A Space Filled with Moving

Just five days earlier, I had written here:

I am not-so-secretly hoping they will make another stop here, if they found their way south after leaving (though based on the indignity of the banding, I suspect the female may do anything possible to forget this place exists). It’s tempting to think that our home may have imprinted on their flyway path, that we have developed something like a relationship.

And last Tuesday, 9/17, I glanced out the window to discover that my hopes were rewarded: A rufous hummingbird at the feeder! This one was an adult male, even more obviously a rufous than the two juveniles from last year, which were difficult to distinguish from the ruby throats. I immediately contacted Bruce from USGS, who helped trap and band last year’s rufous migrants and notified all the local community birders. We theorized that it must be last year’s male, now grown, because given their rarity in this area, it seemed too coincidental that we could have an entirely new migrant visitor. This is several weeks earlier than last year, and that adult males migrate earlier than juveniles also added to our theory this was the same bird. Bruce asked me to see if I could get a close-enough look to determine whether the bird was banded. Hmm. This species is much more skittish – hard to blame him, since he’s been captured here! – than the ruby-throats, rarely perches, and I have poor eyesight. How on earth was I going to be able to see if his teeny tiny ankle has a teeny tiny bracelet?

In the week since, Stan was able to come out with his Very Fancy Camera and get a few photographs, to get some answers. Some cropping and enlarging and some keen eyes (not mine) were able to make out enough numbers to verify that yes, this is the male who visited us last October. Interestingly, after he left here, he was apparently captured and banded again, as he is sporting bands on both ankles. It’s interesting to compare these to the similar images from a year ago; he is so much more vivid and colorful as an adult.

Bands visible – Photo credit: Stan Bentley
Rare moment of rest – Photo credit: Stan Bentley

We’re all very curious to learn where he has been in the last year, where else he was trapped. Bruce plans to make the drive down from Maryland soon to see if we can trap him again and solve that mystery.


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