Dwayne Martin and Lori Owenby, Catawba County park rangers, sat around Charlie and Evelyn Weatherman’s dining room table last month, eating breakfast. Along with grandson Bryce Weatherman, 5, the group watched for hummingbirds.It was the first stop of the day for Martin and Owenby, and Evelyn had invited them for pancakes and bacon. Martin, a licensed N.C. hummingbird bander, responds to sightings in the western part of the state. He banded a juvenile male Rufous hummingbird at the Weathermans’ Mooresville lake house in January 2012.Evelyn had notified them of the latest sightings – two new birds arrived this fall. Charlie, 67, and Evelyn, 65, have spotted a third. It may be last year’s male. Rufous hummers are winter visitors that usually arrive in October and leave by April.Evelyn leaves feeders out all year. “If you take feeders away in September, you’re putting the birds on a diet before they take their big trip, she said.She mixes four-parts boiled water to one-part white sugar and changes the nectar weekly. Martin dislikes the “stuff” sold in stores because of preservatives. “Birds can taste them and will not feed,” he said.Hummers make frequent forays for food. Because the birds squabble over territory, the Weathermans placed a feeder on the deck and an additional one near the front door. As Martin prepared to capture and examine the new arrivals, he removed the second feeder, forcing the birds to the deck. Although they left when humans approached, the hummers remained nearby. “Hear the chip, chip?” Martin said. He secured a cage on an adjustable table and hung Evelyn’s Pesky Pet feeder inside. It’s the first type Martin owned at age 12. Now 39, Martin considers this style one of the best. Within minutes, a hummer flew to the nectar. Martin retrieved the bird and placed it inside a white cotton bag. In the sunroom, Owenby, 38, had laid tools upon a table. Opening the bag, Martin moved the docile hummer to the cutout toe of a woman’s stocking. While he measured the motionless bird, everyone jockeyed around the table for a better view. Brown tail feathers signaled a Rufous hummingbird, not a ruby-throated. The notched second tail feather confirmed the identification.Groove lines still evident on the bill indicated a youngster. The juvenile female weighed 3.87 grams. Blowing through a straw to ruffle belly feathers, Martin noticed fat, a sign the bird may be preparing for her journey to the Rocky Mountains.The ranger attached a small band to the juvenile’s leg, so birders can track it.Returning outside, Martin placed the bird in Bryce’s outstretched palm and blew upon its feathers. Cameras clicked. The hummingbird took flight.Bryce stood motionless, scanned his empty palm.Another hummer flew into the cage. Martin and Owenby repeated the process. This time identification was more difficult.Martin expected to band another juvenile Rufous but found no notch on the second tail feather. A tiny red feather appeared on the throat. This one may be an Allen hummingbird. Only two have been recorded in the state. Martin banded the second Allen at River Bend Park in Conover last year. He named the adult male “Little Al.” Owenby took numerous photos while Martin examined the unidentified bird and removed a few feathers. “I’m so excited. I thought this would be a simple Rufous band,” Owenby said.“The odds are this one will be the odd Rufous,” said Martin. Positive identification will have to wait until Martin consults with other experts.Time ran out for checking last year’s juvenile male. Martin and Owenby had an appointment for another hummingbird sighting in Monroe. They would have to come another day to check the third hummer.“It’s been a good year for banding,” Martin said.
Friday, Feb. 08, 2013
Lake couple are part of hummingbird banding effort
Banders, rangers keep track of hummingbird comings and goings
Park Ranger Dwayne Martin dabbed a dot of non-toxic orange acrylic paint on a juvenile female Rufous Hummingbird to indicate she has been banded. COURTESY OF LORI OWENBY
After Park Ranger Dwayne Martin blew on the feathers of a Rufous Hummingbird held by Bryce Weatherman, the bird took flight. COURTESY OF LORI OWENBY