Carla Brennan's Blog

Reflections and Photos from The Big Trip and Beyond . .


Hummingbird King of the Garden

Hummingbird King of the Garden
Summer 2021
Santa Cruz, CA

For the last few months, a male Anna’s Hummingbird has reigned over our little flower garden. He has several shady spots where he rests between bouts of sipping nectar or chasing other hummers. If a hummingbird dares to trespass into his home territory, the Little King – with incredible swiftness and precision – vanquishes the intruder with an aerial chase that includes great whirring of wings and noisy chatter.

One of his favorite spots to sit and patrol the garden is on the lower branches of the apple tree. I also sit under that tree about 6-8 feet from him and we enjoy sharing the space and observing the flowers together. Sometimes he sits silently while other times he emits an energetic series of delicate chirps. Overall the Little King is a chatty bird and I can usually find him if I wait and listening for his voice.

But this week he has disappeared. I feel bereft; before I could always count on his presence. I listen for his cheerful twittering but hear nothing. A female Anna’s has started showing up regularly but she seems to call somewhere else home.

Has he moved on? To greener, more flowery pastures? Has something happened to him? He seems too fast and agile to be captured by a neighborhood cat or a marauding Cooper’s hawk. But they are known to prey on hummers.

During these months of sharing the garden with the Little King, I’ve patiently sat with my camera in my lap, hoping to capture those moments when his head feathers flash red-pink. As David Allen Sibley says, “the iridescent colors of the throat of a male hummingbird are among the most refined and spectacular colors in all of nature.” Only when the light and the viewing angle are right, do the colors light up, and often for only seconds as the bird ceaselessly moves from flower to flower. Otherwise his head and throat appear deep black.

Below is a sampling of photographs of the Hummingbird King as well as the new gray-green female visitor. In one photo of the female, you can see the rarely viewed small patch of red-pink on her throat.

Please do not use photographs without permission. To inquire about permission, contact Carla at:

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Snapshot Impressions from New England

Snapshot Impressions from New England
Summer 2021

This was Chris and my first extended trip since the beginning of COVID. Our first plane ride. This was a trip dedicated to connecting with family and friends in-person after the long separation of the pandemic. This was not a photographic trip since there was limited time and many people to see, catch up with and hug (at least those who were allowing hugs.) Of course, I took a camera but it was my 3rd string camera, the smallest, lightest one that was most expendable if there was a mishap.

The visit started in New Hampshire at my sister and brother-in-law’s home. Then we all went to Moosehead Lake in Maine for a week with my niece and her boyfriend joining us there. Back to New Hampshire and then to western Massachusetts where I had lived for 25 years and where I still have many friends.

Included here are random photos of natural beauty: creatures, mushrooms, flowers (some wild, some cultivated) and landscapes.

Please do not use photographs without permission. To inquire about permission, contact Carla at:

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Catch of the Day – August 14, 2021

Catch of the Day – August 14, 2021
Santa Cruz, CA

This was both a photographic capture for me and a food capture for the western scrub jay I was watching. The jay flew into the apple tree beside me carrying something that looked like an animal part. The bird – in full scavenger mode – picked at it, searching for any tasty morsels that might be left. Eventually, I recognized its catch as the desiccated, ragged remains of a mouse. Probably the leftovers from one of the neighborhood cats. It was a bit gruesome but then nothing goes to waste in nature. Once again, you never know what you will see when you sit quietly in nature.

Earlier I had been watching (and photographing) the jay as it perched on the neighbor’s fence. Strangely, it looked like it was quietly muttering to itself, slightly opening and closing its beak and turning its head side to side. Then I realized it actually WAS muttering to itself, making a barely audible sound I had never heard from a jay. Soft chirpy, melodic, fluent notes that reminded me of a mockingbird on low volume. Later it would speak up with the more typical, loud jay “SQWAWK!”

Please do not use photographs without permission. To inquire about permission, contact Carla at: