NatureLog - My Nature Travel Blog
Animals Through My Traveling Lens
As I shared in my Arrivals and Departures blog, there are many arrivals that I look forward to as I wish the northbound birds Godspeed until I see them again in the fall. You don't have to go far for nature travel - it could be right in your backyard. Just this week I was happy to see 2 different species of dragonfly in our backyard – one the unmistaken bright orange of the Flame Skimmer. And just a week or so prior, the first of the season’s Valley Carpenter bees arrived. The male, aka the “teddy bear bee”, with his gorgeous golden “fur” and the female, with her gorgeous iridescent wings, always delight us. As the UC Davis article describes, these beauties are pollinators, not pests so we hope that all can enjoy them.
Aside from these new arrivals and some different varieties of smaller butterflies, I am especially happy to welcome back the tiny but fierce Black-chinned Hummingbirds. I watched in shock as one tiny male, as if to announce his group’s arrival, harassed a relatively large California Towhee across our back fence. At first, he zipped back and forth at his back. When that wasn’t enough to get the Towhee’s attention, he flew to his face and zigzagged back and forth as the Towhee progressed along. Luckily for the Hummingbird, the Towhee chose to simply ignore this tiny little annoyance. Of course these moments only arrive – fleetingly – when I am without camera in hand. ;-)
And so it begins… the next level of backyard entertainment for the summer. Nature travel at its best - when you don't have to go anywhere. We’ve watched over the ensuing days as they continuously harass their own species, as well as the Anna’s Hummingbirds and anyone else who dares to be in their “newly re-established” territory! They tend to enjoy the purple salvia and the cuphea the most. I remind my significant other of this fact whenever he laments how “overgrown” our backyard flower garden has become. He, too, enjoys the entertainment of our tiny winged friends and has acquiesced, going with the flow of the growth in the cover and food our backyard provides to everyone. The beauty, after all, is in the eye of the beholder and for me, the more birds, the more important the flourishing - albeit overgrown - flower wonderland becomes!
If you don’t know much about Black-chinned Hummers, like most Hummingbird species, their “backstory”, IMO, is fascinating. The way I know they’ve arrived is hearing their distinctive “squeaking”. Both males and females get quite vocal, always tipping me to their location even while camouflaged in our tree cover. (Shhh…don’t tell them I’m onto them). Another thing I’ve learned from different sources is their bold habit of nesting close to large predators. Yes – you can find this little hummer nesting right next to a hawk’s nest! From what researchers have indicated, this is a good way for the hummer to gain some nest protection from its own predators. This tiny little Hummingbird species, thanks to banding efforts, has also been discovered to live as old as 11 years! For their size and energy exertion, scientists wouldn’t expect such long lifespans. And from their “summer vacations” as far north as Canada, east to Oklahoma and of course here along the West Coast, every fall they migrate south to Mexico. I usually see the last ones in our yard in mid-to-late September, and notice their return around 21 April. I keep both an eye and ear out for their arrival.
To enjoy an intimate depiction of their lives, follow the lovely story of a female raising her brood in the gorgeous and entertaining award-winning movie, First Flight: A Mother Hummingbird’s Story, currently viewable on Amazon Prime. Filmed in the Las Vegas area backyard of documentary filmmakers, the mother and chicks' story is captured in the movie and a book as well.
If you love Hummingbirds as much as I do, you can visit the Eyes4Nature Hummingbird collection here. But I do hope you get to enjoy the fun of their antics live! And my heartfelt thanks to the wildlife rehabilitators out there who rescue even these tiniest of creatures! Happy Spring! Remember that this is the season of nesting, so be sure to do all of your tree trimming at a later time. You never know what birds may be using your trees and shrubs for their nesting needs. And as always, contact your local wildlife rehabilitator if you find a bird or newborn chick in need. Enjoy the season!!
When do you get the answers that you need in your life’s journey? Is it when you sleep? In messages through others? Through your intuition? I’ve learned that I receive it through all of the above - and through nature. Lately I have been exploring whether to pursue macro photography. I had recently rented 2 macro lenses to test and had been so disappointed. I learned that being 100% reliant on a tripod and being right on top of my subject matter was not for me. I didn’t want to scare the animals and insects of my fascination, and my camera gear is already heavy and cumbersome when I travel without necessitating a tripod, too. This week, while visiting family on the East Coast, I had rented one final lens before I was going to decide whether to give up my quest.
Arriving on the East Coast, I was exhausted. With a three hour drive to my destination ahead, and only an hour or so of sleep on my overnight redeye flight, it’s 6 am, and I’m asking myself: “What was I thinking taking a redeye?” With just 1 hour left in the drive, we stopped for an hour to wait for my nephew. At wit’s end, irritable, and just ready to be done with this drive is precisely when the magic happened….
I began to notice an odd phenomenon each time we stopped on the drive: a single dragonfly would appear, and would fly back and forth across the car, front to back, back to front. Now stopped on the side of the road awaiting my nephew, 2 things happened: first, an insect resembling a bee flew into the back window, just behind my seat, and just looked at me. Hmmm…. "Is he staring at me out of fear? He doesn't seem to be in any hurry to move away from me." So I gingerly grabbed my camera and took several shots (see above). Then I ever so gently ushered him back out into nature where he belonged.
Then, not one but two dragonflies landed on branches just beside me at the car’s edge. And they just stared at me. Yes – they looked right at me. Feeling confident that any moment they would fly off, I just sat and enjoyed their beauty in this special moment. But they didn’t leave. So again, I pulled out my camera, gingerly stepped out of the car, and began taking pictures. Still, they just sat. After I had snapped what seemed to be 100's of pictures, they flew up – and returned and sat back down in a new position. And again I took numerous shots of their new angles. And so it went on like this – the entire hour we waited for my nephew. Now, you might be thinking, “It’s just coincidence that they landed to charge in the sun at the very moment you pulled up in the car”. Except that they weren’t sitting in the sun. In many cases, I don’t even bother shooting in the sun for the myriad problems it poses in photography. Nope – this was just pure magic. I began to realize that they were perhaps here for another reason: to prove a point to me.
As the week continued and this happened again and again (on my father’s balcony as I walked by, on my father’s porch where I was sitting, on a nearby limb and then a lily pad at a friend’s house where I was visiting), I reflected that these were no coincidences. Macro photography was here to stay in my life, and the dragonflies were going to show me precisely how it was possible – with my existing lens and the third rental that I used for the shots that week..... I also was reminded of something I already new: life's obstacles are in your life for a reason. Embrace them!
I now have profound gratitude for my little "teachers". Thank you, bee and dragonflies – (and thank you to my nephew for taking so awfully long to get ready.) I shall do my very best to remember this “intentional magic” the next time I start to get irritated in life's unappreciated moments, when it is not moving as fast as I'd prefer. I hope that you will, too……
Pamela, Eyes4Nature's proprietor, enjoying life out in the field among the animals and the peacefulness of nature.