July 12-14 was the Hummingbird Festival at the Wye Marsh.
Bob and Martha Sargent came to the Marsh from Alabama and attempted to band some local hummingbirds. I need to stress that their work was extremely difficult and required a number of permits. Ironically, as Americans, they needed locals to qualify for the permits and their own students, Bruce and Jo Murphy of New Liskeart, were the official supervisors.
Before the event, we were only seeing one bird at a time at the various feeders and this could have meant as few as one in total. At the end of the first day, with zero birds caught and banded, we were concerned.
Luckily, Bob never stops talking and is constantly entertaining. He had a great number of stories and details to share.
On Saturday and Sunday, two birds each were caught. Below: after banding and measuring the bird, Sargent placed it on a spectators hand in “an unnatural position, such that the bird didn’t realize it was free” and we were able to see it quite closely. Eventually, the bird would fly off.
The bird above looks drab, while the one below is iridescent. It is the same bird and the colors depend on interference patterns in the feathers.Here, Sargent is examining a female to determine mating status. He blew with a straw on the feathers to expose the belly and cloaca. Quote, “Did you hear a giggle?” This one had laid an egg in the past twenty-four hours and may well have another developing inside.
Before releasing the birds, Sargent would hold them up to bystander’s ear so they could hear the heartbeat. The hummingbird’s heart beats at around 250/minute at rest or in his hand and around 1200/minute in flight.The banding and public viewing took place some distance away from the traps. At the traps were the Murphys. In this picture, Jo and Bruce are on the left, holding fishing line which kept the trap doors on the right open. The traps were little more than bird cages with hummingbird feeders inside. Again, permits are required to do this and criminal charges can be laid if you try this at home. In the middle of the shot is Bob Bowles, a locally famous ecologist who has a show on Rogers Cable. He shooting was quite extensive but I cannot find it available online.