Sunday, December 2, 2007

Lotto Sunday!: Part Two; Selasphorus sp.

Before I left in search of an alleged ibis on Sunday morning, I checked my e-mail. A message from fellow birder Charley revealed another possibility for the day. "I went down to the Liles' place this afternoon and saw the Rufus. I found out it has been there for a week."

A Selasphorus hummer has been in my county for a week, and I didn't know about it? How could that happen? Oh, well, at least I wasn't too late. After I found the casual Black-crowned Night-Heron, I returned home and called the Liles, the hummingbird's host family. They graciously invited me to their home to see the bird.

I jumped in the car immediately, hoping to beat the inevitable cold front due to pass through our neck of the woods later in the morning. It was 69 degrees when I headed out. I arrived just in time. The hummer greeted me with quick fly by. It sipped from the feeder, and then darted away.

For the next hour we were treated to aerial ballet at 15 minute intervals. At 10:30, the bird returned for an extended stop in an oak tree nearby. It perched there for 5 minutes or so, and we caught a glimpse of its color. It was rufous all around except for the white breast and belly. It's gorget, previously unseen by the hosts, was emerging from pin feathers and extending outward from its body, flashing metalic gold in the partly cloudy skies. What a magnificent bird!

I tried to capture its beauty in my point and shoot camera, but all I could muster are these silhouettes and blurry images. The bird returned to the feeder for another fill up, this time sitting for a moment. Ah, a real beauty!

The most interesting part of the day came, however, just as a squall line ushered in what turned out to be a 40 degree drop in temperature for the day. It was at that exact same time that neighbor and certified hummingbird bander Sarah Driver showed up with her trap. The winds were blowing so hard that we had to secure the netted trap to the deck. Whether it was a change in the weather, a change in the feeder's appearance, or a combination of both, the little hummer avoided the area for the next 5 hours.

Next door neighbor....a certified hummer bander! What a coincidence that Sarah Driver lives only 500 feet from the feeder location! I remember her when the 1995 Anna's Hummingbird stopped off in Ozark for a few months. She is also credited with banding the only Black-chinned Hummingbird ever reported in Missouri. By the way, it showed up at her own feeder! Unbelieveable!

Anyway, after her futile efforts to capture the bird failed, she left for home, only to find the bird feeding at her station! She quickly set up the trap at her home and apparently netted the bird. But, the little scrapper managed to squeeze through the bottom of the trap and escaped. When I called Dan late in the day, he said sadly, "we scared it away." It was no sooner than he uttered the words, however, that the bird reappeared at his feeder. Now Sarah and he are timing arrivals and departures between the two houses, in the unlikely event that two separate birds are present.

Sarah must work until Thursday, when another attempt will be made to capture the bird and put a name to it. In the meantime, we hope the bird stays around, but we also realize that natural impulses run through this hummer. This will eventually dictate the choice that the bird makes. Will it leave its secure food source(s) for more favorable temperatures, or will it try to winter here? I'm thinking that this is not the last word for this tough survivor.

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