Banding Hummingbirds to Solve their Mysterious Ways
People from all walks of life jump at the chance to hold these creatures.
As the first day of the Strawberry Plains celebration stretches on into the afternoon, some folks are sitting on the sun porch of the center's Civil War-era house, watching the hummers at the feeders. Others follow Kristin Lamberson, the center's horticulturist, to learn about native plants beneficial to hummingbirds. There are also demonstrations with live bats, T-shirts to buy, and guided walks on the nature trail. But almost everyone keeps circling back to see the banding.
That's just fine with Bob Sargent, who is banding at the festival, too. "We want them to hold the birds in the palms of their hands, hear their heartbeat, release them," he says. "It follows that if they get hooked on birds, soon they will learn they have to have habitat to survive. We try to make people aware as subtly as we can that they have great power as individuals. They come to these festivals to have a good time but go away with a feeling of importance."
When too many onlookers begin to congregate near the tables, Sargent picks up a female bird from Fred Bassett and moves off to the side, taking some of the people with him. "You can put seven or eight of these birds in an envelope and mail it for a first-class stamp," Sargent says, holding up the young hummer. "They weigh less than a penny."
He pauses to give the bird a taste of sugar water from a feeder. It drinks readily, lapping up the sweet liquid much like a cat laps milk. Senior citizens with camcorders, on a bus trip from Memphis, move in next to several families and a man dressed in hunting camouflage. When Sargent finishes his talk, he gently puts the hummingbird on the hand of a 10-year-old girl. "They're special birds," he tells me after the hummer flies away. "She'll never forget that."