I often feel a bit in ‘limbo’ the week between Christmas and New Year’s. The rush, the preparations, the excitement of the big day is all over and you sit around and just sort of ‘waiting’ for New Year’s Eve. But not this year! This year the week of anticipated ‘limbo’ turned out to be anything but, when two ‘winter’ hummingbirds decided to venture into my world. And as luck would have it, both arrived at locations where hosts ‘knew’ a bit about winter hummingbirds and knew to give me a call.
I’ve spent the week speaking with those hosts, traveling to their locations and ultimately banding what turned out to be two beautiful juvenile male rufous hummingbirds. Each one a bit different, each one with similar yet different molt patterns, each one with a varying numbers of glowing new orange gorget feathers. Good news, both hummingbirds healthy, in good weight and feisty as this species is known to be.
So, as I prepare to bid farewell to the ‘old’ and ‘welcome’ in the new, I remain humbled and honored to be able to do this important work and am ever thankful for the joy, the smiles, the happy tears and the wonder hummingbirds and hummingbird banding brings to all it touches.
Happy New Year and happy winter hummingbirds to all!
And thanks Dave Magers for the photo of the Shelby Bottoms Rufous….and congrats on the lifer!
We have had a fantastic start to winter hummingbird banding this 21-22 season. It started in August with reports of an adult male rufous hummingbird at the home of Mary Lodge. We ventured over to band him on a hot humid day in August and he along with 39 ruby-throats all got shiny new bands. A month laster on the 15th of September we heard from Mary Goodenough in Fayetteville who reported her Allen’s hummingbird was BACK! What a special occurance as this guy certainly has a history with us. Stay tuned for more about him in the coming months. October 14th found us banding our first Kentucky western hummer at the home of Dave Roemer, long time birder and friend. Fifteen days later on the day before Halloween my phone rang and it was host Bill Taylor of Nashville with the news that his female rufous was back for her second winter. No tricks there but pure treat! Three weeks later we ventured to Sewanee, TN and banded an adult female rufous at the home of April Sells. Her hummer even made the local newspaper, The Mountain Messenger. On November 23rd we made a second attempt to band what turned out to be a wily hatch-year male rufous hummingbird at the home of James Wood. We’d spend a half day trying to capture this hummer back in October but he chose the blooming pineapple sage over the feeders and my trap. It was good to finally get a band on him a month after our first attempts. Four days later we had a ‘rare’ two banding day. We ventured back to Murfreesboro to the home of Kendra Cooper and banded what tuned out to be an adult Black-chinned hummingbird and while there we got another call about a hummingbird in Cannon County. So off we went and captured and banded a hatch-year rufous hummingbird at the home of Penny and David Malone.
We have 3 more ‘known’ western hummers waiting to be banded. One in Memphis where the salvia is still blooming and the bird isn’t interested in the feeders. One in Smith County and another in Monroe County. We hope to get them all banded prior to Christmas.
So, for those keeping ‘score’, we have confirmed 2 second-year return hummingbirds, banded 5 new hummingbirds in two states, and have 3 pending hummers waiting for their bands. We’ve traveled 1224 miles during the 7 days we actively banded and as always met and visited with our wonderful hummer hosts.
Keep watching, keep speading the word about ‘western winter hummingbirds’ and to anyone hosting a ‘winter’ hummingbird please reach out and let me know if you’re interested in having it banded. If I’m not licensed in your State I can put you in touch with someone who is and able to come to your home. Best way to ensure I get your message is to contact me ar firstname.lastname@example.org and put ‘winter hummer’ in the subject line.
Finally A HUGE THANK YOU TO ALL WHO SUPPORT OUR EFFORTS! We couldn’t do this without your support and of course the hospitality of our wonderful hosts.
Here’s hoping a winter hummingbird stops by your home!
Congratulations to Nashville Birder and photographer, Graham Gerdeman on this educational video about Winter Hummingbirds in Tennessee and the northeast. It’s the second in a series of wonderfully produced videos. Enjoy it, comment on it and subscribe to his YouTube Channel.
September 21, 2021 is officially the last day of summer and it is also our official last day of hummingbird migration banding for this season. It was indeed a season of ups and downs and ongoing challenges due to COVID. Festivals were cancelled and certain locations not visited for health and safety reasons. But regardless we managed to continue our research and band 1816 Ruby-throated hummingbirds plus one adult male Rufous Hummingbird in Paris, TN on September 15th. I personally also reached a banding milestone this season. I can now say I’ve banded over 12,000 hummingbirds since recieving my Master permit in October of 2014!
We had some fun surprises this season. During breeding season we were alerted to a hummingbird nest built on a battery-operated light hanging on a porch. We were able to get pictures of eggs, momma incubating and of the babies. What a treat! We had three reports of lucistic hummers, one evaded us and the second one was caught after an hour wait. We were able to band this young male and then a week later he showed up across town at another home where we verified it was indeed ‘our’ bird. The adult male Rufous Hummingbird in Paris was another grand surprise and that banding set us up for future bandings at this ‘high volume’ lovely home. The ‘best’ surprise of the season by far was the return of the Allen’s Hummingbird to the home of Mary Goodenough on August 15th. Pictures have verified it is indeed the same hummer we banded there on a frosty morning in December of 2020. Stay tuned for his amazing story to be published very soon.
This season we also welcomed two new crew members and I began to train Dr. Michael Collins of Rhodes University to band hummingbirds. Michael and I share a deep appreciation for those who helped us and others along the way, so it is a natural fit and great opportunity to share Bob and Martha’s hummingbird legacy with another enthusiastic bander.
As always I want to thank all my hummingbird hosts. We could NOT conduct our research without you. You generously open your yards and homes to us multiple times a season, maintain feeders with the utmost care, help us spread the word about ‘no red nectar’ and about our important hummingbird research.
To all my volunteers…you guys are the BEST! We travel many miles together over a season, getting up at o’dark thirty to get to our research locations, we play weather roulette, shiver together on cold mornings and sweat it out on those hot humid days but you’re always there with a smile and helping hand. Your support, your friendship and your hard work is priceless and I can’t THANK YOU ALL ENOUGH!! It’s an honor and a pleasure to have you all as part of the crew and I look forward to many more seasons with you!
So onward to winter hummingbirds…we’ll see what surprises and and how many species we get this winter season. Until then be well and as always happy hummingbirds!!