Everyone agrees; hummingbirds are fascinating creatures. I was instantly “hooked on birds” the first time I went on a bird hike when I was only fourteen years old at Camp Tahuaya (BSA) near Belton, Texas. But in the central Texas region where I grew up there was only one species of hummingbird. I still have a clear vision of watching fall migrant Ruby-throated Hummingbirds feeding on pink morning glories, whose vines covered fences and low vegetation in my neighborhood in Mart, Texas. Alas, there was only one hummingbird but hundreds of other species to capture my young and growing enthusiasm over the avian world. By the time I graduated from high school and went on to college (deeper into east Texas), I observed and appreciated hummingbirds but still my focus was elsewhere. I became interested in bird banding and bird vocalizations during that time and concentrated on studying “swamp” birds; my Masters Thesis was Geographical Song Variation in Prothonotary Warblers.
The first hummingbird feeder I ever owned was a Droll Yankee feeder that I hung from the eave of the park residence at Kickapoo Cavern State Park in Kinney County in 1987. Black-chinned Hummingbirds were abundant there and I eventually observed numerous Rufous and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, primarily in fall migration. I also found an adult male Broad-tailed Hummingbird there one June day as my interest in hummingbirds was growing. In the summer of 1991 my family made the move to Fort Davis, to Davis Mountains State Park where there was definitely more than one species of hummingbird. During a ten year span (1992-2002) we operated a bird banding station for park visitors along Limpia Creek; among some 25,000 song birds that we banded we caught and released hundreds of individual hummingbirds of eight species. My interest was definitely piqued but I still did not realize what to do with that interest. One of the volunteers at the park’s bird banding operation, the late Hanna Richard, along with her always entertaining husband Artie, was at the time starting to band hummingbirds at her home in Ingram, in the hill country. I always thought that would be fun to do here.
I first met Bob and Martha Sargent (from Alabama) here in Fort Davis in the summer of 1999 at a hummingbird research group conference. As I have stated numerous times since, if you associate with those two in any way their enthusiasm for and love of hummingbirds is contagious. Bob and Martha started a full court press to persuade me to conduct research on the hummingbirds of west Texas. At that time I did not have enough free time to dedicate any effort to starting a project, at least to the extent that I, in my mind, thought it needed to be done. Not long after I retired from Texas Parks and Wildlife so time was no longer an issue. Still I procrastinated a bit longer because I was unsure exactly where to conduct such a project. Alas, in 2005 my wife and I purchased some property high up in the Davis Mountains eliminating the “where to start” issue. After acquisition of my hummingbird banding authorization from the bird banding lab and some really intense training in 2006 by the Sargents, I was ready to proceed. The Sargents (on their permits) helped christen our new property in the Davis Mountains in August of 2006 when we banded the first of many Magnificent Hummingbirds to come. Ironically, the first bird that I banded was an adult female Ruby-throated Hummingbird in my yard in Fort Davis on February 27, 2007, a bird that provided only the second winter record for the entire region. By that August, again with the Sargents assistance, the banding effort was starting to show significant results. On the 13th of August among numerous other individuals and species caught and banded that day were six White-eared Hummingbirds, a bird that had never been banded in Texas before. The ball was rolling downhill and gaining momentum fast; the results of the project to date, included herein, speak for themselves. Bob and Martha, you have accomplished your goal and there are no words available to express my appreciation to both of you.
This project could not possibly be undertaken without the help and dedication of numerous individuals. First, my wife, Donna, tirelessly records data for me at every opportunity. Second, Carolyn Ohl-Johnson has emerged as an irreplaceable member of the “team”. Her support of and dedication to the project is priceless. Third, I want to thank those of you out there who, to date, have allowed me to capture and band hummingbirds on your property. Included are Jackie Cates (Cloudcroft, NM), Patti and George True (El Paso), Jody and Clay Miller (Valentine), Carolyn Ohl-Johnson, Terry and Suzy Ervin, and Bonnie Wunderlich (Terlingua Ranch), Carolyn Ohl-Johnson and Annie Faust (Alpine), Marc and Maryann Eastman and Don Hott (Davis Mountains Resort), and Cathy Hoyt (CDRI, Fort Davis). Finally, I want to thank my good friend, Fred Bassett of Alabama, who like the Sargents exhibits a true dedication to hummingbirds and makes his way to Fort Davis as often as allowed. Fred, I promise you your list of ailments from banding hummingbirds in west Texas has just started.
The reality is that little is known of the exact status and distribution of hummingbirds in this region. Hummingbirds are hard to identify, especially in the fall when migrating birds are intermixed with juveniles. They don’t sit still and it is virtually impossible to make proper identifications and to quantify numbers of individuals by mere observation. Therefore, the only way to obtain important data on hummingbirds is to capture and band individual birds with the acquisition of those data being the ultimate goal. To that end, this site is dedicated to the conservation of and my research project on the hummingbirds of the West Texas Region. I look forward to reporting our progress and interacting with those of you out there who are interested.
Kelly B. Bryan, 18 January 2010