Monday, January 23, 2006

Calliope whiskers

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The Mighty Calliope -1

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The Mighty Calliope

Had the pleasure of revisiting one of the hummer tour yards today to see if I could capture the Mighty Calliope on, well, digital media. (Doesn't really have the same ring as "captured on film" does it?). He was
*very* cooperative (for which his host takes complete credit :-) ). I got several minutes of him posing but here are the highlights:

Ready for my close-up

The action shots

I did get another shot of the Junior Calliope as well, but I'm not pleased with it. You can't really see the distinguishing characteristics of the bird, other than short bill and long wings--I need a different angle. Also got a great look at the Male Rufous that stays at the same house, but he did not cooperate for the camera. Another time for that one, too.

Also went over to LSU campus lake searching for the Yellow Warbler they've been warbling about on the LABIRD list. Found another birder on the same quest and together we found the bird. She was very hard to capture in the camouflage of the willows and from the distance (over 50 feet certainly from shore to the little swampy area she had staked out). But when an Orange-Crowned Warbler had the audacity to invade her space, she became very riled and I did get a few decent shots. The large version (26Mb) and the small version (5Mb)

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Another new bird!

It's hard to watch birds when you work every day, ya know? I have been worried about my banded birds...afraid the trauma would scare them off. I spotted the Yellow-Spot bird right away -- she was at her familiar spot in the back yard. I didn't see the Red-spot bird for over a week though, and thought she'd run away. Today I was cleaning the feeders and saw them both together -- arguing over the spot the feeder was supposed to be in :-) But then, a little later, I saw another Rufous (or more accurately Selasphorus Rufus/Allen's since I don't know for sure it's Rufous) without a mark! That means I have at least three! And I have at least one Black-Chinned female that's visiting the feeder near the driveway. The interesting thing is that the Red-Spot had taken over the Yellow-Spot's feeder in the back for at least part of the day. And all 3 Rufous were sharing (well, not at the same time) the feeder on the patio.

I am participating in Cornell's Backyard Feeder Watch this year. It's been interesting because while I see a lot of the same birds every week, I think I've seen at least one new bird each week as well. This week was a small flock of cow-birds. Not too glamorous to be sure, but it adds to the list!

Monday, January 16, 2006

hummer plants

I was fortunate on Saturday to take home cuttings of two all-star winter hummer plants, red Abutilon, and dark red shrimp plant. I have never really tried to start cuttings before, so we'll see if I have the fortitude for it. I found an article in a magazine this week about start cuttings with a forsythe pot so I started mine today.

I want to add more plants... I am seriously considering expanding further into the back yard. Ned doesn't really *like* cutting all that grass, right? So he'll appreciate it if I add some trees, shrubs, planting beds....right?? hmmm, I'll have to do some planning.

I've got the planting bug...didn't help that it was warm and spring-like today...

Had an exciting moment this afternoon! I was standing in the driveway when all of a sudden a Sharp-shinned hawk flew about 10 feet from me, landed on the neighbor's arbor, perused the bushes for sparrows, dropped down in the azalea trying to catch one!! but missed and finally flew off to a nearby tree. I wouldn't have minded if he took a house sparrow with him :-)

Still have 3 hummers -- Yellow-Spot Rufous, Red-spot Rufous, and one unmarked Unknown.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Another hummer day...

The Baton Rouge Audubon Society organized a field trip to three local yards here in Baton Rouge who are hosting wintering hummingbirds. About 30 people showed up for the event, which they were surprised about -- normally it's been less than 15. So we trundled into various automobiles, and caravaned over to the first house. This house is on over an acre wooded lot with mature trees and LOTS of mature evergreens (camellias, hollies, pines, ligustrum, etc). It was also loaded with blooming hummer plants like shrimp plant, abutilon, even a blue salvia in bloom! Remember, even though we are in Louisiana and the winters are mild, this really IS the middle of winter for us -- I was amazed that so much was in bloom. She said the hummer plant of preference was the red abutilon, which she said is very nectar-rich. She had many feeders up -- either the 8oz Perky Pet pinch waist bottle style (with the flowers removed, interestintly enough) or the little Perky-Pet 3 oz beginner feeders. Her yard hosted over a dozen birds and I believe she said that seven had been banded and marked the week before. I saw my first male Rufous -- what a handsome bird with that wonderful rusty color! But he was outdone by the Buff-Bellied hummer...I am still in awe! It's a large and colorful hummingbird and it even sounds distinctly different than the Rufous or Black-chinned she's also hosting. She says the evergreen cover is the key -- I'm sure the nectar rich plants don't hurt either. She gave out cuttings of the abutilon and red shrimp plant so I'm looking forward to trying to root those.

