Sunday, November 06, 2016


"The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it."

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Rufous Hummingbird!

It's always extra special when a rare bird comes to your own backyard. I'm certain that's how Sylvia and Bill are feeling about the little visitor that's been feeding on their salvias for the past week or so. I'm not exactly sure when the hummingbird first arrived. Sylvia was on vacation watching polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba. While she was away, Bill thought one of the hummingbirds in their backyard was a little different looking in terms of color. It wasn't until Sylvia got back home that she realized one had a lot of orange feathers ... it was Rufous/Allen's Hummingbird!

Here are some of Sylvia's salvias:

And then ...


The hummingbird favored a patch of Indigo Spires that were right up against the house. Unfortunately, this spot was in the shade most of the day so it was difficult to get a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the action.

However, when the hummingbird perched it was easier to obtain a detailed photograph. But what I was really hoping for was a nice portrait of the bird perched in sunlight. Since birders could only watch from the west side of Sylvia's yard, we wouldn't get better lighting until mid to late afternoon.

As time went on, the lighting improved as the sun arced to the western part of the sky. In addition to getting great portraits, Mark Johnson, Dale Bonk, and I were also trying to photograph the bird with its tail feathers fanned out in order to sort out which of the two species it was ― Rufous or Allen's.

Allen's Hummingbirds are exceedingly rare in Wisconsin, so by that fact alone it was more likely a Rufous ... but to prove it! Eventually, I got a series of images which to my mind definitively put it in the Rufous Hummingbird camp. Other hummingbird experts were in agreement and also determined the sex, a female.

Well past the lunch hour, I finally obtained the portrait I was hoping for. The bird's behavior was becomming more predictable and developed a bit of a routine as the day went on. She would go to the spires, take nectar from a feeder, perch on particular twigs in a shrub, and then forage for small insects a few feet off the ground for a few minutes. Perch again, then repeat!

Content with our encounter with the Rufous Hummingbird, we went for a walk around Owen Conservation Park. The fall colors are brilliant in a few places, but we are definitely past peak and most trees have dropped their leaves. Though it's been unseasonably warm, we were still somewhat surprised to find a few butterflies and dragonflies during our hike. The mild weather feels more like late September than early November, but I'll take the beautiful day spent with friends and birds without further protest!

Owen Conservation Park

Meadowhawk Dragonfly

Crestwood, Dane, Wisconsin, US
Nov 6, 2016 9:00 AM - 2:00 PM
23 species

Wild Turkey
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Rufous Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
European Starling
Dark-eyed Junco
White-throated Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

All images © 2016 Mike McDowell


  1. Sounds like it was a magical day for you and your friends! Kudos for persevering in obtaining photos of the spread tail to clinche the ID.

  2. The same salvias are still blooming on my patio and I hope some migrants have enjoyed them but I have not caught site of any. Nice to see this one!