Happy Hummingbird Day

Yesterday my Facebook friends informed me that it was: (1) National Hummingbird Day; and (2) National Fight Procrastination Day. Good timing for the second, because without even knowing about NFPD I had finally gotten down to work on a project I’ve put off for months. But bad timing for me that it was National Hummingbird Day, because I had to put off writing this post honoring hummingbirds. So, please excuse that I’m a day late to show you some of my favorite original photos of my favorite birds.

Hummingbird mother on nest

This is one of my most treasured photos. George noticed a hummingbird darting into the tree in front of our house, and patiently waited until she trusted him enough to return to her nest. With a long enough lens I didn’t have to get too close to her for this shot. Her two eggs hatched and the babies thrived and flew away. You can see a photo of them on the “Birds” section of my website.

Hummingbird at Flax Flower

Another shot I’m really proud of. This hummingbird kept visiting the flax flowers in our friend Joan’s garden, until his beak was totally covered with pollen.

Hummingbird hovering

Along with the flowers and bushes George plants in our garden for the hummers and other birds, we also have feeders so they can quickly get strength from the sugar-water to keep foraging. I can sit for hours watching them dart in and away from the feeders, and once in awhile they reward my patience by hovering there long enough for me to get a photograph.

Hummingbird at buddleia

They also love the buddleia (butterfly bush) that George planted for the bees and butterflies.

Hummingbird on branch

This little fellow kept returning to a branch near where I sit in the backyard. I crept closer until I got this shot of him with his feathers fluffed out.

Hummingbird in flight

And here’s one as he zoooomed past me!

I have many more photos of hummingbirds on my website. I also have a wide range of prints, cards and other products that I make from my hummingbird photos, which you can see on my Artfire and Etsy stores, or that are made and sold through my Zazzle gallery.

Hummingbird wingspread

Finally, when the stars align, and when the light and angle is just right, I catch the bright scarlet head of the male Anna’s hummingbird in all its glory!

How did you celebrate National Hummingbird Day? Did you cross anything off your “to-do” list for National Fight Procrastination Day?

Inca Princess Flower blooms

What’s that flower,  I asked George. It’s rare that I spot a treasure in the garden before he sees it, and he was delighted that the first flower on the Cantua buxifolia he planted last year bloomed.

Cantua buxifolia

We had grabbed the Cantua the minute we saw it at Annie’s Annuals, figuring from the flower’s shape that hummingbirds would like it. Annie’s helpful i.d. card confirmed our hunch: “Adored by hummingbirds!” George didn’t remember the common name but thought it was something like Queen or Princess of the Incas. It’s the national flower of Peru, and he wasn’t far off – one of its common names is Sacred Flower of the Andes. He probably remembered reading about the Inca legend associated with the flower, you can see it here on wikipedia.

A hummingbird was zipping around the garden. We hoped he’d feed from the Inca Princess flower but he decided to visit the Meyer lemon tree flower instead.

Hummingbird at lemon tree flower

I only had time to grab these two photos before he sped away.

Hummingbird at lemon tree flower

What’s blooming in your garden this week, and who’s feeding from it?


Photo of the week

I haven’t posted a favorite photo for a while – but I finally made time to work with a few of the photos that have been piling up, and here’s my current:

Hummingbird at lemon flower

This hummingbird zooms between our back garden and the deck feeders. I sit out back, hen on lap and reading a book, with my camera turned on. Hummingbirds dart around so quickly that you need every advantage you can take. I was so happy to grab this photo of him getting nectar from a flower on our lemon tree. The light was low, and although I loved his pose the photo was a bit grainy. Instead of getting rid of the noise, I used paint and other image tools to emphasize it.

Did you take a special photo this week, or make a drawing or other piece of art?

Early Summer Garden

Welcome to June-time in our garden. As the roses fade we have some other wonderful flowers blooming. The stream orchid (Epipactis gigantea) is a California native orchid. Here’s a closeup; the flowers are only about a half inch.

Epipactus gigantea

The flowers of the Soap Plant (Chlorogalum) are also extremely small. Bumble bees love these; I’m always amazed to watch the fat bees light on and weigh down the delicate flowers.

Soap plant flower

A trill from our guard-hen, Maureen, alerted us to a visit by Bambi. He was waiting in our neighbor’s yard for us to leave so he could graze on George’s delicious flowers and plants. Last week he ate nearly every leaf off our poor peach tree. Guess the fruit wasn’t ripe enough for him, he left us those.

Young deer

Anise swallowtail butterflies, probably the ones that we raised and released in the past few months, have returned to lay eggs on our fennel. We caught this one flitting about, and I managed to get a photo of her leaving some eggs.

Anise swallowtail butterfly

Finally, the hummingbirds are back, and happily visiting our flowers and feeders.


What’s growing in (and who’s visiting) your garden this summer?

Early Birds and Night Owls

I’m an early bird.  At this time of year, the sky has just barely started to brighten as I emerge from BART to walk to work. Then, like a cruel trick, daylight savings steals even that bit of welcome light from me, and I have to wait again for the spring sun to rise earlier. George is a night owl. He’s ecstatic that he’ll have another hour of light in the evening. This is my blended photographic collage, for you night owls:

Barn owl pocket watch

And this is my latest collage, with the same pocket watch photograph, for early birds like me.

 Hummingbird watch collag

Whichever you are, don’t forget to spring ahead tonight!

It’s All in the Tail

With a stunning clear day, a lot of luck, and some patience I caught my first favorite photograph of 2013.

Anna's HummingbirdThis male Anna’s Hummingbird hovered in the sky, checking me out before darting to one of the feeders that George constantly replenishes. I’ve never gotten such a clear shot of a hummer’s spread tail feathers.

