by Helen Thorpe
On my first morning in the Mexican state of Yucatán, in a nearly deserted wilderness area, a ruby-throated hummingbird dashed toward me, flitted away, then dove back for a second encounter. Likely he wanted to mark his chosen territory, a patch of riotous shrubs braced against the pull of the coastal winds that scour the northern edge of the Yucatán peninsula.
The hummingbird had made its winter home here, where white sand dunes featured a dense weave of mangrove, wax mallow, Geiger tree, seagrape, bay cedar, and lily. At the water’s edge, shoreline purslane stretched its arms out to meet the jade-colored sea, which kept hoisting brown strands of sea wrack onto the beach in long striations. The hummingbird had probably been feasting on the showy red blooms of the Geiger trees, in addition to the abundant insects.
Like many people, I discovered birding during the pandemic, when the hobby proved a welcome outdoor (i.e. safe) distraction. Two nonprofit organizations provided me with basic education.
For nine weeks, I attended a superb naturalist training class conducted by the Denver chapter of the Audubon Society, in which bird experts employed by Audubon worked with guests from additional entities such as the Colorado Native Plant Society to explain the entire local ecosystem. We learned the names of myriad native plants and local insects that support bird species, as well as fascinating information about how and why so many flocks migrate along routes marked by geological formations.
Certain flocks trace the Pacific Coast, while others navigate by the Atlantic, the Mississippi River, or the Rocky Mountains, and night-flying birds use the stars to chart their way. So many birds trace their path by the foothills along the Front Range that local birders see all kinds of migrating species in addition to our typical year-round residents.
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Source: The Denver Post