Hummingbirds

JoeW

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So...I coordinate a meet-up group in the DC area (Shutterbug Excursions). We did an indoor meet-up last week on shooting hummingbirds. I thought I'd share a handout I had as part of the session. It's specific to the Mid-Atlantic (so you folks in Arizona will have other details). I cut and pasted the relevant parts below:

Hummingbird season: Expect to start seeing hummingbirds arrive in the DC area in mid-April and stay until mid-September. Here in the mid-Atlantic, we get ruby throated hummingbirds (the adult males have a red throat).

Good hummingbird plants: Hummingbirds aren’t drawn by scent but by color. Their favorite color is red. Yellow, orange, and pink are also good. Plant red plants together in a group so they can easily be seen from the air. Good plants include--Bee balm, Columbine, Mexican sunflower, Sunflower, Salvia, Lobelia, Hibiscus, Hastas, Honeysuckle, Virginia bluebells, Butterfly bush, Cypress vine

Hummingbird food: 4 parts water, 1 part granulated white sugar, then mix and boil for 2 minutes. Do NOT put in red food dye. Change food every 3-7 days so it doesn’t ferment. Do NOT use honey or brown sugar. Echanachea plants attract hummingbirds because they’ll get protein by eating small insects on the plant. You can also put out a feeder with some small pieces of fruit (banana, etc.) aimed at drawing fruit flies—hummingbirds will also feed off of these.. But mostly they’ll go for nectar (flowers and sugar water from feeders).

How to get hummingbirds to visit and stay: Get early flowering/spring plants that have red blossoms, plant them in a group (or containers grouped together) and make sure they’re visible from the air (this will draw migrating hummingbirds). Have a feeder nearby (ideally near trees and not close to the ground). You may have to keep your feeder up for a while before you get visitors—hummingbirds do reconnaissance and need to be sure a location is safe. You can also lay out red fabric (like a red tablecloth on the table on your deck or get red yard furniture). And try to have continuous blooms in the backyard (so you’ve got some kind of flowers and color all spring and summer)—Mexican sunflowers are good for this. No “dead periods” means that hummingbirds will keep coming back (and others wandering around will spot the color in your yard and drop in to check things out).

What else attracts hummingbirds: Keep spider webs up in the spring—they use them to help build nests. They don’t really drink from bird baths but a mister or anything that drips water will work. And moving water attracts hummingbirds. Finally, don’t clump your feeders together—males are very territorial.

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RVT1K

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I would also add being diligent about watching out for ants attacking the feeder. They'll climb right up the pole and inundate it. You'll often find the cups filled with their drowned bodies.
 
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JoeW

JoeW

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I would also add being diligent about watching out for ants attacking the feeder. They'll climb right up the pole and inundate it. You'll often find the cups filled with their drowned bodies.
That is why every feeder that I get, I make sure it has a water trap.
 

zulu42

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Thanks for the tips. I planted a garden for the first time last year and had some wonderful hummer visits.

I'll use your tips on attracting the birds. I also want to better arrange the garden so the flowers the hummingbirds feed on will be in optimum shooting locations with good backgrounds. I know of a hummingbird photographer who sets up his feeder with a black backdrop, HSS flash with fill reflector, and tripod mounted remote fired camera.
 
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JoeW

JoeW

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Thanks for the tips. I planted a garden for the first time last year and had some wonderful hummer visits.

I'll use your tips on attracting the birds. I also want to better arrange the garden so the flowers the hummingbirds feed on will be in optimum shooting locations with good backgrounds. I know of a hummingbird photographer who sets up his feeder with a black backdrop, HSS flash with fill reflector, and tripod mounted remote fired camera.
I typically don't use a speed light and reflector. But I set my camera up with a tripod about 10 feet away from the feeder and then trigger it remotely.

Here are some suggestions for your garden. To get them to stop by early in your season, put out some red cloth (the red will draw them in). Or buy some hanging plants that have red. They'll come for the red and then hit your feeders. Cypress Vine is great--they love it (but it spreads like crazy). Penstemon (Firecracker) is also good and it takes a frost to kick it in to gear so it's a great early season flower to plant.
 

Winona

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Great tips and photos! Love hummingbirds!
 

Dean_Gretsch

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They really will amaze you. You'll probably curse them more than praise them until you finally get a great shot. Quick doesn't begin to describe them:biglaugh:
 

Jeff G

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Dean, hit the nail on the head, they are tricky to shoot, and your vocabulary may sound like a sailor for a bit, but it's so worth it when you get the shot. :)
 

Donde

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No problem with ants where I am now in Colombia but in the US Midwest I would coat the wire the feeder was suspended from with a little axle grease. The ants wouldn't cross that. Just had to "service" the wire once in a while.
 

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