This is a green-violet ear hummingbird, photographed in the Curi Cancha Reserve in Monteverde, Costa Rica. Curi Cancha is one of the smaller and lesser-known private reserves in Monteverde, eclipsed by the bigger names like the Cloud Forest Reserve, the Santa Elena Reserve, and the Children’s Eternal Rainforest. But Curi Cancha is one of my favorite places in the mountains, largely due to the huge diversity of hummingbird species, all concentrated in a single area. I’ve chased hummingbirds all across the United States, from my parents’s back porch in upstate South Carolina to Ramsey Canyon in southeastern Arizona, but I have never seen a greater diversity of species in one place than at Curi Cancha here in the cloud forest of Monteverde. 

I took this photo on the first day that I ever visited the Reserve; I was working as a photographer for a study abroad ecology program and it was a morning dedicated to research problems in the field. My plan that day was to catch a ride out to Curi Cancha with a pair of students conducting a hummingbird experiment there, take a couple photos, and then hike back up to the station where I could work with a different group doing research in the lab. But when I gained the first hill just past the gate at the Curi Cancha entrance and looked down to see the sheer number of hummingbirds darting back and forth across the little valley down below, I knew that I would not be making it back up to the station until the light was gone and all the birds asleep. 

This is one of probably three hundred photos that I took that day, and it symbolizes three important lessons that I learned at Curi Cancha: plans are really only useful when they’re changed; in three hundred photos, there will always be one good one; and always bring your headlamp, unless you want to hike back in the dark.