Anna’s Hummingbird Nest Photo Shoot Walkthrough

A couple weeks ago, I spent about a week working on a small project, photographing Anna’s hummingbird chicks on the nest, as they grew up. It’s been a long time since I’ve posted a photo shoot walkthrough, so I’ll do so with the hummingbird nest, sharing what I saw as the chicks grew up, and the details of how I photographed them.

Please do keep in mind that my narrative about these hummingbirds is conjecture wherein I interpret what I observed, and is not necessarily established fact.

The nest was in a popular location, about eight feet off the road, in front of the ranger station, at the Palo Alto Baylands. Thus, it was a well known nest. It was even marked with a sign about six feet in front of the nest, telling you not to get closer.

I started photographing these hummingbirds when the elder of the two chicks was about fifteen days old, and the younger was presumably about thirteen days old. Anna’s hummingbirds tend to lay two eggs most of the time, and tend to lay them about two days apart. Anna’s hummingbird chicks usually fledge when they are between eighteen and twenty-one days old.

Around two weeks old is about the right time to start photographing the chicks on the nest, for my tastes and purposes. Very young hummingbirds are too small to photograph where they’ll be large in the picture, without using a close up lens from perhaps a foot away – which would be interferentially close. Furthermore, they’re so small that they can’t even be seen over the edge of their tiny nests. Newborn hummingbirds are featherless; their eyes are closed, and they don’t move much. Around two weeks old, they’re large enough for their heads to rise above the edge of the nest; their feathers are noticeably starting to come in; and they’re more aware and more active.

Here’s what they looked like at that age.


Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) Chicks at about 15 Days Old © Mike Spinak

I photographed them from about seven feet away. There was only a clear view of them from the direction of the road. Since they were only about eight feet off the tarmac, I had to be fairly close, in order to avoid standing (with tripod, camera, lens, flash, cable release, and the whole set-up) in the middle of a a moderately well used road. The far side of the road would have been too far away for worthwhile photos, in my opinion, and my view would likely have been blocked by passing traffic at critical moments. These hummingbirds nested just off the road on one side, and just off a footpath on the other side, with a Summer camp full of loud, rambunctious kids at the ranger station yard immediately behind the footpath. The birds were very habituated to human presence, making it possible for me to shoot this close, while they behaved normally.

I used my 300 mm f/4 lens, because it has a minimum focusing distance of just under five feet, while my 600 f/4 has a minimum focusing distance of about 17 feet – which would have forced me to shoot from the middle of the street. Even at only about seven feet away, I used a 2x teleconverterr on my 300 mm lens; thus shooting with the equivalent of a 600 f/8 lens. I used the teleconverter because the chicks and the nest are so small. How small? Small enough that people would walk up to me and ask me what I was photographing, when the nest was right in front of us, not much further than arm’s reach. When I’d answer “a hummingbird nest”, most of them asked, “Where?” When I pointed out where, most of them would say, “I don’t see it.” The nest was that small.

In my estimation, there was only a very small area which was ideally suited to shoot the nest from. If too far to the left, the nest started to be blocked by foliage in the way. If too far to the right, very bright tones in the background, in the direction of the ranger station, gave the pictures an undesirable look. And, as already explained, the road limited how far back I wanted to get. The best spot to shoot the nest was a patch of ground less than three by three feet. I did fairly little moving around or changing angles and positions, with this little project. Capturing the story of the hummingbirds growing up necessarily had more to do with capturing notable moments and behaviors than with using varied angles, positions, and juxtapositions for interpretive effect.

Unfortunately, the ideal spot to photograph the chicks was directly below several black-crowned night heron nests and snowy egret nests. There were frequent “showers” of bird poop filtering down through the leaves onto everything, and my gear and I got directly hit with the full brunt on four separate occasions. That’s the price of being a nature photographer, sometimes. I like to imagine the pictures were worth it.

You can see a fine spray of bird poop coming down, in some of the pictures, such as this one.

Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) Chick Showered in Bird Feces © Mike Spinak

I’ve photographed several other hummingbird nests over the years. This particular nest was the best for photographing of any I’ve ever seen. This was due to several factors.

1) The nest could be photographed with an unobstructed view;

2) The nest was just below eye level;

3) It was possible to get close to the nest;

4) The nest afforded a variety of lighting conditions – full sun in the early morning, mixed light and shadow in the mid morning, full shade in the late morning and onward, and diffuse light when the foggy marine layer came in;

5) This mother fed the chicks more frequently than other hummingbird mothers I’ve seen, feeding the chicks sometimes as often as eight minute intervals, and never (from what I saw) much more than about half-hour intervals;

6) The nest was built on top of a wonderfully photogenic seed pod;

7) The nest was made “the old fashioned way” (i.e., made out of spider webs, pine needles, sticks, lichens, feathers, etc. – all natural materials), while other nests I’ve found have incorporated such things as bits of brightly colored polyethylene tarps, fishing line, and various other unaesthetic bits of garbage.

Here’s an example of a different Anna’s hummingbird nest, with the more typical and photographically problematic obstructed view.

Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) Nest with Obstructed View © Mike Spinak

And here’s an example of a yet different Anna’s hummingbird nest, with ugly bits bits of man-made junk built into it.

Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) Feeding Chicks © Mike Spinak

Since the situation seemed good, I decided to come as much as I could (six days out of the eight days from when I started until the chicks fledged), and try to make as much as I could of the opportunity. As I mentioned in the Red-Tailed Hawk Photo Shoot Walkthrough, great nature photography opportunities often suddenly end due to unpredictable reasons. I could come back, the next day, to find the chicks eaten by herons, egrets, crows, gulls, raccoons, or various other predators. Or perhaps a kid at the Summer camp might take the nest. Or a strong wind could knock it down. And furthermore, such prime opportunities may be very rare – it may be years, if ever, before I have a crack at another hummingbird nest as photogenic as this one. So, I struck while the iron was hot.

My hope was to photograph the chicks as they grew up, until they fledged. I wanted to get lots of details, along the way, showing behaviors and developmental stages. And, of course, I wanted to take artful photos, when possible, as well as documentary.

Part of doing a photo shoot of this kind is clearly articulating to yourself what you want, and what you don’t want, and then keeping all of that in mind, as the situations unfold. For example, one shot that I told myself I wanted was a chick flicking its tongue, with the tongue well lit up in the direct sun, highlighted against a darkly shaded background (as will be shown, further below). One thing I told myself I wanted to avoid was taking shots where shadows from foliage were falling right across the chicks’s eyes.

Ironically, I ended up going the opposite direction – specifically seeking out a perfect shot of a shadow falling across a chick’s eye, just to create an illustration for you, Dear Readers. Here it is:

Anna's Hummingbird Chick (Calypte anna) with Shadow Across Eye © Mike Spinak

The shadow-across-the-eye picture, above, also illustrates something else I tried to mindfully avoid: large, bright, distracting areas in the background.

Yet another thing I tried to avoid, when possible, was convergence between the second chick, in the background, with the chick in the foreground, in a way that looked confusing or strange. So, I might try to avoid shots with the background bird’s beak sticking out from the foreground bird’s body in strange places, like this…

Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) Chick Convergence Example © Mike Spinak

…and strive to get photographs more like this one, instead.

Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) Chick Nonconvergence Example © Mike Spinak

Of course, I threw all such stuff out the window, when necessary in order to capture significant shots, however they happened to occur.

OK, let’s get on with the story:

The chicks got what rest they could while their mother was out getting food. They had a tremendous amount of growth to accomplish between when they hatched from an egg about the size of a pea, weighing a fraction of a gram, and when they were nearly adult sized and nearly fully developed, three weeks or less later. Here they are, getting some rest. You can see in this picture that their beaks were still rather short, their feathers were just starting to come in, and they still had bald pinkish patches on their chest and other areas. The tips of their wing feathers (visible in this picture below and to the camera left of the front chick’s eye, pressed against the front of the nest) were just starting to poke through the sheaths. Hard to believe they’d be ready to fledge in about a week from this, isn’t it?