Anna's HummingbirdMale Anna’s use their spread tail feathers to intimidate rivals or threats. They also use the feathers during an amazing courtship display. Have you ever seen a hummingbird fly high up in the air and then dive quickly down? If you heard a “chirp” during the dive, it wasn’t a vocalization. Two UC Berkeley students discovered in 2008 that the sound is caused by the bird flaring its tail feathers near the bottom of the dive. According to their research: “At the bottom of the dive, the bird flares its tail for 60 milliseconds. The inner vanes of the bird’s two outer tail feathers vibrate in the 50 mph airstream to produce a brief chirp.”

And so – a cherished moment and my first favorite photo of the year!

More Hummingbird Happiness

If you saw my recent blog post, Hummingbird Happiness, you know what my favorite bird is. I’ve been sitting for hours in our garden this past week, waiting for the hummers to dive down from their tree-perches to get nectar from our flowers. One flitted around the stand of agapanthus flowers.

Hummingbird at agapanthus flower

Hummingbird at agapanthus flower

Another preferred the buddleia (butterfly bush).

Hummingbird at buddleia

Hummingbird at buddleia

Someone just asked me how to get photos of hummingbirds, since they move so quickly. It’s definitely a challenge to get clear, in-focus photos of them. A lot of it is patience, waiting for them to come to a spot where you can get a clear shot. And focusing can be near-impossible, especially when they’re hovering. One trick is to pre-focus on something stationary where you anticipate they will be, then take the shot when they enter that area.

Hummingbird at buddleia

Hummingbird at buddleia

And of course, the first step to getting great photos of hummingbirds and other birds and critters is to plant lots of flowers and other sources of nectar and food for them.

Hummingbird Happiness

What’s your favorite bird? I admit that I can’t ever get enough of hummingbirds. They’re so amazing and so unlikely. The smallest birds in the world, and the most expert hoverers.

Hummingbird hovering

Fast and feisty, flashing iridescent feathers as they perch for a moment before zooming away.

Hummingbird wingspreadWe spent a wonderful day in our friend Joan’s garden. The hummingbirds were dancing from feeder to flower, pausing in the orange tree, then back for more nectar. When photographing hummers, I’m most thrilled at capturing those magical moments when they’re zipping past …

Hummingbird in flight

or hovering for a moment …

Hummingbird flying

or feeding from flowers.

Hummingbird feeding at flower

There’s a towering flax plant in Joan’s garden which the hummingbirds just couldn’t get enough of. Hovering to drink…

Hummingbird at flax flower

Curving down to drink …

Hummingbird at flax flower

Even drinking straight on!

Hummingbird at flax flower

A view from the back shows the bright green iridescent feathers.

Hummingbird at flax flower

Finally, after visiting flower after flower on the flax plant, this hummer’s beak was covered with pollen!

Hummingbird and bee at flax flower

Did you notice the other visitor to the flax? See the honeybee gathering nectar at the bottom-right flower, with a bright orange pollen ball on its leg!

What’s your favorite bird? Do you have feeders or flowers for birds in your garden? Do hummers pass through your area while migrating, or stay year-round?

Evolon and Transfer Artist Paper

I’ve had a swatch of Evolon laying on my worktable for months, but hadn’t worked up the courage to do anything with it. Evolon is a microfiber fabric made by the company that makes Lutradur. Like Lutradur, it has a lot of industrial and practical uses, but artists and crafters have seized on both of these products to use for our own nefarious purposes. Evolon isn’t readily available in the US yet. I found one online source, Meinke Toy, but alas, the owner is giving up the business. Hopefully she’ll decide to find a buyer rather than completely close the store down. As she describes it, “Evolon is a nonwoven microfiber material made of nylon and polyester. You can paint, dye, print and heat distress Evolon. It will not fray when cut with a scissors and can also be cut using a soldering iron. It excels as a base for stitch, by hand or machine and works well layered with sheer elements above it.” It comes in Soft, which feels a bit like chamois, and Regular, which feels like a leather-like paper. I love the feeling of both of them.

Anyway, finally having a free minute to do a small project, I decided to try out the Evolon. I printed one of my favorite photographs of a hovering hummingbird onto Transfer Artist Paper (TAP), my favorite heat transfer paper. This is the photo:

Hummingbird hovering

Whenever I print on TAP I make sure to fill up the whole page so I don’t waste any of it (it’s not cheap), so I added a row of one of my new kaleidoscopes, which I made from my photo of a black and white feather. After I kaleidoscoped the image using Kaleider, I played with the colors for a psychedelic effect. This is a single tile of the kaleidoscope:

Feathers wild kaleidoscope

It’s best to use TAP soon after printing it — if you can’t, put it back into the sealable plastic bag that it comes in. I headed right down to my studio and ironed the hummingbird onto the Evolon. I set the iron for the polyester setting, but didn’t hold it on the surface for too long. The transfer worked great, going on really smoothly except for a few bits here and there, which added an uneven effect that I like. Then I cut up pieces of the kaleidoscope and ironed it around the edges as a frame. I ironed the Evolon to a piece of stabilizer for a backing, and sewed around the edges. Finally, I stitched on a hen’s feather. This is the piece:

Evolon Hummingbird HoveringNot sure yet how I’m going to mount or hang it. I’m just enjoying having it here to look at and feel. Really love the smooth, leather-like texture of the Evolon.

I know I didn’t take full advantage of Evolon’s special properties, I just wanted to see how it took the TAP. Next experiment, I’ll coat it with Digital Ground or inkAid and print directly onto it. Now, that’s REALLY my idea of fun!