composite from video
On September 1st, I saw hummingbirds for one final time this year. My neighbor told me that they are usually gone by the Labour Day weekend. Just the weekend before I had spent an afternoon shooting some video of them coming and going from our feeder.
It was a spur-of -the-moment thing. That Sunday was a lovely summer day and I was sitting in the yard enjoying a cold beer. Suddenly one of the Ruby-throated birds hovered in front of my face for a few seconds then disappeared. It was one of those things that (at one time) would have caused me to question if it really happened. Now I was becoming accustomed to that sort of thing. Soon three hummingbirds were chasing each other around the yard and taking turns at our feeder. Being the compulsive videographer that I am, I headed into the house to grab whatever gear I could find. After rummaging through my computer room amidst some cursing, I emerged from the house with my video camera and tripod as well as other assorted accessories.
I set up the camcorder on its tripod and aimed it at what seemed like the most popular “flower” on the feeder and zoomed in as tight as the lens would go. Then I sat a little way from my camcorder with the remote button in one hand and waited. It was that simple… Well not quite. It seldom is. I had thought “just this once…”, but no.
|Male Ruby-Throated Hummingbird (still from video)|
The “flower” that I had observed them go to 9 times out of 10 suddenly fell out of favor and they began to use the other three randomly, if at all. They certainly seemed to know something was up and began to act cautiously when approaching the feeder. Animals are certainly more intelligent and observant than humans give them credit for. They had noticed that I was doing something out of the ordinary. I am sure if I had continued consuming quantities of beer, slowly becoming louder and less coherent as the afternoon progressed the hummingbirds would have recognized my actions as normal (for this locale anyway) and continued unworried about their business. They had noticed that now my motions were deliberate and I had suddenly got all quiet and still and they sensed that this was certainly not ordinary behaviour (for a Sunday afternoon anyways). I soon realized that if I was going to get any video at all, I would have to get more serious and abandon my remote-in-one-hand-beer-in-the-other strategy.
I gathered my resources once again for an all out assault. This time I mounted a shotgun microphone under the feeder on a boom stand and pointed it skyward. For enhanced audio I mounted a wireless lapel microphone on a willow branch next to the feeder. I realized the gaudy red t-shirt I was wearing was just the color that would draw the attention of said hummers, so I figured I might as well don my customary camouflage jacket, pants and cap that I had used many times for getting closer to my quarry. I also installed a 2X extender on my camcorder and pulled up a chair near to a bush so I could manually and discretely operate the camera. I focused, put on my headphones and waited patiently for the hummingbirds to return, which they soon did.
|Female Ruby-Throated Hummingbird (Still from video)|
Shadows covered the feeder by late afternoon and the hummingbirds abandoned their feeding - which was just as well, because the lighting was decidedly poor. I retired to my computer room to review the clips I had captured that day. Some were better than others. A couple of them were exceptional. This is typical for me. Every time I step behind the camera, I learn something new. I am happy if I get 10 seconds of “good stuff” for every day of shooting.