~15 Day Old Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) Chicks Resting © Mike Spinak

At this point, by the way, they were in rather dark shade, and I was shooting at a mere 1/100th of a second, at ISO 1600, at an aperture of f/10. This allowed me enough light, and just enough depth of field for the nearer chick (even though the farther chick was only a fraction of an inch behind the nearer one). I was uncomfortable with using such a low shutter speed, because hummingbirds move very fast, and I didn’t want motion blur, when their mother came in to feed them. As it turned out, I managed to successfully time the right instant during the feeding, when the mother and chicks were still. (See the second picture down from this.)

Here’s the mother returning from a feeding foray. Here, her belly is full of some flower nectar, and a lot of small insects, to regurgitate for her chicks. On the return to the nest, the mother stopped at several perches, carefully checking that the coast was clear, before coming in to feed. She didn’t want to alert predators to the nest and chicks. This was likely a constant worry for her, since there were black-crowned night heron nests and snowy egret nests almost directly above, just fifteen or so feet away. Pictured here, she’s on a perch, looking for predators, before making a final approach to feed the chicks.

Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) Perched On Needle © Mike Spinak

As she approached, her two hungry chicks became much more lively, fully opening their eyes, and lifting their heads. The feedings were fairly quick. The mother regurgitated down each chick’s throat for about five to ten seconds.

Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) Mother Feeding ~15 Day Old Chicks © Mike Spinak

The next day, the chicks had noticeably longer beaks, though the beaks still had a lot of the yellow coloration (adult beaks are black), and the beaks still had a noticeable remnant of the hooked tip (called an “egg tooth”) the chicks used to peck their way out of their eggs. Their feathering had filled out dramatically, covering their skin much more. Whereas the previous day, just the very tips of their primary, secondary, and tertial wing feathers poked through the sheaths (those white tubes on the wings), this day the tips of the wings were poking out of the sheaths far enough that they were starting to unfurl. The chicks were much more wakeful and aware. They now sat up, open eyed, and opened their mouths and begged for food (called “gaping”).

~ 16 Day Old Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) Chick Gaping © Mike Spinak

At this point, the elder chick was starting to lift its stubby and bare wings a little. I wish I could have made a better picture of this, but I had to take what I could get, when it happened.

~16 Day Old Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) Chick Lifting Its Wings © Mike Spinak

Here’s the mother feeding the elder chick. I shot this at f/10, hoping to keep the birds sharp, while keeping the background noticeably softer, separated from the birds, and less visually confusing. I used a shutter speed of 1/1,250th of a second, to try to prevent motion blur. That might seem like a very fast shutter speed, but it’s actually still fairly borderline, for capturing these extremely fast moving animals. To choose my exposure (before the mother came in) I spot metered on the brightest parts of the nest, and figured the brightest parts of the mother’s white neck feathers would be slightly brighter than that. I pre-focused on the chick’s face, just before the mother came to feed. I knew I’d have to adjust the focus further, from there, when the mother arrived and they moved around – but pre-focusing gave me a close starting point, so that ensuing adjustments would be small and quick to make.

Feeding ~16 Day Old Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) Chick © Mike Spinak

Two days later, the elder chick had lost its baby-like appearance, to my eye. It was still clearly sub-adult, but seemingly more adolescent than infant. The beak was getting darker, losing the egg tooth, and was now perhaps two thirds as long its mother’s. Its feathering covered its body fairly well in all but a few spots, and no longer looked scraggly. The bits of fluffy baby down now stood out sharply from the adult feathers. The elder chick was now so large that it tended to sit on the nest, rather than in the nest. It was also much more alert and aware of its surroundings, especially paying attention to the activities of the egrets and herons nesting above.

~18 Day Old Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) Chick © Mike Spinak

Here’s a family portrait, with the chicks begging their mother for food. You can see that the elder chick, which was nearer to the camera, was getting almost as large as its mother. You can also see that the younger chick was noticeably less developed – smaller, with a shorter beak and patchier feathers.

Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) Family Portrait ~Day 18 © Mike Spinak

The next day, various behaviors were becoming much more prominent, with the elder chick.

These increased behaviors included wing stretches -

~19 Day Old Anna's Hummingbird Chick (Calypte anna) Stretching Its Wings © Mike Spinak

- and tongue flicking -

~19 Day Old Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) Chick Flicking Its Tongue © Mike Spinak

- and preening -

~19 Day Old Anna's Hummingbird Chick (Calypte anna) Preening © Mike Spinak

- and a little bit of experimental wing flapping. At this point, it was perhaps more like wing waving.

~19 Day Old Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) Flapping Wings © Mike Spinak

Two days later, the chicks were so large that they not only sat on top of the nest, rather than in the nest, they also spent most of their time facing opposite directions, apparently to stay out out of each other’s way.

Anna's Hummingbird Chicks (Calypte anna) Facing Opposite Directions © Mike Spinak

At this stage, the younger chick often seemed to mimic the elder sibling.

Younger Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) Chick Mimicking Elder Chick © Mike Spinak

The chicks seemed to get along well with each other. Besides mimicking each other, they occasionally seemed to nuzzle and snuggle each other. I didn’t see them fight with each other at all. They didn’t seem to compete for food or space or anything else. Perhaps this was due to their mother keeping them well fed, or due to their age differences. Whatever the reason, they were not antagonistic toward each other, as far as I could tell. This is in stark contrast with many other species of birds, where sibling rivalry is often deadly. For example, at one point while photographing the hummingbird nest, I heard a “thud” behind me. Turning around, I saw a black-crowned night heron chick had fallen from the nest above, and died instantly on impact. This was likely due to a sibling ejecting it from the nest. In fact, I had seen three other dead black-crowned night heron chicks on the ground nearby, on a previous morning.

Black-Crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) Chick Possible Fratracide © Mike Spinak

Back to the Anna’s chicks – the elder chick now ventured out to the edge of the nest, and perched there. As well it should. The chick was now ~21 days old, and about ready to fly off.

21 Day Old Anna's Hummingbird(Calypte anna) Chick Perched On the Nest Edge © Mike Spinak

This chick seemed eager to fly, and repeatedly stood on the edge of the nest and flapped its wings furiously. Unfortunately for me, it did this while facing away from me; thus my pictures were less than ideal. Perhaps it was because its mother had been on that branch when encouraging the chick to fly, or because the chick was facing toward a direction with something to fly to, rather than the open road in my direction. Whatever the reason, the elder chick always flapped facing away from me.

~21 Day Old Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) Chick Flapping Wings © Mike Spinak

I was hoping to see and photograph the elder chick leaving the nest. Alas, it was not to be. The chick flew away in the evening, after I left. The next day, I saw it flying around the tree tops, following its mother.

The day after the elder chick left the nest, the younger chick was about 20 days old. The mother seemed more eager to rush this second chick to fly than with the first chick. Meanwhile, the second chick seemed less eager.

Another regular viewer of this nest told me that she’d seen the mother removing some of the nest material, the previous night. I didn’t witness this, but I could see that there were missing patches in some spots, from what had previously been there. This could perhaps be a way to make the nest less welcoming for the chick, to induce it to leave the nest.

To my eye, the chick did not yet appear developed enough to fly. For example, here’s what its wing development looked like, at this point.

~20 Day Old Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) Chick Wing Development © Mike Spinak

But mother knows best.

The mother’s next strategy to compel the chick to move out seemed to be flying in, then – rather than immediately feeding the chick, as in the past – briefly waiting a couple inches away, calling the chick to come (out of the nest) to her.

