Going to the Huembo Reserve for the second time in three months was an emotional experience for me. I had been counting the days waiting to get back here. I am not sure why I feel so connected to the Marvelous Spatuletail Hummingbird. If people really have "spirit animals" I would have to conclude that this bird is mine. It is my totem.
When I was here in October, I got to photograph two males who came to the feeders. But I specifically came back here again in January during the breeding season because I wanted to sit in the lek and watch the mating ritual of these birds first hand. I've probably watched that BBC David Attenborough video a hundred times. But now it was time to witness this marvel with my own eyes.
We arrived at the reserve and were greeted by Santos Montenegro Tantajulca, the coordinator of Huembo Lodge for ECOAN. Santos was a farmer and now is a bird expert. He probably knows more about the Marvelous Spatuletail Hummingbird than anyone else in the world.
Huembo Reserve is an ecological easement near the town of Pomacochas in the Department of Amazonas. The property is owned by The Association Ecosistemas Andinos ECOAN which was purchased with private donations through ECOAN and the American Bird Conservancy. The mission of ECOAN is to preserve and protect species of flora and fauna in danger of extinction. The Marvelous Spatuletail Hummingbird is the star of Huembo and this little bird now has its territory protected so it can thrive and reproduce.
We checked into our rooms and planned to be up early and weather permitting hike to the lek. Over the next three days we would photograph both at the lek and at the feeders set up at the reserve.
Santos Montenegro Tantajulca
Coordinator Huembo Lodge for ECOAN
Early in the morning we got up and got ready to hike to the lek, and I was excited beyond belief. The Huembo Reserve is situated at an elevation of about 7000 feet (2000m) so the hike up to the lek had this "sea-level woman" huffing and puffing, but it was worth every gasp! Upon arrival I could already hear the faint clicking sound that the males make with their beaks when they are performing for the ladies. We all settled in to see what photographs and video we could get.
The BBC apparently took 16 days to film that wonderful video of the Spatuletail's display and the video below gives you an idea why. First of all, these birds are TINY. They really look like large insects with long tails. Also, they like to display in this tangled mess of sticks, leaves and dead ferns. They do not make it easy to take their picture, which explains why there are not a lot of really great photographs of them.
Can you spot the birds in this video?
I started out trying to take some close-up video, but I quickly learned that I should stick with still photography, which is what I do best. William Orellana, my guide from Beaks and Peaks Birding and Adventure Tours in Honduras, is a much better videographer than I am. His fabulous video which was shot through his spotting scope is below.
There are two areas at the Huembo Reserve set up with hummingbird feeders where several species including the Marvelous Spatuletail feed. The picture below will show you how tiny the Spatuletail is compared with the Bronzy Inca, which is an average-sized hummingbird.
Other Hummingbirds that frequent the flowers around the lodge are the Little Woodstar and the Green-tailed Trainbearer.
Another beautiful hummingbird would come to the feeders and this is a new species for me. The Purple-throated Sunangel liked to perch in a spot close to the feeders and allowed me to get a few pictures of him with his gorget shining.
Leaving Huembo was again an emotional experience. I had tears in my eyes most of the way down from my last visit to the lek. I will be back, though. In a couple of years I will return to Huembo just to hang out with these incredible creatures.