Feathered Friends: Hummer numbers increase, duck stamps now available

9:01 am | July 23, 2012

The hummingbird population at my home is definitely on the rise. I’m seeing multiple hummers dueling for access to each of the many feeders I have positioned around my home. Young and adult hummingbirds are enjoying the summer bonanza of blooms in my garden as well as visiting my feeders for sugar water. Their numbers are now significantly higher than at the start of July.

Photo by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
The Junior Duck Stamp features a Northern Pintail painted by Christine Clayton, a 17-year-old from Sidney, Ohio.

If you have been discouraged by few or no hummers at your feeders, now is definitely the time to try again. Put out several feeders filled with fresh sugar water. If you don’t have many flowers in bloom, visit a nursery and purchase a few. Even a common flower such as a red geranium or petunia can provide a splash of color to catch the attention of hummingbirds. Put your flowers and feeders in close proximity to make a visit worthwhile for a migrating hummingbird.

Photo by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Stamp collectors, in particular, prize Federal Duck Stamps as miniature works of art. This year’s Federal Duck Stamp features a male Wood Duck painted by Joseph Hautman of Plymouth, Minn.

For hummingbird fans, an upcoming Knoxville event might be worth a visit.

Ijams Nature Center will host the 2012 Hummingbird Festival from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, July 29. The center’s website — www. ijams.org — provides other details about the event.

The Knoxville chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society (KTOS) has also succeeded in luring hummingbird experts Bob and Martha Sargent to Knoxville for a presentation celebrating these marvelous flying gems.

Residents of Trussville, Ala., the Sargents founded the Hummer/Bird Study Group, a non-profit organization dedicated to the study and preservation of hummingbirds and other migrant birds. Bob is the author of “Ruby-throated Hummingbird,” a book in the “Wild Bird Guides” series published by Stackpole Books. The Sargents have also trained numerous bird banders how to band hummingbirds in the United States. The couple will present an informative talk on the life history of hummingbirds during the event.

The festival will also offer demonstrations on hummingbird banding by bander Mark Armstrong. For those wishing to make their yards and gardens more attractive to hummingbirds, don’t miss a talk by Chris Mahoney about the plants and flowers that hummers love.

The event will also offer vendors selling all sorts of hummingbird-related items. A Bird Bargain Barn will offer for sale new and used books and other bird-related items.

Admission is free to the vendor fair (arts, crafts, food and plants) and bargain barn (new or gently used bird- and nature-related items). However, there is a $5 admission to the banding demonstration and talks by the Sargents and Mahoney. Children under six are admitted free. All proceeds go to benefit KTOS and the Ijams education department.

This event is sponsored by KTOS, Wild Birds Unlimited and Ijams Nature Center. To register, call 577-4717, ext. 119.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are beloved feeder birds. They arrive in Northeast Tennessee in April and will remain until October. Attend the 2012 Hummingbird Festival in Knoxville and learn some new ways to attract hummers into your yard and provide for their needs.

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Last week, I discussed the predictions for this fall’s migration of ducks. This week, I am focusing on an important program that helps out native wildlife.

The 2012-2013 Federal Duck Stamp went on sale recently across the United States, giving hunters, stamp collectors and anyone who cares about migratory birds and other wildlife an easy way to help conserve their habitat. Ninety-eight percent of proceeds from sales of the stamp are used to acquire and protect vital wetlands that support hundreds of species of migratory birds, wildlife and plants.

Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe joined representatives of the U.S. Postal Service, Bass Pro Shops and other conservation partners at the Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World retail store in Hampton, Va., to celebrate the first day of sale of both the $15 Federal Duck Stamp and $5 Junior Duck Stamp. The new stamps are now available at thousands of post offices, Bass Pro Shops and other sporting goods stores and retail locations across the country, and can also be purchased online.

“For nearly 80 years, the Federal Duck Stamp has provided crucial funding for wetland habitat conservation efforts in every state,” Ashe said. “Buying a Duck Stamp offers hunters, conservationists and collectors the opportunity to own a beautiful piece of wildlife art that helps sustain North America’s wildlife heritage. I can’t think of a better or easier way for everyone to make a difference for wildlife conservation.”

Since the program’s inception in 1934, Federal Duck Stamp sales have raised more than $750 million to acquire and protect more than 5.3 million acres of habitat for hundreds of units of the National Wildlife Refuge System in all 50 states and U.S. territories. These refuges benefit the public by providing access to outdoor recreational activities including hunting, fishing, birding, photography, environmental education and interpretation.