Mother Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) Waiting for ~20 Day Old Chick to Come to Her © Mike Spinak

The chick didn’t budge. So, the mother leaned in and fed the chick. However, the mother fed the chick from a somewhat more sideways position, while standing on the branch, rather than directly downward, while standing on the edge of the nest, as in the pictures, above. Apparently the chick (now nearly as large as its mother) was getting too tall for the mother to feed straight down from the edge of the nest.

Mother Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) Feeding ~20 Day Old Chick © Mike Spinak

The mother’s apparent next step to compel the chick to fly was to pluck away the chick’s down feathers. Presumably, this was a sign that the chick was now able to thermoregulate itself as an adult, without the additional insulation, and also a sign that the chick now needed to be more aerodynamic (since it was about time to start flying).

Mother Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) Plucking Down from ~20 Day Old Chick

Mother Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) Plucking Down from ~20 Day Old Chick © Mike Spinak

The chick occasionally fluttered its wings a bit, that day, but it just didn’t yet have what it takes to fly.

The next day (when the younger chick was about twenty-one days old) seemed more promising for flying away from the nest. The chick had a much more adult look, now.

~21 Day Old Anna's Hummingbird Chick in Profile © Mike Spinak

The chick was now getting quite large. When it fully sat up, it looked outlandishly oversized for its little nest.

~21 Day Old Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte Anna) Chick On the Nest © Mike Spinak

The chick became much more exploratory, watching everything going on around the nest, reaching out for everything within touching distance of the nest, and – most of all – tasting everything nearby. I’d guess that this was part of the learning process for a chick about to fly to learn what’s food and what isn’t.

Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) Chick Tasting Everything Nearby © Mike Spinak

Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) Chick Tasting Everything Nearby © Mike Spinak

Like its elder sibling had, the chick now spent a lot of time preening its feathers.

~21 Day Old Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) Chick Preening © Mike Spinak

After preening, it also spent much of its time stretching its wings. Although some small patches of bare, pink skin still showed through at the bases of the wings, the chick looked (to my eye) ready to start flying.

~21 Day Old Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) Chick Stretching Its Wings © Mike Spinak

Now, when the mother would come in to feed the chick -

Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) Mother Feeding ~21 Day Old Chick © Mike Spinak

- she’d sometimes stick around for a few moments after feeding, and press right down on top of her chick while flapping her wings. Perhaps this was teaching the chick. Perhaps it was nudging the chick’s flying instincts to kick in. Perhaps both, or neither.

Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) Mother Flapping Its Wings Pressed Atop Chick © Mike Spinak

Energized with a belly full of regurgitated insects and nectar, and perhaps incited by its mother’s example, the chick diligently practiced flapping its wings shortly after each feeding. Like a toddler learning to walk, the first tries were a little wobbly.

~21 Day Old Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) Chick's Unstable Wing Flapping © Mike Spinak

Soon the chick learned how to stabilize itself, keeping its head and body steady while only its wings moved. It stood on the edge of the nest for long flapping practice sessions, while rotating about.

~21 Day Old Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) Chick Flapping Wings Facing Away © Mike Spinak

21 Day Old Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) Chick Flapping Wings Facing Right © Mike Spinak

~21 Day Old Anna's Hummingbird Chick Flapping Its Wings Facing Front © Mike Spinak

I was thrilled to watch the chick learning to fly. I was eager to see it lift off the nest for the first time, and I excitedly anticipated its maiden flight. That didn’t work out. The weather was getting darker and gloomier as the day progressed. I was already at my camera’s maximum ISO and my lens’s maximum aperture, and was having to lower my shutter speeds slower than 1/100th of a second. (I could’ve used flash, of course. In fact, other photographers on the scene for the fly off were using flash; and I even had a flash on my camera. However, I didn’t like the look, and chose to avoid using the flash.) And then the clouds became even darker, and pouring rain began. I left. That was the last I saw of the chick, which presumably flew away some time that day.

Witnessing and photographing these chicks growing up was deeply moving for me, as well as informative. I hope this photo essay conveyed some of that to you, too.

Thanks for reading this.

