Enough with the cute and furry, it is time for some fabulous feathered friends. So today, say hello to some hummers. Not those humungous ugly brutes of the vehicular world, but the darling, sweet and oh so gorgeous hummingbirds of the Ecuadorian cloud forest.
What can I tell you about these flying jewels of the forest? These diminutive birds are usually first heard rather than seen. They whiz by your head, so fast that all that is left in their wake is the hum that is their namesake. Your head spins from one branch to another, one tree to the next as you desperately attempt to pinpoint the hum and discover the tiny bird. Once you do, they will take your breath away. Emerald greens and ruby reds, flashes of amethyst purples and golden browns.
These amazing little creatures live on a diet of sugary nectar and any small arthropods that they can glean from the foliage around them. This high energy diet feeds their high energy life styles. Their wings can beat up to 100 times per second, and their teeny little hearts can beat over 1200 times per minute.
They appear so fragile and delicate, but in reality, these are tough and feisty birds, willing to take on any rival. Their mating flights are breathtaking, as they fly high into the air and then dive vertically down at breakneck speeds. If another male comes along, all hell breaks loose. Kamikazi gems zooming through the forest, up, down, in between trees, through impossibly small gaps in the canopy, one following another, chasing, fighting like little spitfires. It is all quite breathtaking and just incredible to watch.
Hummingbirds have one of the highest metabolisms of any animal and to fuel all this activity, your average hummingbird has to consume their own weight in nectar everyday. The energy is burnt off so quickly that a hummingbird has to feed everyday or risk starving to death. To conserve their energy reserves, they cay can enter a kind of torpor, where their heart and breathing rates drop dramatically, so reducing their energy needs.
Photographing these tiny torpedoes was not easy. They are just so fast and by the time that you have focussed your ridiculously long lens on one of them, it has buggered off. It really doesn't help when you have a colleague with you who is not taking photos. He will just sit there and keep shouting out:
"Over there.....no, over there.....ooooh, get that one.....did you get it, did you?........There's one.......no, it is over there now......."
etc etc, you get the idea.
My only advice in this situation is to slap them around the head and suggest that they go and investigate the jungle. If that does not work, take their rather large volume of the Birds of Ecuador and wallop them with it. That should work. If that doesn't work, take said ID book and huck it into the jungle - they will do anything to get their beloved book back, and it should give you at least a few minutes of peace and quiet.