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Monday, November 21, 2011

Rare Hummingbird Visits Vermont

By mid-November, most of the hummingbird feeders in Vermont have been taken down for the season (or the sugar-water has frozen solid), but a feeder in East Arlington, VT continues to be visited by a very cold, very lost hummer!

On November 19, Randy Schmidt of the The Vermont Bird Place & Sky Watch, in
Manchester Center, received a call from a concerned customer who's "Ruby-throated Hummingbird" hadn't yet flown south. As word of this unusual sighting spread throughout the birding community, many began to wonder whether this could be a rare, vagrant hummingbird species. By mid-September, most Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have vacated Vermont for warmer climes, but during this fall/winter period, other species infrequently stray far from their wintering grounds and end up in very unusual places. When they do, they will often find a lingering feeder which they will stake out as their own.

This appears to be what happened in East Arlington, where the vagrant hummingbird has apparently been residing for weeks. It is believed to be of the genus Selasphorus, although a trained hummingbird bander will be visiting tomorrow to more thoroughly document this individual and identify its species. Needless to say, Vermont birders are very excited to have such an unusual avian visitor in our state, and will be anxiously following developments on this sighting.

Monday, November 14, 2011

When Birds Share the Feeder

Anyone who has ever fed birds has likely provided food to a host of other types of creatures. An uninvited squirrel can empty a bird feeder quickly and scare away its intended avian visitors. If only we could just hang a bright, shiny sign on our feeders that says "BIRDS ONLY"...

Of course, different people have different attitudes towards bird feeding and while some recoil when a squirrel partakes in the feeding, others welcome critters of both feather and fur. After all, finding food in winter is difficult for all animals, not just birds. And despite our greatest efforts to deter them,nothing seems to stop determined animals from getting the seed they want.

Here in Vermont, we need to be especially vigilant, as bears can be both a nuisance and a potential threat to safety and property. In areas where bears are present, feeders should not be hung until prolonged cold has sent the bears into hibernation. Other unwelcome visitors, like hawks, will readily prey on the very birds you are trying to help.

What different non-avian creatures have visited your feeder? And how do you feel about feeding creatures of all shapes and sizes?