While still admiring the whitestart, I noticed a chestnut form running along a nearby tree branch. Its white eye line and throat were obvious, but its brown belly was marked by many white tear drops edged in black -- a pearled treerunner.
But I came to see hummingbirds, and shortly before noon the parade began. Sword-bills were joined by tourmaline sunangels, mountain velvetbreasts, chestnut-breasted coronets, white-bellied and gorgeted woodstars, buff-winged starfrontlets, fawn-breasted brilliants, collared incas and long-tailed sylphs. Sometimes I think I love the names as much as the birds themselves. I literally sat for hours as I observed and studied each one.
Though this may sound like a lazy way to bird, it's quite effective when many species await discovery. The smaller hummingbirds can be particularly elusive. The Tyrian metaltail, for example, is small and inconspicuous. When I finally found it just 10 feet off the porch, it perched quietly 18 inches above the ground for about 10 minutes. Against the mossy background of a tree trunk, it was nearly invisible.
Though I thought this trip would sate my appetite for tropical hummingbirds, it seems only to have whetted it. I'm planning another trip to Ecuador.
Correction: In last week's suet column the recipe should have read one cup of lard, not 1/3 cup.
Send questions and comments to Dr. Scott Shalaway, RD 5, Cameron, WV 26033 or by email via my website, http://scottshalaway.googlepages.com.