At 8:30 a.m. on Saturday I was sitting near the hummingbird garden in Kleb Wood. It was a wonderfully cool and damp morning, and I was being treated to quite a display.
The main actors were Northern Cardinals and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. About a dozen (mainly male) Cardinals were flitting around the trees at the edge of the garden and flying to and from the seed feeders. Inevitably, given the number of birds involved, there was a lot of squabbling and jockeying for position.
Female Ruby-throated Hummingbirds were even more numerous and even more argumentative. There was no real reason for them to squabble, because Fred Collins and his staff have put out so many sugarwater feeders that each bird could probably have had its own feeder. Plus there were plenty of nectar-laden flowers. But most of the humminbirds seemed to have decided that a few of the feeders were superior to the rest and worth arguing over.
So for the next hour I watched as some hummingbirds tried to assert their rights over three feeders within 7-8 feet of me while the other hummers tried to drink from them.
Some of the "intruders" were sneaky and would try to reach a feeder without being noticed by the bird guarding it from a nearby twig. The guarding bird would swoop on the intruder and the latter would instantly fly away, often passing within inches of my head.
Other intruders were much bolder and would openly confront the guard. When challenged, they would hover and spread their tails. The guard would hover facing her and would spread her tail, too. In most cases, the intruder would back down and be chased away. However, sometimes the intruder would get the better of the encounter and it would be the guarding bird that backed down and was chased away. Then the intruder would perch on a nearby twig and try to defend the feeder from other hummers.
If Cardinals and hummingbirds were the main actors, they had a good supporting cast. This was made up of several Carolina Chickadees and Tufted Titmice. These two species behaved in much the same way. They would perch in and make a few calls from one of the trees near the garden. Then they would swoop onto a feeder, grab a seed and immediately fly back into the trees to enjoy their snack.
Meanwhile, Red-bellied Woodpeckers and Blue Jays acted as a chorus, flitting around high in the surrounding trees and filling the air with their harsh calls.
I had gone to Kleb in the hope of seeing unusual migrants but in the end I saw only common birds. I wasn't at all disappointed, though, and I'll remember my hour at the hummingbird garden as one of the most enjoyable spells of birding that I've had this year. The only disappointment - and it was minor - was that the light was so poor that I was able to take very few photos and none at all of the hummers in flight.