Posts Tagged ‘hummingbird’

While wandering the Woodland Trail in an area best described as temperate semi-rainforest, I made another unusual bird discovery.  I believe that I have these privileged sightings because of two principal reasons.  The first has to do with frequency.  I am at the Falls of the Ohio as much as I can get away from my other responsibilities and so I have more chances for encounters.  The other has to do with motive.  Being knowledgeable about our avian friends, I simply am out here looking for birds and therefore open to their discovery.  On this particular day I was actually anticipating members of the wood warbler tribe when I came across what must be a first for this park…the rare Cumberland Greencrest!

This is one species missed by both Lesson and Gould in their individual monographs on hummingbirds of which the Cumberland Greencrest is an atypical member.  The Cumberland Greencrest was first discovered on the Guatemalan Highlands in 1910.  It is larger and slower on the wing than the average hummingbird.  It’s flight can best be described as being Swift-like where the individual wing beats alternate between extreme activity and gliding.  In its main haunts, this bird constructs a small nest from lichens and spider webs on a suitable tree branch and a single jelly bean-sized egg is produced.  The adults take both small insects on the wing and feed from the nectar of rare orchids found only in certain protected valleys. 

I was exploring the trees lining both banks of Parfume Creek (so named because on certain days, the scents of various laundry detergents are detectable emanating from the water using one’s  open nose) when the Cumberland Greencrest made its appearance.  I immediately recognized I was in the presence of something special and limited my movements so I wouldn’t frighten it away.  As this single individual coursed along the creek bank, I slowly brought my camera up to my eye and recorded these images in quick succession.  I think they show this bird in its glory very well and are worthy of sharing with a larger audience if I say so myself!  But please, don’t just take my word on this…judge for yourself!

I recorded these images using my high-speed camera as the bird made its passes back and forth along the creek.  In these images one can see why this bird is appropriately named with its lacy green crest atop its head.  The encounter was brief, but memorable!  What was this bird doing in our area to begin with?  The answer may lie in the very powerful thunderstorms that are becoming a staple of the Western Hemisphere.  I speculate that this bird was simple blown way off course as is known to happen with other species of hummingbirds.  I returned to this area the following three days, but never again encountered this specimen.  I did, however, see the duckling of a species of which I am currently unfamiliar and recorded its image among the driftwood and I hereby also present this to you my very dear reader in the hopes it will fuel your curiosity!

The Cumberland Greencrest was made from materials found entirely within the park and include:  Styrofoam (body and wings), wood (its tiny feet), coal (the eyes), plastic ( the bill which was part of a fishing bobber and the tail which is a plastic lettuce leaf!, the yellow collar is from a soft drink bottle) and lastly the green crest is some foam-like material.  It is held together in places with small, sharpened wood pegs.

Read Full Post »


When the coldest of the cold air drops down from the frozen north, spreads over Canada, and then plunges down upon the U.S.A., then sights rarely seen may be glimpsed at the Falls of the Ohio.  Riding the cold wave, small groups of Arctic Hummingbirds move south to feed upon the Ice Blossoms.

Styro-Trochilae polystyrenus or the Arctic hummingbird is among nature’s most extraordinary and poorly studied birds.  Much of that has to do with the forbidding place that this creature calls home.  There is speculation that this hummingbird must be able to regulate its body temperature in the manner of other Trochilidae in order to live in such a cold environment.  Perhaps, its rarity is due to remaining hidden during its torpid state which might define most of its existence?  Hummingbird metabolism has always been amazing, but for this species to go from nearly zero heartbeats to a thousand a minute when active defies credulity!

I came across this beauty and through high-speed photography was able to steal these images of this bird with its bright orange bill feeding.  It is thought that the Ice Blossoms refract the energy of the sun and transmits that into a form of “solar nectar”.  The bird would need an energy source as unique as it is to exist!  The conditions at the Falls were just right this past weekend to bring out both the bird and its blossom.

There is very little more I can add to the known literature on this ornithological wonder. This species is larger than the more familiar Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, but didn’t seem to beat its wings as rapidly.  I did observe it flying backwards.   It seemed like I watched this bird for a long time, but in reality,  it was probably a couple minutes or so.  I can say that being in the moment made time stand still.  I wonder as the climate changes particularly in the Arctic, whether this hummingbird will share the same fate as other animals that have evolved in such a specialized place?  With hope, the Arctic Hummingbird will prove to have some resilience.  One last image of this bird feeding from a blossom near a piece of fiberglass that was caught in the branches of a tree.

Epilogue:  The Arctic Hummingbird was made from materials found on site at the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  The materials include:  Styrofoam, plastic, wood bark, coal, its beak is a combo of hypodermic needle cover and the tine from an old comb.  The Ice Blossom is Styrofoam,  river-polished glass, and wire.   All images by the author and shot at the Falls of the Ohio.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: