Tag Archives: Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Nature Notes for Orchard Cove: May 14, 2020

If possible, please participate in and support the Museum by donating to Our Bird-A-Thon team. We would love to have your support. Thank you!

Dogwood’s flowering at the Museum of American Bird Art

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Check out the iridescent red throat of the ruby-throated hummingbird that turns dark depending on the direction of the light.

Anna’s Hummingbird Building a Nest

A female Anna’s hummingbird builds a nest constructed of plant fibers and spiderwebs. From “Animal Homes” Nature on PBS. This first premiered April 8, 2015 on PBS.

Monarch Butterfly Overwintering Grounds in Mexico

Hi everybody, each week I (Sean Kent – MABA’s education and camp director) deliver a live online illustrated lecture called Nature Notes for the residents of Orchard Cove in Canton. I love nature and am infinitely curious with what is going on natural world. I am an educator, naturalist, accomplished landscape and wildlife photographer, and field biologist with expertise in native bee biology, species interactions, and ecology in general.

This post contains additional resources that correspond with the lecture, but might also be of interest to readers of Taking Flight in addition to the residents of Orchard Cove. Please contact me ([email protected]) if you or your organization/residence might be interested in live online illustrated lectures, including lectures on The Secret Life of Backyard Birds and Native Bees and other Pollinators. Be well and safe.

Adventures in Limestone Country, part 1: FEEL THE BURN

July  5/6, 2017

Lime Kiln Farm Wildlife Sanctuary, Sheffield

Sketchbook Study of a Black-and-white Warbler, pencil & watercolor, 4″ x 6″

I plan an overnight excursion to visit two unstaffed sanctuaries in the Southwest corner of the state, and book two nights in a hotel in Great Barrington.  By 8 am, I’m on the Mass Pike heading west.  Driving through Palmer, I’m astonished by the extent of gypsy moth defoliation.  For as far as the eye can see in every direction, the hills are brown and bare.  It’s been reported that 900,000 acres in Massachusetts have been defoliated this summer, and one of the worst hit areas is the one I’m currently driving through…

I arrive at Lime Kiln Farm Wildlife Sanctuary by noon.  It’s a warm, sunny day and butterflies are active around the gravel parking area.  A red admiral, an orange sulfur and a tiger swallowtail flit around the lot, where my car is the only one present.  It’s a pleasant spot, surrounded by meadows that keep the view open to the mountains on the horizon.

Sketchbook Studies of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, pencil, 6″ x 9″

A copse of trees at the edge of the meadow includes some dead spruces, whose lichen-encrusted tops are a favored perch of a ruby-throated hummingbird.  I set up my telescope and break for lunch, but am interrupted by frantic bouts of drawing when the hummingbird appears.  In my final watercolor, I use a pose from my sketchbook that helps to coveys the feisty character of these birds.

detail of finished watercolor

I make one change to my sketchbook pose:  I move the wingtips to BELOW the tail.  It’s something hummers often do when perched, and to me it makes the bird more assertive.   Ruby-throats just don’t seem to comprehend that they are VERY SMALL!

Hummingbird on Spruce Top, watercolor on Arches hot-press, 13.5″ x 10.25″

As I’m drawing, I can hear the calls of an alder flycatcher coming from a shrub swamp below the meadow, so I follow the Lime Kiln Loop Trail hoping to get closer to the bird.

The old Lime Kiln is an impressive structure, towering forty feet into the forest canopy.  In the 18th and 19th centuries, the lime industry was a prominent part of the New England economy.  Lime was a key ingredient in plaster and mortar.

When limestone is burned, it produces lime (calcium oxide).  Lime kilns in New England used wood or coal to burn the limestone.  The kiln was loaded with a cord of wood at the bottom, and then piled with limestone broken into basketball sized chunks.   After the burn, the lime was loaded into casks for transport.  By 1900 the lime kilns in New England were shutting down due to competition from newer building materials and cheaper lime from other sources.

I crawl about the relic kiln, shooting it from various angles, and imagine the roar of a cord of wood blazing in the belly of the old kiln.  FEEL THE BURN!

I follow the Quarry Trail, then the Taconic Vista Trail to the “Scenic Vista”.   And, it is indeed SCENIC – with the Taconic Mountains to the west and the nearer Berkshire Hills to the north, all viewed across a wide meadow.  A yellow-throated vireo sings it’s “three-eights” from a big oak while I set up to paint.

painting in progress at the Scenic Vista

I’ve written previously about the artistic challenges posed by the unbroken greens of summer in New England, and here again I’m faced with the challenge:  how to deal with all that GREEN!

