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Hummingbird Yoga

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Before I raised four orphaned ruby-throats from Day 12 through adulthood, I admit that I thought of hummingbirds differently than I thought of larger birds. 

As if a rufous-tailed hummingbird, being 1/4 the size of a Passerini tanager, would somehow have but a quarter of its presence, a quarter of its character, a quarter of its brains.

Being the ultimate advocate for bird intelligence, I can't say why I harbored this prejudice for so long, but I suspect it's one many people unconsciously cultivate. Hummingbirds zip around so fast, and are insect-like and bizarre in aspect. I had trouble believing they were real birds, and so I had trouble connecting with them. I guess I assumed their brains were a bit insectile, as well; that they might not be capable of making the kind of connections, having the kind of synthetic intelligence that "real" birds do.

When I raised them, a story told in The Bluebird Effect: Uncommon Bonds With Common Birds,
I realized that hummingbirds are every bit as intelligent and sentient as other birds. They are 110% BIRD. Boiled down to the essence of birdiness. Smart, opportunistic, fierce. Intense.

So when a bronze-tailed plumeleteer in Cope's garden not far from Limon, Costa Rica, stopped for a few minutes of peaceful hummingbird yoga, I was all eyes. Not just for his radiant teal gorget and bronzy forked tail, but for his sunbathing behavior.

We bring our tiny coral-pink foot up over our very long wing

  and groom our forehead and cheek.

We assume an upright stance, and let our aquamarine throat expand.

As we feel the sun penetrating our feathers, heating up our soul, we begin to keel over.

We allow the heat to reach our inner being

and we raise our feathers and hold our tiny self in Sun Salutation

until our skinny red turkeylike neck shows. Part of the exercise is embracing our vulnerability.

We hold this position for a long time, then slowly raise ourself high and proud again. 

Renewed in body and spirit, we look around for someone to pierce.

Back at it, the business of being a hummingbird.

Others shared his spotlight.

A long-billed hermit. Hermits swoop in headlong, seemingly flying sideways in a perpetual dive, those ribbonlike white tail streamers fluttering behind them, swoopy and thrilling. I've rarely seen them perch.

But in full hover, they look like strange angels. I like this moody shot, the catch light in her eye, the feet held like a prayer, or a plea.

It's extremely difficult to capture sharp images of these birds in flight. My camera fires and fires; it focuses on the vegetation behind the dimly-lit subject. I laugh and mutter and cuss, and one out of every two dozen shots might pan out. All hail digital, where everything is free and the delete button gets warm to the touch.

 The closest thing to which I can compare shooting hummingbirds is playing a very intense video game, but for real. Addictive and very, very fun.

You who practice yoga and play video games will probably have already figured out that I do neither.
But I can imagine it.

One of the prizes of the day? A female green-breasted mango who zipped in at warp speed, with a surprise Indian blanket for a tail. 
Oh my, oh my oh my. Can't you stay awhile?

 Capturing them: the path to a happy madness.

Forget those little bug-birds now.
 Focus on me, a splendid bull Montezuma oropendola, twice the size and weight of my several mates.
My malar wattles, engorged; my cheeks electric blue.
See me, and you've seen a real bird. 

Thanks again to the wonderful artist Cope, who has made this little paradise for birds and bird photographers alike.


YES! Yes yes yes yes.

I was playing the *try to get the fluttering, zipping, zooming bird in focus* game with Pine Siskins at a thistle feeder this Winter. Enormously challenging and entertaining. Digital photography has changed everything and made me into an obsessed thing. And trying to convince the lens that it's the bird, not the branch, that you're interested in is... well.

I would love to see all these bright beautiful things in Costa Rica! I do hope you're doing it again next year. I'm giving it a serious think...

Do it Kimb! You won't be sorry!

The way you described the hummer doing yoga in the sun made me think you DID do yoga. You sounded very much like the teacher. What a great trip you had. Thanks, as always, for sharing!

The nearest I've been to yoga is enjoying Yogi Bear and Boo Boo and the only video game I came close to mastering was Pong.

Now that you know how ancient I am, I confess to being guilty of the sin of Envy. I covet your Hummingbird images!

What wondrous jewels they are. No wonder it's difficult to think of them as "birds".

Watching the tiny hummers at my feeder, my first thought was how fragile they look. This thought was eventually dispelled, when I saw how they would chase their rivals away from the feeder, scolding them in a voice that outstrips their diminutive size. I hardly ever see them perch, so it was a treat to view the pictures of your hummer "doing yoga" in the sun.

Posted by Anonymous March 15, 2015 at 6:15 PM

My neighbor has several hanging liquid feeders and all day all you hear is the sharp chrips, trills and 'shouts' of them as they quarrel with each other and chase.

I have just flowers & such in my yard (as I know myself too well and wouldn't be regular refilling) and my favorite thing is to watch them get bugs. Starting high then sort of raining down in a zig zag, flitting their tails and wings. Hummers are really magic.

My lens has an affinity for branches and vines when I am focusing (mentally at least) on birds and critters.

Your pictues are awesome.


Wonderful photos, creative thoughts! Having taken a yoga class or two, I also heard the calm yoga instructor voice providing the explanation of movements. Fully appreciated this post on multiple levels...time to do some stretching. Kim in PA

Posted by Anonymous March 17, 2015 at 6:00 AM
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