A Hummingbird Story
Featuring hummingbird pictures and nest cam footage discover the making of the award-winning documentary, First Flight: A Mother Hummingbird's Story.
When we first encountered Honey, a female black-chinned hummingbird, it was April 2002 and the fragrant star jasmine was in bloom. It was the day we moved from our photo studio in New York City to our house in Las Vegas. We noticed a handwritten sign on the back porch, with an arrow pointing up: “Be Careful! Hummingbird’s Nest Above!”
As we looked up, Honey flew in. Her tiny nest, about the size of a walnut, was built on a clothesline, with an old clothespin as a stabilizer. Excited, we grabbed our photo equipment and started setting it up. Honey curiously hovered over us to inspect each new item popping up around her nest.
Not long after that, we saw her gripping the edges of the nest. Soon one pearly white egg, then a day later a second, emerged from her tiny body and slipped into the softness of the nest. Each was the size of a coffee bean.
Our strategically mounted cameras captured the many wonders that followed: two minute baby hummingbirds kicking through their paper-thin eggshells, Honey feeding them the nectar and pollen she energetically gathered, and finally the fledglings’ first flight and their own forays into gathering nectar and insects.
But because no wild creature takes direction, it took us three spring nesting cycles to document the complete process to our satisfaction. The result was our 2006 book, First Flight: A Mother Hummingbird’s Story (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $14.95).
We thought that was the end of the story—but Honey came back on the nest and gave us another opportunity. This time we decided to shoot a high-definition video. On the first morning we set up a video camera, Honey flew into the nest as the sun rose slowly, painting her in a pastel glow. It was the most beautiful light a photographer could wish for.
In the process of shooting both the book and the video, and after consultations with ornithologists and birders, we learned more about hummingbirds than we ever dreamed we’d know. The former owner of the house told us that the nest was first built in 2000. It became taller each year as Honey added more reinforcing material, mostly soft plant fibers bound with sticky bits of spiderweb she collected from our porch and yard. When we observed Honey in close-ups, her dedication to her nest and her chicks became even more obvious.
Through the book and the DVD, also called First Flight, Honey’s charm and that of her chicks have captured hearts worldwide. The film has won awards at international wildlife and nature film festivals, and we are currently working on Spanish, French, German and Japanese versions. Though we came to Las Vegas to continue our careers as advertising photographers, the making and marketing of the book and video have put everything else on the back burner.
We finished editing the video in early 2009, and that was the last year we saw Honey on the nest. We’d noticed that, in the last season or two, she seemed to have a bit less energy when she returned from her winter migrations to Mexico, so we knew her visits were numbered.
But we continue to see hummingbirds flittering through our patio and yard. And we have no doubt that among them are Honey’s offspring.
Below is a trailer of First Flight: A Mother Hummingbird's Story. The site also includes ordering information for the book and the DVD.