16 August 2014. Carnarvon, ON. Not all birding has to involve wet feet and insect bites; sometimes it’s only a matter of stirring yourself to fill a bird feeder and pour a cup of coffee; oh yes and switch on the camera. Friends invited us to spend some time at their cottage, a lovely home on the shores of a quietly treed lake in Ontario’s recreation land; the only flaw in the whole arrangement is the weather. The surface of the lake has vanished, obscured now by a white sheet of hammering rainfall. The usual non-sound of trees has been overtaken by the shrrrrrr of steady rainfall, and it’s much colder than mid August should be; it’s the sort of day that reminds me why wilderness camping can sometimes (too often?) be a treacherous venture. Still, it’s snug where we are, the wood-stove, intended for the chills of fall, has made it shirt-sleeve comfortable and we brought lots of reading; nice for us.
I sit indoors watching Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, a Red-breasted Nuthatch and American Goldfinches at feeders filled for their convenience; business as usual for them, rain or no. Other birds have visited briefly: A single, male Black-throated Blue Warbler momentarily suggested there might be some exciting birding, but I haven’t seen any more of him. A Broad-winged Hawk greeted our arrival a couple of days ago, they had a nest around here somewhere, but our encounter was brief and almost soundless. Common Ravens croak in the distance and a small flock of Blue Jays passed silently through.
My challenge has been to photograph a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, to reduce, if I could, the blur of its wings to a frozen wing-beat. Hummingbirds are very obliging when it comes to posing, a feeder of sugar water will draw them in about every five minutes. The trick then is patience: a comfortable seat, a decent background and experimentation. I found that a shutter speed of one six-hundreth of a second still showed some blurring, but that at one one-thousandth of a second the wingbeats froze; all of which says much more about the physiology of hummingbird flight than it does about my photography skills, which are pretty much a product of a modern all-functions-automated camera anyway. Still, it’s instructive and rewarding. Here are two of my better in-flight shots.