While hiding behind a ponderosa pine trunk watching the osprey repair their nest recently, I had an interesting, and most unexpected, encounter with a rufous hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus). I was totally alone and the only sounds were the calls of the osprey as they flew overhead and the singing songbirds. At one point a jackrabbit came hopping by, cautiously eyed me and then moved on. The wind was blowing through the pine boughs providing a soft rustling in the background.
Suddenly I heard a loud whirring behind me. As I turned my head I saw a rufous hummingbird pecking on the shoulder of my dark burgundy jacket. It was only a few inches from my eyes. The hummingbird hovered and pecked my shoulder then moved to a new location on my jacket and repeated the process several times. Eventually it decided that this large burgundy “flower” did not have nectar and flew off to a nearby tree.
We all think of hummingbirds flitting from flower to flower in the summer gathering nectar. There are a few hummingbirds in our area at this time of the year, but nectar is at a premium. A couple of small, early flowers are in bloom, however, the majority of wildflowers remain dormant and only the earliest tree buds are starting to open. So this hummer probably could not believe his good fortune when he saw my reddish jacket.
I assume this particular hummingbird was gathering a little nectar from the maples and other spring catkins. Probably his main source of food this time of the year though is midges and gnats taken from the air. Hummingbirds get their protein from insects.
I suppose what interested me most about seeing a hummingbird was that I was in the middle of a dense forest in March – not typical! However, I enjoy hummers no matter when I encounter them.