Sit back and relax: hummingbirds

Digital Originals

YORK, Pa. (WHTM)– As we approach the second half of September, ruby-throated hummingbirds start fueling up for their fall migration. They’re in for a long trip; the little birds overwinter in southern Mexico and Central America. Among other things, this means activity around hummingbird feeders starts to ramp up.

It also means it’s a golden opportunity to shoot videos of hummingbirds.

We set up a camera, loaded a couple of high-capacity SD cards, and let it roll continuously for about four hours. That yielded maybe five minutes of usable video (think about that the next time you watch an hour-long nature special) from which we selected two clips.

All the video is shot at sixty frames per second. The first clip is set at a shutter speed of 1/500th of a second. (Normal shutter speed is 1/60th of a second). It repeats three times; first at 100 percent (normal speed), then at 50 percent speed, and finally at 25 percent.

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For the second clip, we upped the shutter speed to 1/1000 of a second. Again, it runs three times, at 100 percent, 50 percent, and 25 percent. Slowing the video down makes it possible to see the wing flaps and movement of the hummingbird’s body more clearly.

There’s a wee bit of drama going on in the second clip. If you look closely, you can see a wasp on the feeder.

Wasps like hummingbird nectar every bit as much as hummingbirds, and will try to protect their horde from all comers. Apparently, though, this wasp decided to exercise some discretion. We have seen wasps and birds circle around and around the feeder several times. The hummer, though, usually gets to tank up.

Both hummingbirds in this video (or maybe it’s the same bird twice) are female. Only the males have the bright red patch on their throats that gives the species its name.

So, how long should you leave up your feeder? The ruby-throats can start migrating as early as August, but most in our area don’t leave until late September or even early October. It’s also quite possible a migrating bird will drop by your feeder after your resident birds depart.

One suggested rule: leave your feeders up for at least two weeks after you see your last hummingbird of the season, just to be on the safe side.

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