Even though the mid-Atlantic region has been in the meteorological mixer the past few weeks -- with several ice storms, snow, a mild spell and now a blast of Arctic cold that sent the mercury to near zero on our back porch last night -- there are still a few hummingbirds hanging around.
At one home in northern Lancaster County, Pa., which had been hosting two rufous hummingbirds for several months, one is gone but one remained earlier this week. An immature male that my colleague Wayne Laubscher banded in October left on Dec. 28, but an immature female that I banded Nov. 18 was still there at last report.
Another immature female rufous, which I banded in mid-November in southern Berks County (only a few miles from the birds mentioned above), made it through the big ice storm on Dec. 18-19, and left on Dec. 20 after feeding heavily in the morning. An adult female rufous that I banded on Halloween in Dauphin County was last seen Dec. 16.
There's a female Selasphorus hummingbird, probably a rufous, in northern New Jersey that's been coming to a feeder since November, and continued two days ago…if it sticks around into next week I'll be making the drive to band it, though I wouldn't be surprised if both of these lingering hummers decide to head south Monday or Tuesday, with the unseasonably milder temperatures being predicted.
If they do, it would fit the pattern we often see – many times, wintering hummingbirds ride out extremely cold or stormy weather at a feeder, then depart when there's a break, usually after feeding heavily for a couple of hours in the morning.
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It's been a bit cold and bit snowy here in Pennsylvania lately, but nothing to what the Green Mountain State has seen.
We spent five days last week with Amy's family, snugged into a 200-year-old farmhouse near Rochester, Vermont, on the eastern slope of the Greens. It was snowing when we arrived, it snowed most of the time we were there, and we slipped out New Year's Day morning to try to beat still another storm that dumped more than 16 fresh inches on the region. The weather weenies on the radio said it's been the snowiest December in Vermont since 1874.
In between storms, the place was a classic, New England winter wonderland; fresh powder draping the pines, sugar maples, hemlocks and spruces, the chance to do some sledding (Amy, with her sister and 2-year-old niece) and snowshoeing and photography (me). The birding was pretty slow; mostly ravens, blue jays, and some mixed songbird flocks of chickadees, creepers and kinglets (no boreal chickadees, though not for a lack of trying).
The ornithological highlight was an old, gnarled apple tree in the pasture below the house, which attracted flocks of pine grosbeaks throughout the week, and one exciting but too-short visit by about 15 Bohemian waxwings. Both of these are rare boreal visitors showing up in the East in record numbers this winter, and the grosbeaks were a life bird for Amy (who, sadly, missed the waxwings).
And sadly, I was always either a bit too far from the tree for good photos when the grosbeaks were there, or didn't have a long lens handy if I was nearby. So you'll have to make due with a nice landscape, looking west into the Greens, the horizon framed by one of those iconic sugar maples.