Thursday, May 17, 2012

Bird Brains

Phoenix from ~8' away.
Phoenix remains skittish, though with the time I spend with him he is gradually learning to ignore the guy behind the camera and go about his business.  This evening he actually drank from the feeder less than 3 feet from a friend, me, my wife and our two dogs.  A surprise, but given that we were near his food source for a while maybe not so much; desperate times call for desperate measures and I'm sure he was getting thirsty.

While I can't say that he's a pleasure to work with (a la Green Light), he is proving to be reliable, patient, wonderfully curious and willing to push himself a little each day.  I guess, after re-reading my last sentence, I can say that he is a pleasure to work with.  But in a much different way than his predecessor.  Phoenix has pushed me in terms of my approach to him and hummingbirds in general.  No easy ride with him, but the pay off is that I'm learning.  Go figure.

Aftermath and Insight... (Feeder Warfare, pt II)

Phoenix at work.
The next morning I found that Green Light was gone.  I will miss him.  Green Light taught me that curiosity + courage = the ability to learn, or intelligence.  For that I am grateful.

There is a new bird in his territory.  This new hummingbird - I call him Phoenix - is less accustomed to my presence.  He bails at the slightest movement, though he started working flowers by the end of his second day.  I use my longest lens to afford him the most distance I can and work more slowly with him than his predecessor.  Still, he seems to be intelligent, if only he can overcome his fear.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Feeder Warfare, part I

A knock-down, drag-out fight between two juvenile males circa 2005.

Today I awoke to discover a fierce battle going on between what was apparently Green Light and at least two other hummingbirds.  I stepped into the fray with my camera, though getting shots of the frenzied action was nearly impossible.  No quarter was given as even I was used as a strategic perch by familiar and unfamiliar hummingbird alike.  Facing off in mid air, they dove at each other like flying, feathered, dagger tipped torpedoes.

As the day wore on and the fighting continued, my concerns for Green Light grew. He was getting beat up, though he seemed to be winning and was now only fighting one other bird.  I hated the thought of him possibly losing the fight, leaving his territory and leaving me to train a new hummingbird.  As the fighting drew down to a stalemate, hunger became an issue.  Neither bird would allow the other to take from the feeder.  

By around 6:30pm I thought of an experiment to hopefully break the deadlock.  Knowing that Green Light was trained to go to the flowers I presented him, I put a red tulip on the deck rail hoping he would come to it.  He did.  With the other hummingbird behind me and unable to see what was happening, I guided Green Light to the feeder 3 feet to my right and let him feed.  I won't soon forget his desperate attempts to get food from beneath the flower, being too afraid to "go over the top" lest he be dived upon by his rival.
Green Light when he first went to the flower.  He was quickly attacked by his foe.
As the sun set I left the flower on the rail for a time and Green Light managed to get over to it 2 or 3 times.  This allowed me to get some pics of him.  Later, when I was able to view them, they revealed that Green Light had indeed taken a beating, suffering some sort of damage to the right side of his face (though I have no idea how serious it was - see pic below).  When I left the two of them at around 7:20pm, they were still fighting and would continue until dark.

To be continued...
Green Light showing some damage to his face.

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A Green Light for the Spring

Green Light. That is the name I've given to the first (and hopefully only) resident male Ruby-throated Hummingbird on my property this season. I call him Green Light because he was ready to go the day he got here, showing no fear of me and doing the things I ask of him (which usually takes a few weeks to teach). I strongly suspect that he's done this before.

Of course I'm referring to the fact that I photograph hummingbirds every year here on the mountain. It's a privilege I cherish and a challenge I gladly accept. With Green Light, the greatest challenges are technical in nature - lighting, shutter speed, etc. - as he is a willing subject.

quick anecdote: Within the first hour of shooting Green Light, he decided to inspect me and my gear before going to the feeder. He first approached my right temple - I could feel the buffeting from his wings against my skin and hair - then went on to closely inspect my right ear, my left ear, and my left eye from only a couple of inches away. Not satisfied with me, he then flew the foot or so to the front of my lens and stared into the opening of the lens hood. Following that he inspected the heads of the flashes I was using - not just the flash, but the head itself. In those brief seconds I experienced an intelligence I had not seen in 7 years of spending "quality time" with these birds. I was and remain impressed with the level of curiosity and courage these birds possess.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


So, my wife and I picked up our newly adopted rescue dog (australian shepherd mix) today and made the 2+ hour trek home with her and our 12 year old shi-tzu, Moonshadow, in tow. Moon is nothing if not tolerant and, while only showing a cursory interest in the new dog, being true to his nature he is wonderfully "tolerant" of Luna. I think it's only a matter of time before I post pics of them playing.
I should note that Luna came up to New England from Missouri, so including our little trip home she was on the road for nearly 48 hours; most of that in a crate. This and the fact that she was spayed a day-and-a-half before her trip made for a stressed, nervous and "lost" looking dog. Her first act when coming off of the transport trailer was to lean hard into our legs; a sort of dog hug.