The next house hosted a slew of Black-Chinned birds. There was a live oak with several blooming hummer plants, dominated by the large Turk's cap. EAch bird seemed to have staked out its tiny territory, but every once in a while the boundaries would be violated and then the battle was on! There was a male Rufuous at this house as well, but he'd staked out a claim to the back yard. We also saw two Baltimore Orioles, a Blue-Headed Vireo, Red-crowned Kinglet, and a Blue-gray gnatcatcher.

The last house on the tour had a small yard and the owner told us he was hosting only three birds, but much to his surprise, a 4th showed up while we were there. The new one was a Black-Chinned female. He also had an adult male Rufous (wonderful coloring!). But the stars of the show were the Calliope hummers. The young male was fairly nondescript, but he was still neat to see because of his shape--small bird, short bill (compared to other hummers) and wings longer than his body which gave him a big-headed, pot-bellied look. The adult male, however, has this wonderful metallic purple gorget that is unlike any other hummer and certainly makes him stand out! What a treat to see!

As for my own hummers... my back-yard Rufous(yellow spot) is still around. I have seen another bird or birds, but have not yet ID'd it/them. I haven't seen the Red-spot Rufous, so it may have moved on after the trauma of banding.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

And the Black-Chinned females...

No, they don't have little beards. Black-Chinned makes them sound like like pirate hummingbirds, eh? But they are just delicate little females, with green backs and gray bellies. They look an awful lot like Ruby-Throat females, except a few differences have been pointed out to me -- they do a lot of "tail-wagging" while hovering. Their wing primaries are more pronounced. They don't seem quite as green and they have more of an overall gray sheen.

This is the larger of the two and the BC that I saw first:

Sleek beauty

This little pretty I saw a few days later. I saw her at first from across the yard and thought the pink spot on her head was feathers...I'm looking all through my book for a pink-headed hummer! Turns out she was already marked. I posted a message on Humnet and she might have been marked and banded as far away as Alabama! How cool would that be! Unfortunately neither one of the Black-Chinned hummers cooperated with us on banding day. Maybe there will be a chance to try again.

Hummer with a pink spot

Here are the hummers

This first one is one of the Rufous hummers. It's the one that hangs around in the back yard. Nancy says it's a mature female. She marked it with the Yellow spot and it's still hanging around, defending its feeder fiercely!

Back yard Rufous

The front yard Rufous is a younger bird. Nancy marked it with a Red spot. Unfortunately I haven't seen it since last Sunday when it was banded, and I sincerely hope we didn't frighten it away permanently.

Li'l Rufous cusses me out in the morning

later in the day, when all is quiet and good with the world, she rests

Sunday, January 08, 2006

And the release! (note the smiles :-) )

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Marked for life! (or at least a few weeks)

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Measuring feathers...

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Hummer banding at home

It was a warm and windy day today, and I had fewer birds overall, which may be why we only saw two hummers today. Nancy and Kevin came to band, and some interested neighbors came to observe. They took down all the feeders except two, one in the front yard and one in the back yard. These they put into trap cages. Then we set up our surveillance with remote controls on hand to work the automatic doors. It didn't take long to get the first bird, but Nancy set it aside to wait for more. About 15 minutes later we got another. We waited and chatted and watched, but we didn't get another one, so Nancy went ahead and banded and marked the first two. She confirmed that both of them are Rufous, both female. One is older... she said it was definitely not a first year bird, but the second one is younger and was probably born last season. What a treat to get to hold one in my hand before it was let go! It felt like a single feather -- not a whole bird!

I have some pictures to share, and will be posting video as well. What a fun experience!

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Four winter hummers!

Until this year I had no idea that hummingbirds would sometimes stay over the winter. But this year I got to witness it firsthand...I have four winter hummers in my yard! My front yard Rufous (or to be specific Selasphorus Rufous or Allen's -- they say it's impossible to really tell without an up close and personal inspection) appears to be a younger bird with a smallish gorget. The Rufous in the back yard is larger and the gorget is more well developed. They've been here for a month or more. Then a few days ago, two more birds showed up. I was all excited to see a new bird with pink feathers on its head...until I got a better look and saw it was marked with liquid paper. A banded bird! And it was a Black-Chinned, probably a young female. And then I saw another one that same day, only this one didn't have a pink mark. Another Black-Chinned female! Woo-hoo!

All the birds have been ID'd by video and in person by our local experts... and tomorrow they are coming to band them, if they can catch them. You can be sure I'll have pictures!

In the meantime here are some pictures of my hummers...

Li'l Rufous cussin' at me in the morning

And then later in the day, sun gently shining, no others hummers or humans around, the Li'l Rufous sips