A walk outside

Crystal Bridges 21

March 20 is in 17 days. It is the start of spring and my favorite months of the year. I love flowers, the wildlife and burst of activity that happens. I’m already looking for things to do, which includes visiting Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. I was going through photos today, and stumbled across these photos from my first visit to Crystal Bridges in July 2017.

Photo essay: Gigi & I

Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds
Female Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds

My grandmother, Gigi, and I share a love of birds. So, a hummingbird banding workshop was the perfecting outing for us to spend some time together. Luckily, the Saturday workshop was from 1-4 p.m. at the Potlatch Conservation Education Center in Casscoe, which gave me plenty of time to pick her up in Jonesboro and stop at Jack Ryan’s Convenience store to pick up some of their oh-so-good sandwiches for lunch.

I’ve been going to the workshop for three years now and I don’t think I’ll ever get bored with it. There were no little kids this time so Gigi and I were both able to release a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird after they were banded. It was a pretty neat experience since the hummingbirds sat for a moment before flying off. Later, we drove down to the dock to see how high the White River was.

Here’s pictures:

Banding the first Ruby-Throated Hummingbird.
Banding the first Ruby-Throated Hummingbird.
Gigi releasing the first hummingbird.
Gigi releasing the first hummingbird, a male.
I got to release the last.
I got to release the last, a female who was also the rowdiest.
Close up of mine.
Close up of mine.
Cooks Lake-hummingbird3 6-15
Ruby-Throated Hummingbird
Cooks Lake-hummingbird1 6-15
Ruby-Throated Hummingbird
This one was already banded.
This one was already banded.
Already banded.
Another look at the already-banded hummingbird.
Eastern Bluebird that posed as we headed down to the dock.
Eastern Bluebird that posed as we headed down to the dock.
The White River water level is pretty high right now.
The White River water level is pretty high right now.
The dock at the White River. We were still able to access the floating ramp.
The dock at the White River. We were still able to access the floating ramp.
We found this lady bug on the floating ramp along with ...
We found this lady bug on the floating ramp along with …
This Broad-headed Skink (lizard) and ...
This Broad-headed Skink (lizard) and …
This frog who jumped off the ramp as I approached.
This frog who jumped off the ramp as I approached.
We spent our trip back to Jonesboro look for any wildlife. We saw very few.
We spent our trip back to Jonesboro look for any wildlife. We saw very few.

It was a day well spent.

 

Drumroll … New bird visitor at my home

I’ve lived in Stuttgart for three years this August. During this time, my main feathered visitors have been house sparrows, cardinals, doves, American robins and blackbirds. And, of course, the occasional cedar waxwing.

Now, I love having these constant birds. Don’t get me wrong, but I decided late last summer I wanted for more variety. And I finally took action after months of just thinking about it. I actually kept my feeders full, switching to a more fruitier blend to attract another variety of birds (which my usual crowd still likes) and put up my first hummingbird feeder.

The results were slow. I received my first hummingbird late last summer. This spring, I woke up to a rose-breasted grosbeak singing at my feeder. And I recently discovered the below American goldfinch. Today, I finally had what I believe was a House finch.

I see most of the birds first thing in the morning, around 7 to 7:30. And honestly, the finds are a great energy boost for my day. So, hopefully the birds will keep on visiting.

IMG_3266

IMG_3268

 

First day of spring

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Northern Cardinal

Spring, which officially starts today, is my favorite season. To celebrate, I spent my early Tuesday evening working in my backyard. OK, it was mostly lazy yard work. I cleaned up, made plans for a proposed project and put up new hummingbird feeders.

After I finished, I just happened to glance over in time to see a bird leaving my hummingbird feeder. I. Was. Excited! Could it be a hummingbird, already? Nope. I sat by my window for an hour watching house sparrows, northern cardinals and American robins come up to feed. I’m now positive that it was a sparrow that went to the wrong feeder.

