Monday, January 31, 2011

Eastern Newfoundland's Newest Celebrity: A Pacific Coast Hummingbird

When you think of an island paradise Newfoundland, Canada might not be the first place that comes to mind, right?  I would say "island paradise" are two words that most certainly can be used to describe Newfoundland.  From the picturesque landscapes and breathtaking ocean views to the colorful charm of the capitol city, St. John's (which also just happens to be the oldest city in North America), Newfoundland has a beauty and charm a lot of other places cannot claim.

In August of 2010, the island got one more extremely rare thing to add to the already long list of attractions and beauty it's known for:  a tiny hummingbird native to the Pacific Coast.  Yes, you read that correctly.  A hummingbird in Newfoundland, Canada.  Eastern Newfoundland, to be exact.

In the summer of 2010, sisters Violet Power and Betty Marsh of Brownsdale, Trinity Bay, Newfoundland put out a hummingbird feeder with hopes of seeing one of the tiny, and fast-flying birds.  Seeing a hummingbird in Newfoundland is extremely rare so one can only imagine their surprise when they caught sight of the little bird stopping at their feeder for a drink of sugar water.

Violet Power emailed Bruce Mactavish, an environmental consultant and expert birdwatcher from St. John's, NL with photographs of the new visitor.  Mactavish was amazed at what the photographs contained.  Sure enough, at the feeder was a true rarity.  The little bird in the photographs was an Anna's hummingbird, a species native to the Pacific Coast of North America, an area over 4,000 miles away.

Mactavish and four birding friends, all with more than a century of birding experience between them, drove to Brownsdale in hopes of catching a glimpse of the rare bird.  Five minutes after finding the Power home the five birding friends were treated to an exciting and rare sight indeed.  The little bird flew first to a bush then to the hummingbird feeder for a drink. The bird, named Bruce after Bruce Mactavish, has fed from the feeder every single day since it arrived in late August.  Due to the color development on the bird, Mactavish identified it as an immature male.

The fact Bruce (the bird) somehow managed to make the 4,000 plus mile journey to eastern Newfoundland isn't the only amazing part of this story.  What is even more amazing is that Bruce (the bird) is still alive and well despite the harsh winter weather for which Newfoundland is so well known.  Newfoundland winters can be very cold and severe and see a lot of snow.  However, December was the most mild for Newfoundland in more than 100 years.  How Bruce (the bird) survives during the cold nights remains a mystery but Mactavish credits the relatively mild temperatures and well-maintained feeder for Bruce's survival.  Mactavish makes no promises that the hummingbird can survive through the entire winter, but he and everyone who has seen or knows about the bird are all cheering for his survival.

Little Bruce has gathered quite a following among the residents of his newly adopted home.  Birders from all over Newfoundland have come to see the hummingbird to share in the amazement of his having arrived there in the first place and secondly his miraculous survival.

I find this to be a truly remarkable story in every way.  I am first amazed at how Bruce the Hummingbird managed to make it all the way from the Pacific Coast to eastern Newfoundland.  That's a lot of flying for such a little bird and I can only imagine how long the journey took.  I am perhaps most in awe of how he has been able to survive in an area completely foreign to him.  He's alone and dealing with temperatures he isn't used to, but he's doing an amazing job of surviving thus far.  I most sincerely commend Violet Power and Betty Marsh for their dedication in making sure Bruce has all the sugar water he needs to keep him strong and healthy.

If you would like to see Bruce the Hummingbird (and I know you want to), watch the video from CBC news.  Not only do I love seeing the bird, but I love that Bruce Mactavish actually stopped his interview when the bird arrived to drink.  His enthusiasm is awesome!

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