Huffman Prairie, as seen last Friday. This 100(ish) acre prairie patch is located at the south end of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio.
Dave Nolin, recently retired Director of Conservation for Five Rivers Metroparks, sent me a few photos of the prairie last week. It looked so spectacular, just nearing peak bloom, that I couldn't wait to go see it in person. So, I took Friday off and was there before daybreak. So amazing was the place that I went back for an encore on Sunday morning. Some photos from these excursions follow.
Once I had my spot picked, I just stayed there. Five hours on Friday, and about four hours on Sunday. Obtaining crisp photos of feeding hummingbirds is no easy task. I find it is best to stay quietly in one spot, and let them come to me. Which they did, on a regular basis. About a dozen times, a nearby hummingbird would suddenly take notice of me and the camera, shoot about ten feet straight up in the air and move closer, and hover for a few seconds obviously checking me out. About half the time, they'd decide they didn't like the large invader and shoot off to some more distant flowers. The other times, they'd seemingly decide I was OK and drop right back down and commence feeding.
I have little problem remaining immobile for long periods when the surrounding environment is as interesting as this prairie. A Blue Grosbeak made the rounds, serenading me with its forceful finchy warble. Two local Common Yellowthroat males routinely delivered their fabulous aerial flight songs at close range. Bobolinks occasionally darted overhead, issuing their pleasing musical pink! pink! call notes. Young Eastern Cottontails nibbled on succulents just down the path. Giant Swallowtails coursed by, and one female paused nearby to deposit eggs on a wafer-ash. And on went the wildlife parade, nonstop. Plus, it was a great opportunity to observe the habits of the hummingbirds. They are easily among our most feisty animals, and if a Ruby-throated Hummingbird was the size of a swan, we'd be in serious trouble. Were they that big, I'm sure I would have been impaled and tossed aside for my transgressions into their turf. As often as not, a hummer would just have set up perfectly for a photo, when another would whir by and the fight would be on! The birds would chase one other at top speed across the prairie, sometimes shooting high into the sky. At one point, an American Robin had the temerity to attempt to wing over the prairie, and a hummingbird (outmassed by 25 times by the comparatively huge thrush) immediately launched skyward and sent it packing.
If you get the opportunity to visit Huffman Prairie in the next week or two, do it. The prairie will still be looking magnificent, and you're sure to see plenty of hummingbirds and other critters.