Howeird's Incredible Hummingbird Photos

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These photos are the result of a months-long project out on my very Big patio. When I moved in more than a year ago, I saw there was a mating pair of hummingbirds living on the property, and since I love to watch and photograph those little critters, I set out to make my patio one of their favorite feeding grounds. Even though there is a 5-foot-tall fence around it, the patio gets full sunlight 75% of the day in the summer, so finding plants which were hummingbird magnets and could withstand the bright sunlight was a challenge.

Back in May, I went to the local nursery and picked up four hanging plants which looked like they would do the trick. I hung them up on hooks which were already mounted under the eaves of the patio, watered them, went off to work, and when I came back they were fried to a crisp.

Not to be daunted by my brown thumb, I called my sister Shaari, who is a certificated Master Gardener and acknowledged Compost Queen of North Kitsap County§ who suggested some plants I had never heard of - salvia, for instance - and also suggested that the bought-in-the-nursery hanging baskets were not the ideal environment for a plant which was going to be hanging out to dry all day.

Armed with this sage advice (salvia is in the sage family), I made a return trip to the nursery, which happened to be having a sale on salvia. There are 900 varieties to choose from, and I selected four, including Salvia farinaceae 'Victoria Blue' and Salvia muelleri 'Royal Purple Autumn Sage'. The other two are Mexican Purple and some kind of generic red. And I bought some red sage and something called penstemon. Also on the shopping list were pots which can be watered via a spout toward the bottom, macrame hangers, potting soil and everyone's favorite potting aide, vermiculite.

When I got home, I put the plants on top of 2 inches of vermiculite and poured potting soil all around, then watered them real good, and hung them in the braided hangers. Later that day I was at the local hardware store to get a stepladder, and just to kill time I went into the garden section, and there was an actual live hummer drinking out of the flowers of a plant I did not recognize, so I put this rather Big plant in my cart and bought a planter to put it in. Got it home, and the label said it was scallion exoniensis fradesii . Say that 10 times fast. A little research told me I couldn't have stumbled upon a better choice. It won't bloom without full sun, has a huge tolerance for drought and cold, attracts hummingbirds and butterflies, and having it in the hot car for 20 minutes told me it is very aromatic, almost herb-like. So now that's in a pot on a shelf I'd built into the patio wall, next to the bougainvillea.

Just for good luck, I also hung a hummingbird feeder filled with red liquid food.

Sure enough, the hummers showed up within the week. I took a few pictures with the digital camera through the livingroom window, but then decided it needed a tripod set up just inside the open front door. It took me about a month to get around to doing that. Those are the digital photos you can select from the box above. I used an Olympus C-700 with a 10x optical zoom. Please note that the "Big" photos in this set are HUGE, and should only be viewed with a broadband connection on a screen with at least 1280x1024 resolution.

The analog photos were taken later that day and the next, using 800 ASA film and a 28-200mm Nikkor AF f  3.5-5.6 lens on a NIkon N8008 body, also on a tripod but set up against the patio wall looking towards the front door, and I snapped those pictures from a comfortable stuffed easy chair, using a wired remote shutter release. The first 12 images of that set were done using the motor drive function, and represent about 3 seconds worth of hummingbird activity.

§North Kitsap County is on the Olympic Peninsula across Puget Sound from Seattle, Washington.

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