It has been a little more than 12 hours since Luna has "come home". In that time she has settled in nicely. She already knows where her bed is and has understandably spent a lot of time on it. Her appetite is healthy and she no longer has a lost look in her eyes.
In everything Luna does there is a gentleness and honesty. And unlike dogs that walk with their nose to the ground, this little girl walks with her head held up. And given her good leash manners, I daresay she looks graceful at times.
A lot of credit for this dog's mental and physical well being goes to Sue of New England All Breed Rescue. It is obviously apparent that Luna spent time in a gentle, loving foster home. For that I am grateful. Many thanks, Sue.

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

My Circle Of Life

The Universe has seen fit to make me a grandpa. Add to that, circumstances have colluded to bring a new young dog into my life, for which I am awaiting word that she is healthy and ready to travel the many miles to New England from Missouri. The boy (my step-grandson) is healthy and beautiful. The dog, well, she is also a new part of my circle of life. (See Yule Tidings)

His name is Payten.

And she will be called Luna.

It is my understanding that Luna loves children. It is my hope that they love each other. For that matter, it is my greatest hope that we (Payten's family) all love each other, for that is the boy's best chance for a successful future.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Blessed Be, Wicca

It's been more than a year since her passing. She died from a disease that left her beautiful mind, but took her body inch by inch. It was an inglorious way to go. Yet, as with all that she faced in her 12 1/2 years of life, she suffered her demise with gentleness, courage and humor.

I found her in a dog pound when she was a 43lb 10 month old puppy. Ironically, after a week of intensive searching, she turned out to be a spur of the moment, second choice. The Gods were looking out for me when I picked her.

In her short life, she spent 5 1/2 years as a therapy dog, escorting me and my clients (cancer patients) to their appointments. She made even the toughest, longest rides bearable and even comical at times.

There are too many stories and not enough time. She was a brilliant, trusting spirit with a gentle sense of humor and I am a much better person for having known her. May the Gods hold and keep you, my Baby-girl.


February 18, 1996 - September 10, 2008

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Hummingbirds of Florida Mountain

I shoot hummingbirds every summer here in the mountains in Massachusetts. I find them to be highly intelligent and quite personable, with each bird having a unique personality. For me it is an intense time where I am behind the camera usually from sunup to sundown for 4-6 weeks. In that time I get to know the resident male for that period and, if I'm lucky, I can train him and hopefully he doesn't get kicked out by a more aggressive, less trainable male.

The summer of 2007 was an incredible season, which saw a very trainable male grace my yard for approximately 3 weeks. No matter what flower I asked him to go to, he would check it out allowing me to get at least a few shots. I got the feeling I could have asked him to check out a baked ham and he would of, lol . After a short while my camera equipment and I became just another of his perches, where he would sit between feedings. I tried not to encourage him to perch on me, thinking a little fear of humans is probably a good thing for him to have. But I must admit, every time he landed on me it took my breath away (Seriously, I would have to remind myself to breathe, lol.). Here he is feeding from my hand:

And here he is in action:

So it was with high hopes that I entered the 2008 season, but success was to prove elusive. Turns out the resident male for that season was a highly aggressive, "unfriendly" male. He was nearly impossible to get a shot of and he attacked and chased away nearly every hummingbird that entered the property. He also had a square head, lol. Here he is:

The time wasn't a complete waste for me. I did manage to get a few shots of this female (note: she's doing her part for dandelion propagation ):

Still, in spite of the few photos I was able to get, my frustrations mounted. They were only alleviated one day when an apparently wise hummingbird visited the yard. Instead of going directly to the feeders or flowers (like all of the others) he sought out the resident male, chased him out of the yard and then went to the feeders, lol. Smart. Here he is:

Alas, this male was only passing through and shortly after this photo old "square head" came back to claim his territory. After only a few more days of frustration I called it a season.

The summer of 2009 was, unfortunately, dedicated to much needed home improvement. I was only able to shoot on one day. Although that was the bad news, the good news is that old "square head" didn't come back.

So, it is renewed hope that I look forward to the summer of 2010 and the arrival of the hummingbirds. For more of Ian's hummingbirds, visit here.

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Peace & Hope

I often find my greatest lessons learned come from those around me who live the toughest lives and yet can still smile. For those people there is hope that things will get better. And it's not a false hope; life is ever evolving and the opportunities for positive change, while not always plentiful, are out there.

So with that in mind, and in paying forward the gifts the gentleman above has given me, I wish you all peace and hope.

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