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DVDs take expansive look at tiny world of hummingbirds

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By Sharon Wootton
Herald Columnist
The hummers are coming! The hummers are coming!
Or more accurately, the rufous hummingbirds are coming, so clean your feeders, heat 1 part table sugar and 4 parts water, pour in and hang outside to attract our tiny visitors as they arrive in Washington.
A less hands-on approach to learning about hummingbirds is to watch two very different takes on them.
Whidbey Island residents Craig and Joy Johnson created and narrated the CD "Rufous & Anna's Hummingbirds"; Noriko and Don Carroll created the DVD "First Flight: A Mother Hummingbird's Story."
The Johnsons use narration, videos, drawings and animation in "Rufous" to help bird-watchers understand our two state hummingbirds, comparing them as well as exploring the bones, tongue and feathers.
Education is the main objective, and the Johnsons succeed. Among the details:
• Before the 1930s, Anna's hummingbirds' northern range stopped in San Francisco but now extends in to British Columbia.
• The rufous hummingbird doesn't sing, per se, but vocalizes with territorial warnings.
• Nest construction starts shortly after arriving, usually the first week of March.
• While a rufous reuses its nest year after year, an Anna's builds a new one each year.
• A hummingbird eats two to three times its weight in food and liquid each day; an average male adult would need to eat about 350 pounds each day to match that intake.
• A hummingbird, in the coldest weather, goes into torpor, slowing down its systems and using up to 50 percent less energy.
The section that stood out the most was the clearest explanation and graphics of the iridescence of hummingbirds' feathers.
"Rufous" ($10, or free to nonprofits and teachers, plus postage) can be purchased through the Johnsons' website,, or at Wild Birds Unlimited locations.
The website currently includes a 21-second video of two male golden-crown kinglets' aggressive displays.
The smallest songbird has a small patch of red that flares conspicuously only when trying to attract a female or during a dispute.
"First Flight" offers a completely different take on hummingbirds.
The Carrolls (, documentary filmmakers, moved from New York to a home in Las Vegas. They had just arrived when they noticed a sign that pointed out a black-chinned hummingbird's nest on a clothesline that was under cover.
The nest was using a clothes pin as a stabilizer.
Out came the HD video cameras, and the journey of photographing Honey and her kids, Ray and Zen, began. Honey's nest was the size of a walnut shell half. Later it would contain two coffee-bean-sized eggs.
Watch Honey refurbish her nest and lay her eggs (painful to watch); see the shells cracking and the two chicks emerging; appreciate the hard-working mom ferrying back and forth between flowers with food for her insatiable youngsters; watch as Ray and Zen grow until there's no room in the nest; then see their workouts to make their wings strong enough for flight.
When they take off, they land on the video cameras, which have offered a 360-degree view of their lives.
The DVD includes commentary on the making of the film, as well as a slide show featuring many types of hummingbirds.
"Firsts Flight" is available through Amazon and other websites.
Pocket gophers: Interested in the recovery of the Mazama pocket gopher population? Listed as a state threatened species, the pocket gopher is part of a study that could conserve and restore existing populations in seven areas of southwest Washington.
The 100-page draft recovery document and ways to comment through April 19 is at
Columnist Sharon Wootton can be reached at 360-468-3964 of
Story tags » Bird-watching

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