A YEAR ON PLANET EARTH
ITV & Plimsoll Productions
Director of Photography
I had not heard of or seen the Costa's hummingbird courtship display until Plimsoll enquired about filming the behaviour and when I first saw it, it certainly did not disappoint, an incredible mix of aerial acrobatics and dazzling colours. After flying close in front of the female, the male raises his feathers around his face and neck, so that his head almost resembles a squid or a starfish and by displaying to the perfect angle to the sun the erect feathers reflect with maximum magical purple iridescence.
Director, Adrian Seymour, Jessica Suarez and I, travelled to Palm Springs, Boyd Deep Canyon Reserve in February 2022 during Costas hummingbirds breeding season. A beautiful desert reserve in the foothills of the Santa Rosa mountains, very dry except for occasional flash floods and monsoon rains, throughout it cacti and bright red chuparosa plants dotted the sandy landscape. Straight away the hummingbirds were hypnotic to watch, I was fascinated watching their behaviour, they never stopped for a rest, relentlessly feeding and disputing over territories which held the most chuparosa flowers. Luckily for us it was quickly apparent that the males were keen to display so we needed to act fast to capture the behaviour. Females would move between territories feeding on the plants, giving the waiting male a chance to show off his display. First he would fly at incredible speed in repeating large circular flight patterns, flying high up in the air and back down again in front of the female, whilst singing a piercing note. Almost impossible to film and to see, because it was so fast and so small but you could almost visualise the circle of flight from the change in the acoustics of the shrill note. If the female was interested then she decided to hang around, at which point the male would fly in very close to her and perform his courtship dance.
It was very challenging to film as the hummingbirds moved so fast and when they did display it was often only for seconds or they would fall behind a bush. After much persistence we managed to film some displays and very interesting behaviour for the sequence, using a mix of macro, VEO slow motion, and a jib for swinging fast movement. It was fantastic to work with Adrian, Jess and the Boyd deep canyon research team. The full sequence can be seen on ITVX at the beginning of the spring episode of A Year on Planet Earth.
All Photographs by Jessica Suarez.
Projects | A Year on Planet Earth. Humming bird sequence