It was the day I expected to see at least one of my hummingbirds arrive. It was very early after a night time rain. Every drop of water sparkled in the morning sun and there was life everywhere. Many birds of all kinds were present, and several of each kind selected their perfect perch to sit and wait for a possible arriving mate. They all sang their own song, all so different, and none of them in unison. It was like unorchestrated chaos, but so beautiful. All of my favourite birds had shown up within 2 days, except one.
I found no better way to spend the day than sitting and listening to the peaceful garden, and waiting for our Rubies to return. Every small moving object in the yard would grab my attention and make my heart skip a beat. Then it happened. Over the trees and directly to the open feeder arrived a male Ruby. He spent about 30 seconds drinking, and then flew the the next feeder to get a taste. Then he flew to the third, fourth, and fifth feeder, giving them each a taste. He inspected the yard from corner to corner and flew to one of his favourite perches...2000 miles and I'm finally home. N.E. of Edmonton, May 2016. Adult Male Ruby-throated hummingbird.
These are not great captures, but I wasn't expecting any photo ops. I usually wait a few days until I can figure out patterns and locations where they like to sit, then I'll spend time getting some closeups. I pulled out the garden hose to fill up the fountain and wash my hands. I noticed the one male feeding at a feeder when he instantly bee lined right towards me. I could see that fluorescent ruby throated laser beam coming right at me. At this point I had water splashing up in my face and causing a real commotion. He flew within a foot of the water hose, looked at me and then flew back to the trees. About an hour later we noticed him at the fountain. He was there for only about 15 seconds, long enough for me to get the camera out, but NOT to get the picture. Within a couple minutes he flew back to the fountain and sat on the edge, laid in the water and fanned himself with mist. These photos were from a long distance away, so please forgive the quality, but he sure game me a memory.
This was our throw together fountain, and I placed a flat concrete piece on top so the water would just roll over it. It's course enough that they can grab hold with their little talons.
This male is now our dominant male. I have not seen Ziggy, and I'm beginning to think his legacy is finished, however, he is more than likely the one to be given credit for the massive population that we've developed over the last few years.
Many "hummingbirders" have been alternating their attention between the migration maps and staring at their hummingbird feeders. It's remarkable how one of the tiniest birds on the planet can have such a massive impact on our everyday lives. What's the intrigue that forces us to dedicate hours of our lives in hopes of spotting just one little hummingbird? Well, you might get a different answer from anyone who suffers from this addiction. For me, the list of intrigue is long. First of all I struggle with how such a small cluster of feathers is capable of so much, but it goes so far beyond just their physical capabilities. Just one glistening gorget feather reflects the most beautiful colors, and many placed in a pattern can display the most beautiful bird in existence.
We can see a million hummingbird sightings in our life, but the million and one is just as exciting. They are fascinating beyond belief, and for those who are still waiting for their first, I sincerely hope you don't give up trying. This is a hobby or project that requires persistence. Sometimes it takes longer than others to get your first sighting, but if you cater to hummingbirds with feeders, choice flowers and other hummingbird attractions, your rewards will be great. In time you can build up a population of hummingbirds that will make your garden complete.
I have to add one very important thing. Just because you haven't seen a hummingbird at your feeders doesn't mean they weren't there. It's impossible for any one of us to watch every feeder, every minute, of every daylight hour. These birds are like little ninjas. You can sneak a cup of coffee and return, and not have a clue one was there. Trust that they are around, and eventually the results will appear, especially after the young leave the nest.
May 2016, Adult Male Ruby-throated hummingbird.
There are a number of people that are disappointed about not seeing a hummingbird sighting when the first birds arrive in their regions. Just remember the migration lasts for more than just a few days. In the Northern regions, the migration can last one month. So if you aren't getting a sighting when the first ones start appearing in your region, just remember these are the VERY FIRST birds. There are so many more to come. Once they all arrive to their general destination, they start searching for good territories and mates. There are many young birds from the year before that are looking for a great territory to start their own legacy. Many of the first sightings are NOT going to stick around your garden. In fact, many of these birds have a final destination far north of where you are.
When someone reports the first sighting in their region, we all have to realize that it's the very first sighting of a WAVE yet to come! When you look at the migration maps and see all those dots, it's probably less than 1 in 100 that any one of those birds will show up at your garden.
What I'm really trying to say is that the population is SO MUCH greater than what you see posted. Have some patience when you see the first sighting in your area because there are far more to come.
Young Ruby-throat hummingbird 2015, N.E. of Edmonton, Alberta.
Author of Jewel of the North. Please post your comments and questions.