This week I set up a BirdCam for hummingbirds and I am finally getting some decent pictures of the little guys. These are Rufous Hummingbirds (Salasphorous rufus). I was puzzled why I was only seeing female birds in the photos. Not a single male has made an appearance so far. Then I found something interesting at the Seattle Audubon website regarding Rufous Hummingbird migration:
"In June and July, males leave the breeding grounds for higher elevations, from which they will later migrate south. Females and juveniles leave the state from late July through September, with most migrating in August."Apparently, all the male Rufous Hummingbirds have already left the area. I will keep an eye out to see if I catch any stragglers.
On her approach to the feeder, she flashes her tail. I think it's like lowering the flaps on an airplane to maintain lift while decelerating. The rufous orange band on her tail differentiates her from our other hummer, Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna).
Getting usable hummingbird photos with the BirdCam has required some trial and error. First, if there is busy foliage in the background close to the feeder, these little birds can get lost in the scene. I solved this problem by moving the camera at least eight feet (2.4 m) from the background. Using the 18-23" focus setting the background will be slightly blurred (referred to as "bokeh") and this makes the little guys stand out better.
Last summer, the camera pointed north so both the subject and background were directly lighted. Too much reflected light created a lot of bad photos. My current setup has the BirdCam pointing west. The lighting is now coming from the left side and this seems to be producing better images. I may try this angled lighting with other feeders.
To prepare the nectar, I use a hot water dispenser at the sink. I dilute 1/4 cup sugar to one cup hot water. For winter feeding, I found a recipe using 1/4 cup sugar diluted to 3/4 cup hot water. Site the feeder in a protected spot close to the house. This will stay liquid down to 25° F (-3.9° C) which will serve for most of the winter in our climate.
All the range maps and references indicate that Rufous Hummingbirds occur in western Washington during the spring and summer breeding season. Then they migrate to the Gulf Coast and Mexico for the winter. Either some may be wintering here on Fidalgo Island or they arrive very early to begin their courtship. On a cold, sunny day last January, I had about a dozen buzzing around the yard, flashing orange and emitting their "chip-chip-chip" calls. There was quite a vigorous aerial display going on. I immediately put up a feeder, but I never saw them around the yard again the rest of the winter.
When I set up this BirdCam station for hummingbirds, it took them all of about five minutes to find it. They are either feeder-savvy birds or very clever ones. They are now emptying this 8 ounce/250 ml feeder once every day.
When I discovered the BirdCam, I wondered if it was an expensive gimmick, too good to be true. It also seemed like too much fun to pass up. I went ahead and bought one, and I have never regretted it. Capturing photos like these hummingbird shots has been more fun than I imagined.