Sunday Hummingbird Stakeout

by Eric Shalit | May 23rd, 2010

Hummingbird feeding at Embothrium coccineum (Chilean Firebush) 5/23/10

I can see the Embothrium (Chilean Firebush) right outside my office window. Occasionally I peek out in hopes of seeing hummingbirds. The tree’s fluorescent orange red flowers make it a hummingbird magnet. What began with taking a few photos from inside the window, turned into climbing out onto the roof periodically throughout the day for attempts at photographing hummingbirds.

They are highly territorial and fierce birds.

They seem very confident in their speed and ability to outmaneuver potential predators.

During one peek outside, I saw three zooming around it. One sped straight up into the sky. I grabbed the camera sitting on my desk, and dragged myself out the window to my second story perch. Suddenly they’re gone. I waited 20 minutes. No hummingbirds. Within seconds after I hauled myself back through the window, one returned. I’m shooting but the digital camera shutter lag is much slower than the hummingbirds. They are so fast, I’m not sure if I’ve captured them until I look at the shots on my monitor.

They have fantastic flight control.

Because our cats also enjoy bird watching, the hummingbirds tend to stay on the far side of the tree where it’s more difficult to get a clear shot. In the interest of getting the hummingbirds to come right up to me and knowing they are attracted to red, I put on my bright red sweatshirt, climb back out through the window onto my roof perch, and wait. Immediately 3 hummingbirds zoom by the Embothrium at high speed. The acrobatics are phenomenal. I try to follow them with the camera, at the same time being careful not to fall off the roof.

They do occasionally rest. I often see one sitting at the top of my neighbor

Here you can see the whole upper part of the tree with a hummingbird pasted against the sky at left. I spent a fair amount of time perched on the roof watching, waiting, and occasionally shooting. Why there aren't more Embothriums planted in Seattle is beyond me. It's such an exciting tree for hummingbird watchers like me and my cats.

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No Responses to “Sunday Hummingbird Stakeout”

  1. Jen says:

    Hi Eric,
    Your right why aren’t there more Embothriums? I have never seen it offered at a nursery. Colvos Creek is the only grower I have found. And they are seedlings. I had one that didn’t survive the cold winter we had some 4+ years ago.[ your offshoot]. Now I have one of Mike Lees seedlings, 12″. Patience.

  2. Eric Shalit says:

    I started mine from a 6-inch seedling with about 4 leaves. It didn’t grow for 3 years until I threatened to compost it. Then it started growing. A few years later it was big enough to move to its current permanent location.

  3. Jen says:

    Ok , I can do it too. Thanks Eric!

  4. Regina in Olympia says:

    Pretty incredible shots, Eric! It’s so easy to get distracted when working form home isn’t it, especially this time of year with so much going on in the garden!

    Are those all Anna’s hummers? We get mainly rufous here in Olympia.