All migratory bird hunters age 16 and older are required to purchase and carry a valid Federal Duck Stamp while hunting, but conservationists, birders and others also buy the stamp to support habitat conservation. Anyone who holds a current Federal Duck Stamp may also obtain free admission to any unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System that charges admission fees.

Stamp collectors, in particular, prize Federal Duck Stamps as miniature works of art. This year’s Federal Duck Stamp features a single wood duck painted by Joseph Hautman of Plymouth, Minn. The Junior Duck Stamp features a northern pintail painted by Christine Clayton, a 17-year-old from Sidney, Ohio.

With four Federal Duck Stamps to his credit, Hautman is one of the most successful Duck Stamp artists in history, and has leveraged the international recognition earned by winning the contest multiple times to build his career as a wildlife artist. Clayton’s art was chosen from among 53 Best-of-Show winners from every state, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands at the 2012 National Junior Duck Stamp Contest. Clayton entered her first Junior Duck Stamp competition in 2003 and has consistently placed well among her peers over the past 11 years.

Junior Duck Stamp competitors take part in the Federal Junior Duck Stamp Conservation and Design Program, which teaches wetlands and waterfowl conservation to students in kindergarten through high school. The program integrates scientific and wildlife management principles into a nationally recognized visual-arts curriculum, with participants completing a Junior Duck Stamp design as their visual “term papers.” Revenue from the sales of the Junior Duck Stamp goes to support awards and environmental education for students who participate in the program.

Federal and Junior Duck Stamps can be purchased at U.S. Postal Service locations nationwide, as well as through the Postal Service’s online catalogue. Stamps may also be purchased at Bass Pro Shops locations and hundreds of other sporting goods stores and retailers. Electronic Duck Stamps may be purchased online at www.duckstamp.com. The electronic validation may be used to hunt or obtain free admission to a refuge immediately, while a physical stamp is mailed to each customer.

Learn more about the Federal Duck Stamp Program online at www.fws.gov/duckstamps, or on Facebook at USFWS_Federal Duck Stamp. Learn more about the Junior Duck Stamp at www.fws.gov/ juniorduck, or on Facebook at Federal Junior Duck Stamp.

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It’s been interesting this summer to monitor shifting numbers of the common birds around Bell Cemetery in Limestone Cove in Unicoi County. There’s plenty of evidence that it has been a successful nesting season for several species of birds.

On Monday, July 16, it was like a big reunion for all the local bluebirds. I counted more than 25 Eastern Bluebirds. These bluebirds were in small family flocks (a flock of six here, a flock of four there, and then a flock of five) scattered around the cemetery and adjacent fields. The spot-breasted youngsters were tended by adult birds. It was like all the local bluebird families came together in one convenient location.

There were quite a few Chipping Sparrows and some Song Sparrows as well. I observed between 15 and 20 Chipping Sparrows and two or three Song Sparrows.

I saw three Eastern Phoebes, but didn’t spot any Eastern Kingbirds yesterday.

The highlight of the stop was the sighting of a male Scarlet Tanager in the tallest tree in the cemetery. He was in some bare branches near the top. From time to time, he chased off bluebirds that encroached within his personal space. The tree also held a few Cedar Waxwings.

Swooping overhead the entire time were Barn Swallows and Chimney Swifts.

This all took place over a 15-minute interval when I stopped with my mom on our way home from Johnson City.

The following morning, I stopped again. The large flocks were not present, but I did see a few Eastern Bluebirds, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and more Chipping Sparrows. In an adjacent field, I also saw a couple of Eastern Meadowlarks.

The good find on Tuesday morning was the Broad-winged Hawk perched on a utility wire. I am also still seeing a Broad-winged Hawk perched on wires along Simerly Creek Road near my home. Like warblers, hummingbirds and tanagers, the Broad-winged Hawk is a neotropical migrant. These hawks migrate into the region in April and usually depart in September. They can form huge flocks that attract birdwatchers to prominent ridges to witness the phenomenon of hawk migration. The Broad-winged Hawk spends the winter months in Mexico and as far south as southern Brazil.

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To share a sighting, ask a question or make a comment, call me at 297-9077 or email me at ahoodedwarbler@aol.com. I am on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ahoodedwarbler.

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