Sunday, February 27, 2011

Anna's in the snow

A male Anna's visited our hummingbird feeder during this morning's mini-blizzard. He could barely hang on as the feeder swung in the wind and snow pelted his face. Not wanting to make his morning even more stressful, I waited until he left to put out fresh, warm sugar water.

It's been a grim winter for Arizona's hummingbirds. Many died in the Big Freeze of 2011, and many others had to be rescued. Hummingbirds in Tucson and Phoenix, where temperatures rarely stray below freezing, seemed more affected than those wintering at higher elevations. Here at 5000 feet in the foothills of the Mule Mountains, our two or three Violet-crowneds and handful of Anna's managed to ride out the January cold snap, but most disappeared after the all-time record low on the second night of the Big Freeze (0° F./-18° C.).

The following morning's weather was much improved, so I'm hoping that they rode out the worst and departed as soon as possible, as hummingbirds wintering in much colder climates have been observed to do. We're still hosting at least one female Anna's in addition to this male, but there's been no sign of a Violet-crowned since the first day of the freeze (at 8 a.m., during the second feeder change of the day). Even with a bustling clientele of Northern Cardinals, Pyrrhuloxias, Green-tailed Towhees, Gambel's Quail, and many more, the feeding station seems forlorn without an occasional flash of violet blue.

It will be weeks before I can tell how much of our hummingbird garden survived, but in the meantime I'll be escaping waaaay south of the border (Belize and Tikal) for a couple of weeks, leading a birding and natural history tour for SABO.