A Biltmore Hummer

This is definitely not a month to dawdle.  You wouldn’t think the loss of only two days would be that stressful when it comes to blogging, but trust me, IT DOES!  This, of course, is more of a byproduct of my procrastination than a deliberate curse on my quota obligations by Pope Gregory XIII.  A large portion of blogs lately have been focused on our birding trip to Texas back in November 2013.  Figured I would break from that theme and give you something completely different.  Are you ready for something new?  Okay, you asked it… today’s new topic is …

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird shot at Biltmore Estates in Asheville NC July 2014

A bird! (hehehehe).  I didn’t really deceive you – this particular bird picture was taken in July of 2014 in a completely different state.  Yep, this master of the air currents was shot on our trip out to North Carolina.  On our way, we spent some time at Biltmore Estate.  If you recall, I was in a bind back in 2014 and pulled out a post covering the Mockingbird that was also shot at that time (link here).  Oh the days when posts used to come out in the same year the pictures were actually taken.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird shot at Biltmore Estates in Asheville NC July 2014

Hit the jump to see a few more shots of suspended motion.

The sad thing about this particular post is the fact it is not only more than a couple of years behind, it is now officially one visit late.  We took another trip out East recently and was able to visit Biltmore a second time.  Pretty sure this second visit was devoid of Hummingbirds so very happy these shots came out so well.  For those of you familiar with the Vanderbilt home, this particular Hummingbird was shot in the far left side of the flower garden – to the left and down from the actual mansion.  If flowers are your thing, this is the place to be.  Gorgeous flowers wherever you look.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird shot at Biltmore Estates in Asheville NC July 2014

This Ruby-Throated Hummingbird was busy filling up on the sweet nectar out of the ruby hued colored flowers -thought it was quite fitting.  Linda was off taking flower pictures allowing me some extra time to practice my bird in flight techniques.  There is no better bird out there that will challenge your skills than this speedster.  Being open and honest (cause that’s the way I roll). these shots you see here were scattered about hundreds of ummm, well, let’s just say the proverbial bit bucket dumpster filler.  Thank god for the digital age or I’d have to sell one of my dogs to medical sciences just to afford the processing fees.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird shot at Biltmore Estates in Asheville NC July 2014

So there I stood alone in the Biltmore flower garden whipping the 200-400mm Beast left and right and up and down trying to freeze this spastic beauty. I was running at a higher than desired ISO 800-1600  due to the lighting conditions which inherently brought some grain with it, but it actually doesn’t look to bad – will probably smooth these out a bit more for printing and might even boost the saturation on the flowers a tad just to pop them a bit more.  After a while, I was able to be more predictive about the Hummer’s flight path taking that variable out of the equation.  Then it was just a matter of getting the center focus point on target (99% of the time I’m running with a single focus point because the Beast has a tendency to drift if given too many focus options).  Nothing like a good arm exercise to get the blood pumping.  People ask me why I workout so much – the answer is always “to make it easier in the field… and to eat whatever I like”.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird shot at Biltmore Estates in Asheville NC July 2014

After wading through hundreds and hundreds of shots in the digital darkroom, these images here made the cut as the best of the set.  A pretty good haul for an hour or so of experimenting.  Can’t wait until the summer months come back to see if my skills have improved trying to freeze these hyper birds – there’s always the fallback of just waiting until they take a rest…

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird shot at Biltmore Estates in Asheville NC July 2014

All I have for you tonight folks.  Hope you enjoyed the shots – if nothing else, a break from all the Texas birds.  Come to think about it, thanks to a trip we took in January, even those Texas shots are now a visit late – sigh.  On the bright side, it sure is nice doing winter birding from my den!


2 comments on “A Biltmore Hummer

  1. Ron

    Those are gorgeous pics! It’s harder than hell to get shots of these birds, so I’m assuming there was so much nectar it was besotted in the archaic sense of drunk and you were besotted in the modern sense of being infatuated with the hummingbird. Or maybe it was the other way around.

    But anyway, the ruby and green colors in these pictures are a fantastic combination! If these are as sharp as they look, they are definitely county fair competition worthy.

    OK, in lieu of reading any facts about these birds here, here are some tidbits I picked up online:

    1. Courtship is apparently very brief, if it exists at all, and once mated the female raises the young alone. The walnut-sized nest, built by the female, is constructed on a foundation of bud scales attached to a tree limb with spider silk; lichens camouflage the outside, and the inside is lined with dandelion, cattail, or thistle down. The nest will stretch to contain the growing nestlings, and may sometimes be reused (rebuilt) the following year.

    2. It is thought that Ruby-throats live as long as 12 years, but the average is probably 3-5 years.

    3. Body temperature: 105°-108°F (40.5°-42.2°C)
    Wing beats: 40-80 per second, average about 52
    Respiration: 250 per minute
    Heart rate: 250 beats/min resting; 1200 beats/min feeding
    Flight speed: 30 mph (48 kph) normal; 50 mph (80 kph) escape; 63 mph (101 kph) dive

    4. Gender identification is simple if the light is right: the brilliant red gorget of the male is unmistakable. More commonly, though, the shape and presence of white on the tail is a more reliable field mark.

    5. Historically, there has been a myth that hummingbirds migrate by riding “piggyback” on other birds, usually geese. That may have originated with Audubon himself. Other myths include being a cross between a bird and an insect or having no feet and never landing (which I certainly heard as a kid and it sounded believable to me). Maybe we should start some bird myths ourselves!! Such as they get drunk on nectar.

    Thanks–very cool photographs!!


  2. admin

    I think this comment might have actually been longer than my post – way to go!

    hold on one sec, I have to google what the hell besotted means … tick tick tick tick

    “infatuated with, smitten with, in love with, head over heels in love with, obsessed with; doting on, greatly enamored”

    Yes, it was drunk on nectar which allowed me to become infatuated with taking its picture.

    They are pretty sharp, but as said they are a tad grainy. Depending on how big the print needs to be, they should look pretty good – reason I put the better copyright on – pretty sure Linda is on full panic now – baby Osprey, cute Hummers .. oh yeah, this is looking to be a good year.

    Again, this is not the first post on these Hummers, so I went with more details on the actual place itself. However, I appreciate the facts you have added. My colleague at work had a Hummer nest right outside his house window and would take pictures for me. I definitely did not know the nest could expand. Word has it if they are anywhere in the vicinity of Linda’s route to work their longevity numbers shrink to about 6 months – just saying. 50 beats per second .. so 1/52 of a second should be one full beat? based on my shutter testing that equates to about 1/2000 to get that wing to be somewhat stopped. Are you saying the female is the only one that has the white on the tail? if so, I did not know that – that is definitely an easier way to tell since the males do not always display their throat coloring. You know I am all about spreading rumors about birds hehehe I say we go with you can tell how much nectar they have drunk by looking at their long bills – there are little graduated markings like those on old time gas pumps that will tell you how much nectar they pulled out on their last suck.

    Thanks for the great comment – definitely learned something and we will just wait until I see someone reference the gas pump myth hehehehehe.

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