Saturday, August 24, 2013

Best Laid Plans

The best laid plans so often lay an egg, don't they?  Several weeks ago, the hummingbirds arrived to my garden, resulting in a massive increase in the amount of time I spend staring out the window at the feeder, enjoying their grace and acrobatic flight.  My hummingbirds often seem to arrive late in the summer, coinciding with the bloom of the blue sage on the prairie and in my garden, and this year was no exception.  My only regret as I watch the hummingbirds has always been that I don't have the proper long-range camera equipment to get a decent picture.

Wait a minute!  I've got a game camera in my garden that's pretty good at candid photographs of impromptu garden visitors!  Why haven't I trained it on the hummingbird feeder?  I'll bet that I get thousands of great hummingbird pictures in just a few days!  Imagine my excitement as I set up the camera just a few feet away from the feeder below my bedroom window.  Imagine my anticipation as I witnessed (from the window) hummingbird after hummingbird visiting the feeder, right under the "nose" of the camera.

Alas and curses.  My execution of an excellent plan had a few flaws, not the least of which was that a game camera is not made for close-up photography.  I knew that the near focus was probably farther back then I wanted, but I was too lazy to search for the pamphlet to tell me the correct focal length of the lens, so I guessed.  I guessed wrong and placed the camera too close and thus got a number of semi-blurry photographs.

You also likely already have realized that the birds in these pictures are not hummingbirds. It seems that I also experienced the minor problem that hummingbirds don't seem to be either large enough or warm-bodied enough to trigger the game camera.  Despite the frequent visits of hummingbirds to my feeder that I was witnessing with my own eyes, all I captured over two weeks was these repeated visits of American Goldfinches (probably females or males in non-breeding plumage) to my feeder, visits that I never witness in person.  On the chance that this particular question keeps you up at night, you should know that I have decent evidence that the Goldfinches were not just perching on the feeder, but they were occasionally sipping the droplets of feeder juice spilled by tipping the feeder with their weight.  Who knew?

In two weeks, I collected 50 pictures of drab Goldfinches (why couldn't there been at least a few golden-yellow males in breeding plumange) and, finally, a single blurry picture of a Ruby-Throated hummingbird.   The latter was way too late and way too unimpressive for me to get excited about.  All I really gained from this experiment was a good excuse to give to Mrs. ProfessorRoush when I drop a wad of cash on a new digital camera and a big long-range lens.

As a consequence of my failures, I've moved the camera back to other parts of the garden, where it can document more exciting discoveries than the syrup-pirating drab Goldfinches.  The photograph below was taken just before I moved the camera from its original spot and it is remarkable for two reasons;  First, the presence of the coyote, captured at 9:58 a.m. in my garden.  Coyotes are supposed to be primarily nocturnal, a fact that I can confirm since they frequently awaken me by howling at night.  Second, please observe the date and the temperature printed on the photo.  Who has ever heard of Kansas being 63 degrees at 10:00 a.m. on the 8th of August?  Now there's an oddity worth documenting! 


  1. See, you DO have hummingbirds! Most of my earlier bounty of hummers have been chased away from my feeder by one little tyrannical individual. Nasty little selfish booger.

    The coyote photo is incredible ... as is the morning temperature. Like a midsummer gift, isn't it.

  2. It was a gift, as was the rain that came with it.

  3. I wonder if it your visitor is a female Orchard Oriole. I've heard folks around here in south central Kansas feeding them grape jelly and some have also started visiting people's hummingbird feeders.


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