Readers’ wildlife photographs

August 19, 2014 • 5:59 am


No, you won’t see that bird today, though it’s constantly in my sight (in fact, it’s sitting on my desk).  But here are some gorgeous shots 0f another bird from reader and biologist Lou Jost. His comments are indented.

Here is a different species of Violetear than the one I rescued (though I’ve had this one stuck in my house as well). It is the Sparkling Violetear, Colibri coruscans (the genus name was apparently the local word for “hummingbird” among the extinct Taino tribe on Haiti, where Europeans would have made early contact with hummers. Today “colibri” is also the most common Spanish term for “hummingbird” used in the highlands of Ecuador).


This one has a violet-blue belly while the other local violetear, the Green Violetear, is smaller and has a green belly.

The Sparkling Violetear is the dominant hummer here, and he has taken over the abutilon I planted in front of my kitchen window. He mostly just sits there resting, or chasing away other birds, and flashing his violet ears when excited; he hardly seems to take the time to actually eat. Maybe he is staking out this high-value tree in order to attract a mate. Some male hummers allow females access to their defended resources in exchange for sex, so maybe he is waiting for a mate to wander by.


The golden crown is just pollen from the abutilon [JAC: the flower]. His head is plastered with it.


Sometimes when he is not in sight, another species, the Buff-tailed Coronet (Boissonneaua flavescens), visits the same tree but sticks its head into the flower above the stamens, instead of below them like the violetear (you can see how the violetear does it in my flight photo). This gives the coronet a golden pollen-dusted throat instead of a golden crown.



The photos are all taken in natural light through the glass of my kitchen window, so not as sharp as they could be. The camera is a Panasonic Lumix FZ200. This is an interesting camera, with the equivalent of a 600mm f2.8 lens, something unheard of in 35 mm photography (though these “equivalents” aren’t really fair, as the comparison to 35 mm lenses should also include the number of pixels in the sensor). It is a wonderful camera for casual bird pics, and weighs next to nothing (a 600mm lens for 35mm photography weighs many kilograms!)


37 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photographs

    1. No, those are insulated wires that I used to stake the “feeder” (the Abutilon tree I planted). We have strong winds here and the tree was breaking.

  1. Outstanding photos. You keep that window clean!

    I have a Panasonic Lumix FZ200 also, that I carry in the car and while fishing, for impromptu photography. It’s an excellent camera in its class (bridge cameras). The f2.8 maximum aperture over the entire zoom range is an impressive feature. It doesn’t match modern DSLRs, which of course are far more expensive, but it’s my choice for convenience and range of features.

    1. I’m glad to know that even you (who sets the standard here in wildlife photography) use this camera sometimes. I used to haul around giant Nikon ED lenses to the tops of mountains twenty or thirty years ago, but it is too hard now, and I have too many other things (mostly botanical) to focus on when I am in the forest. But this little camera has revived my ability to take bird pictures, and I am very glad for that!

    2. Stephen, how do you find it for dust ingestion?

      The zoom range and f/2.8 is very tempting. I have a LUMIX LX5 which I love (though I love my wife’s LX7 even more).

      Shoots RAW as well. Looks like a fine machine.

      Does it have optical stabilization? How well does the OS work? (I’ve become rather addicted to it on my SIGMA 150-500 lens.)


      1. I haven’t had it long or used it much, so I can’t say about dust. It has optical stabilization. The biggest drawback for me, compared to my DSLR, is the responsiveness of the AF, which makes it impractical for birds in flight.

        The lens wildlife photographers are talking about now is the Tamron 150-600mm.

      2. I can answer that. No dust can reach the sensor, and yes, it has optical stabilization. It is not water-proof though, and needs some care. For macro work, a multi-element close-up lens like the ones sold by Raynox is very helpful, attached not to the lens but to an optional accessory tube made for this camera by Panasonic.

        The downside is the software and the lack of genuine manual focussing. The manual also sucks. But there is a wonderful series of videos on Youtube about it.

        Best tip picked up from Youtube: you can quickly get the thing into its narrowest spot-focusing mode (absolutely essential for bird photography) by pressing the “focus” button on the side of the lens, then releasing it and rotating the option dial toward the viewfinder. With practice this can all be done in a single instinctive motion as you turn on the camera and raise it to your eye. This is necessary because the camera forgets the size of the focusing spot when turned off or even when woken from sleep mode, and goes into its default wide-focusing area. This is a maddeningly stupid behavior.

