A Hummingbird Story

Elachee friend and photographer Joe Berry recently posted a Facebook series of nature photos he shot while documenting a nesting Hummingbird. We reached out to Joe, asking him to share more details and to specifically put into perspective how his Georgia Master Naturalist training helped him capture these rare images.

Elachee’s Georgia Master Naturalist program doesn’t promise to transform our students into encyclopedias of information about the region’s plants, animals and natural processes,” explains Peter Gordon, Elachee Director of Education. “Instead, it’s our hope that this course will teach them to see the natural world in a different, more informed way that celebrates the extraordinary natural diversity that exists in our region. If a student already possesses a passion for the natural world, we try to give them the means to articulate it.” Elachee friend and photographer Joe Berry captures a Hummingbird sipping nector.

Following is Joe’s Hummingbird story:

As I silently slipped across the lake early one June morning, I reflected on the Georgia Master Naturalist class that I had just completed at Elachee; how it had opened my eyes to the smallest beautiful details of nature all around me. The past ten weeks (taking this course), I rediscovered how to stop and take “a closer look,” to see all those parts of nature that work together in so many ways that you could never finish your discovery.

For some time I’ve given thought to how my photography efforts should be spent capturing images typically found in hunting and fishing publications. Images that would make my dad, who had raised me hunting and fishing, proud.

During this time of reflection I noticed small red objects floating on the surface of the lake some distance away. I raised my camera to take a closer look, recognizing trumpet vine blooms that had fallen into the lake from an overhanging tree.

I had seen these blossoms before, but this time they brought back memories of hearing Dr. Leslie Edwards, a guest instructor at Elachee’s Georgia Master Naturalist course. She had explained the area’s orientation to the sun and slope, combined with the soil composition and climate, that give rise to certain plants at the base of the food chain. These then become the food and shelter for specific insects, birds and animals we see and hear.

This particular morning, I witnessed a Ruby Throated Hummingbird drawn to a blooming trumpet vine in search of nectar. I turned the silent trolling motor head to take me closer. After a few cycles of her coming and going, I noticed that she left the blooms and went to a Red Oak tree, where she hovered a second then disappeared into the foliage. Several minutes later she would come out and back to the blooms. Elachee friend and photographer Joe Berry captures a nesting Hummingbird 

On a hunch I went over to investigate and my hunch proved correct. Her nest was on a branch above the water. I had never seen a Hummingbird nest before and might not have spotted it had she not been perched in it incubating the eggs!

My research revealed that the nest is made of white fibers the Hummingbird gathers from dandelions and thistles, bound together and to the tree limb with spider silk that she collects. She then camouflages it with lichens.

This bird seemed shy and leery of me hanging around, so I moved away. In the weeks that followed, I made five more brief visits to document the nesting. Although I never saw the tiny eggs, I could tell when she started feeding her babies. In no time their beaks were showing over the edge of the nest. On my next nest visit, one of the babies had fledged and only one remained, almost as big as an adult but with a shorter beak. My last visit to the nest was a month later and it was empty; right on schedule with my research.

To view Joe Berry’s Facebook photo gallery documenting the nesting Hummingbird, visit http://bit.ly/2tVz2Rx.

“I never imagined how many lives Elachee touches until week after week seeing the day’s activities winding down as I we had our (Georgia Master Naturalist) class,” Joe comments. “I can’t imagine what a positive difference those lives will make in our future. I hope you understand how important I think the Elachee mission is.”

Life Long Learning at Elachee

Elachee offers three seasonal Life Long Learning Program series geared for adults. 

  • In October, Elachee will present the 5-session Historical Hikes Program led by Sylwester Ratowt, Elachee’s historian and part time faculty at the University of North Georgia-Gainesville. REGISTRATION DETAILS
  • The third Thursday of each month from November through February, Elachee will present the Brown Bag Lectures, a guest lecture series featuring natural history, environmental policy and areas of interest regarding the natural world. DATES/DETAILS
  • The Georgia Master Naturalist Course will kick off its 11-session program series in late March 2018. Students explore local habitats and ecosystems in this interactive through a combination of indoor lectures and outdoor field experiences.

Call 770-535-1976 for more information.