It’s hard to believe that we’re in mid-October already. Ruby-throated hummingbird migration banding season ended for the most part on September 29th with the banding of 5 very FAT birds including the fattest I’ve ever banded…a hatch-year female that weighed 6.20 grams! As of today, I still have at least one ruby-throat in my yard and a few of you report you have one or two as well. I suspect they’ll all be gone on the next good north wind.
The season was not without challenges due to the Pandemic and we missed visiting a few of our ‘higher’ volume locations due to travel and overnight stays. Hummingbird numbers at feeders we visited were up and down with no real explanation but were just glad to be able to do some banding. We had a great surprise with the banding of the Mexican Violetear in Clarksville in July. You can check out my blog posts for pictures of that bird as well as other news that might be of interest. https://southeasternavianresearch.org/sear-blog-updates/
When this season began, I truly had no expectations. My hope was to visit a few host homes and conduct a bit of research while keeping the safety of ‘us humans’ front and center. Thanks to my ‘bubble volunteers’, Mitz and LoraAnn Bailey, Ski Witzosky, Jackie Bastin and Steve Routledge we were able to accomplish that and so much more. I hit a personal milestone on September 10th, having banded 10,000 RTHU since spring of 2015! I never would have imagined reaching this number in only 5 short seasons.
We visited 22 different hummer host locations having added 6 new strategic locations this summer to our research study areas and banded 2228 new hummingbirds. I banded a total of 45 days from June through September. Our highest count day took place at the South Welcome Center of LBL on September 3rd where we banded 160 new ruby-throats. My overall average recapture rate remains between 12-27% depending on host location. We had numerous 2nd, 3rd and even a 4th year recaptures, which we LOVE to see. We had two instances of RTHUs banded at one host home, show-up a year later at another. We even had one HY male hummer, banded in my yard in July show up in Virginia some 3 weeks later. At first, we wondered why this little guy went ‘north’ instead of south, but we looked at the weather, Hurricane Laura, with strong south winds, might explain why this inexperienced young bird went that way. I continued working with Dr. David Pitts on his RTHU nesting study, banding and color marking all AHY female captured so he could find them on their nests. It was the ‘best’ season yet for finding marked birds on nests and David’s total for 2020 nesting season was 21 active RUTH nests, 8 of which were successful. And speaking of nesting hummers, I had my first ‘found’ nest in my yard this year. We anxiously watched and photographed the progress from incubation to the fledging of the 2 chicks.
Unfortunately, due to COVID the 6 Hummingbird Festival we normally participate in were cancelled. We were, however, granted access to a few of these locations ‘on festival’ day so the overall data would remain unbroken and consistent.
We dipped our toes into the world of ‘virtual events’ and participated in 2 virtual festivals. First one was for the Friends at Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge and the other for Warner Park. And at the end of August I did a hummingbird presentation via Zoom for the good folks at the Wolf River Conservancy in Memphis.
All of this research and more would not be possible without YOU! Your generous donation of your time, your continued support and most importantly allowing me to come to your homes and band your hummingbirds!! For that I truly THANK YOU!
Finally, I hope you’ll all consider leaving at least one hummingbird feeder up all winter and watching for one of those ‘special’ western visitors. I already received a report and subsequently confirmed a 2rd year return Rufous Hummingbird in Thompson Station, TN. So, you just never know what may show up!
I look forward to seeing you all in 2021 for another exciting hummingbird season!! Until then, stay safe and be well!