Thursday, November 30, 2006

We have a very nice bird feeder that is attached under the eaves of the house, and we usually get to see lots of birds. We also have a hummingbird feeder. Today, while I was telecommuting, I heard something hit my sliding glass door. I got up to see what had happened. There weren't any birds on the ground or cats bumping on the door to tease my cats.

When I opened the door and stepped out onto the patio, I heard a whoosh up to my right above my garden window and was surprised to see a hawk heading up into my huge mulberry tree. I wasn't able to get a close look, but it was big. Looking at my bird book I found three possibilities -- Cooper's, red-shouldered or red-tailed.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

its all about bird

I knew I forgot something. When Ken Lebo e-mailed that a rufous hummingbird arrived Nov. 5 at the hummingbird feeder outside his home at Green Hills Lake, I remembered that I forgot to remind everyone who feeds hummingbirds to keep the feeders up at least until Thanksgiving.

The rufous hummingbird is a hardy Western species that nests as far north as Alaska and can tolerate frigid temperatures of the late fall.

If I had to pick the top Berks bird trend stories of the last 10 years, the tale of the fall migration of the rufous hummingbird would be close to No. 1.

A rufous hummingbird appeared at the late Alex Nagy's feeder in Albany Township on Oct. 3, 1985, for the first Berks sighting of this species.

The next rufous arrived at a feeder near Boyertown on Sept. 15, 1998, and remained until Dec. 31. This bird attracted quite a bit of attention because of the length of its stay and more awareness of its rarity.

We only found out about Nagy's record when Bob Cook of Elverson re-discovered an old note Alex wrote to him about his rufous after the Boyertown bird appeared.

Friday, November 10, 2006

By early November most of our familiar ruby-throated hummingbirds have departed for their winter grounds in the tropics, but don't take down your feeder just yet.

Hummingbirds are being reported at feeders through the winter with increasing frequency. In most cases the birds are not ruby-throated hummingbirds, but are species native to western North America like rufous, calliope and black-chinned hummingbirds.

Rufous hummingbirds are, by far, the most expected western hummer that winters in the Southeastern U.S. Most are females or immatures. Superficially, they resemble ruby-throated hummingbirds, but have red around the tail and buff or reddish feathering on the flanks. Adult males are largely red.

I have already heard of some rufous hummingbirds at feeders around Hickory, Boone and locations along the coast. As the weather cools and natural nectar sources disappear, western hummingbirds in our area will depend on feeders and will thus become more conspicuous. In fact, any hummingbird seen in our area after Nov. 1 is almost certain to be one of the western species. Mecklenburg County has records of five species of hummingbirds from the winter months.

Don't worry about these winter hummers. I have seen rufous hummingbirds active in Mecklenburg County on mornings with temperatures in the upper teens and after big snowfalls. Consider keeping up a winter hummingbird feeder and you may have an unexpected winter visitor.

If you have a hummingbird in your yard now, or know someone who does, I would certainly like to hear about it.