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.

 

New visitors

Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Rose-breasted Grosbeak

A strange chirping woke me up this morning. It was a Rose-breasted Grosbeak — a first at my house. However, he wasn’t alone. It was joined by another first, three White-crowned Sparrows, and eventually a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird. The sparrows and hummingbird returned throughout the day. Not a bad start to the week.

White-crowned Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Bayou Meto springtime

Barn Swallows
Barn Swallows

I typically visit the Bayou Meto Wildlife Management Area in the fall and winter — never spring and summer. I broke tradition this year by taking a late afternoon drive through the area with Izzie. Boy, was I glad I did. There were Barn Swallows, Dickcissels and Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds at the Halowell Reservoir while Indigo Buntings and Blue Grosbeaks lined the roads leading to and from the reservoir. Overall, it was a pretty drive with a gorgeous sunset (see the last pictures).

Barn Swallow2
Barn Swallow
Blue Grosbeak, Female1
female Blue Grosbeak
Blue Grosbeak, male
male Blue Grosbeak
Dickcissel, pair
A pair of Dickcissel

flowers1

Goose, Snow and Greater White-fronted
Geese — a snow and a greater white-fronted — that each had a drooping wing.

flowers2

Indigo Bunting
Indigo Bunting
RT Hummingbird1
female Ruby-throated Hummingbird
RT Hummingbird2
male Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Sandpiper, Spotted1
Spotted Sandpiper

sunset

sunset2

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.

Photo essay: Bayou Meto

Bayou Meto-1
American Black Ducks

Izzie and I needed out of the house today so we decided to head to the nearby Bayou Meto Wildlife Management Area’s Brett Morgan Halowell Reservoir. Here’s some pictures from the visit:

House Sparrows
House Sparrows
Bayou Meto-3
Nutria
Bayou Meto-4
Dragonfly
Bayou Meto-6
Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds

Bayou Meto-5

Bayou Meto7

The bandit

I’m not sure who was more surprised — this raccoon or I. We came across each other as I hiked to Cook’s Lake from the Potlatch Conservation Education Center in Casscoe. My first thought was “Is he alive? … IS HE STAPLED TO THE TREE?” The last thought is in response to how I first saw him (hint, it’s not the above picture but the below one).

For some reason, I never thought about raccoons climbing. Honestly, I never really gave them much thought period. Still, I liked my little bandit. I visited the center to attend its last hummingbird program of the year. I was determined to get a few better pictures of the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird. I think I met my goal. 🙂

In addition to the hummingbirds, I even got a few more surprises: An immature male Indigo Bunting (first picture below) and a Red Spotted Purple butterfly.

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.