Peter Cashwell, in his book, The Verb to Bird says, “Some birds have broad appeal, some don’t”. Along those lines, I always feel somewhat compelled to end a year and begin a year with a bird that has some appeal. This actually hasn’t been hard to do these last few years at all. (Those of us who get our fair share of birding in, are noticing what seems to be a trend of “oddities” and “rarities” showing up for the last few years.)

For me personally, 2011 proved to be a year of wonderful birds and wonderful people. Sometimes the paths of those wonderful birds and wonderful people intersected. This intersection happened not only to me on a personal level, but in many ways it was an intersection on a historical level for the state.

This brings me to the Bird of the Month: the Calliope Hummingbird, the smallest bird in all of North America.

Hummingbirds in general are awesome birds. And as one who works in the engineering arena, no birds awe me more than hummingbirds. Check out some of their engineering feats:

  1. Hummingbirds are able to fly forward, backward, sideways, up, down, and stop and hover in one spot. (They can even fly upside-down for short distances).
  2. Hummingbirds can fly up to 60 miles per hour.
  3. They can flap their wings 60-80 times per second in normal flight, but can beat them 200 times per second during courtship dives.
  4. At rest, a hummingbird’s heart beats around 250 times per minute, but during flight their heart beats about 1300 times per minute.
  5. Hummingbirds migrate for thousands of miles. (This from a bird that weighs only 0.1 ounce.)
  6. Hummingbirds almost consume their entire weight in nectar, sap, sugar water, and insects every day.
  7. When in its active state, a hummingbird will starve to death if it doesn’t eat every few hours.
  8. Hummingbird eggs are so small, that a penny could cover 3 of them completely.
  9. Hummingbirds can see and hear better than we humans, but they cannot smell.
  10. There are about 340 different types of hummingbirds.
  11. Hummingbirds are the world’s smallest birds.

OK…I’ll stop…I could easily continue, but you get the point. Hummingbirds are very interesting indeed.

I think it safe to say that Calliope Hummingbirds have visited Indiana before, but one’s presence had never been documented in our state. That was “never” until one showed up at the home of Dave and Norma Jackson in North Vernon.

The presence of this bird at the Jackson’s home has turned their backyard into a virtual tourist attraction. Well over 260 folks have visited the Jackson home over the last few weeks to see this bird, and the numbers continue to grow. Dave and Norma have affectionately named their historical visitor “Frosty”.

I wanted to get down and see “Frosty”, but I must admit I was a bit leery calling the Jackson’s to check if the bird was still there and see if I could visit. I was thinking all the attention may have burnt this couple out. Perhaps they’d had their fill of being in the limelight. On the contrary, they were more than delighted to have my wife and I, along with other birding enthusiasts, visit and get a chance to see “Frosty”. They’ve had visitors from hundreds of miles away. All have been welcomed with open arms.

My wife and I sat down with Norma and Dave at their dining room table and talked for almost an hour. Of course Frosty was our main topic as she darted back and forth between her perches and the heated feeder that we watched through the dining room window. But other items were discussed as well. (Like the Kentucky/Louisville game that was playing during our visit. Dave found it interesting that my wife started out her college days at Kentucky and ended up graduating from Louisville.) The Jackson’s are such a delightful couple. We could have stayed longer, but I decided to push on as other folks arrived. I didn’t want to seem to hoard their time.

The Jacksons felt quite humbled that this bird chose their backyard to call home for an undetermined amount of time. Maybe it was providence, or even Providence. I’m not sure. But I do know one thing. For me personally I’m glad “Frosty” ended up at the home of Dave and Norma Jackson. Sometimes the paths of great birds and great people intersect indeed!

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