by Charly Mann
Through this little hummingbird I have named Anne, I have experienced the stress release and complete awareness of Zen. For the last couple of weeks I have spent three to fours sitting under a tree while Anne is usually perched on a leafless branch no more than fifteen feet away. As I observe Anne watching for intruding birds or coming down to eat beside me, I become entranced in the here and now like never before.
This is Anne on right confronting an intruder in her territory
Almost every time I go outside to be with Anne she buzzes down to within a few feet of me for ten to fifteen seconds to show her excitement, and then she goes over to some nearby flowers or feeder as I take my seat. She next ascends to her branch calmly, watching me and the rest of the world around her. Hummingbirds are highly intelligent animals, and Anne and I have formed a bond as close as I have with any of my beloved cats. Like a cat, Anne enjoys my companionship and the stimulation I provide her by regularly moving her feeders around the backyard. If I move or take away a feeder, she will come down to where I had placed it for several hours thoroughly searching the location for the missing feeder.
Much of her sedentary time is spent grooming and stretching. Of all the many species of birds I have observed up close, none is as fastidious as my hummingbird.
Anne is fearless not only of me, her giant friend, but almost any other bird that dares to perch in her tree. Whether it is a sparrow, cardinal, chickadee, or dove, she aggressively buzzes the poor creature until he leaves her tree, and then follows it off until it has gone a satisfactory distance. Most wild birds are frightened by the presence of nearby humans, yet Anne shows little fear around me, and seems as relaxed as I am when we commune together in nature.
Anne is spending her last days with me as she prepares to migrate more than 2000 miles to reach her winter home in Central America. To prepare for her long flight she is eating more than usual and putting on a potbelly to store up the extra fat needs for the long journey. I am sure she is already 50% over her summer weight of 1/8 of an ounce.
Anne, like other hummingbirds, is a solitary creature except for mating. Each protects their own feeding territory. They also migrate alone. Anne will do most of her flying during the day. Her flight down to the Gulf of Mexico from my home in northeast Oklahoma will take four to five days. When she gets to the Gulf of Mexico, she will start her flight during the day, but because it will take her between 18 and 24 hours to fly across, depending on the weather, this part of the trip will require flying at night until she reaches land. Her entire migration trip will take between one and two weeks.
Anne will probably be returning to my backyard by April. The miracle of hummingbird migration is that a bird will biologically feel the urge to put on weight in late summer and then fly, most likely to Panama, where it has never been, to spend the winter. For its entire life it will retrace the same route every year
Getting good pictures of hummingbirds is one of nature photography’s greatest challenges. They are extremely small and their wings move back and forth at about 400 inches per second. So even at a fast shutter speed all you can capture of their wings in flight is a blur. With my camera, a Canon 40D, even if I set the shutter speed to 1/8000 of a second, I cannot capture sharp images of their wings. However, a good hot shoe flash that can freeze an image at 1/20,000 of second solves much of this problem. I use, and highly recommend, Canon's top of the line 580EX speedlite flash. Even at this burst you will not be able to freeze the hummingbird’s wings in most shots, but you will get some.