Hummingbirds at the Indian Canyons Trading Post

The city of Palm Springs lies nestled up against the northeast corner of the San Jacinto Mountains, the northernmost of the Peninsular Ranges, a group of mountain ranges that extend along the coast as far as the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula in Mexico.

Driving due South from Palm Springs along Palm Canyon Drive takes you into a pocket in the mountains that includes part of the tribal land for the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. This area is referred to as the Indian Canyons that is accessible for a number of activities. Numerous trails of varying length and difficulty are available for hiking and for equestrian use. Some good trail maps can be found at this Indian Canyons web site.

At the end of Palm Canyon Drive are several parking lots and The Trading Post that is the starting point for several of the trails. If you want trail advice or just a souvenir, you find it at the Trading Post.  And if, like me, you forget to bring a sun hat, they’ve got that covered as well.

The Hummingbirds

For those who like to watch hummingbirds, they have several feeders which have been quite active the two times that we have been there. During this visit, most of the hummers that we saw were Costa’s though the odd Anna’s was seen as well. This was actually not a problem since, being from the Vancouver area, we see Anna’s Hummingbirds all the time so I was more interested in the Costa’s hummingbirds anyways.  Because of the feeder locations, you can sit at one of the covered picnic tables to watch the hummers come and go.

The following two images show a male Costa’s with its lovely deep purple colouration on throat and head.  Depending on the direction of the light, I have seen the colour go from black to a deep blue.Costa's Hummingbird-1080137

Costa's Hummingbird-1080147

The hummers appear to be fairly used to the humans so you can approach to within a few feet of the feeders and get a good view without having them fly away. If you have a camera with a reasonable zoom capable of fast shutter speeds, you can get some pretty good pictures too.

One Feeder – Three Costa’s

The following sequence of pictures show 3 Costa’s hummingbirds, 1 male and 2 female, as they go after the nectar in one of the feeders. The sequence starts with 1 male and 1 female both perched with the second female arriving to join in. Both of the feeding hummers initially stopped feeding, I suppose to check out the new arrival.
Costa's Hummingbirds-1080115

Costa's Hummingbirds-1080116

In the next 3 images you can see the seated hummer apparently ‘chirping’ at the new arrival when it gets too close. This appears to be successful at keeping the new bird away. The male seems content to let the females sort things out.Costa's Hummingbirds-1080118

Costa's Hummingbirds-1080119

Costa's Hummingbirds-1080120

The entire sequence lasted only a few seconds.  The first 5 images (above) were taken over about 1 second using my camera’s burst mode which was set to take 5 pictures per second for a burst of up to 11 images.

Eventually the late arrival moves off and re-appears at an empty spot on the far side of the feeder.  In fact, as this image was taken 6 seconds after the first 5, this could be a fourth hummer coming for a sip.Costa's Hummingbirds-1080122

Costa’s meets Anna’s

The next picture shows both a male Costa’s and a female Anna’s facing each other on opposite sides of the same feeder. You can clearly see the larger size of the Anna’s Hummingbird.  Another difference between the species is visible.  In the Anna’s, when perched, the tail extends noticeably past the wingtips whereas in the Costa’s the wingtips and tail end at roughly the same point.
Male Costa's and Female Anna's Hummingbirds-1080151

An interesting observation that is clear in this image is that when the two hummers are perched face-to-face, it appears that the center of balance of both is outside of the perching ring.  In effect they are leaning backwards using their grip to prevent them from falling off of the perch.  Why wouldn’t they just sit with their centre of balance over the perch?  One reason that I can think of is that this allows for a quick escape by, in effect, ‘falling’ off of the perch.

The staring contest ended with the Anna’s departure.  Note that the Anna’s departure is low, below the feeder consistent with a “quick getaway by falling off the perch“.
Male Costa's and Female Anna's (disappearing) Hummingbirds-1080152

Final Thoughts

The dynamics of hummingbirds competing for spots on a feeder is always entertaining.  These birds move so quickly, however, that capturing the details would be all but impossible without a camera having a high-shutter speed, burst mode and a good optical zoom.  A tripod would be useful though the above pictures were all taken with the camera hand-held.  The built-in image stabilization no double helped create sharp images without a tripod.

The progress of camera technology is impressive.  A few years ago, taking the above images would probably have required thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment.  I took them all using a Panasonic DMC-FZ200 which currently goes for well under $1000.

 

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