Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

April 14, 2010

Anna’s Hummingbird nest

Filed under: Birds, Boyce Thompson Arboretum, composition, ethics, favorite places, light, technique — richditch @ 2:48 pm
Anna's Hummingbird nest

Anna's Hummingbird nest

Just about everybody loves hummingbirds and babies, so its no surprise that baby hummingbirds have a giant fan group. There are four species that nest in central Arizona: Costa’s, Black-chinned, Broad-billed, and Anna’s Hummingbirds. but I’ve only seen the nests of the last two here. This Anna’s Hummingbird nest with two juvies as photographed at Boyce Thompson Arboretum on April 11, 2010.

The nest was pointed out to me by one of the staff, along a heavy use trail near a popular feature. I was told that only a few people had been told about the nest out of fear that too many people would get too close to it.

I came back later, alone, with my gear and had to search to find it again even though I knew about where it was. It took some more time finding  vantage point where I had a clean view of the nest. The light was terrible so I had to use a bit of flash to fill in the shadows. Working with 600 mm (my 300/2.8 and the Nikon TC20e 2x converter) I was able to get this full frame image from about 12 feet away. Since the subject was stationary and I had extra light from the flash I dropped the ISO down to 200 and stopped down the lens to f/11 for more depth of field (needed at such high magnification of a three dimensional subject like this).

I centered the nest in the composition because it felt right with two juvenile birds facing in opposite directions out both sides of the frame. I didn’t crop at all because I like the way the leaves frame the subject, and because I wanted to retain the feel of the small size of these birds.

I left the nest as soon as I’d taken a few frames and had checked the LCD on the back of my Nikon D200 and confirmed I’d gotten a workable exposure and composition. I felt good that I’d found a clean viewing position and that I hadn’t attracted any other visitors to the nest.

But when I shared my results with a local photographer friend he sent me his shots of the same nest that he’d discovered a week or two before and pointed out that it was not possible to find a clean view then. So, sometime between his discovery of the nest and my introduction to it someone had trimmed away enough of the protective leaves to allow clean photos. This is very disturbing and I wish I knew who is responsible for this unethical behavior. I feel it is unforgivable to put a nest at risk by removing such natural protection. The parents who built this nest selected this spot for a reason, and that natural cover was surely a big part of their decision.

I’ve written here before about the ethics of nature photography, and I used a photo of a Bell’s Vireo nest at Boyce Thompson Arboretum that was also exposed in this way.



  1. This just sickens me to no end. They’re now exposed to the elements. I’ve never understood how anyone could put chicks in harms way for a photo. I won’t even comment on nest photos as a rule, it’s not worth the risks imo, as most aren’t using 600mm of focal length like you did here. Every year during nesting season I dread the ‘check out the sweet little chicks’ photos 😦

    Comment by danceswithmoths — April 16, 2010 @ 9:12 pm

  2. Thank you for sharing the photo. Jump on that “do not disturb” nature band wagon anytime you can. Also thanks for sharing the photo info

    Comment by Hummingbird Feeders — August 13, 2010 @ 11:33 pm

  3. Reblogged this on Not only for the birds? and commented:
    I feel very, very strongly about this… Fellow photographers (and birders): Do not, under any circumstance, alter natural surroundings to get a “good shot.” If you feel you cannot abide by this rule, please sell your camera equipment and become a ballet dancer, instead.

    Comment by Pierre Cenerelli — February 11, 2014 @ 9:38 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: