Frustration in the Enchanted Garden
By Jose Miguel Gomez
We reached the Enchanted Garden looking for the more than 24 species of hummingbird that lived there. What a surprise it was to actually find them concentrated in a small space where they drank sugary water put out in feeders to attract them.
The birds were so small that any one of them could easily fit into the palm of my hand. Their wings produced a unique sound, especially when they dipped downward and changed speed. I thought about doing a story on these birds that can’t walk but can hover in one spot like a helicopter, and then disappear in a flash behind a tree.
Leonor Pardo has been using nearly a ton of sugar each month since she created the Enchanted Garden. She first put out the sweet syrup and suddenly these hungry, swift creatures just appeared.
They drink the syrup to take to their young, or to continue their hyperactive lives. It was easy to watch them as they darted among the 25 different feeders, visiting all one after another. The problem photographing them was with their speed and wing movement, which threw off my camera’s focus.
It took a lot of concentration to learn to anticipate their movements, and predict when they would arrive at the different fountains. They weren’t all photogenic. I had to search for the tiniest of them, or look for ones with the white breasts, or exotic colors.
At one point I placed a camera on a tripod and aimed it at a fixed point, hoping the birds would appear just there. I could tell they were wary of the big, black machine next to the fountain, and the sound of my shutter would frighten them. I ended up camouflaging the camera with a sheet of red paper, to make it blend in with the garden, and with a remote shutter release I took the shots when the birds approached the point I had focused on. In the end I didn’t take one good picture that way.
We decided to take away some of the feeders, so they would go to the ones which were better positioned for me, but the opposite happened. The birds stayed away from the precise feeders that I hoped they would use.
Tired of taking so many photos with little success, I glanced at the empty area where the other feeders had been and saw that the hummingbirds were concentrating there, fluttering briefly about before racing away. At one point a falcon flew past and the hummingbirds just disappeared for a few moments.
Later that afternoon it took a lot of work to edit the photos because in the end, I would have liked to have better images. I thought, maybe, that taking the ideal photo was nearly impossible because they are so elusive; they are saving that best of images for themselves, in the Enchanted Garden.