View of the Taconics I, watercolor on Arches cold-press, 10″ x 13.25″

My first attempt at painting the scene disappoints me – it feels heavy-handed and overworked, so I immediately start another version.

View of the Taconics II, watercolor on Arches cold-press, 9″ x 12.25″

On my second attempt, I scale back to a smaller sheet and deliberately compress the landscape from left to right.  I make the mountains more prominent and paint them with a purer, brighter blue.  I pay special attention to the zone that links the distant mountains with the nearer trees (i.e. where the greens shift from cool to warm).  I simplify the foreground and bring more light into the closest trees on the left.

I’ll leave it to YOU to decide which painting YOU prefer!

Selected artwork from Taking Flight: our juried youth bird art exhibition (Part III)

We are extremely excited to display a selection of art from our first annual juried youth bird art exhibition. This annual exhibition is open to any children and young adults age 4 to 18 years old. All selected entries will be on display at the Museum of American Bird Art from September 23 to December 11th. Entries for our second annual exhibition will open in early 2017.

Iris Rosenhagen, Burrowing Owls, Age 11

Burrowing owls are one of my favorite birds because I’ve studied owls a lot and they are very unique. Instead of living in tree cavities, they live in burrows. They are also diurnal as opposed to nocturnal like most other owls. Something very interesting about them, is if they feel threatened in their burrow, a Burrowing Owl will make a rattlesnake buzz sound to scare off predators. Sadly, Burrowing Owls are losing habitat due to construction. I am an avid conservationist and the creator of C.A.R.E., Community for Animal Respect and Education. C.A.R.E. provides opportunities for people to learn about the challenges animals face in today’s world, and inspires people to get involved to help them. I hope to spread awareness about the plight of the Burrowing Owls by submitting my artwork.


Iris Rosenhagen, Burrowing Owl, Age 11

Iris Rosenhagen, Burrowing Owl, Age 11

Iris Rosenhagen, B95 Rufa Red Knot

“The Rufa Red Knot is one of my favorite birds because of an inspiring book I read Moonbird by Phillip Hoose. It was about one Red Knot who has lived over 20 years and has amazingly migrated from South America to the Arctic so many times that the distance would be from here to the moon and halfway back. The tag, B95 on his leg allows him to be identified in different places he has flown. I learned a lot of interesting facts about Red Knots. One of the coolest, is that they lose their gizzards when they have a really long flight to make during migration so that they weigh less. When they stop over in Delaware Bay to eat horseshoe crab eggs, they grow it back to digest the food they need for energy to continue their long flight north where they mate.”

Iris Rosenhagen, Red Knot, Age 11

Iris Rosenhagen, Red Knot, Age 11

European Starling, Cayla Rosenhagen, Age 11

“I feel many people don’t appreciate the outer and inner beauty of the European Starling. The amazing iridescence of the starling’s plumage combined with its history of being an immigrant coming to the New World with its plucky, perseverant personality make this bird one of my favorites. The European Starling reminds me of my ancestors coming through Ellis Island, having so much to offer, but not always seen for all they were. People flock to the United States from all over the world…pun intended. Just as the murmuration of the European Starling is so remarkable, the same holds true for all who come to our land in search of a new life.”

Cayla Rosenhage, European Starling, Age 11

Cayla Rosenhage, European Starling, Age 11

Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Cayla Rosenberg, Age 11

“Pollination and patience. Those are the two qualities that make Ruby Throated Hummingbirds one of my favorite birds. Unfortunately, we have seen such a decline in pollinators such as honeybees and monarch butterflies. We’ve tried to do our part by planting native flowering plants and by encouraging others to do so. But it takes patience to heal the Earth. It also takes patience to spot a Ruby Throated Hummingbird! I’ve been fortunate to see them a handful of times and it brings me such excitement to watch them feeding on the nectar of flowers, my heart seems to beat almost as fast as theirs, over a thousand times in a minute while they feed. Patiently I await the next Ruby Throated Hummingbird who comes to do his part in healing the Earth as he pollinates.”

Cayla Rosenhagen, Age 11, Hummingbird

Cayla Rosenhagen, Age 11, Hummingbird