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Hummingbirds Are On Their Way!

Connie Etter - Lonicera Hummingbird

Article and Photos by Connie Etter.

Hummingbirds are on their way back.  It's time to get ready for them!

This is my 5th year photographing hummingbirds. Planning my hummingbird area is always a time for me to get creative. Not only do I have to think like a hummingbird, but I also need to think like a photographer.  In the last two years I have counted 70-100 hummingbirds at one time during fall migration.

HummingbirdThinking Like A Hummingbird

Let’s start with "thinking like a hummingbird".  We need to create the right environment for our flying jewels.  Hummingbirds not only need nectar they also need insects for protein. Try putting some rotting fruit on a small birdbath.  This will attract fruit flies, and it is entertaining to watch the hummingbirds eat. 

Hummingbirds also love to perch. Statistics show hummingbirds feed for one minute 15 times in one hour and perch while their body absorbs the sugar.  Head out into your yard and find a few broken branches around 5 feet tall.  Position the limbs in the ground or container near your feeders.  Some of my favorite images are behavior shots while my hummingbirds are perching.

Planning Your Hummingbird Garden

Now we need to plan our gardens.  As we have been told hummingbirds lovered, so we are going to plant lots of red flowers. 

They also love plants that are tubular in shape. When planning my hummingbird garden, I choose flowers that bloom at different times. Spring flowers for their arrival, then summerand fall bloomers. You especially need flowers that bloom in the fall, when hummingbirds will be fueling up for their long trip south starting early August- mid September.

HummingbirdWhen designing my hummingbird area I group three or four of the same type of plant together.  Grouping plants together will make them stand out, and make it easier for hummingbirds to spot them in flight. 

My feeders are usually placed at different heights throughout my hummingbird area. 

Don’t forget to plant a fewcontainers and hanging baskets. Even the smallest gardens have room for hanging baskets. You can make the most of containers by choosing plants with long seasons of bloom, and replacing faded plants with fresh performers.

Thinking Like A Photographer

Thinking as a photographer, I like to photograph hummingbirds sipping from flowers rather than from a feeder.  I prefer flowers that are smaller than the hummingbirds. When arranging my flowers I try to keep the taller flowers to the back of my flower beds.  I position them this way to create a beautiful blurry color (or bokeh) in the background of my images.

HummingbirdWhen setting up your garden try to position the sun at your back.  This will allow you to capture greater detail in bird’s feathers.  If you see your birds go to the feeder more than the flowers.  Try picking a flower leaving enough of the stem and place it in the port hole of your feeder. You can also cover the port holes in the back of the feeder to force the birds to the ports you want the birds to go to.

You could try these camera settings: Mind you this is on a very sunny day.  Set your camera on shutter priority. Set the ISO at 400 and your shutter at 1/1000 of a second.  In shutter priority your camera sets your aperture.  If your images are too dark try raising your ISO to 800.

Here are some flowers that are favorites of mine, as well as the hummingbirds:

Butterfly Bushes Red Hot Poker Trumpet Vine
Honeysuckle Cardinal Flower Milkweed
Bee Balm Hibiscus Zinnias
Columbine Salvia Penstemon

Plant a variety of wildflowers- wildflowers have the highest quality of  nectar which seems to really draw in hummingbirds!

Now it's time to sit back and enjoy the greatest show on earth. I would love to see your hummingbird garden and your images.

Connie Etter is an American Meadows customer from Indiana, gardening in Zone 6. Connie not only loves to garden but also is a professional photographer and we are thrilled to accompany her blog with her own gorgeous photos. To see more of Connie's gardening and photography, please visit her website or facebook page.