January 14, 2009 [LINK / comment]

Calliope hummingbird: for real!

To my delight and utter amazement, the Calliope hummingbird that has been reported west of Lynchburg showed up at the designated location not long after I arrived there today. (I had mentioned it in a blog post on Dec. 9.) He spends most of his time perched in a large cedar tree, sometimes chasing other birds that get too close, and every 15 minutes or so he flies down to the feeder on the patio. In spite of freezing temperatures, the tiny thing has survived quite well in the wooded back yard since October at least. Ah, the wonders of Nature. That makes my second life bird in just the first two weeks of the year, and my 382nd overall. I'll probably go back to take some pictures, when the weather improves.

For non-birders, the name "Calliope hummingbird" refers to the series of purple streaks on the bird's throat, resembling the row of pipes in a calliope. Since this particular bird has not yet reached adulthood, the streaks are very faint and gray in color, with a couple tiny purple spots. Excellent close-up photos of the Calliope hummingbird are available from Robert Schamerhorn at iphotobirds.com. He spoke to the Augusta Bird Club last February, displaying some of his best photographic work.

The hummingbird's "hosts," Mary Pat and Fred Morris, are very friendly and very knowledgeable about birds. According to their guest book, about 160 people have paid a visit in hopes of seeing the rare, out-of-place hummer, and every single one did in fact see it. The Morris's deserve hearty thanks for making sure the hummingbird has plenty of nectar, and for welcoming all the birding "pilgrims" to their house. With several bird feeders, a nearby stream, and plenty of trees and shrubs that provide cover, their back yard is like Grand Central Station for birds of all kinds. The highlights today were a Pine siskin, a male Purple finch, and a Downy woodpecker. On the drive back home, I saw a Sharp-shinned hawk patrolling above Interstate 81 near Lexington.

UPDATE: This news item was mentioned in the Lynchburg News Advance yesterday. The column about "Seeing the signs of spring in January" also mentions that a Western tanager has been seen in Williamsburg recently. Coincidentally, I mentioned to the Morris's that I had a brief flurry of visitors to our back yard in March 2004, when a Western tanager camera was visiting. It was the first of that species ever reported in Augusta County.