Three days ago, here in the Wind River Canyon, I scribbled down on a piece of paper the following report.
"I cannot believe that @ 37 degrees these Broad-tailed Hummingbirds (Selasphorus platycercus) are comfortable here. It's 6:20 in the morning here in the Wind River Canyon. A male Broad-tailed hummer is on the nectar feeder by my bedroom window in the ice-cold rain. It has been snowing in the high-country all night and the rim of the canyon is fogged-in all around us. The snowline is not far above our cabin; the new emerald-green of spring below the snow."
Later that morning, in the cold rain/snow mix, I was outside taking photos of these beautiful Broad-tailed Hummingbirds. There was a time, nearing twenty years now, that I thought we'd never even see one of these amazing creatures. You want to know about Magical Beasts? These little birds are the size of my thumb, but spend the winter months in central Mexico! And now they are here in Wyoming----and it's snowing.
The sound a Broad-tailed Hummingbird makes when flying is completely unmistakable. It is a metallic humming-buzz that sounds like nothing else in Wyoming, or anywhere else for that matter; it's one of a kind. I can walk outside and without even looking know if there are any in the area and how many; I think there are three mating pairs this year. They are obviously the hardiest of all the hummingbird species (four) that nest here in the Wind River Canyon; they are always the earliest to arrive.
One of the passions I have for wildlife photography is trying to make portraits of wild birds. Not some picture of a bird-on-a-stick mind you (I've done that too), but a real portrait; like I've done for people. The kind of portrait that flatters the subject or gives the viewer an insight into the mind of the model in the photo.
To make photographs like this with a wild bird takes patience that can become numbing beyond boredom; every species is a little different and may require a different approach. I've found observation to be much more of an advantage, and intellectually stimulating, than most dry books on bird behavior. My advice----spend much more time outside watching the birds and getting some fresh-air; taking notes will help; be professional.
You will find some species to be nearly impossible to approach, others will practically come to you! A blind of some kind can help in this photographic endeavor; windows in my cabin are my favorite. If you go slow and let the wild bird get to trust you, then you can try taking a picture----hummingbirds are perfect for this kind of trust. They are approachable with patience and time: I've actually been nose-to-beak with a Calliope Hummingbird, with no fear from either one of us!
The photograph of the male Broad-tailed Hummingbird in this week's Wind River Canyon Blog was taken only yesterday morning! The horrendous spring snowstorm was finally beginning to clear up, with a thin, lite cloud layer that made the light perfect for imaging a wild bird that has feathers resembling a million tiny mirrors. Photographing hummingbirds in full sunshine is another set of skills entirely.
I used a big zoom lens on my old aluminum tripod and was only seven or eight feet away! Hey, it's a really long zoom. This male hummingbird obviously has been around humans before, and is comfortable being near people, as most hummingbirds will trust you with time. Try sitting very still for a long, long time; like you stare at your phone, only even longer than that. Here's my very first portrait of a male Broad-tailed Hummingbird. If I seem crazy excited, it's because it has taken so long for all the stars to align properly; luck and lousy weather helps, too. If you can zoom-in on this hummingbird's gorget (named after the armor protecting the throat of a knight) you will witness something very special that Mother Nature usually keeps to herself. A blind man once observed, when trying to see a blown-up photograph of one of my hummingbird images, that they resemble the scales of a fish....ruminate over that one once!
Thank you for reading my true wildlife story from right here in the Wind River Canyon in the state of Wyoming. All rights are reserved and protected by international copyright laws, which don't mean much of anything these days.
I am Michael John Balog, I live in the Wind River Canyon and all photographs, stories and post-production are produced by.....me.
For many more wildlife photographs of hummingbirds from the Wind River Canyon safely visit my website----HogbatsPhotography.com