The hummingbird, a delicate mosaic of muted hues, is perched thoughtfully on a slender branch.
On a balmy mid-August day, I hiked with Bhavna in the Mount Rose Preserve. We've enjoyed walking the preserve trail many times, but not today. It was clear that the trail had yet to be maintained. The trail was overgrown, and bushwhacking our way in the heat and humidity was exhausting. I had my XF150-600mmF5.6-8 R LM OIS WR lens with me, and carrying it through the dense vegetation was a chore.
Bhavna was not enjoying the hike this time and wanted to turn back. But then I reminded her that large trees cover the second half of the loop trail and the understory is sparse. We agreed it would be less effort to complete that end of the loop.
While completing this second half of the loop trail, I heard the very energetic chee-dit calls I have learned to associate with the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. I asked Bhavna to stop while I looked around. Once we stopped walking, I could hear the quiet humming sound somewhere between the branches of a fallen tree.
I pulled the viewfinder to my eye and panned the XF150-600mmF5.6-8 R LM OIS WR slowly around. Then I saw it. The delicate mosaic of muted hues of a female Ruby-throated Hummingbird perched on a slender dead branch of a fallen tree. The labyrinth of branches criss-crossing behind her made composition challenging. These branches, stripped of their leaves, outline a web of lines.
The female Ruby-throated Hummingbird feathers, though not as flamboyantly vivid as her male counterparts, shimmered under the August sunlight. Her watchful eyes, sharp and alert, seemed to scan the surroundings in the vigilance demanded by the wild.
So, I recently learned that there are four kinds of hummingbirds in New Jersey, but three are rare. I've only spotted the Ruby-throated ones. The bird in these photographs is either a juvenile or female Ruby-throated Hummingbird.
I'm a big fan of tiny birds, especially hummingbirds. The Ruby-throated Hummingbird beats its wings about 53 times a second. Their speedy movements are fascinating to watch. I've wanted to take pictures of them for ages, and since they like red or orange flowers, over the years, I planted some Eastern Columbine in my balcony garden planter to attract them.
Now and then, I've spotted Ruby-throated Hummingbirds near the flowers, but Eastern Columbine only blossoms in Late Spring to Early Summer, which is a bit of a bummer. I decided to get a hummingbird feeder for the balcony, and that's when I started seeing the Ruby-throated ones more. Taking their picture through the glass door was a pain, though – too reflective. Then there's our cat, Alphonso Mango (we call him Alphie). He loves sunbathing on the balcony, and I was worried he might be a threat to the birds.
So, I moved the feeder to the backyard, hanging it under some woody vines near the edge fence. It took a week or two, but the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds eventually found it. I figured out when they usually visited the feeder in the mornings and late afternoons, and I'd sit and wait for them. Shooting in the late afternoon light was tricky, and I had to use ISO 12,800 on my Fuji X-T3. The photos had a lot of digital noise, but I made them look better thanks to Adobe Lightroom's Denoise feature.
I'm still chasing that perfect shot of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird in flight, but these pictures are the best I can do now.
This weeks LAPC reminds me thats it almost a year since my first visit to The Edge.