Anna’s Hummingbird Mother and Chicks (Calypte anna), Palo Alto Baylands, Palo Alto, California

All pictures and text are © Mike Spinak, unless otherwise noted. All pictures shown are available for purchase as fine art prints, and are available for licensed stock use. Telephone: (831) 325-6917.

  • Michael Russell - Really neat to read all this Mike. Great photos!ReplyCancel

  • Greg Gard - Excellent series with superb narration!
    Well done!ReplyCancel

  • Audra Colpitts - Awesome photos, as usual Mike! I am going to go fill my hummingbird feeder right now.ReplyCancel

  • Susan - What a fabulous opportunity for you, and for all of us too!
    Days and hours well spent, what a delight!
    Photos are spectacular, information and narration is educational and informative.
    Thanks for sharing this. You’re the best!ReplyCancel

  • offset printing - Hi Mike, you are so fantastic you were able to monitor their growth with the help of these photos! It’s so exciting to do that Anna, I bet you felt that too. Also thank you for reminding us to tell how important our loved ones to us.ReplyCancel

  • Adam Alex Xsight - These are fabulous! Amenities of the nature!ReplyCancel

  • naturography - Thank you all!ReplyCancel

  • Neil van Niekerk - Beautiful, detailed work, with dedication to the unfolding story. Great stuff, as always.ReplyCancel

  • naturography - Thank you, Neil!ReplyCancel

  • Lowell - Simply stunning. Hummingbirds are not only a significant challenge, but superb creatures to spend time with.ReplyCancel

  • Gail - How exciting for you and us to witness this miracle of life- The birds are amazing in the growth rate.
    Thank you for sharing a truly wonderful photo journey.ReplyCancel

  • Lynnette - Very nice shots and superb work!
    thank you for sharing this.
    Well done,

  • Roberta - This was awesome! I love hummingbirds, but we have very few around us. The Night Crowned Heron chick image is so sad, but what a testament to the brutality of nature sometimes. Thanks for sharing this series and the commentary.ReplyCancel

  • Rosemary Rideout - I so admire your patience. It reads like a labor of love. Thank you, Mike.ReplyCancel

  • Rick Sweeney - Well Done Mike!ReplyCancel

  • Claudia Robinson - These are truly amazing captures. Thank you very much for sharing! I shared via Twitter.ReplyCancel

  • 88 Photography-Junkie Links From The Last 7 Days | TheWorld365 | Nuno & Debora Photography - [...] Anna’s Hummingbird Nest Photo Shoot Walkthrough – this one is amazing beyond words.  Be prepared, there are quite a few images to take in with this post and if you’re at all like me, you won’t be able to skim through any of them.  Mike Spinak takes us along on a journey as a nest of hummingbirds start to mature and ready to leave the nest.  Seriously; prepare to be amazed and astonished. [...]ReplyCancel

Introducing the Growing Up Humming PDF e-Book

My new book, Growing Up Humming, is now available as a PDF e-Book. You can purchase it for the introductory price of only $3, from the order form below. Buy it now, and you could be reading it tonight. You can also read about the book, and see sample pictures from it, beneath the order form.


Growing Up Humming is the photo-illustrated true story of two Anna’s hummingbird chicks growing up on the nest. It has a heart-warming real-life plot, along with rich description – both in words and photos – of every step of the chicks’ development. It’s packed with nature’s splendor, and information which will delight and inform people of any age.

Here are a couple examples of the pictures.

Anna’s Hummingbird Mother Feeding 16 Day Old Chick ©Mike Spinak




























© Mike Spinak (831) 325-6917

Growing Up Humming is for everyone who loves beauty and loves to learn about the world, everyone who wants a fun read, and for everyone who wants their kids to be inspired by nature and excited about science.


Here’s what people have been saying about the book:

“…The book is charming and very informative. I would be enthralled if I were a young girl and I’d probably memorize it and go around spouting all the facts to my friends.”

“I fell in love with Little Sister and the section on her. The multi-image collage showing her getting ready is brilliant!”

