I love hummingbirds! (I mean, who doesn't?) 

And living in San Diego, we have several varieties that live here or visit during the year.  During a recent visit to the Safari Park (formerly Wild Animal Park), I spent time in one of my favorite corners of the park, the Native California section of the World Gardens.  It's usually very quiet up there, especially on a weekday, and a perfect place to sit and watch the hummingbirds.

The sign explains a bit about the four most common hummingbirds found in San Diego County, and we managed to see Black-Chinned Hummingbirds and several Anna's.  My husband took this photo of Anna's Hummingbird -- and that's pretty much how you see them, a blur whirring from flower to flower.


(We also saw several Tarantula Hawks, very scary-looking giant -- at least an inch long! --blue-black wasps with orange wings -- they are pollinators, so little threat to us...but still, don't mess with them...)










Before we lived in California, we had only seen hummingbirds at a distance, but we quickly noticed that there are hummingbirds all year round in San Diego.  They chatter in the trees, dart from flower to flower and hover to feed from the neighbor’s glorious orange penstemon.  When my husband waters the back garden, a certain hummingbird likes to drink from the spray – and if he is in the garden without the water, this hummingbird scolds him!

There are at least 2 varieties of hummingbirds in our backyard – Anna’s and Allen’s.  Although, the Allen’s might be Rufous ) since they look so similar.  The Anna’s Hummingbirds live here all year round while the Allen’s arrives in the fall to stir things up at the feeder before continuing their journey South.

Anna’s hummingbirds apparently used to migrate from Mexico to Canada, but with our mild climate and year-round flowers and feeders, they have become the dominant hummingbird species in San Diego County.  And that makes me happy because they are such cheeky little birds.  They are a delight to watch and aren’t as aggressive as Allen’s hummingbirds which chase everyone away from the feeders.

Hummingbird feathers are amazing!  Recent research has identified structures called melanosomes in feathers.  It’s what makes bird feathers iridescent.  The best analogy for melanosomes is soap bubbles. They are colorless but reflect a rainbow of color.  Hummingbirds have longer and flatter melanosomes than other birds and that makes their feathers shift colors so dramatically as the light changes. 

I wanted to celebrate our local hummingbirds and so I chose Anna's, Rufous (I'd already done an Allen's), Costa's, and Black-chinned. I collected paper for the background -- and each in the series shares paper from the same sources: Mexican recipes, San Diego Tourist literature, guitar finger exercises, and local maps.  Then I added sheer paint and texture on top - two blue panels and two green panels.  And then I coated them in a "fauxcaustic" mix to give a subtle sheen of either gold (for the green panels) or blue (for the blue panels).

Then I added the sketches of the birds and colored them in with acrylic paint.

I wanted to show the difference between the body feathers and iridescent feathers of the gorget (throat). It’s really difficult to convey that color-shifting quality in paint and paper, but I tried using layers of color and shimmer. And even mixed duochrome glitter with gel medium to get that sparkly effect.

It's very hard to capture the shimmer and shine of this paper!


Then I tore tiny circles to simulate the feathers. 


It made me appreciate the dramatic beauty of the tiny flying jewels in my backyard even more.

I hope you have hummingbirds in your area... and if not, I hope invite some of mine into your home!