Birdwatching a pastime of mine

Published 1:03 am Saturday, November 22, 2008

If you’re a bird watcher and especially enjoy hummingbirds, here’s some advice from Fred Bassett of Montgomery, a registered hummingbird bander.

Watch your feeders closely, because winter hummingbirds usually start showing up in numbers around Thanksgiving. Since I’ve neglected hanging my feeders this year and denied myself the pleasure I receive from watching these wonders of nature, I’ve decided I’ll put out some nectar and give it a try.

The only hummers I’ve seen are the ruby-throated, the most common in our area. I’d really be thrilled if another kind winged its way to our feeders and paused long enough to fuel up.

It looks like Fred travels all around the Southeast to band the pugnacious but beautiful little birds, then he documents the results. I learned about some of his banding experiences through forwarded emails from Pam Wyche of Andalusia. On one trip to her house, he banded both a ruby-throated and a female rufous hummer.

Fred’s latest report was filled with so much fascinating material that I e-mailed him for permission to share it.

Fred got a great start for the winter banding season now under way. He received word that a female rufous humming bird had returned to an Enterprise couple’s yard Sept. 20 for the seventh consecutive winter.

Fred wrote, “You just never know what hummers might do, because their bird made a couple of passes and jumped right into my trap.  Back when I banded that bird as an immature female on Dec. 12, 2002, I would have never believed I would have the privilege of holding her six more times. Now I’m looking forward to doing it again next season.”

In mid-October, he visited Fort Morgan where another female rufous was also back for the seventh year. Unfortunately, that hummer evaded his trap. He said when the weather gets cold, he’ll try again.

How do you identify a rufous? If you see a hummingbird with a red throat and is extensively orange on the back and body, and sports an orange tail with pointed black tips, it’s probably a male rufous. The female rufous has a green back and head. Her throat has a few red feathers. Her tail is orange, green and black with rounded white tips.

Fred has also banded several buff-bellied hummingbirds this season. They have long, thin bills with a reddish base, metallic green head and breast, a green back and, yes, a buff-colored belly. On Oct. 31, Fred captured a beautiful immature male buff-bellied hummingbird for banding in Tallahassee. Some time later, he dashed off to Magnolia Springs and banded his second buff-bellied hummingbird of the winter season. In Mobile, he banded a buff-bellied that was returning for its third year.

Fred will be glad to come to your home if you spot any hummer at your feeder between Nov. 15 and March 1.You can telephone him at 334-244-0227, or contact him by e-mail. The address is