Whatever happened, I enjoyed my time outdoors and watching the birds. It’s not a bad way to pass the time. Here’s some of my visitors:

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House Sparrow
3
American Robin

4
House Sparrows

5
House Sparrow

6
Northern Mockingbird

 

The Rufous Hummingbird

On Tuesday, I saw my first Rufous Hummingbird at a nearby house in Stuttgart. A female or immature, the Rufous had a greenish gold crown and back, a white breast and dull reddish/brown sides. The males have bright orange on the back and belly with a red throat.

I originally heard of the bird through the state’s only hummingbird bander, Tana Beasley. The owner of the house with the Rufous later dropped by my work to invite me out to her house for  a look.

I couldn’t resist. Tana said it is the closest “unusual” hummingbird (meaning not the common Ruby-Throated we have here) to the Stuttgart/ Casscoe area that she has heard about. She did attempt to capture the Rufous for banding, however, the bird was not having it.

The Rufous refused to stay where it usually sat until the cage was gone. I actually stopped by the house twice before I finally saw the Rufous: Once with the cage there and once afterwards. Ruby-Throated hummingbirds swarmed the enclosed garden area on both visits.

The Ruby-Throated hummingbirds were hoarding the feeders so much that the Rufous had taken over a portion of the garden’s flowers. It was funny to watch the Rufous sit on favored spots above this section, which it guarded fiercely.

Revisiting the Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds

I hope you don’t have the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird in mind when describing how you don’t eat much or “eat like a bird” as the saying goes.

The hummingbird species visits as many as 2,000 flowers per day and consumes about 150-160 pounds of protein per day. I don’t know about you but I don’t think I could eat every 15 minutes like this species does.

I’m absolutely fascinated with this bird, which weighs about two to six grams. It’s the only breeding hummingbird in the eastern North America and its connection with Arkansas County is traced back at least 50 years when area residents began actively setting out feeders.

I was first introduced to the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird last year when I attended a program at Potlatch Conservation Education Center at Cook’s Lake in Casscoe. On Saturday, I went back to Cook’s Lake to visit Arkansas’ only licensed hummingbird bander, the center’s director Tanya Beasley. She’s one of about 150 banders with permits in the United States. She highlights her program through monthly workshops on the hummingbirds and the banding process each summer.

There are 300 species of hummingbirds whose habitats are solely in the Americas, although only 15 to 16 of these species are in the United States. Arkansas County only has the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird.

This species visits Arkansas County in the summer months as they head towards Central America via the Gulf of Mexico. Interesting side note: The albino hummingbirds struggle to make the flight across the Gulf of Mexico since the condition weakens their body and these birds rarely live a long life. Most birds only live three to five years.

Presently, Beasley said the hummingbirds in Arkansas County are nesting. Hummingbirds normally lay two pea-sized eggs about two to three days apart, which the female will incubate for about 12-16 days. After hatching, the fledglings are out of the nest by the third week and the female will have a second nest ready for two additional eggs.

“Seventy-five percent of the fledglings don’t make it,” she said. “They are very vulnerable to predators.”

By next month, Beasley said Cook’s Lake visitors will be able to see more than double the hummingbirds viewed this past weekend as more hummingbirds pass through as well as with the fledglings out of the nest.

The birds really are remarkable. They have about 950 feathers and, according to Beasley, one of the largest brains of any animal in relation to its body size. It has an excellent memory as well and will remember where it has found food, such as hummingbird feeders, in past years so it can visit them during future migrations.

It’s a fact that Beasley and others attending this past weekend’s program kept reminding me of as I complained (okay, whined) that only bees were visiting my newly established hummingbird feeder. In case my luck continues to lag, Beasley also offered this tip: Incorporate red throughout my yard.

The color red attracts hummingbirds along with various plants, including the pineapple sage. I didn’t realize it, but hummingbirds have excellent sight but cannot smell so I was warned not to purchase a plant for the smell alone.

I’m still considering whether to leave my new feeder out year-round. Beasley recommends it, saying the feeder can be hung just above a candle warmer or placed two and a half to three feet away from a spotlight to keep the liquid warm. I’ll probably end up trying the spot light trick.