        Last month a new version, the FZ1000, came out with a much bigger sensor, but with a lens that drops to f4 at its longest zoom range. May be worth checking out. I’d check how they dealt with the focus-spot issue before buying it. If someone has access to a store with a real version, I’d love to hear about whether it shares this issue with the FZ200.

          1. It’s criminally negligent that Panasonic doesn’t allow you to save the narrowest spot focus setting. What were they thinking? And the manual? Forget about it. On-line only.

  2. I made a mistake in the text I sent Jerry, when I mentioned a “Buff-winged Coronet”. Jerry naturally assumed I had meant “Buff-tailed Coronet”, but actually I had gotten the first part of the name right and misremembered the “Coronet” part. I meant the “Buff-winged Starfrontlet”, Coeligena lutetiae.

    1. Yes, sometimes it fluffs up into a turquoise ball, as in the second-last picture, and even closes its eyes. Other times it is sleek and alert as in the last picture.

  3. When I lived in Illinois I raised a fair number of Abutions. I kept them under lights in the winter, and put them outside in the summer. They would actually reseed and come up from seed the next spring. I tried to raise some in Venezuela, but the leafcutter ants got them. Here the deer eat them, so I am no longer fooling with them. Beautiful and interesting plants.

    1. They drive hummingbirds wild here, even though this species does not seem to be native to my area. Hummers are curious and quick learners, and soon make them the centers of their little worlds.

      Birds which can’t hover are unable to get to the nectar from the front of the flower, but these too adore my Abutilons. One group, the flowerpiercers, have evolved pronged beaks to stab the flowers from the back and suck the nectar out. Here in my yard the White-sided Flowerpiercer is the main culprit. Hummingbirds hate these cheating flowerpiercers and attack them furiously. Other birds without the special beak, like the honeycreepers, use the holes made by the flowerpiercers to suck out the rest of the nectar. Even short-billed hummingbirds that can’t reach the nectar from the front of the flower cheat by going in from the back (in spite of the armour the plant uses to protect the backs of its flowers).

      Even insects get into the act. Big bees can drill holes in the backs of these flowers. And butterflies have learned to find these holes and suck nectar from them as well.

      It’s fun to grow such a biologically active plant!

      1. Beautiful pics and fascinating stories about both the birds and this interesting flower & its determined nectar thieves!

        Are hummingbirds the primary pollinator of abutilons?

  4. Indeed, beautiful shots! For anyone interested in further information about the derivation of “colibri”, I offer the following from the Kluge “Etymologishes Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache” (my translation):

    Kolibri: When the French occupied the island of Cayenne in 1634, they found huge numbers of the hummingbird species Lapornis gramineus, called “col-ib(a)ri” (“shining surface”) in the later extinct Galibi language of the island, by reason of the shining green of the lower half of the head.

    (“Kolibri” is German for hummingbird.)

  5. It is a valid observation that focal length does not tell the whole story about resolving power. As noted, the ‘number of pixels’ matters too! I prefer to report ‘pixels per degree’ as a first-order measure of resolution. Of course, a quality lens will actually resolve more than a poorer, lens, where ‘pixels per degree’ are equal.

    I have been known to take pictures of a tape measure, from a known distance, to calculate ‘pixels per degree’ fairly precisely.

    I then can use this bit of photogrammetry knowledge to calculate the size of birds I photograph, when I know the distance to them (sometimes reported in the EXIF data).

  6. Lovely photos. The first one is such a fluff ball!

    I was tempted by that camera a few months ago but was too cheap and ended up buying a lighter lens for my Sony NEX-6 (for use while walking around). Looks like it’s a great camera and that f/2.8 at all zoom ranges is a great feature.

    1. Actually the outside of the window is pretty dirty. The trick is to put the lens very close to the glass and keep it nearly perpendicular to the plane of the window.

  7. Whoa, simply breathtaking. Trying to drink in that much beauty feels, well, spiritual. In a natural kind of way. Hmmm, can we co-op the word spiritual if we call it “natural spirituality”?

    1. The awe we feel of the natural world could be called spiritual, but I don’t like the word because it implies supernatural spirits. The natural world, sans spirits, is enough for my feelings of awe. The invocation of spirits cheapens it.

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