Banding the Hummingbirds

As most of you know, Ann and I spent the weekend down at the Casitas of Far Flung Outdoor Center in Study Butte, Texas.  We arrived there Thursday afternoon and found out that Kelly Bryan of Fort Davis, was going to be banding hummingbirds there the following morning.  We had planned on going birding in the Big Bend National Park, but this sounded exciting and made up our minds that we were going to attend the event.

At 8:00 Friday morning, Kelly pulled up with his equipment.  Along with his friend, Carolyn Ohl, from Alpine, they proceeded to put covers on all of the existing hummingbird feeders.  They then took another one to the center of the courtyard area, and set it in a cage with a large opening.  The idea was that all the hummers in the area, upon finding the other feeders useless, would eventually locate the cage with the feeder inside.  It worked handsomely and several birds were caught.

Kelly and Carolyn carefully retrieved each bird and put it in a little cloth sack, which they took over to the bench where Bryan would do the banding.  He then carefully takes the bird from the bag and proceeds to examine it to check the overall condition of the hummer and take measurements.  All such information is recorded in his log book.  After that, he puts a very tiny metallic band on the leg with the date, location, etc.  These bands are very light, with it taking 5,000 of them to weigh an ounce.

On completion of this operation, the hummingbird is then ready for release.  Kelly simply puts it in his palm, (or yours) for a brief few seconds of rest, then the bird flies off.  It is quite a thrill to watch.  In one photo below, an Anna’s Hummingbird is resting on Ann’s palm seconds before taking flight.  Click on all photos to see enlargements.

After getting her new band, this Anna's Hummingbird gets a drink with the help of Bryan before taking flight.

After getting his new band, this Anna’s Hummingbird gets a drink with the help of Kelly before taking flight.

Anna's Hummingbird rest briefly in the palm of Ann's hand before taking flight.

Anna’s Hummingbird rest briefly in the palm of Ann’s hand before taking flight.

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna’s Hummingbird

After watching these proceedings, Kelly and Carolyn suggested that we go down to Lajitas and check on the hummingbirds that hang around the restaurant area there.  There we were very fortunate to see three new hummingbirds that we had never seen before.  Not only the Anna’s, which was new to us, but both a Broad-billed and a Blue-throated Hummingbird.  All three of them lifers for me and Ann, bringing our life-list total to 267.  (but who counts?)  Plus we spotted a Black-chinned and a Rufous Hummingbird.  In all, there were five different hummingbird species in that one area.  A real bonanza.

Since we were there just for the weekend, we didn’t do too much birding per se, except for a quick trip to the Cottonwood Campground in Big Bend NP to do check out a few.

But for the weekend, I think we saw a total of around 40 birds, and added the ones below to our 2014 list.  Our goal is 210.

#44  American Kestrel

#45  Eastern Meadowlark

#46  Common Raven

#47  Loggerhead Shrike

#48  Mountain Bluebird

#49  Sage Thrasher

#50  Scaled Quail

#51  Black-chinned Hummingbird

#52  Anna’s Hummingbird  (lifer)

#53  Eurasian Collared Dove

#54  Blue-throated Hummingbird  (lifer)

#55  Rufous Hummingbird

#56  Broad-billed Hummingbird  (lifer)

#57  Northern Flicker

#58  Pyrrhuloxia

#59  Townsend Warbler

#60  Chihuahuan Raven

#61  Great Roadrunner

#62  Ruby-crowned Kinglet

#63  Cactus Wren

27 thoughts on “Banding the Hummingbirds

  1. I’m coming back to this post because we just watched another documentary (really? us?) on hummingbirds. They had a feature on the Anna’s and his mating ritual of diving fast and making a “squeak” sound in front of her on his upward return. They discovered it’s due to the way they spread their tail feathers and the frequency that results in the sound. So fascinating!!

      • No need to apologize! I’m the late responder. I either am at work where the internet connection is terribly slow so I’ve given up on that or else in transit somewhere with my phone. Yeah, I sometimes wish I could spend three weeks traveling the U.S. trying to find 400+ species…!

  2. Oh my gosh! That’s awesome. Love the picture of little guy in Ann’s hand. How fitting? Anna’s with Ann?

    I’m dying to get a good shot of our visiting rufous; video so far, but no stills. I know he (and she) won’t be around long, so I’d better get to it. I also missed by a second or so a ruby-throat and rufous sitting together on the feeder when it was 30 degrees out. I guess they figured to stop fighting long enough to tank up. At least we all got a good long close-up look from the warmth of our kitchen.

    Glad you had such a great trip.

    • PS — Scott and Angie are both doing “a big year” in 2014. So stinkin’ cute. They correctly identified the pie-billed grebe for me last weekend at Brazos Bend — a lifer for me!

    • Gosh, Shannon, how great it would be to get shots of the Rufous. I don’t have any yet, maybe if I get back down there to Lajitas. Don’t see them around San Angelo often. I envy you for all of those you have at your place.. Thanks for the lovely comment.

  3. Wonderful story to go along with images. Congrats on the life birds! Some of the other birds you listed are still on my list. Including the hummingbirds. In Arkansas, we only have Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. Looking forward to seeing more of your work.
    Best wishes-

    • Hi Susan. Many thanks for commenting. Here in San Angelo we only have the Black-chinned and the Ruby-throated most of the time, so I feel real fortunate to get all of those others at one time. I’m glad that you are enjoying my work. I certainly am enjoying yours.

  4. Wow, Bob, what an amazing experience! It must have been such a thrill to hold those tiny little birds. I would have been worried about hurting them – they are so tiny! What absolute gems – they are just exquisite. Well done on getting 3 new species, too!

  5. Sounds like a fun, relaxing, soul regenerating trip! I spent 5 years in/and around that country while attending Sul Ross. We lived in that white adobe at the old Boquillas crossing for 6 weeks one summer in 69 or 70 while it was used as a Sul Ross research station. Talk about nice! I bought your digital book and have really enjoyed it. Keep up the good work.

    • Thanks so much, Joe. Both for the sale of the book and for visiting my blog. I hope you will do so again. It seems that we both have a mutual interest in the Big Bend area.

  6. Morning Bob,

    I have been following a blog called Christmas Mountains Oasis. This blogger spends a lot of time assisting with the banding at Lajitas. Sounds like a wonderful place. I put up my humming bird feeder up when I got down here, but so far haven’t seen any stop by for a drink. I imagine they will be around soon.

    • Yes, that blog is by Carolyn Ohl., the lady I mentioned in the post. We have been to her Oasis and it is a indeed a wonderful place. But it is hard to get to, high-clearance vehicle only, but worth it. I love her blog.

  7. Now that is exciting! What a thrill for Ann to have one on her palm. Glad you both had a good time. And welcome back home. hugs

  8. Very nice, informative post, Bob. I really like your sequence of hummer photos. Looks like you have mastered your new 70D and it is serving you well.

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