Monday, August 16, 2010

August 16: Hummingbirds

When my friend Diane calls me at an odd time at work, I know she's seen a cool bird in her yard. This afternoon was no exception. "I've got a rusty red hummingbird with a red throat here," she said. I was at her house in minutes.
Rufous Hummingbird, male; Rockport, Maine
And there he was, a male rufous hummingbird in all his shining red glory. He spent most of the hour I was there perched in a tree, where he stood out like an autumn leaf. He perched in full view with an eye on her hummingbird feeder. I only saw him approach it to feed once, when I took the above photo. But whenever a ruby-throated hummingbird, the native species you'd normally expect to see here, tried to feed, he would swoop down and chase it away. He was slightly bigger and puffier than the natives, which apparently made him somewhat of a bully.

For reasons other than his obvious beauty, seeing this hummingbird is a big deal. Look in a bird book and you'll see that rufous hummingbirds live far west of the Mississippi. The only other ones I've seen have been in the Rocky Mountains. But occasionally one will go astray during migration and show up in New England. I've never heard of one being seen around here, though, and I've certainly never been so fortunate as to see one in Maine. 

While we were watching (and trying to photograph) the rufous hummingbird and the comings-and-goings of the resident ruby-throats, our attention was drawn to movement in a potted jasmine plant on Diane's porch. At first we thought it might be another hummingbird, but we quickly realized that it was an insect. A hummingbird moth, to be specific--a very cool moth that looks just like a hummingbird. I think I've only seen one or two of these before, so it was almost exciting a sighting as the  errant rufous hummingbird.
Hummingbird Moth
This afternoon's sightings reminded me--you should always keep your eyes open on what's buzzing around your back yard!

Hummingbird--so small
your body, so fierce your heart.
May you burn brightly. 

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