The best way to attract hummingbirds is to provide them things that they like, i.e., food and habitat.
There are many options when it comes to hummingbird feeders but you don't have to spend a lot of money to get a good one. The ones I have right now were under $10 and are the best feeders I've ever had. The most important thing about the feeder is whether or not the base comes apart and can be thoroughly cleaned. If the base is all one piece and doesn't come apart, don't buy it.
It is not necessary to spend a lot of money on commercial hummingbird food. It is also not necessary for the food to be red. The feeder being red is enough to attract the birds, there's no need to add artificial coloring to their food.
The best and easiest hummingbird food can be made at home and is quite inexpensive. The recipe is simple: one part plain white granulated sugar to four parts boiling water. When the water reaches a boil, stir in the sugar until it's all dissolved, cut the heat and wait for the mix to cool. I make hummingbird food in 12-cup batches (so that's 12 cups water and 3 cups sugar) and I store the excess in a gallon jug in my refrigerator. Right now my feeders are so busy that I am refilling all three of them every other day and making 12-cup batches of food twice a week.
Hummingbirds are nervous little birds and they prefer for their feeders to be kinda high off the ground so they can see all around and watch for predators.
It is important to only put out enough food that the birds can finish it in a few days and it's also good to put the feeders where they will be shaded from the afternoon sun. Even if their food is not finished in a few days, it is still necessary to rinse out the feeders and refill with fresh food. Hummingbird food will go rancid after a few days of sitting outside in the sun. In addition, the birds leave bacteria from their beeks and tongues inside the feeders. This bacteria combined with the sun-warmed sugary mixture becomes real gross after a few days. If you wouldn't drink it, don't leave it out for hummingbirds to eat. In the early part of the season I only fill my feeders a third to half full so that I'm not wasting too much food by having to pour it out.
Another tip that is super important is not to mess with the recipe for the food. Use only regular hot water and plain white granulated sugar. Don't try to substitute other stuff for the sugar. For example, don't use brown sugar, honey, agave nectar, artificial sweeteners or anything else besides plain white granulated sugar. Doing so can harm the hummingbirds and our job is to help them. It would be better not to feed them at all than to feed them the wrong stuff and jeopardize their health.
Hummingbirds like trees and they also like flowering plants. Ergo, flowering trees are a good idea. Mimosa, Desert Willow, and Chitalpa Trees are all good options since they bloom all summer. I have seven Desert Willows and two Mimosa trees. Hummingbirds also like flowers that are tubular. Trumpet vines are a great, fast growing option for attracting hummingbirds.
Click here to see my other posts about Hummingbirds.
Tech Specs: All photos in this post shot with Canon EOS 80D and Tamron 70-300mm lens.
The Creepiest Abandoned House Ever
I shot these photos while visiting Wisconsin during the winter of 2004. Why am I just now posting them? Long story short, these photos were officially missing for over a decade before I rediscovered their whereabouts a couple weeks ago.
Winter in Wisconsin looks like a Stephen King book. Everything looks old and creepy and haunted, whether is actually is or not. But this place is all of those things.
According to the 2000 census, the population of Navarino was 440. Chances are it's less than that now. Navarino doesn't seem like a place people move to. It's a place people move from.
I couldn't tell you how to get to this location other than I think it was somewhere off the 156. It's probably not standing anymore anyway.
This house was not a normal abandoned house. It was also the manager's office and sat in the middle of a huge junk yard of discarded appliances and junk cars. At the time of my visit, half the structure had already collapsed and it probably wasn't safe to enter the other half, not that that stopped me from going in.
The house was still full of the family's belongings, as if they left not knowing they wouldn't be coming back.... But I don't think they just left, I think something happened to them. In addition to the sinister vibe wafting from all the religious paraphernalia, there are blood rusty knives waiting on the kitchen counter and the unmistakable feeling that their lives here didn't end well.
