Thursday 31 October 2013

St Lucia Hummingbirds

I like Hummingbirds a lot, they're simply brilliant. Much of my time here has been spent watching them, listening to their buzzing as they zip from flower to flower, admiring how they deftly flex their bodies into curves to change direction, up, down, side to side, seemly with little or no effort, skilfully positioning themselves perfectly in line with the entrance. Unlike Tobago, there are no feeders here so you don't see the birds as frequently, but after a few days you get to know which flowers they prefer. Thunbergia is a clear favourite, interesting that it doesn't originate in the Caribbean at all. There are three species here, the Green-throated Carib, the Purple-throated Carib, and the Antillean Crested Hummingbird - this latter is easily the most numerous, at least where we are staying down near the sea. There are a few Green-throateds around, but the Purple-throated seems to prefer higher altitudes which is where we saw them on a rare foray away from the hotel

Purple-throated Carib

I've just checked my list on Bubo, and I've only seen ten species of Hummingbird - clearly this isn't enough. My field guide to the West Indies has two pages of them, and my guide to Trinidad and Tobago had several more. In both instances though, the number of species on the island that mattered was very small. I really need to go to Trinidad and Costa Rica, either of these places would bump up my paltry total considerably. Trinidad for example has around 17 species, of which 13 would be new. Asa Wright is definitely calling, unfortunately not for some time I suspect. I'll get there though, I'll get there.

female Antillean Crested Hummingbird
But you take what you can get, and on the basis that there are none in Wanstead or anywhere else I've been lately, this place is pretty damn wonderful. In addition to simply marvelling at the birds, I've also been doing a bit of stalking. The whole flash set up that I had envisaged is basically useless as you can't be as mobile, and I can't be bothered to stake out one particular flower that a bird might visit once every 30 minutes. With the feeders you could guarantee constant activity, and be ready for it, but here the tactic has been to quickly spot a Hummer coming in, and then getting ready on the group of flowers it is visiting - just like bees they tend to visit most of the flowers on a bush or plant, so if you're quick you can get into position as they start their round. Generally I am far from quick enough, but gradually I am getting some worth keeping, at least until I get home and see them on a real screen.

Green-throated Carib

The Antillean Crested Hummer is the smallest of the three, and the crest is quite extraordinary. Sideways on, as you can see below, it's just a few spiky feathers - a bad hair day. But face on, and if caught in the sun, the true iridescence becomes visible - it is indescribably blinding. I've not yet managed to capture this entirely satisfactorily, but the final two photos below show what I am talking about.



  1. If you get to Costa Rica, the Hummingbird Cafe in Monteverde is a must.

  2. What a beautiful place to visit, really enjoyed looking at your hummingbirds, a stunning set of pictures Jonathan.

  3. Can't believe you are unhappy with your hummingbird photos Jonathan! Simply stunning.

  4. Hi Jonathan! I love your photos! One of my favorite places to visit is St. Lucia. Last year (January) I photographed a hummer from behind. The tail was black, low back was light blue or turquoise and the upper back and head was emerald green. What kind of hummer do you think is was? And, do you have an instagram page?

  5. Superb. Love the Antillean Crested Hummer photos showing the irridesence of the great.