mysteries of flight

September 17, 2023  •  5 Comments

I am fascinated by birds in flight.  Some birds spend a lot of time on the ground, scratching with their bills and feet for their food, and then suddenly take to the air, as if to escape. Canyon towhees scrounge around parked motor vehicles to see what insects might be on the undercarriage or stuck in the grills. Others, including bluebirds, phoebes and flycatchers hunt flying insects, diving and turning wildly and abruptly until they catch the insect mid-air with a resounding snap.  Some are scavengers and cleaners, while others contribute to the continuation of species by eating fruit and seeds and discreetly (or not) depositing them on the ground.  But hummingbirds.  Ah, hummingbirds. They are the most amazing fliers, and I never tire of watching them.  Their aerial maneuvers and dog fights are challenging to photograph, and I have literally taken thousands of photographs of them over the years, particularly when we were living in Taos County.  So when circumstances aligned at a friend's house last week to photograph both hummingbirds and a drone, it was far too tempting to ignore.

While talking and eating, we could watch the world to the south, and a storm developing.  Since one hardly ever knows where and when it will rain in New Mexico, we watched and waited.  It ended up being quite the storm, complete with probably two inches of rain and hail.  As happens here, after the sky had opened and literally poured its contents onto the land, the sun emerged.  And as good documentary filmmakers do these days, our host pulled out her drone and computer system, preparing it to fly.  While it was taking off, I took some shots of it before it left our sight.  She flew the drone over the arroyos, and we watched in real-time as the water tore through them and over the land to end up, eventually, in the Rio Chama.  The drone looks rather alien in nature. 

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As with any aircraft, take offs and landings are the most tenuous times.  On this particular day, not landing in the water was also a priority.  Notice in this image that the propellers are still in motion, as they are in the other photographs.

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Because the storm had been a good twenty minutes in length, the hummingbirds needed to eat after it exited.  Got to keep those tiny bodies and hearts going.  I suspect these are all female rufous hummingbirds, although they could have been broad-tailed, except I did not hear the audible trilling of their wings that is one of their identifiers.    

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And after the rain, and the flights of the hummingbirds and drones, I still marvel at and appreciate the great mysteries of how both fly.

Thanks, Cristina, for the wonderful real-time show.

And thanks to TTT, Larry & Carol, Charleen, Jean & Sam, Marilyn G., Steve, Christina, Pater, Lisa S., Ingrid, Catherine, and Marilyn R. for your comments on last week's blog. Enjoy the changing seasons, wherever you are in the world.

until next Monday,


a passion for the image©




Steve Immel(non-registered)
Great shots of the drone and the hummer, Daryl. I'm impressed that you could stop the birds in mid-flight with the only blur being their wings. Sound like a very fast shutter and a high ISO. However you accomplished the feat they're wonderful. The hummingbird has to be one of nature's most appealing creatures.

As to the drone, like Terry, I'm tempted though I'm told that operating the device is hard to do and requires very subtle movements by the operator.

We're enjoying thunderclaps and the threat of rain as we speak. I hope it's the same for you.
Terry Thompson(non-registered)
good photos Daryl, I still am tempted re getting a drone. But not enough hours in the day. Good work.
Especially love you close-up of the hummer resting above the feeders and the drone landing surrounded by the flowing water. Next week, you gonna show us all the fall wild flowers that went crazy after the rain? Mt Asters and snake weed have gone wild in the past 2 days. THX.
I suppose Fred will be making his Christmas list starting with: a drone!
Tim Anderson(non-registered)
Thanks, Daryl, this went well with my morning cuppa! Nice capture of both kinds of birds.
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