Monday, September 21, 2009

THE HUMMERS AT WOODTHRUSH RIDGE

CLICK ON PHOTO's TO ENLARGE No, I don't mean the automobile type hummer. I'm talking about hummingbirds. I drove all the way to Calderwood Lake to try out my new 400 milimeter lens on bald eagles. What happens? I end up in my own back yard today photographing the diminutive humming bird. This is the first time I have used this lens. I had hoped the rain would stop for just a little while. Overcast conditions would make it difficult to capture these little rockets with a camera. Woodthrush Ridge is a birder's retreat owned and operated by my dog rescue partner Janet Lee. The retreat is, in actuality, the basement area of a gorgeous old house. The place is enormous. It sits on top a very tall hill which is part of a total property of 40 acres. Its all wooded too, accept for the five acres I MOW every week. A long paved driveway climbs the mountain, continues around the house and passes the birder's lodge and continues on down the other side of the property to the highway. The highway is a very rural, rustic country road barely wide enough for two cars to pass. Tired feet can be propped up in front of the enormous fire place and a favorite book can be read while discussing the success of birding with a partner. Peace and quiet. Of course Janet has six dogs on the property. Oh; they are quiet as mice. Ah; oh ya; and a parakeet. The quantity of birds that visit Woodthrush ridge can only be called vast. Janet keeps accurate species records and a bird count all year long. I can't tell you the number of species that visit the property. They know they can count on lots of feed in the feeders both summer and winter. Last year was a humming bird year. I have seen as many as fifteen birds diving on the folks sitting on the porch by the feeders. The hummers would squabble among themselves deciding who would get to use the feeder and who would wait in line. Their wing beats caused loud strumming sounds as they would swoop and dive at each other all the while chirping loudly. It was very entertaining to watch them. This year, however, indicates a decline in the visitation of the welcomed visitors. It is an unusual phenomenon. How could there be so many last year and so few this year? Birding friends of Janet's also report a decline in sighting the little rocket birds at their home feeders. Whatever the problem; it appears to be universal. And if it's a natural problem (nature); then it isn't a problem. The situation would be labeled of "natural design" and a plan implemented by Mother Nature. That lady is all wise and knowing. The predominant colors of the little birds who would pose for me today are green and violet. They appear to have selected a favorite little perch on a tiny little stem sticking out from some new growth high up on a pine tree. The tree sits about twenty feet out in the yard from the porch. There are four birds twittering and buzzing about diving on each other. Occasionally one of the little fellows would stop at the communal perch for a breather and remain there until driven off by one of his rocket friends. I zeroed the big 400 mm lens right on that little twig they used as a perch. All I had to do was set up the camera and sit back until one of them landed. I found I could get some pretty good shots as they were approaching the twig to land. They sort of did a three second hesitation before touching down. They kept their wings beating for a second or two after landing also. This allowed me time to click off two to three shots. But when they left the perch; they left in a rush. The movement was faster than my reflexes could react. The simple act of pushing a single button down could not be coordinated with their hyper speed. Amazing! I kept shooting away. There was no way I could tell if the shots would be acceptable. This was the first time for this lens. If the lens could capture these tiny blasters, then it would prove very substantial when used to photograph eagles. Eagles are fast; but nowhere near the blinding speed of these little imps. The pictures may appear the same frame to frame, but they are slightly different shot to shot. A head may be turned differently or the wings may be up instead of down. A green bird may be on the perch and a lavender bird there later. I want to capture their beauty so that I can look upon them whenever I wish. They are only here on loan. Soon they will head out on their long flight to South America. That's what I said. These little darlings will be tossed and blown across a lot of sky in the near future. Then they will return again to us here in Tennessee. And your little visitors will return to you also. At first they ignored the feeders and settled on a flower from time to time. My vantage point would not allow me to get a good picture at the flower beds. I would have to move the entire photography rig. I thought best to just wait them out until they would use the feeders. Finally there is some action at the feeders. Now, to turn this monstrous piece of gear around and face the feeders. There are three dogs laying here on the porch and another walking around in the yard and these little guys are ignoring them. I guess they know there isn't a canine alive that could catch them. I do notice that I have to focus directly on the bird. If I focus on the feeder, the bird will be blurry. I made that mistake earlier. A 400 mm lens at this distance has a very limited depth of field. That is to say that things closer to the camera and things on the opposite side of the subject matter do not have good clarity in the photo. This is called depth of field. Heck with it. That's another story. There isn't much creativity in these pictures. I'm checking out the lens for now. Clarity and crispness to the photo. Definition and sharp pictures. Creativity will come in time. I have to become proficient with this equipment for now. There are adjustments to be made to the camera that will coincide with the lens to equal precision quality. I won't know what adjustments to make until I see some results. Hence, the pictures you are looking at. They are not eagles but they are just as noble. They are one more joy of nature to appreciate. One more species to care about. I hope you enjoyed the photographs. Until next time; be kind to a dog. You'll feel better for it.