Walking around the property, the dirt roads are lined with junked out cars, literally hundreds of them. Car trunks in the middle of nowhere sure would make a handy place to stash a few bodies. My personal feeling has always been that the guy killed his family and then killed himself out in the woods somewhere or maybe in the van pictured below. I think everyone who lived in this house could've disappeared and no one in town would've known the difference.
At the time of my exploration, this house had been abandoned for at least 24 years - judging from the 1978 calendar still clinging to the wall.
Creepy Jerry Falwell postcard dated Christmas 1976.
I just love these little birds soooo much! Hummingbirds may be tiny and cute but they are sophisticated flying machines and, like little dogs that don't know they're little, fierce as can be.
I live in Meadow Lake, New Mexico andhummingbirds are here April through October. A good rule of thumb for knowing when to expect hummingbirds is between the last frost and the first frost. Hummingbirds feed mostly on flower nectar and insects so they don't do winter.
In my part of New Mexico, the most common species of hummingbird is the Black Chinned. The male Black Chinned Hummingbird is easy to spot with their solid black head, purple throat and green back. The females are not as ornate, they have the green back but are mostly tan.
The Black Chinned Hummingbirds arrive first, usually in the first two weeks of April. Then, around mid-July the Rufus Hummingbirds show up as well. They are easy to differentiate from the Black Chinned because of their orange color scheme. Once they get here, there are about 15 birds that spend most of their time in my yard so I maintain three feeders that are refilled every other day to keep up with the demand.
Hummingbirds usually depart around the beginning of October. Contrary to popular belief, the presence of feeders does not delay their migration. It is the duration of daylight and the temperature that tells them it's time to go. Even after most of them have left, I will still keep one feeder out for a week or so in case birds migrating from farther north pass by my house and need a snack.
Since we built our porch, I spend time every morning sitting out front photographing the hummingbirds. Tech specs on all of these images is as follows: Canon 80D, Tamron 70-300 lens. ISO 640, f.8 at 1/2000 of a second in the morning sun.
Click here to see my other posts about hummingbirds.
Pushing The Boundaries Of Smartphone Photography
Have you ever dreamed of taking great photos of the moon with your smartphone but when you try, the moon looks like this?
That tiny speck in the sky is probably not what you envisioned but if you try to get close with the smartphone's digital zoom, so much resolution is lost that the moon looks like an Atari game from the 80's with big square pixels and no detail. Clearly that's not going to work, so what to do then?
The Telescope Set Up
The first step in this process is to get the moon lined up and in-focus in the telescope. If you're using a manual telescope, it will have to be readjusted several times throughout this process because the moon will rotate itself out of the frame every couple of minutes.
The second step is to select the (telescope) eye piece that will render the best results. I recommend the eye piece with the least amount of magnification. On my Cassini 80x800 telescope, it's the 25mm eye piece. In my opinion, the 25mm is the easiest to use for a few reasons: #1, it has the most surface area making it easier to align the camera lens over it while still keeping the entire moon in the frame; #2, it brings the moon into sharp focus but with enough extra room that the telescope only has to be re-positioned every couple of minutes instead of every few seconds; #3, it creates the least amount of "camera shake". In this instance, it's not the camera that's shaking but actually the Earth. The higher the magnification of the telescope, the more noticeable the vibration. There are some complicated equations to determine the minimal shutter speed needed to eliminate camera shake based on the focal length of the lens but since we're shooting with a telescope and a smartphone, never mind all that and just use the 25mm eye piece.
The Camera Set Up
#2. Once you see the moon on the phone screen, the next step is to spot-meter and focus by tapping the moon with a finger or thumb. This tells the smart phone camera where to focus and what to meter the exposure on.
#3. When the moon is in focus and exposed correctly, shoot the photo! How do you know when the moon is exposed correctly? You should be able to see all the detail with no areas that are blown-out or so bright that no detail is visible. In short, the moon should look the same on the phone screen as it does to your eye when you look through the telescope. This part is especially important because if the image is over exposed, there is no way to recover this detail after the fact.
