Bird Watchers Flock to See Hummingbirds

Bird Watchers Flock to See Hummingbirds
By: Carly O'keefe
UNION COUNTY, Il. -- Hummingbirds always create quite a buzz, but usually folks have to see the tiny birds from a distance.
"I've always seen them at my grandma's through the window, but not up close," said Jon Spurgeon of Murphysboro, Illinois.
The annual Shawnee Audubon Society Hummingbird Festival in the Trail of Tears State Park over the weekend offered a hands on approach to bird watching.
"You can feel the heartbeat, his heartbeats at 1,200 beats per minute," said Spurgeon.
"They're fascinating, I'd read about them, but there's a difference in reading about them and seeing them," said Lyndel Brennan of Carmi, Illinois.
Before folks can see the tiny birds up close, they have to catch them. That's accomplished by the use of a remote control bird cage.
"All you got to do is wait and then you push the big button for three seconds and the lid closes, and it's in there," said Spurgeon.
Next, Audubon Society members put teeny, tiny bands on each hummingbird's leg. It's a way to track the hummingbirds' winter migration.
"Most people don't realize they spend it down in Mexico on the Pacific side and they come back to the same place year after year," said bird bander Vernon Kleen.
Some onlookers made near migrations themselves just to see these little birds up close.
"I talked to people who've driven two hours to be here, so that's neat that people are that interested in these little critters," said Shawnee Audubon Society member Terri Treacy.
At the Hummingbird Festival, folks can also adopt a bird for $5. In exchange, they're given the privilege of releasing the hummingbird once it's tagged, and when that bird is spotted again, the Audubon Society lets the adoptive parent know.
"I've had one bird that we banded in 2003, and we caught him again every year so that person gets a letter from me every year," said Kleen.
For the folks who opted not to adopt, there was still the joy of getting to learn about one of nature's tiniest wonders of the sky.
"They're just amazing; they flap their wings so fast!" Spurgeon said.