1-7 August 2005
Installment #280---Visitor #

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Join us for another
Winter Hummingbird Expedition to Costa Rica
in November/December 2005 or February 2006

On the weekend of 13-14 August 2005
we'll be in Fredericksburg VA
and Boyds MD.
(Click on the logo at left for details, additonal 2005 presentations, and info
about booking "Hummingbird Mornings" for your own facility in 2006.)


This week we departed Hilton Pond Center for a four-day trip to western Kentucky and Land Between the Lakes (LBL), an interesting finger of land that remained when the Tennessee Valley Authority dammed the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers to form Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. Our specific destination was Woodlands Nature Station, which for many years has hosted a "Hummingbird Fest" and at which we have given public hummer programs since 2003. We have mixed feelings about participating in the LBL hummer festival, not because it's a long nine-hour drive from York (I-26 and I-40 are actually quite scenic), not because of the staff (which is absolutely great), not because of poor festival attendance (more than 1,500 children and adults came this year), and not because the station is out in the boondocks (we enjoy the wild and isolated setting)--no, our feelings are mixed because Woodlands Nature Station has TOO DARN MANY hummingbirds! If you stand at the station's observation windows in early August and look out into its well-maintained hummingbird habitat--flowering trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants and water features, plus at least a dozen 30-ounce hummingbird feeders that get drained and re-filled daily--it is hard NOT to be astounded when each feeder has ten or so Ruby-throated Hummingbirds hovering at any given moment, with many more perched nearby. It's a safe estimate to say at least 200 ruby-throats are in view at any given moment, so we readily admit we get very jealous when we visit Woodlands Nature Station and just wish Hilton Pond Center had half--or a third--or a quarter--as many hummers as they do at Land Between the Lakes.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Although it's a bit hard to tell in our on-line photo (above), there are actually 12 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in the picture--including those perched in the background shrubs--and there would have been many more had we not been standing six feet away from the feeders. We reckon that, with the help of experienced field assistants, we easily could have trapped and banded at least a couple of hundred hummingbirds on the weekend of 5-7 August, and that's why we get jealous. After all, we had to work long and hard just to catch our all-time annual high of "just" 210 ruby-throats last year at Hilton Pond Center--and that only after running mist nets and several hummer traps almost daily from late March through mid-October.

We were made even more jealous when Cindy Cox of Williamsburg KY cruised into the nature station parking lot in a nice white car with a remarkable paint job (above). Seems that Cindy devotes most of her waking hours and many of her dreams to hummingbirds and even calls herself the "Hummingbird Lady." Stands to reason, then, that she would have her car customized with images of hummingbirds hovering at flowers. Yep, we wanted that car but got a little less jealous when Cindy donated $15 to Operation RubyThroat: The Hummingbird Project in return for one of our spiffy white T-shirts--and then posed with her car while wearing it. (You, too, can get one of these original shirts; see Operation RubyThroat T-shirt. And if you wear it in some exotic hummingbird-related place and send a photo, we may run it in Operation RubyThroat's on-line Gallery. But we digress.)

Now, the third reason we got jealous this week is because nature station staffer Jami Carroll--already smug after hearing the nature station has far more hummingbirds than we do at Hilton Pond Center--let us know proudly that they even had a hummingbird nesting this year not far from the station's front door.

With a skip in her step, Jami led the way down the sidewalk to a towering hickory tree and pointed at its lowest limb. After a few seconds, we finally located the three-inch lichen-covered nest, angled out from a tiny crotch and now abandoned. The nest had been shown to nature center staff by a sharp-eyed visitor who happened to see the female flying to it earlier this summer. So why were we jealous? Mostly because during our 24 years in residence, we've NEVER been able to find a Ruby-throated Hummingbird nest at Hilton Pond.

Hundreds of hummingbirds, a hot car with custom hummingbird paint job, and a hummingbird nest--those were three things sure to make any hummingbird fancier jealous. But to make matters worse, Land Between the Lakes even has its own buffalo range where these giant quadrupeds roam more or less free. The American Bison has long been our favorite mammal, so you might expect we'd be jealous of LBL's herd of these magnificent creatures.

It's hard to imagine an American prairie covered by buffalo as far as the eye could see, but that's the way it was in this country until about a hundred years ago. The buffalo hunters slaughtered tens of millions of these wild cattle for their tongues and hides and left the reminder to rot on the plains--certainly one of the most despicable examples of greedy behavior ever demonstrated by humans. Not too long ago, those uncountable herds were reduced to perhaps 500 individuals that--thanks to conservationists with far more sense than the buffalo gunners-- -were placed in protected locales and allowed to breed, as they do at LBL.

We're grateful for those conservation visionaries who helped the buffalo recover, and for this week's opportunity to watch and photograph American Bison in western Kentucky. We may be jealous of the LBL buffalo herd, but we're glad we've gotten to know all the great folks at Woodlands Nature Station. We hope to see them in August 2006, even if we again turn green with envy over all those Ruby-throated Hummingbirds that drain a multitude of feeders at Land Between the Lakes.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

POSTSCRIPT: One of the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds we caught this year at Land Between the Lakes was already banded with N06212--which we immediately knew was not within any band sequences issued to us by the Bird Banding Lab. After returning to Hilton Pond Center, we contacted Bob Sargent, who netted hummers at the nature station for several years, and learned the bird had indeed been banded at LBL in 2002 by one of his submpermittes. Since it had a white throat when we re-trapped it, the hummer must be a female, and she would be at least an after-third-year bird.

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Be sure to scroll down for an account of all birds banded or recaptured during the week, plus other nature notes of interest.

"This Week at Hilton Pond" is written & photographed
by Bill Hilton Jr., executive director of
Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History.

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Please report your
sightings of
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds


1-7 August 2005

Ruby-throated Hummingbird--1
Northern Cardinal--1
House Finch--3

* = New species for 2005

3 species
5 individuals

45 species
953 individuals

(since 28 June 1982)
124 species
46,260 individuals

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

This Week at Hilton Pond
is part of the

(with original banding date, sex, and current age)

Ruby-throated Hummingbird (1)
07/18/04--after 2nd year female

Carolina Wren (1)
07/01/04--2nd year male

--Travels to Land Between the Lakes (see above) kept us away from Hilton Pond Center for most of the week, hence our low weekly capture numbers at left.

--On average over the past 22 years at the Center, we have banded 68 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds through 7 Aug. This year, we have 54, or 79% of the norm.

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