Here in Florida, despite the prospect of even hotter weather ahead, some fall migrants are already starting to pass through. Louisiana Waterthrushes and Black-and-white Warblers have appeared early, as usual, and Common Nighthawk flocks congregate over our lake. Soon, Belted Kingfishers will be competing for fishing rights.
We recall when we lived at 7000 feet in the mountains of New Mexico. June is almost always the hottest month. By early July, the monsoon rains started, haltingly at first. For several days or even a couple of weeks, pregnant afternoon clouds cooled us and promised moisture. Then they began to deliver, almost daily: brief and violent thunderstorms with rapid runoff, or gentle and persistent “female rains” (as the Navajo call them, according to author Tony Hillerman), that soak the soil, nourish roots and reduce the risk of wildfire.
Even before the short New Mexico summer relinquished its hold, we welcomed the first signs of autumn. Around July 4th, adult male Rufous Hummingbirds arrived at our feeders, and descend into Albuquerque during the next week . The females, abandoned by their mates, were still busy tending to their nestlings up in the far Northwest. Usually, we heard the little “Rufies” before we even saw them. Unlike the cheerful cricket-like chirp created by the wings of resident Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, the sound of Rufous wings suggests a monstrous, angry bumblebee.The aggressive behavior of these little golden brown visitors matches the intrusive buzz of their wings. No hummer of any species who dares feed within its sight is safe from attack.
We rarely saw Rufous Hummingbirds in the spring, as they adhere to a very interesting circular migratory pattern. After spending their winters far to the south, they hurriedly follow the flush of spring flowers up the west coastal mountain chains to breeding grounds that extend from Idaho and Oregon up to Alaska. Now returning south, they also wander out eastward, coursing leisurely down the Rockies and across the plains, sometimes thrilling backyard birders in Louisiana and even Florida. Visit our “New Mexico Yard Birds” link in the left column, above, for month-by-month photographic records of avian visitors.
This Rufous Hummingbird is extending its tongue:
A Common Nighthawk hunts over our South Florida lake: