By Derek Stoner, Conservation Project Coordinator
Late August brings the peak of fal migration for the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in our region, and the reports coming in this week tell us that these tiny birds are reaching peak numbers in local backyard feeding stations. The feeders at the Ashland Nature Center this week drew 6 or 8 hummingbirds at a time, battling for space at the sugar water ports. I have heard of other feeding stations that are swarmed by literally dozens of hummingbirds. Both adults and this year’s juvenile humingbirds are stocking up as they undertake their migration to winter in Central America.
One of the best ways to watch these amazing birds, though, is at a natural nectar source. The Ruby-throated Hummingbird has a noted preference for red-colored flowers and the Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) is a highly-desirable food source for hummingbirds. Local photographer Hank Davis, of Harold Davis Photography, is capturing incredible images of hummingbirds visiting the flowers in his backyard. He graciously shared these photographs with us to be enjoyed by the readers of this blog.
The beauty of hummingbirds is easier to appreciate when captured in the fine detail of Hank’s photographs. The iridescence of their feathers is incredible, and the speed at which they beat their wings (60+ times per second) is truly remarkable.
Early this afternoon, as the first heavy bands of rain from Hurrican Irene lashed down, I walked into the marsh at Ashland to take some pre-flood photographs. There along the boardwalk I found a lot of hummingbirds actively feeding on the blooms of the Jewelweed plant. These birds are stoking up on fuel to help them hang tough as the conditions deteriorate in the next 24 hours. The high winds and flooding associated with this storm will undoubtedly destroy many of the flowers that these hummingbirds feed on. If you have a hummingbird feeder, you may likely see a lot more hummingbirds visiting right after the storm. They will be thirsty, and you will be serving up their favorite cocktail. Should we call it a Sugar Water Hurricane?