BASICS: "Hummingbirds.....where is the person, I ask, who, on observing this glittering fragment of the rainbow, would not pause, admire, and turn his mind with reverence..." (J. J. Audubon).
This is a blog about my summer life at the Baiting Hollow Hummingbird Sanctuary, at my winter garden, Calypso, in the Bahamas, and aspects of life in general.
This private sanctuary is now permanently closed to the general public, as a result of a lawsuit brought by a neighbor. Only my friends and personal guests may visit (

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Hummer meets Drone

Some of my readers know, from previous posts, that I operate a small drone (a DJI Spark) - essentially a flying camera. It's great fun, very small, maneuverable (with practice) and remarkably resilient. The reason I got it was because Fred, my resident male hummingbird, is easily seen when he's on his favorite perch, at the tippy top of a dead pine tree. I think he likes this spot because he gets a splendid view of the western valley, and can easily spot intruders approaching his territory. But although he's often there, in full view, he's very tiny, because the closest I can get is about 100 feet away - and my best view,  from the back deck, is even further. In fact he's just a speck, though clearly a hummingbird. Even with my strongest zoom (30X), one cannot film him well - here's an example, using my Canon Vixia with a supplemental 1.5 teleconverter lens (which vignettes the image at low zoom):

My plan was to fly a camera much closer to Fred on his tree-top throne. This didn't quite work out last year, because I got the drone rather late in the season, when Fred was spending less time on this perch, and it also took me a long time to learn to maneuver the drone well (I'm still rather clumsy). But this year Fred is back on his perch, and I'm making progress. My main worry was that Fred would attack the drone and get hurt, but he doesn't - it does bother him when it gets too close, and he just flies off, but he often flies off for other reasons too. Here's an example.

The drone is initially looking at the top of the dead pine tree and behind the pine you see the back cabin "Hummingbird Cottage" on whose deck I sit and operate the drone.  In the first half of the video I swing the drone around the tree top until it's almost looking from my vantage point on the deck, then back again. One can clearly see the 2 topmost tips of the pine, and on one tip there's a short horizontal twig which provides this perfect perch. However in the first half of the video Fred is away. I then start to move the drone closer, and suddenly Fred arrives and settles down, clearly unfazed by the drone at this distance. But then I start to move the drone even closer and Fred takes off again. Even when the drone is quite close the wide-field camera on the drone doesn't really allow as a good a view as the telephoto Vixia at a much greater distance. I will have to get closer!

I'll end up with a drone video of the beach below the sanctuary (shot last year shortly after Hurricane Jose,which effaced the horrible vehicle ruts).

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