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Where to Photograph Hummingbirds?

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Last updated March 2011

At Holiday Beach Conservation Area, Ontario, Canada

is located near the western tip of Lake Erie, just east of where the Detroit River empties into Lake Erie. In 2000, Holiday Beach received international recognition by being designated as a globally significant Important Bird Area (IBA).

So why is Holiday Beach such a good location to observe hummingbirds during their fall migration? Since the Great Lakes represent a geographical challenge in their migratory routes, most bird species, including the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, funnel along the north shore of Lake Ontario and Erie rather than take the shorter route across the lakes.

Among the large variety of species that concentrate in the park during fall migration, the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird is probably the hardest to find and the most challenging to photograph, simply due to its size.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird at Holiday Beach, Ontario, Canada
Either a first year male or a female – hard to differentiate the gender only by analyzing the photographs.

These Rubies are the length of my large thumb, roughly 7cm. They are very tiny and fly with incredible speed – up to 65km/h! It’s a unique experience to witness them in flight, chasing each other at high speeds through the dense foliage of the trees.

Your best bet to observe and photograph them in the park is to visit the Hummingbird feeders installed and maintained by the Holiday Beach Migration Observatory (HBMO).

Position your camera gear at a few meters distance from the feeder and remain still to not disturb the birds. Photographing hummingbirds requires lots of patience, good light and fast lenses. For best results, bring a chair, sturdy tripod and your longest (and fastest) telephoto lens. Fill flash is also recommended to lighten the shadows. Select the continuous shooting mode on your camera to capture multiple frames of the hummingbird in flight. When in front of a computer you can then choose the best photographs and discard the failures. Shoot at 1/1250 of a second or faster to freeze the wing motion. Hummingbirds beat their wings around 70 times per second so capturing wing detail in flight requires fast shutter speeds.

Wing span of the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird
These hummingbirds were probably just a few days from leaving southern Ontario and migrate south to wintering grounds as far away as Panama.

What Else Can You Photograph At Holiday Beach Conservation Area?

Links of Interest

How To Get To Holiday Beach Conservation Area

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