Recently I've had a few opportunities to photograph Ruby-throated Hummingbirds that are attracted to the feeder at Trailside. My technique has been to simply stand in front of the feeders as close as my lens will focus and hope for the best. Most of the hummingbirds that come seem pretty used to people; one even hovered about a foot from my leg. Some of the hummingbirds buzz in, take a few sips from the feeder and either buzz off or get buzzed off by another hummingbird; the latter usually results in an audible 'thwack' as one hits the other than chases him into oblivion, chipping like a crazed chipmunk. These circumstances don't offer much in the way of photos. The photogenic hummers are the ones that fly in and perch close to the feeder for a while and the ones that hover a short distance from the feeder in between every sip. I had one hummer that perched on a bare twig and proceeded to, in the absence of a more appropriate term, spaz out. It flipped its wings in and out, ruffled and smoothed down its feathers, opened its bill wide and snapped it shut, all the while whipping its head back and forth. Whatever it may have been doing, it offered some cool pictures. Sometimes with 5 or more hummingbirds in view at the same time they obviously liked the feeder. Sometimes though, they were so busy chasing each other away from it they never got to drink.
The dark woods behind the perches clearly provided a great backdrop.
Believe it or not, many of the shorebirds that nest on the northern tundra are already done breeding and are busy making their way back south. However, they are not all done, especially not some of the ones that breed here in Massachusetts. A few days ago I found a family of Killdeer with three very small chicks. They were scurrying around on a commercial driveway next to a salt-marsh. The salt-marsh was filled with adult Killdeer; fifteen or more. These were all either birds participating in post-breeding dispersal or beginning to migrate. Post-breeding dispersal is pretty self-explanatory but it's simply what happens when birds spread out after they have finished breeding, either to find better habitat and food or to leave an area already crowded with that certain species (Say for example, three pairs of Killdeer nest on a small gravel lot. If each pair raises three chicks to maturity, then that's fifteen Killdeer in a small area. What happens next I think is common sense).
The area of marsh with the Killdeer was definitely large enough to support that many, even though of course some squabbles still occurred as they always do. This isn't to mention all of the other birds they were sharing this marsh with. Other shorebirds around included Greater Yellowlegs, a Willet, Lesser Yellowlegs, Least Sandpipers, and Short-billed Dowitchers. I've been to the area three times so far. Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets also abound, sometimes feeding side by side. The occasional Least Tern with come in to feed in the pans. Barn and Tree Swallows feed over the marsh while Saltmarsh Sparrows tee up in the grasses. A few families of American Black Ducks swim around with their broods of varying ages.
Above, a Killdeer calls continuously. Some of the Killdeer seem so engrossed in defending their little section of mud that they don't seem to ever actually utilize it.
A Least Sandpiper walks back and forth, busy probing. These guys are hard to photograph. You have to get close because they are so small and you have to find their favorite spot and sit and wait.
Header image (above):
Wilson's Snipe in Boston
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" I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment, while I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance that I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn."
- Henry David Thoreau
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Weird things I've seen squirrels eating in my backyard:
• whole donut
• whole bagel
• snickers bar out of the wrapper
• whole potato
• Mass Audubon
• Friends of the Blue Hills
• Massachusetts Birding Listserv
• Maine Birding Listserv
• Rhode Island Birding Listserv
• Audubon Society of Rhode Island
• Massachusetts Young Birders Club