He will grow up to also be the smallest of birds, yet he will migrate the farthest of all the wild birds we know in our land. This hummingbird is so small that few people have ever witnessed one in the wilds of Wyoming, but they are here even if you do not see them for yourself; yes, he is that small!
This baby hummingbird was born in the month of July, when daytime temperatures are at their warmest, but in the mountains it can get quite cold at night. Hummingbirds have always nested in this golden canyon in summer, because every living mammal needs a protein food source to grow up. Hummingbirds are here for the bugs! the greatest of all of Mother Nature's yukky protein foods.
This tiny baby hummingbird, born near the golden cliffs of the Wind River Canyon, is a bird that we are told shouldn't even be here at all; but they are born here none-the-less. We don't need a drum-roll for this introduction. This littlest of hummingbirds is the bejeweled Calliope (Stellula calliope) Hummingbird; a shy, quiet little wild bird, unlike the other species of hummers that mate in this Wyoming canyon. They are not aggressive like the Rufous or the Black-chinned, or even the Broad-tailed Hummingbird that makes that metallic buzz here in this canyon during the summer's heat.
At times this shy little hummingbird is bullied by the other little buzzers, but their nesting is obviously successful because they return each and every summer. The Calliope is not the first hummingbird to arrive in the canyon, or even the second. The first to be seen is always the Broad-tailed in the month of May, followed shortly thereafter by the unreal Black-chinned. The Calliopes will arrive in the canyon in the month of June, like the very aggressive Rufous Hummingbirds, that bully nearly everyone else.
Because the littlest hummingbird is so small it makes for a difficult photographic portrait; it helps to get close, which takes patience and loads of time. This particular hummingbird portrait was imaged on July 30th of last summer, yet was only finished this week in new software and just test-printed yesterday!
The print is sitting right here by my usual workstation here in the Wind River Canyon. It didn't really take this long for post-production. In this very cold and deep snowed winter I was bored out of my skull, which gives me time to work on photographs that I never had the time for in mid-summer. I shoot thousands of images of hummingbirds during a typical summer; many are overlooked because I have to sleep sometimes----not very often----just sometimes.
The littlest hummingbird grows up to be a jewel that is smaller than some we've all seen recently on celebrities. If you look at the rare ruby and emerald colors on this male Calliope Hummingbird you will understand why people like us get so excited by the most wonderful and magical wild animals on this or any other planet. They move like lightning, yet look like the jewelry in those Robin's egg blue boxes from Tiffany's. This final image is not a computer software trick, even though you may at first think so. The canyon is lit by the blazing summer mountain sunshine, yet, the Calliope male is in the shadow of my home, but only for several minutes! The exposure is set manually for the hummingbird sitting in the shade and this means the entire background is blown-out by the sun and results in total white!
Timing is also key to this photographic image. The Wind River Canyon must be completely in total sun, but the hummingbird has to be in the shade; I only have a few minutes before the one thousand miles-per-hour spin of the Earth ruins the image. In full sunshine it is impossible to get this kind of sharpness and resolution of a hummingbird, because the way many of their feathers are constructed it results in what looks like pictures of a mirror. I designed this idea for pictures of hummingbirds years ago, and it took me years to get the timing and exposure exactly correct. The green color on his breast is the reflection from the nearby pine that is still in the sun----but only for a few minutes more! The gold in his wingtips is the filtered golden canyon light.
How small is he really? They are smaller than my thumb; and yours, too. I have been so close to a male Calliope Hummingbird that we almost touched "noses"; I know them well and cannot wait for their return. And for all the snow to melt!
Michael John Balog is a resident of the Wind River Canyon here in the state of Wyoming and is the writer, photographer and producer of all content and is protected by international copyright laws.