The Hummingbird Chronicles

Posted by ardeidae on June 13, 2005

Back in April, I was invited to join a couple of Los Angeles Audubon members on a bird walk in the walker Ranch area of Placerita Canyon, a county-run park just north of Los Angeles. It’s an east-west canyon with a seasonal stream and a variety of trees and bushes. The list for the morning was fairly short, but we saw some of the usual suspects such as the California Towhee (Pipilo crissalis), the Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus), the Nuttall’s Woodpecker (Picoides nuttallii), the Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus), the Common Raven (Corvus corax), and the Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura).

Costa's Hummingbird ChicksOn May 14th I returned, this time on one of the regular monthly walks guided by the San Fernando Valley Audubon. There were more birds present with the addition of migrants and summer inhabitants. What really caught me was the abundance of hummingbirds, such as the Allen’s Hummingbird (Selasphorus sasin), the Black-chinned Hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri), and the Costa’s Hummingbird (Calypte costae). As we trailed the pack, one of the group called out that she had spotted a hummingbird nest. Only a few of us heard her as the rest continued on. Only a couple feet from the trail about three feet above the ground sat a female hummingbird on the tiny nest. I was able to snap off a few shots before coninuing on. As we returned about 45 minutes later, she was gone, so I took a quick peek in the nest and saw two little eggs.

Costa's Hummingbird ChicksTwo weeks later, a friend of mine, Chad and I decided to take a walk around Placerita. I had just gotten my digiscoping setup completed and figured this would be a good place to break it in. As we passed by the place where the hummingbird nest was, we noticed that the female was again sitting on the nest. We watched her briefly and then continued on. About an hour later, we returned to find her out and about. Chad took a peek in the nest and didn’t really see anything until he bumped one of the branches and up popped two little beaks. At first, I hesitated, kind of in awe of what I was looking at, but Chad quickly reminded me I needed to get a picture of this. I instantly changed to my shorter lens and snapped a couple shots before mom even knew we were there.

Costa's Hummingbird ChicksThe following weekend New York City had my attention, but after returning on this past Thursday, I made another trip out to Placerita Canyon on Saturday morning. This time after going to the nest site, I was greeted by two, much larger chicks, struggling to make themselves comfortable in the now-cramped nest. I got a few shots with my D70 and then my CoolPix digiscoping setup. I decided to try out the movie mode on the camera, getting a minute or so of the chicks resting in the nest. I spent another 15 minutes just observing them in the scope from 12 feet away. It was amazing…I could see all detail including the mites crawling around on their beaks. I heard a couple “pittick” sounds and their mother came in to feed them. I tried to get some stills, but they were moving so fast all I could see in the camera window were blurry shots, so I switched to movie mode. Click on the image on the right to see the resulting QuickTime movie. What a pay-off!

The fledging time for a Costa’s Hummingbird is 20-23 days. It’s getting close. I’ll be there again this weekend, but will they?

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