Nancy Newfield Nancy L. Newfield has been watching hummingbirds at her Louisiana home and lots of other places since 1975. Nancy lost her amateur status years ago, and now writes and lectures on hummers. She is co-author of Hummingbird Gardens, reviewed elsewhere on this site. Nancy is also a licensed hummingbird bander and a recognized authority on hummingbird distribution, behavior, and taxonomy.

June 1997

Follow That Dream (part 3)

We'd hoped to get another early start at Rancho Grande, but a surly taxi driver changed our plans. After a dispute over the previously agreed upon price of the ride, my companion and I were put out on the road five or so miles from our destination—five or so miles uphill.

Making the most of a bad situation, we birded a bit as we hiked along the road. A mother Copper-rumped Hummingbird feeding a newly fledged chick was memorable as was a Sooty-capped Hermit dashing up to the pendant scarlet blossoms of a roadside bush!

It was well past 8 AM by the time we reached the park headquarters. We were hot and sweaty. Warm Coca-Cola and stale pastries made an excellent breakfast.

Several hours on the trails got us few birds. The forest was very quiet. I decided to check out a line of Turk's Cap that literally blanketed the roadside near the front gate. A retaining wall across the road made a convenient seat that offered a panoramic view of the area.

An immature male White-vented Plumeleteer guarded a large area. Every so often, another hummer tried to get to the blossoms only to be chased off. I never got good looks. What frustration!

"Above your head. A sylph is perched 10 feet over where you're sitting!"

I hadn't even noticed that my fellow birder had joined me, but I jumped up to stand next to him so as to get a good look. There, in all his glory, sat one of the most beautiful of all hummers—a Long-tailed Sylph! It was larger than I had imagined. The bird remained perched for quite a while, permitting me to drink in every sparkling detail.

He seemed to stake out a territory adjacent to that of the plumeleteer. There were enough flowers to power all the hummers around, but still these birds disputed every minor infraction. A female sylph, pretty in her own way, entered the scene. The male allowed her to feed for a bit. Then, she crossed the line into the plumeleteer's domain.

Pow! Instant warfare! The female beat a hasty retreat.

A second male sylph challenged the first for supremacy. The fight was spectacular—two shimmery blue and purple warriors in the noonday sun—a hummingbird fantasy par excellence!

Now, months later and home in Louisiana, I can dream while still awake. Closing my eyes, I am immediately transported back to the wonderful world of exotic hummers. I followed my dream!