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Birds section header
Ilsa's Brief Return
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 2008


One of the birds I've been hoping might show up this November is a hummingbird. By now, all the Ruby Throated Hummingbirds that we see in the summertime have migrated, and any hummingbird you see is likely a western bird. On the 8th a post came up from Norm Klein in Northport, Long Island, that Ilsa was back. Ilsa is a Rufous Hummingbird that spend many weeks at this spot two years ago, feeding on the carefully tended feeders that Norm and his wife put out. She made it far into the winter, and then finally headed south. No one saw her last year, so what happened to her was unknown. Now she had returned, and I sped out to Northport right away to get a look.

When I got there no one was home, but Norm had posted that visitors were welcome, so I tentatively walked up the driveway and found the half-dozen feeders they have in their back yard. No hummingbird, but Hairy and Downy woodpeckers, sparrows, cardinals, finches, nuthatches and others were all enjoying the bounty. Norm and his wife soon arrived, and we spent a little time watching from his back porch. Suddenly, the hummingbird was there. These birds are so small and fast that sometimes it seems like they just teleport into a place. She buzzed the hummingbird feeders, and then was off again. We waited, and she came back, several times over the next hour or two. Each time I got photos, but never really exactly what I wanted, which is a spread-tail shot. This bird is a Selasphorus hummingbird, and the bird seen two years ago had been speciated to Rufous...but there is another Selasphorus, the Allen's Hummingbird, and separating the two is one of the trickier IDs in North American birding. Really the only way is a spread tail shot, which shows subtle differences in the tail feathers (retrices). We all strongly felt that this had to be Ilsa, but nonetheless wanted to be certain. I got a few almost open tail photos, and nothing in them suggested Allen's (that would be a first state record), so I'm going with Rufous, and therefore Ilsa. Besides, what are the odds that another Selasphorus hummingbird would show up in the same spot?

Ilsa wound up staying only a couple of days. Norm showed me his guest book from a couple of years ago, when hundreds of people came by to see the bird. I was hoping she'd stay again...what better remedy for the short, cold winter days than a fiery-colored hummingbird buzzing through the bare branches? After six days, though, Norm posted:

So, Ilsa, the selasphorus hummingbird, has flown off one more time after only a two day+ stay; and sadly this is probably my last posting about her. I wish her well. As was said by a sentimental Rick:"We'll always have Paris."
-Norm K.