Wednesday, June 2, 2010


Of all the birds southeast Arizona has to offer, most often spoken of are the hummingbirds. The lodges on public lands (small inholdings on the National Forest) put out feeders to attract great numbers of hummingbirds every day (and thus great numbers of birders as paying guests every night).

One homeowner at the edge of the Nature Conservancy's Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve has for many years put out hummingbird feeders and welcomed the public to her yard. Though Marion Paton has passed away, her legacy is being well cared for. The rules for visitation remain the same, "If the gate is open, guests are welcome. Leave a few dollars in the donation box to help defray costs."

As you can see from this sign where we stayed, the hummingbirds are a main attraction. Cyndi commented that there's a "No Vacancy" sign because we've got the room already. Well, there's more than one room, but they get booked far in advance.

Some of the hummingbirds I photographed there can be found in Idaho, like this Black-chinned.

Photographing these birds was challenging. They showed off the iridescent colors best in sunshine, but most preferred to come to a feeder that was out of the hot sun. I imagine they burn their tongue if the nectar is too hot.

When this Magnificent Hummingbird hovered just so, the throat briefly lit up a beautiful aqua, contrasting with a purple head. In any case, this one is a very large hummingbird, so stands out from the crowd even without the colorful show.

Without the iridescent color (the feathers are not pigmented, they only show the colors when struck by light at the correct angle, and can even change color in the light ... sometimes golden, sometimes green, sometimes purple), identifying the birds can be difficult. I believe this one is a Broad-tailed.

A few of the hummingbirds wear a complete hood of color. The Anna's wears a magenta hood.

The Costa's, here seen in the Saguaro National Park, resides in the desert and wears a purple cowl that terminates in a large, droopy mustache on each side of the throat.

One of the hummingbirds rarely seen in the United States is the Violet-crowned. I asked the birders in the Paton's yard how I would recognize it, and they educated me that there's only one kind of hummingbird that could be seen there with a white belly, the Violet-crowned.

When it first arrived, though well-hidden behind the feeder, I could still see how it got its name (and the white belly did stand out from the rest of the hummingbirds).

It was quite a regular visitor (as it has been for some years now). I stood in the hot sun for a while (too long, perhaps) waiting to get this photo of it in the sun.

It seemed to me that by far the most common hummingbird there were the Broad-billed, which are iridescent blue and green from head to toe with a wonderful red bill tipped with black. They could be found everywhere, even away from the feeders. (It was nice to see rare birds come to feeders, but that's just a short step away from captivity or dependence in my opinion; so I honestly prefer to find the birds in a natural habitat, doing what comes naturally to them.)

Cyndi and I enjoyed hiking on a lot of trails, and I'll post more in future blogs about some of the places we went, and tell more of the cactus and wildflowers. For now, though, I'll just share this one trail picture, which was a short walk from our cabin. We were in the "sky island" of the Santa Rita Mountains, southeast of Tucson. It is wild there, so wild that one morning Cyndi opened the drapes to see a cat (perhaps Bobcat) stalking the Wild Turkeys by the creek. Mount Wrightson dominates the range, and we could see its distinctive shape from all sides as we camped in various locations over the following week.

I'm not such a "purist" though, that I didn't greatly enjoy standing for hours waiting for the perfect pose at the feeder. And, I do have a feeder outside my window at home.

The shade gave nice even lighting, but the sunlight gave the opportunity for a faster shutter speed and caused the colors to shine in all their glory.

There is a kind of hummingbird called the White-eared, and it looks similar to the Broad-billed which is so very common in southeast Arizona, but it has a broad white line extending over the eye curving backward down the neck, contrasting greatly with a black cheek. I asked the hummingbird watchers at the Paton's feeders how I would know if I saw that, since they look so very similar to the Broad-billed in my opinion. They advised, "You'll know it when you see it."

Well, I guess because there is still doubt in my mind, this next photo is most likely just a Broad-billed with a white supercillium and dark cheek. I thought I knew it when I first saw this photo. Now I'm not so sure. I'll ask for comments from those who know hummingbirds better than I do. I think the supercillium is not broad enough to be a White-eared, and believe this is just a wonderfully colorful Broad-billed.

Hmm. That bill seems relatively shorter and straighter. But, the crown and chin would be more violet on a White-eared. Hey, this was supposed to be relaxing ... .

It's a beautiful hummingbird. Let's leave it at that.

PS An Arizona birder of some ability has reassured me that this is a Broad-billed Hummingbird.

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