Nature Blogger Network

Nature Blog Network

Friday, April 20, 2012

FIELD NOTES: NESTING CLOUD FOREST HUMMING BIRDS




FEMALE OF THE VIOLET-FRONTED BRILLIANT IN HER NEST



It is a fortuitous situation to find a nesting humming bird in the forest, however a cloud forest jewel, well, that is a different story. Let me bring you up to date. Last week, I was doing my scouting on a little cloud forest reserve at Jardines Ecológicos Topotepuy. They are located 1450 meters above sea level, at the Serranía del Interior, south of the Caracas valley in Venezuela, South América. I walk the place at least 8 days per month, and sometimes, when I find natural happenings to record, I visit the place enough times for me to photograph the sequence of events.

As it turns out, while I was making one of these walks, a zooming noise alerted me, that something went from zero to high speed in a matter of seconds right by my face. I never saw what made the noise, however I knew the sound, it was a humming bird, and as I suspected, that the Brilliants where nesting, the event placed me in search mode.

Well, it paid off! I found the nest of a hummer, however, I never saw one like this before, so I checked it and it had a huge egg inside (for hummer sizes). So I left, hoping the little bird would not abandon its nesting site. Next day, I walked up the palm tree, and the bird was not at the nest, I went into a deep sorrow as soon as you can say NOW. I was feeling responsible for the nest’s fate. But I was not going to walk away, thus, I walked up to the nest and behold!!! There were TWO eggs. The nest was no abandoned. Now all my fears and regrets were gone. But I had much to learn.

Lady Brilliant was not there (MAN SHE HAS TO EAT!) So I learned, that female hummers are the sole care takers of the incubation of their eggs and the upbringing of their chicks, one may ask oneself, how can their survival be guaranteed, I do not know, but they make do. I took off as fast as I could, and two hours later, I checked upon her again. She was in her nest. Now, I wanted to approach her. However,  I find that photographing nesting birds is a delicate matter. As all animals have a “FLEEING DISTANCE” which is where they initiate flight upon the approach of a predator. It is of upmost importance, to determine what makes a creature nervous for it to use flight, as its last resort for its survival. In nature, this is a matter of life and death. So it is critical for a wildlife photographer to learn this, and to establish his own, when dealing with predators or dangerous animals’ “ PURSUE AND ATTACK DISTANCES”  ;-)

I walked up to the nest until I reached a full frame fill in my viewfinder without stirring flight in the hummer. Then, I shot e few pictures at the surroundings with the on camera flash
and the bird stayed incubating her eggs. After that, I snapped a few vertical and horizontal pictures at the bird with the flash set at low, but enabling it, to make a near normal looking fill to the available light reaching the understory. Then, I sat for an hour to watch what went on, and we checked each other out most of the time we spent together. Now, when I slowly approach the nest, her body language talks to me. Her ruffled feathers and downy feathers on her shoulder shows a restful trusting animal. When I am close to the nest site, I remain as motionless as I can and the rest comes with patience.

The nest is made up palm and other plant fibers, these are bound together with spider webs. The interior lacks the feathers that I have seen in other bird nests. I presume, this is to allow the water so pass through fast and to keep the place dry, thus preventing the growth of fungi or the drowning of the embryos inside the eggs. The outer part is lined with live moss, and some lichen to mimic the surroundings and most amazing of all, if you look at the face of the bird (in the photo), you will see, how it blends rather well with its nest. I will keep you informed on the progress and I hope that this field notes help you in making your own.

Regards

Leopoldo García- Berrizbeitia
Naturalist/Photographer


P.S. The nesting material of this hummer comes from its habitat. The palms, lichen, mosses
and spiders are living organisms in this cloud forest. If one of them disappears, for whatever reason it may be, the hummer's nest building material will be gone, thus jeopardizing this little bird's population in the area. The components of the integral web of life cannot be singled out, as its complexity ca be beyond human understanding.
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