The photo above was taken in December 2014 – more of a snapshot, taken long before I was working on any sort of hummingbird photography project. This is the bird I now call Rosie: the first hummingbird to reside in my yard. Six years later, she is still here!
It was November, 2014. My husband, Dave, and I were about to leave for two week’s vacation in California. I was cleaning up the back yard when I heard a buzz and glanced up to see a metallic flash of red. A male Anna’s hummingbird hovered at what was left of my hanging basket of petunias. The flowers were withered and dry, but they still held their colour. He inspected them, then zipped off.
I knew Anna’s hummingbirds were expanding their range, and had been seen on Vancouver Island. I’d never seen one myself, though.
We had pulled the feeder in in August, once the migrating rufous hummingbirds left. But – hopeful that I might see another Anna’s, I filled it and hung it before we headed south.
And it worked. By the end of December, we had two females bickering over the feeder. I realized I could tell them apart by the shape of their throat patch, so I named them the Big One and the Little One. The birds, of course, were the same size – but the throat patches weren’t. The Little One was the regular, often perched in the twigs I zip-tied to the front balcony rail. The Big One sneaked in for a feed when she could.
The next winter, I had two females again. By now we had several feeders out, front and back, so each hummer could have her territory and not worry about being attacked. The backyard bird perched so regularly on the rose bush that I named her Rosie.
I wasn’t working on a hummingbird photography project back then. I was just snapping a few pix. But one day, reviewing my photos, and looking at how the throat patches appear to change depending upon the light, I suddenly realized that Rosie was the Little One. My main bird from last year had returned!
That winter I had three recognizable females. The following winter I photo-ID’d over thirty – Rosie among them. She must be mother or grandmother to most of the newcomers! I started to get a few males, too – including my most regular (and favourite, of the boys at least) Squeaky, now back for his fourth winter.
And, as I write this, little Rosie is back for her sixth winter. I call her Grandma Rosie now, because she is likely grandma (probably with several “greats” in front of it) to many of the hummers who are regulars in my neighbourhood now.
So that’s how it all began. From the scientific perspective, a really interesting on-going example of range expansion by a species. From my personal perspective, a really fun and rewarding photo project, and a unique opportunity to get up close to Anna’s hummingbirds. (Because Rosie and many of the others know me, too).
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2 thoughts on “How it all began…”
Hi Jacqueline I’m a lighthouse keeper on Quadra Island Cape Mudge station . I have been observing these little beauties and feeding them for five winters now. I think that they have come to no me and that is the biggest thrill …their trust . One summer I heard this sound that I thought might be a sparrow hawk but after many hours trying to find where it was coming from I noticed a humming bird flying straight up very high and zooming down . Is this a feeding on bugs or a courtship , or aggression tactic ???? So nice to see your photos Thanks . Best Regards
Hi Patti –
Yes, totally – I can recognize many of my individual birds, and there are a few specific ones that totally trust me and let me get close (they know the dogs, too). Whereas some others are always a bit more nervous. So they have their own unique personalities.
And yes, what you describe is a courtship dive. As they curve out of the dive, at extremely high speeds, that high piercing “chirp” is actually the sound of the air on their feathers. Here is a really cool study where they document this behaviour – check out the time-lapse photos of the dive: