Monday, June 29, 2009

The Magical Fairies of Childhood

There are several types of birds that remind me of my grandmother, who for most of my life lived in the piney woods of East Texas. Mammaw always kept bird feeders around her house — always well-stocked and perfectly positioned for maximum viewing from the kitchen windows and the covered back porch — and one of the many thrills of visiting her was seeing the birds that visited her yard and feeders. Most prominent in these memories are visions of chickadees, cardinals and hummingbirds.

Even though those visits to East Texas are far behind me, I get to see plenty of cardinals and more than a few chickadees on a fairly regular basis, and they still hold a special place in my mind. But those hummingbirds of my childhood visits seem more magical than simple memory, especially since I so seldom see them now. And until recently, even the few that I have managed to see have eluded my camera lens.

Luckily for me, that changed a few weeks ago with a trip down to the Quintana Neotropical Bird Sanctuary. After seeing several common and expected birds (mockingbirds, grackles and the like), I spotted something new (for me) to the area.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird - 5/29/2009
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)

Off through the branches of the nearest tree I spotted something small and decidedly non-butterfly-ish hovering over a cluster of purple blooms. Hummingbird! I snapped a few hurried shots as quickly as possible before it moved off, out of my line of view.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird - 5/29/2009

I waited a while in eager anticipation, but the little hummer didn't reappear, so finally I moved on. The morning brought a few more pleasant surprises, but no more sign of hummingbirds.

Now, the Quintana site is relatively small — a single block of the small township — but often full of surprises. I was given some excellent advice on my first visit there: don't give up until you have been around the short walking trail at least twice in a row with no new sightings. And sure enough, as I made what I expected to be my last slow circuit on this particular morning, something buzzed across the trail so close in front of me that I instinctively ducked. Expecting a wasp or horsefly or the like, I turned just in time to catch the culprit as she landed daintily on the tip of a slender branch nearby.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird - 5/29/2009

There she sat in all her beautiful, shimmering glory, with a soft orange dusting of pollen crowning her lovely head. I stood stock still, just watching for a couple of minutes — lost in those magical memories of childhood — before I even thought to slowly bring my camera up and start shooting. Luckily for me, this little lady was quite content to sit and rest for a bit. Most of the time she had her head turned away from me — I'm not even sure if she knew I was there for a while. When she did turn my way, she seemed to size me up rather succinctly and then gave me a little head-cock as if to grant permission for a few more clicks of the shutter.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird - 5/29/2009
Click image for full-size detail

Moments later she was gone in a blur, but the magic remained. And in my mind I was back in East Texas, standing on tippy-toes and straining to see those magical hovering fairies that lived outside Mammaw's kitchen window.

For more great bird photos from around the world, check out Bird Photography Weekly #44.

Bird Photography Weekly


Kelly said...

...lovely photos and lovely narration as well. Great story!

gwendolen said...

How wonderful Kyle. Such special moments. And the photos are terrific. Glad you captured those memories. :)

dAwN said...

Great story Kyle!
Wonderful photos..I am glad I clicked on the detail!

Larry Jordan said...

Excellent captures of this little beauty Kyle! Jewels of the sky they are. Nice to take the walk with you down memory lane too. I loved the narration, thanks.

Anonymous said...

Great job capturing the hummer in midflight - that is so hard to do, and you make it look easy.