Monday, July 13, 2009

Hard Drives and Hummingbirds

Monday, July 13, 2009
Female ruby-throated hummingbird at our kitchen feeder. Photo by Phoebe Linnea Thompson (teenaged kidcaster).

I have a LOT of trouble managing the number of photographs on my computer. It seems that at least once a week my trusty MacBook Pro gives me a message that makes my heart sink:

Your computer's hard drive is nearly full. Please delete some files or it's gonna crash like last time and you'll be reduced to a pile of blubbering flesh because you've lost everything on your computer. And by the way, when are you going to start doing regular back-ups? I don't know why you have me so clogged up with your bird images. They are really not that good. Any photographer worth his or her salt would trash at least 96% of the shots you are currently keeping. Loser! OK I'm done now.

And then there are those times, like this morning, when I'm trolling through a recent batch of images downloaded from my camera and I come across an image that may not be perfect in terms of focus, composition, or subject matter, but it's still cool enough to keep.

Like the two images in this post.

I'm fairly certain that Phoebe took them with my short-lens camera, shooting out our kitchen window. I'm thrilled that she likes to take pictures—and she's pretty good at it. I thought that these two hummer shots were nothing special, that is, until I noticed that the camera captured just enough of the hummingbird's wing motion to hint at the horizontal figure-8 pattern each flap of the wings describes. In Phoebe's photos, you can see faint lines where the camera caught the edge of the wing for a fraction of a second.

This unique motion not only provides the bird great lift it also allows it to hover in place, to fly backwards, and upside down. Sources state varying rates of wingbeats per second for hummingbirds. Bigger hummers beat their wings more slowly, smaller ones more rapidly. Our ruby-throated hummingbird female here is probably beating her wings at a rate between 50 and 60 beats per second. Yes, per second (and this is not my computer talking). With power and speed like that it's no wonder they can hover and fly like tiny buzz bombs. And it's more understandable why they need such a high-energy diet to keep their motors running.

You can watch a movie of this wing stroke pattern here on

Now it's time for me to dump more photos off my computer, which is beating its wings far too slowly. Maybe I should pour some sugar water in the keyboard?


On July 13, 2009 at 4:49 PM brdpics said...

I hear you- did a hard drive transplant earlier this year to double my capacity and it bought me some time. Next time you are in Boulder, I'll take you to the Mac Shack and they'll fix you up!!

On July 13, 2009 at 8:18 PM Julie Zickefoose said...

hard drive transplant...tell us more.

Schmoker, are you the Hard Drive Keymaster?

If my three-week-and-counting stay in Computer Hell has caused you to move toward regular backups and dump some files, perhaps it has all been worth it.

On July 13, 2009 at 10:08 PM Dave Lewis said...

I lost a hard drive and a number of pics last year. BACK IT UP NOW!!
I have a 'My Book' external drive now with a program that automatically updates every photo when they are loaded or edited. Good for lazy people like me.
When are you getting Phoebe her own camera?

On July 13, 2009 at 10:42 PM Weedpicker Cheryl said...

Sad but true, I had to add a second hard drive on my computer just to hold the photos.

The good news: works like a charm :)


On July 14, 2009 at 9:18 AM Alison Dale said...

I hear you! It's hard to part with many of my files especially the photos. I like to keep them close at hand. Backing up to discs is the answer for me. Still keeps them close but off my hard drive. By the way, I very much enjoy the photos on your blog. If you want to dump some, you can dump them my way. I can always use good bird pics!