Saturday, 29 December 2012

Babe's Hummingbird

For a few moments there, I felt as though I had walked into a scene from the movie, The Big Year. In the movie, and in real life, there was a Xantus's Hummingbird in Gibson's British Columbia, a very rare Mexican visitor to the pacific coast of North America, seen at a feeder in a residential back hard. The movie depicted a lovey, white haired woman who was happy to have folks from all over the world come to her home and view the rarity, and who enjoyed friendly conversation with the visitor.

On Thursday afternoon I set out, by car, from Toronto to within an hour or so of Pipersville, Pennsylvania, so I could get an early look at the Allen's Hummingbird frequenting a feeder in in Babe Webster's backyard on Stump Road. Pipersville is about 30 minutes off the nearest highway, and as it turns out, only six miles from Peace Valley Park, where the Pink-footed Goose is still residing. Fact is, this wayward hummer was there when I had come to see the Pink-footed Goose, but for some reason wasn't on my radar.

Driving through the small towns leading to Pipersville, probably isn't much different than driving through Small Town British Columbia, and when I arrived at the specified address on Stump Road, I didn't have to wait long to see a kindly, white haired woman out putting food in her feeders, in the back yard. I drove partly up her driveway, got out and introduced myself. It was nearly like when Steve Martin's character, Stu, met the homeowner in The Big Year. Se was friendly, talkative and showed me right to the best viewing spot for the Allen's. Babe could have been the woman from the movie.

But there was a difference. My humming bird host has birded for and lived in the same housr for nearly 53 years, and was on Attu island at least once with Sandy Komito. She shared stories of her lifetime of birding adventures and I shared stories of my first year birding adventures. She was fun to talk to, admitting that at one point in Attu she broke down in tears, having stuggled with the weather and biking, asking herself what the heck she was doing in such a desolate place. While we chatted, we did, every so often, we remember to look up at her deluxe hummingbird feeder and view the Allen's as it came in for breakfast. And this little guy dines in style. This is indeed Babe's pampered baby. The feeder is kept full with warmed sugar water and even has a heat lamp built in. Though Babe is quite fond of her visitor, she would prefer it head back to the southwest and warmer weather sooner than later.

When this bird originally appeared back in November, it was thought to be a Rufous Hummingbird, and it had, in fact, arrived 10 years to the day that Babe had a Rufous in her back yard. However, a savvy and experienced local birder, scott Weidensaul was able to catch it for banding and identification,(mist netting, I assume), and examine and measure it in hand to determine it to be a 1st year male. I had been too early in January and too late in in the fall to get this guy on the west coast, so consider myself lucky to have counted year bird 592 in a Pennsylvania backyard. I signed her guest book,(I was visitor number 206), before I left and considered myself lucky to have met one of the more interesting characters in my year long quest.

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