Ruby-throated hummingbirds don’t spend as much time at home, when you consider that their nesting territories are the base of operations for these tiny flyers.
It seems that we were just waiting for his arrival, but that was almost four months ago. However, the annual migration of hummingbirds back south to their wintering habitats begins and picks up speed in August, and we’ve been there since Monday.
Our local hummingbirds, the ones that nest at this latitude, will not necessarily leave during August. Some might, but we usually see more of the results of the migration in August with the temporary arrival of more hummers from the north, the first travelers, making rest stops around here.
The way hummingbirds do it, they migrate as individuals, flying little more than the top of a tree. A hummingbird can travel a dozen or 20 miles in a day, anything at its whim, but every few days the little bird will want to stop and replenish its expended calories by feeding on obviously enticing sources.
Visiting hummingbirds are quick to recognize nutrition in the handy sugarwater hummingbird feeders provided by generous humans. People who set up feeders with these man-made “nectar” offerings often don’t recognize that they are refueling migrants, but they do frequently notice increased numbers of hummingbirds at their feeders.
Bird counts at the feeder are typically highest at our latitude during August, during some of the early days of migration. That could be happening at a feeder or feeders near you very soon.
Where are these little birds going? The migration takes quite a bit of time because many of the ruby gorges will zoom south about 1,000 miles or more. A high percentage go to wintering habitats in southern Mexico or Central America, where they can find nectar from plants and flowers, as well as small insects throughout the winter.
It usually takes a hummingbird several weeks to get there in a winter-free habitat, but if you start early, even in the sweltering height of summer, you can afford numerous stopovers and waste time where feeding is easy. That’s a joy for those of us who have access and a good perspective to the feeders for the pleasure of seeing the activity there.
The timing of the ruby-throated migration is why the Land Between the Lakes Woodlands Nature Station observes Hummingbird Month each August. The wildlife center maintains a group of hummingbird feeders that attracts a good swarm of local nesting birds. But during migration, more than 200 hummingbirds may visit their feeders on a typical day.
WNS staff encourage visitors to enjoy the spectacle of daily feeding frenzies around the feeders in the back gardens of Nature Station. It is the opportunity to see more hummingbirds together than perhaps anywhere else in the region.
During the month of August, Nature Station holds a variety of hummingbird-based programs. This coming weekend, August 6 and 7, programs will run continuously during the downtown’s annual Hummingbird Festival.
A regular feature during the Hummingbird Festival is wildlife specialists who trap, band and release a number of ruby throaters for research purposes. The process gives visitors the rare opportunity to see the delicate, tiny birds at arm’s length.
Visit www.land betweenthelakes.gov for full details and a schedule of events and programs tied to Hummingbird Month.
The last call is coming in for those looking to participate in this fall’s quota deer hunt in the Land Between the Lakes, but have not yet applied.
LBL firearm quota hunts are scheduled for October, November and December in the Kentucky and Tennessee portions of the federal recreation area. However, only those who request it during the month of July may be included in the computerized draw that awards the available permits.
You may have noticed: July is almost gone. The deadline to request LBL quota searches is midnight on Sunday. The time is short, but because the application process is online, it takes little time.
Details are available on the LBL’s general website, www.land betweenthelakes.us, under the recreation and hunt tabs, but quota hunt dates are similar to past years with the addition of late juvenile hunts.
In the Kentucky sector, youth (under 15) deer hunts will take place November 5-6 and December 17-18. A general quota hunt for all ages will be November 18-20. On the Tennessee portion of the LBL, the 6-16 year old hunts will reflect the same dates as the Kentucky youth hunts. Meanwhile, the search for general odds will take place from October 28 to 30 and from November 18 to 20.
If August comes on time, according to all forecasts for Monday, it means that the so-called “autumn” hunt is near, much closer than the real autumn.
Kentucky’s first helping of the new hunting year will kick off on the third Saturday in August with the regular squirrel season. The bushytail hunting season, the traditional one, this year begins on August 20 and continues until February 28.
There’s a little-heard of spring squirrel season in Kentucky, this year from May 21 to June 17, but the long-established hunting period that begins the third Saturday in August is more recognized as the real thing. It begins with the period during which hunters can expect to find squirrels around early maturing hickory nuts and then continues through early fall and well into winter today.
Across the Ohio River into Illinois, hunters don’t have to wait as long. Illinois’ regular squirrel hunting season is one step ahead of Kentucky’s, starting in the Land of Lincoln on Monday.
Illinois chipmunk season is also long, from August 1 to February 2. fifteen.
Steve Vantreese is a freelance outdoor writer. Email outdoor news to [email protected] or call 270-575-8650.