November 16, 2010 [LINK / comment]
Life bird: Rufous hummingbird!
On Saturday morning, Jacqueline and I drove up to the Harrisonburg area in hopes of seeing a Rufous hummingbird that has been reported there recently. It may seem very strange, since all of the hummingbirds that breed in eastern North America (the Ruby-throated hummingbirds) migrate south by mid-October, not being able to cope with freezing weather. Yet somehow, a few hummingbirds from out west show up at feeders in the Mid-Atlantic region during the winter months every year, and manage to survive.
Anyway, there were about a half dozen birders gathered at the farm house when we arrived, which was a good sign. I was eager with anticipation as I grabbed my optical equipment from the back seat and walked over to join those who were already there: Brenda Tekin, Diane Holsinger, Greg Moyers, and a couple others. (William Leigh showed up a little later.) We waited patiently, looking toward the back porch feeder, and it didn't take long before the tiny creature zoomed in for a quick snack of nectar. It was a mature male Rufous hummingbird, exactly like the ones you see in the field guides: rusty colored all over except for a bright, iridescent red throat and a white "bib" and collar. No doubt about the identification: life bird #402! For various reasons, I wasn't able to get a decent photograph, so I may want to return up there and try again. This was the second time I have seen a hummingbird in the colder months; in January 2009, for example, I saw a Calliope hummingbird west of Lynchburg. That was pretty amazing.
The folks who live in that house maintain an excellent, well-stocked habitat for wild birds, and we saw a nice variety while we there. They were very friendly and gracious hosts who were very accommodating to us bird fanatics, and I am respecting their privacy by not mentioning their name. On the way home, Jacqueline and I stopped briefly at Silver Lake, where we saw a few interesting birds on the water; they are marked with asterisks below. (Ironically, I saw my only other life bird of the current year at that same location, last February: an American Pipit, or rather, a flock of them.) Here is the list of highlights for Saturday:
- Rufous hummingbird (M, LIFE BIRD)
- White-breasted nuthatches
- Downy woodpeckers
- Red-bellied woodpeckers
- Cedar waxwings
- Hooded mergansers (M, F) *
- American coot *
- Mallards *
- Mute swans *
On the previous Wednesday, Jacqueline and I drove out to the Swoope area, and saw a large number (50?) of Goldfinches along a country road, as well as Red-tailed hawks, Bluebirds, Field sparrows, and White-crowned sparrows. We were on our way to Polyface Farms to buy some wholesome organic meats, from pasture-grazed animals. No artificial additives or hormones, just the way God intended. Several months ago I saw a PBS television show about that farm and its owner, Joel Salatin, who is a true visionary of the alternative farming movement. They are committed to providing healthy food while restoring and conserving the land. It was our first time there, and I'm sure we will be back many more times in the future.
Otherwise, I haven't done much other birding lately. In our back yard, we are getting a fair number of White-breasted nuthatches, Downy woodpeckers, and Red-bellied woodpeckers. There are usually several Juncos out there, along with occasional White-throated sparrows, and the other usual yard birds.