Many telescopes come with a smart phone attachment that will supposedly hold the phone in the correct position over the eye piece. If you can get that to work, more power to ya, but I haven't found this to be a good method. I use the smart phone attachment but only as a guide to steady my hand. Because the positioning of the phone lens has to be so precise, it can be very difficult to keep it in the right spot while also tapping the screen to get focus and exposure and then hitting the "shutter" to take the photo. Once positioned correctly, the smart phone attachment makes an excellent guide to assist in aligning the camera lens with the eye piece of the telescope.
The other reason the smart phone attachment is only useful as a guide is because the camera lens needs to not be touching the eye piece of the telescope. To determine the exact distance for optimal image quality requires experimentation but should be within an inch. What you don't want to do is to rest the phone directly on the eye piece. This will usually be too close but the other problem is that (while trying to do everything else at the same time) it's easy to start pushing down on the phone which in turn can push down on the eye piece thus throwing the telescope out of focus. It is not possible to achieve a focused image with the camera unless the telescope is in sharp focus.
Trial And Error
Not gonna lie, photographing the moon with a smartphone and a telescope is not the easiest thing to do but with practice and experimentation, excellent results can be achieved. I've been working at it for about eight months now and, while at first I found the whole process to be time consuming and frustrating, I can now usually set up the telescope and get my images in about 10 - 15 minutes. The secret is patience and practice.
The foundation of creating great images is always to shoot a great image in the first place. By that I mean, the basics should be in order. The image should be in focus and exposed correctly with relatively good composition. Post processing is not a crutch or magic wand to turn bad photos into good photos, rather it is a tool to make (already) good photos better.
I try to keep the entire process in the phone so the app I like to use for editing photos is called Snapseed and is available for both iPhone and Android. Make your rotation, cropping, and exposure tweaks with this app.
Be advised that a reflector telescope turns everything upside down so the moon will be upside down in your photos and will need to be rotated during the post process.
Happy Shooting And Good Luck!
The most important thing is to keep trying. Please feel free to ask questions by posting them in the comments section at the end of this post.
All detailed moon photos shot with Motorola MotoX4 and Cassini 80x800 telescope, edited in-phone with Snapseed.
Abandoned in the mid-1670's, the Abo ruins sat undisturbed for nearly two hundred years until they were rediscovered by Major J.H. Carleton on a stormy evening in 1853. If you've spent any time in New Mexico, you know exactly what Carleton meant when he wrote that, "the cold wind... appeared to roar and howl through the roofless pile like an angry demon."
Similar to the other Salinas Pueblos, Abo was already a thriving community prior to the Spanish showing up and forcing the inhabitants to build giant churches. The church at Abo was completed in the late 1620's.
According to the brochure,Gran Quivira was the largest of the Salinas Pueblos but Abo must run a close second because it too is massive in size. While the church atQuarai takes your breath away, I believe that it and the entire site are quite a bit smaller than Abo. Along with the church, the Abo site has expansive excavated ruins and numerous mounds of earth that are obviously un-excavated ruins.
Eventually a perfect storm of problems including drought, famine, and the Apache raids forced the inhabitants of the Abo to leave their home and assimilate into neighboring communities along the Rio Grande. By 1678, Abo was abandoned.
To see my posts from the other Salinas Pueblo Mission Ruins, click here.
Ruins From A More Recent Time
As soon as you turn off the highway onto the road that goes to Abo, there are two little abandoned houses. Thinking that perhaps it had been a ranger station, I only photographed the smaller one because it was more easily accessible.
To my surprise, when I posted the photos on Facebook, someone I went to college with said the houses belonged to his grandparents and that the little one was his grandmother's art workshop. He even had a photo of the family standing out front in the 1980's. How cool is that?
It's a small, small world.
All photos shot with Motorola Moto X4 and edited with Snapseed.
I am DeAnna Vincent, fine art and portrait photographer in Los Lunas, New Mexico. These are the photos from my everyday adventures.