TINY BEAUTIES—Agoura High School junior Rhett Krovitz captures hummingbird images in the front yard of his home in Old Agoura. He used a Canon EOS Rebel SL3 with an attached 18-200mm lens. Photos courtesy of Rhett Krovitz
On a recent morning in Old Agoura, with fog clearing and sunlight peeking through, harmonies of songbirds filled the air.
As they bathe in the early daylight, the sparrows, goldfinches and acorn woodpeckers provide nature with an audible consonance that is easy to appreciate.
But one known species for its diminutive size has a voice most people don’t recognize: a number of sharp chirps followed by a harsh beating of wings, a trill that can last for a number of seconds before cutting quiet.
When I first moved to the community almost five years ago I didn’t think much of the wildlife in the area. While the occasional scrub jay or hawk would make an appearance in my backyard, I wasn’t aware of the sheer variety and number of species that existed in the community.
After learning about wildlife photography from my neighbor who has been mastering the art for decades, I now look at life through a new lens, one where even the smallest bird doesn’t get overlooked.
I first began studying the basics of photography, including how to set up a camera in certain scenarios in terms of ISO, aperture and shutter speed, and also how to edit photos. Hour-long walks around Old Agoura have helped me become more skilled at changing the camera settings quickly so I can capture what I see.
But the real secret I learned from photography is paying attention to the small details: a flash of a wing, a movement in a tree, or the sounds of animals communicating. At first, I didn’t realize how talkative the animals are in our community, especially hummingbirds. Their endless chatter makes them quite easy to locate and photograph.
That, combined with the glimmer of their brightly embellished wings make them the perfect subject for a picture.
After spending hours taking photos of hummingbirds alone, I can proudly say that I can pinpoint where a hummingbird is based on the loudness of its high-pitched trill. After constantly running into the same familiar colors and voices, I started making a connection with the families of hummingbirds right outside my house. They were always there—I just never noticed them before.
They also had a sense of humor in the way that they would fly right into a perfect location for a photo, only to fly out of sight before I could take a shot. They mocked me with their verbal laughter.
But thanks to our weekly photography sessions I was eventually able to walk outside and greet them like old friends. But sometimes they would have none of it, and forced me to set up faster and predict where they were going to go before they flew into our field of lavender where they loved to rest.
They were my models—they liked to show off—and I was just there to try to make them look their best.
One day I was on a run without my camera. Only about 10 minutes from my high school, I heard that all-familiar shrill. With one look, I saw an Allen’s hummingbird balancing at the end of a branch.
Without a camera in hand, I could appreciate the little thing in all its glory rather than having to deal with shutter speeds and ISOs. The bird was reddish brown on the body with a slight green sparkle around the edges of its wings—a king on its throne.
And people didn’t notice—too busy to pay attention to one small bird on a tree. Groups of people went by without acknowledging either the hummingbird or the kid staring awkwardly into the distance.
After a bunch of students went by without hearing the loud cries of the hummingbird, I felt out of place, as if I was looking at something that didn’t exist. When an older man walked past me I asked him, “Do you hear the hummingbird?”
He stopped, took out an earbud, and asked me if I’d said anything. After I repeated my question, he responded, “What hummingbird?”
I pointed to the one on the tip of the branch making the biggest ruckus it could. He looked carefully, finally laying eyes on the small bird, connecting it to the sound it was making.
“Oh. That’s what they sound like?” the man said. “I didn’t know there were hummingbirds in this area. I’ll be on the lookout.”
With a nod to me, he returned the earbud to his ear and continued his walk.
As someone who now can’t unhear the loud voices of hummingbirds, it motivates me to share the music of these delicate creatures for all of us.
As spring is arriving and the hummingbirds are beginning their breeding season, they will once again be abundant. Perhaps, while on a run or collecting your weekly acorn paper, take a second to listen. Enjoy the free concert.
Rhett Krovitz is a junior at Agoura High School. He is the teen liaison for Poison Free Agoura and works with Cougar Conservancy. When not on the soccer field, he can be seen roaming Old Agoura with his camera.