On the Road is a weekday feature spotlighting reader photo submissions.
From the exotic to the familiar, whether you’re traveling or in your own backyard, we would love to see the world through your eyes.
We have another great set of OTR posts for this week. Take a look at what’s ahead. (click to embigen)
After a morning dodging raindrops at Ash Canyon Sanctuary, I headed to the Coronado National Memorial, a grassland and foothill-rich federal property on the US/Mexico border. I was hopeful, even though it was early afternoon, that I might catch sight of some of the iconic birds that can be found there.
I didn’t find my target birds (Montezuma Quail and Vermilion Flycatcher), but I did find a pair of young Cooper’s Hawks (Accipiter cooperi), or rather, I should say, they found me while I was eating lunch at one of the streamside picnic areas near the headquarters. One of them flew in and landed on a dead snag near my table, and seemed to be sizing me up as a prospective meal. Another, probably its sibling, came along and also glared at me from an adjacent site. Cooper’s Hawks in these mountains seem pretty bold! Click here for larger image.
I also found a young Red-tailed Hawk of the western subspecies (Buteo jamaicensis calurus), which I don’t regularly see here in Flyover Country. So I spent some time watching and studying it, just in case I run across one here someday. Click here for larger image.
The afternoon of my first full day in SE Arizona was highlighted by a demonstration of how to catch and band and release hummingbirds, orchestrated by master bander Sheri Williamson and her husband Tom Wood. As you might imagine, fitting bird bands on these tiny-legged flighted jewels is not simple, nor is it something that anyone can do. There are fewer than 200 hummingbird banders in the country, and Sheri is one of the best and most productive of them all, having banded thousands of hummingbirds over the years. It was a blast, and well-attended by both humans and hummers.
The Casa de San Pedro, where I was staying, was the site of this demonstration. The Casa probably has 20 or 30 hummingbird feeders scattered throughout the property. In order to concentrate the birds at a feeder fitted with this trap, all of the other feeders were temporarily taken down. The trap consists of a cylindrical mesh net that fits over the feeder, and a floor where the net lands, sealing the birds inside the net. The Tupperware box on top of the net contains a remote-controlled trigger that drops the net once the triggerman (Tom) decides that the birds at the feeder include some that need to be caught and banded. Once the net is dropped, a crew of bird grabbers and transporters descends and retrieves birds from under the net, places them in their own mesh carrying cases, and delivers them to the banding table where Sheri examines them, ages and sexes them, bands them, and then hands them off to be released by some of the onlookers. Click here for larger image.
Over the course of the next two hours, 28 hummingbirds were trapped, banded, and released. One of them was a Violet-crowned Hummingbird (Leucolia violiceps), which has been expanding its range northward from Mexico in recent years. At another banding demonstration the previous week, one of these was captured and banded, so when this one was captured, we wondered if it was a recapture of the previous week’s bird. But no, it was unbanded, so there were at least two of these beauties at the Casa this year. Click here for larger image.
Here’s another shot of a Violet-crowned Hummingbird, perched in a mesquite tree near the feeder and the trap. This one never got into the trap zone, so perhaps it was the previously-banded bird. Or perhaps it was yet another! Click here for larger image.
Another common species at the Casa this year was the Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus). This is an adult female, not as flashy as the adult males, but a beauty in her own way. Sheri banded 10 of these (6 juvenile males, 1 juvenile female, 1 adult male, and 1 adult female, perhaps this bird). Click here for larger image.
A less common species, but highly sought by birders, this is a young male Calliope Hummingbird (Selasphorus calliope). Two were banded that afternoon, one adult female and one juvenile male, perhaps this one. This short-tailed and short-billed hummingbird is the smallest of all North American breeding birds, it weighs in at a mind-boggling tenth of an ounce (2.5-3.5 gm), but it packs a lot of pugnacity in that tiny body. Click here for larger image.
At the end of the day, when lots of onlookers had been able to watch and then to hold and release a newly-banded hummingbird, I was offered the opportunity to be the takeoff platform for this young Broad-billed Hummingbird (5 were banded that afternoon, and I learned that these ae known as Bill in the local vernacular). After the band is attached, the bird is offered some sugar water to help it recover from the time and vexation of the banding process, and then placed on the open palm of a willing volunteer. Here’s a video of Bill taking off from my hand. My fashionable outfit consists of baggy cargo pants, a t-shirt designed and gifted to me by my daughter, a permethrin-impregnated long-sleeve shirt to discourage biting insects, and a cap from the gift shop at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Follow me for more fashion tips. Click here for larger image.