Wednesday, December 16, 2009

More hummers - from far, far away!

My recent post on Allen's Hummingbird - Ohio's first record - prompted an e-mail from my cousin Paul, who lives many miles away. Four thousand and thirty two miles, to be exact. That's twenty one million, two hundred and eighty eight thousand, and nine hundred and sixty feet. A long way by any reckoning, and Paul dwells in a land of sometimes midnight sun, offset by short dark winter days high in snow. The Aurora Borealis dazzles with an unbelievable laser light show, and there are far fewer people where he lives.

They've got Sarah Palin up there, should you need a blatant hint about where it is of which we speak. And Paul, my cousin, who leads an interesting life. And likes birds, as we shall see.

Paul Rupple, standing near Seward, Alaska. He's a long way from the cornfields of Ashland County, Ohio, and has been up in the Great White North for a long time. I become envious whenver I see pictures of Paul/Alaska. My first big independent travel adventure was the summer after graduating high school, when a buddy and I drove a '66 Volkswagon Bug from Columbus, Ohio to Alaska.

Fantastic, unforgettable expedition, and I've wanted to go back ever since. Alaska is true wilderness, and full of wildlife. Our VW broke down - for good! - on the way back, in a place called Haines Junction in Canada's Yukon Territory. We peddled it to some guy from White Horse for $200. Ah, the memories...

Anyway, back to Paul. This is an interesting guy. Here he is on his sail boat, which he often navigates solo along Alaska's coast. Not only is he quite the skipper, he is a professional airline pilot who flies big jets packed with cargo all over the world, for Fed Ex. He's also a sled dog afficionado, and has had scores of the beasts.

And Paul likes birds.

Apparently, he's become a good photographer, too. Paul shares these photos of Rufous Hummingbirds visiting his feeders - in Alaska! The Rufous Hummingbird is one tough beast, and nests all the way up into our 49th state. In fact, they are common in SE Alaska.

Fantastic flight shot of an aerial immature male Rufous eyeing the sugar water. I think it's cool that our only state with polar bears also hosts hummingbirds. An adult male polar bear can weigh 1,500 pounds. An adult male Rufous Hummingbird might weigh 3 grams. Thus, it would take 227,000 of the hummers to balance the scales with one bear. Quite a discrepancy between these two Alaskan animals.

It's claimed that there are some 5 million Rufous Hummingbirds. That means that all of them together weigh as much as only 20 adult male polar bears. There. For whatever good that was.

It's probably a good thing that the hummers aren't 8-9 feet long and weigh 1,500 pounds. They would then most likely be the world's most dangerous animal.

Anyway, I thank Paul for checking in with the hummingbird photos, and other great shots from Alaska. And I hope he has me up to visit some time!


Heather said...

Those hummers look like they are visiting your cousin on his boat - is that correct? That is so cool (both that they come to see him out on the water, and that he has a feeder on his boat)!

Anonymous said...

Hey, you,ve got a VW again. Perhaps that's a sign that should be making a trip north. How many sled dogs would it take to pull a VW?

Jim McCormac said...

Hey Heather,

Nope, these are just good ole terrestrial Rufous Hummingbirds. I just threw the boat pic in because I think it's cool.


Jim McCormac said...

Heather (and the others that e-mailed):

I think you're right - the hummingbird feeders ARE on the boat! If Paul told me that I missed it somehow, but it does seem to be the case. Very cool - pelagic hummingbirds venturing out to sea!


Jim McCormac said...

As several of you correctly noted, the hummers do indeed fly out to the boat, and that's where they were photographed. The e-mail below from my cousin explains:

Hi Jim,

I've had several 'hummers' come out to my boat while sailing, usually within 100yds of the shore. Sooo, each time I anchor in some cove I hang the feeder in the cockpit. Yes, the hummers come out to the boat. Then I'm usually about 50 yds from shore.

This provides great entertainment when I'm relaxing with a drink in the cockpit in the evenings!

I don't have a feeder at home, though several neighbors do, successfully.

The blog surprised me - thanks for making my day!

Come to Alaska anytime, always have a guest bedroom and space on board Sundance.


Heather said...

Thanks for the clarification, Jim (and Paul).