Hummingbird Band

Pat and I were planning to set out for two days of backpacking on Labor Day weekend.  However, a friend asked if I would like to attend a hummingbird banding on the 1st.  It was a long weekend, so of course I decided to postpone our backpacking trip by a day so I could see hummingbirds being banded.

Who wouldn’t postpone a backpacking trip to see hummingbirds being banded?  I would have postponed all kinds of plans to see how, exactly, this works.

When we arrived at the banding location on Saturday morning, the first stop was the banding table.  The bander educated us while she banded.

The house we were at was someone’s home who happened to love hummingbirds.  They put out feeders every year like so many of us do to attract them to their home.  What was unique about this location was that it was in the middle of two ridges that created a funnel effect for migrating hummers.  So, this time of year, hundreds of hummers would stop at the feeders to fill up on their way South for the winter.  By replacing the feeders with specially designed traps that wouldn’t harm the hummers, the banders were able to capture about 35 birds before we’d even arrived, about an hour after the event started.  1 bird every two minutes is pretty impressive.

I was a bit disturbed when I was asked not to show any photos of a complete trap on the internet.  Apparently there are people in the world who think Hummingbirds would make good pets and are looking for information on how to create a trap.  If you are such a person, please be assured that you cannot keep a hummingbird as a pet and that all will be much better served if you simply feed them and let them go on their merry way.

Watching the bander handle the tiny hummers with a confidence that belied how delicate these birds really are made me wish I had the dexterity to perform such a task.  I asked her if she had started as a jewelry maker–it seemed like the appropriate skill set to me.  She laughed.  Apparently she also didn’t believe she had the dexterity to handle hummingbirds when she got started.

I watched her move through the measurements performed on each bird with a systematic rhythm, rarely interrupted by talking to us.  She measured each beak, each tail, each wing, used a straw to blow apart the feathers to see if there was fat, and then placed each bird on a scale.  She always banded them first.  She said that was in case they got away before she got through all the measurements.

When she was done, she carefully set the bird in a waiting child’s hand and they held it until it suddenly decided it could fly and buzzed away.  Sometimes, this took several minutes.  It was fascinating to see a hummingbird hold so still.

Feeder Birds

Watching the Audubon Visitors’ Center is not exactly an arduous task.  In fact, the only reason it’s nice to have at least 2 people there is so that one of them can go do something else from time to time.  While visits are picking up as more and more activities are scheduled, it really isn’t like there is ever a line of people trying to check in.

As such, when I was asked to be the backup volunteer last Saturday, I took my camera along and thought I might get an opportunity to do a little shooting while I was there.

Not wanting to assume anything, I decided to come back for my camera after establishing how much help the main volunteer was likely to need.

I hopped out of the mini-van and immediately heard the plaintive cry of a red-shouldered hawk.  She was flying straight at me over the roof of the visitor’s center.  I stood there admiring her and simultaneously kicking myself for not having my camera at the ready.  She flew overhead and perched on some wires briefly.  When I started to move back towards my car, she flew off.

Now, I might have gotten a clue and grabbed my camera right then and there, but I figured that was going to be my one big sighting for the day and continued on my way into the center. And of course, I got to chatting with the other volunteer and one of the board members who stopped in and didn’t get back out to get my camera right away.

And, of course squared, as we were chatting, a family of wild turkeys suddenly appeared in the parking lot.  There were 7 chicks with two adults working there way across the parking lot.

I have a history with wild turkeys and my camera.  Whenever I see a wild turkey, I think “wild goose” and I don’t even try to chase it.  It’s just fortunate I’m shooting digital.  Otherwise, I would really resent all those shots of bushes where a turkey had been a moment before.

I did, however, learn my lesson and go get my camera.  I didn’t, however, see any more birds that were exciting.  I did, however, manage to get some shots of the birds at the feeders.  I particularly like the female house finch drinking the water that collected in the indentation in the hummingbird feeder.  Who says you have to go all out to create a water feature attractive to birds?

I also really like the hummingbird and the bee racing to the feeder.  I wish it were a better shot (not enough depth of field), but I was at least pleasantly surprised that I managed to get them both in the frame at the same time.

The titmouse peeping at me also makes me smile.  I can’t say I’ve ever seen a titmouse from quite that angle. It took me a while to remember what kind of bird it was.