It’s a flock! A crowd! No, a herd!

A few days ago the Wired Science blog at embedded the gigapans from the juried gallery show at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. The same content also appeared at the Wired Science Japan site, so I used some online translators to see what had been written in Kanji about my hummingbird gigapan.

Here is the text that first appeared at the Wired Science blog:

Don’t let the 40 or so hummingbirds in this panorama fool you. There are really only two. Photographer Chris Fastie called it a “perplexing distortion of reality.” He took 78 photos over the course of a few minutes, then selectively merged them to capture multiple feeding and flying positions of the birds. “Rarely will the local male allow birds other than his mate to use a food source in his territory, so a feeding flock like this is impossible,” Fastie wrote on

This caption is a bit of a “perplexing distortion” because: (1) there are only 28 hummingbirds in the image, not “40 or so,” and (2) the 78 photos taken by the Gigapan imager did not include any birds.  An additional 28 photos of hummingbirds (and two of insects) were pasted onto the stitched panorama. This misinformation is partly my fault because my original caption at was not very explicit.  So the people hired to do the translation were already at a disadvantage, like the third person in a game of “telephone.”

Here is the caption at the blog:

このパノラマにはハミングバードが40羽いるように見えるが、本当は2羽しかいない。数分間で78枚の写真を撮影し、その中から、この小鳥のさまざまな姿 勢がわかるように選択したのだ。「オスのハミングバードは自分のテリトリーには自分のパートナーしか入れないので、こういった群れは本当はあり得ない」

Three of the six online translators (,, returned the exact same English text:

This panorama that looks like hummingbirds wings 40, are only really two wings. 78 photos taken a few minutes, from which they chose different postures so that you know this bird. “The male hummingbirds to enter their territory only because their partner, these herds are really impossible”

Two other sites (, returned this text:

In order the hummingbird 40 feathers to be in this panorama, it is visible, but as for truth only 2 feathers it is. It photographed 78 photographs in several minutes, as from among those, various attitudes of this small bird are recognized, it selected. Because “the hummingbird of the male only its own partner inserts in its own territory, as for such crowd as for truth it is not possible”

The sixth site ( returned this:

There seem to be 40 humming birds in this panorama, but there are actually only two of them. In several minutes of 78 pieces took a picture, and chose it to understand the various posture of this small bird from that. [because I let only one’s partner in one’s territory, as for the male humming bird, such a crowd is actually impossible]

I guess there must be no word in Japanese for flock.  You can see the hummingbird gigapan and read my original caption here.  Had I known that thousands of people were going to see that page, I would have been much more careful explaining how I made the image.

If you know Japanese (and English), I would be interested to know what the caption actually says.  I suspect that it too will be a perplexing distortion of reality.

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