“You capture the special nature of this process so beautifully and that is not easy to do… I am so impressed with the thought that went into it, the clarity and the story line.  It kept my attention from start to finish.”

I tremendously appreciate what you’ve accomplished here. “

“Yours is so comprehensive and has details I never thought of that make it so much more interesting and more representative of the cycle.  Really excellent.  And, the pictures just shone! Very clear and you got them from the best angle to illustrate the entire process.  Technically superb!”

“Very, very impressive! “-

Lee Daniels, outdoor photographer and writer


 “Mike Spinak has written a charming book that takes us into the seldom seen microcosmic world of a mother hummingbird tending to her two young.”

The photographs are fascinating and beautiful. The words are simple enough to be shared with a young child and will certainly sway them toward a lifetime fascination with nature. (And what could be wrong with that… We need more people who care for and about nature as much as Mike does.)

“My own 13 year old daughter (who I am certain is destined to be the next Jane Goodall) Gave this book two thumbs up and said ‘I wish there were more books like this when I was younger. I hope he creates lots more like this.’”

“This is the kind of book which will fascinate and inspire children and their parents for generations.”

Alan Shapiro, Author, Photographer, Chief Advertising Creative Officer

“Growing Up Humming tells the story of an Anna’s hummingbird and her two chicks as the chicks grow, mature and leave the nest. Mike Spinak’s photographs show all these steps in intimate detail – the mother feeding her young, the chicks learning to stretch their wings, flap, preen, and fly, and the stages of growth as the chicks lose their downy feathers and become young adults.”

“Readers will empathize with the two tiny young birds as they learn to fly and fend for themselves, while the readers gain insights into the intriguing biology of these birds. I didn’t know, for example, that Anna’s hummingbirds eat so many insects – I thought they consumed nectar exclusively. And I hadn’t thought about how hummingbirds in the nest avoid hurting each other with their long beaks!”

“Growing Up Humming is a charming book filled with beautiful, fascinating photographs.”

Michael Frye, Photographer, Author, Teacher


“Growing Up Humming is the story of two hummingbird chicks and their mother as the chicks grow up and eventually leave the nest.  The story is told with beautiful, intimate photographs and detailed and informative text.” 

“It is remarkable in its detail – both photographically and in terms of the information – while following an engaging narrative.  You feel privileged to be a part of this hummingbird family’s life.  It’s written as a children’s book – but really it’s something the entire family will enjoy and learn from.”

Eric Fredine, Photographer


 “It’s such a wonderful book!”

“I found the book to be packed full of fascinating facts, yet it was a quick read. The book contains excellent illustrations, the content is descriptive as well as informative. Photos show a great deal of outstanding detail and complement the content very well. The story of the two growing Anna’s hummingbird chicks is well written … The book will capture the attention of adults and children alike, a great read for the entire family.”

Christina Rollo, Fine Art Nature Photographer


“Growing Up Humming is amazing.”

“I have lived with, fed, and photographed Anna’s hummingbirds in the Los Gatos Mountains for years, but reading Mike’s wonderful book tripled my knowledge about these amazing creatures.”

Ed Sweeney, Software Developer, Photographer


“Growing Up Humming is lovely–a wonderful story and gorgeous pictures.”

Melissa Beagle, M.D.


“This is great!! Fantastic work.”

Gabriela Zavadilová, Student, Graphic Artist, Photographer


“Growing up Humming is fabulous.  I smiled the big smile all the way through reading it.” -

Giselle Minoli, Author, Jewelry Designer


“Beautiful, detailed pictures and quite informative as well. I really enjoyed watching the little hummingbirds grow up in such an up close and personal way.
I think it’d be great for school too… I could totally see my little one becoming engrossed in the pictures and the story, too.” 

“It was lovely! If I were a school I’d get it. It’s written in a concise but easy to understand way, as well – which is a huge plus.”

Rachael Alexandra, Photographer


“It looks great! The photos are stunning!”

Rob Dweck, Photographer, Author


“The book is fantastic!!!”

Elena E. Giorgi, Photograper

My Top 5 for 2011


This is a quick overview of my 5 favorite pictures for 2011 – with a big qualification: I have a large backlog of pictures from 2011 yet to be processed, reviewed, culled, tagged, filed, etc. So, this is actually just my top 5 of the ones I’ve gone through, so far. There’s a good chance that I’ll find new favorites for 2011 in that backlog.

That said, here are my top 5, presented in chronological order. I hope you enjoy them.

Tucked in (Sleeping California Sea Lion) © Mike Spinak


Garlic Mushrooms Growing on a Tanoak Leaf © Mike Spinak


Northern Elephant Seal Bull Coming Ashore © Mike Spinak


Mount Florence with Thundercloud, Yosemite National Park © Mike Spinak


Anna's Hummingbird Mother Feeding 16 Day Old Chick © Mike Spinak


I look forward to what 2012 brings, and I look forward to sharing my experiences with you through my pictures.

Happy New Year!


All pictures and text are © Mike Spinak, unless otherwise noted. All pictures shown are available for purchase as fine art prints, and are available for licensed stock use. Telephone: (831) 325-6917.

Posted Pictures, So Far


Here’s an overview of the pictures I’ve shown on Naturography, so far. There will be many more coming, of course – so I’ll update the slideshow, now and then.

Like most of the pictures I show on Naturography, these pictures are available as fine art prints, and also available to license as rights managed stock.

The slideshow may take a few moments to load. Please be patient.

You can pause on a picture by clicking the button in the bottom right corner of the picture. You can view the slideshow full-screen by clicking on the button just left of the pause button. The buttons will appear when you scroll over the slideshow.

All pictures and text are © Mike Spinak, unless otherwise noted. All pictures shown are available for purchase as fine art prints, and are available for licensed stock use. Telephone: (831) 325-6917.

Sleeping Sea Lions, Set 1


This is the first set of my Sleeping California Sea Lions project. The slideshow may take a few moments to load. Please be patient. If you prefer to view these without a Flash viewer, please go here.

You can pause on a picture by clicking the button in the bottom right corner of the picture. You can view the slideshow full-screen by clicking on the button just left of the pause button. The buttons will appear when you scroll over the slideshow.

Like most of the pictures I show on Naturography, these pictures are available as fine art prints, and also available to license as rights managed stock.


What the Sleeping Sea Lions project is about:

Sea lions, when awake, can often seem like extraordinarily temperamental and unwarrantedly vicious animals toward their peers. They often attack each other for seemingly the slightest infractions; for example, I often see them chomp into each others’ sides, leaving bloody wounds and permanent scars, apparently just to get one to scoot aside so that the other may more easily move past. Seemingly, almost every encounter leads to a baring of fangs, barking and growling, snapping and striking; and they’re covered with scars and open wounds, mostly caused by each other. Their bellicosity seems endless.

Except when they sleep. They all sleep together, and it’s a magical phenomenon to behold. They sleep with anybody and everybody. They press into each other and make a solid carpet, so tight that no ground is visible between them. They pile on top of each other, sometimes 3 or 4 deep. They press their bodies together in the most intimate ways, face to face, or face pressed to anything and everything. They let their bodies be the beds and pillows for each other. They do this regardless of age or sex or relation, including with strangers, and including with those whom they heatedly fought moments ago. They hold each other tenderly, caress each other, cuddle and snuggle and nuzzle each other as close as they can, seemingly relishing close contact without boundaries. They let go of their hostility, let go their grievances, and find peace and comfort, if just for a little while.

In this, I saw a lesson of peace, and drew hope and inspiration that kindness and tenderness toward each other always remains possible, that reconciliation can be achieved under even the most extreme circumstances, that the good still can always out.

I hope you enjoy them. Thank you for looking.

Sleeping California Sea Lions (Zalophus Californianus)

All pictures and text are © Mike Spinak, unless otherwise noted. All pictures shown are available for purchase as fine art prints, and are available for licensed stock use. Telephone: (831) 325-6917.