Well, the TOC meeting last night was a very interesting one. Cindy Cartwright was the speaker and she gave a presentation on the commencement of the Ontario Hummingbird Project. It was interesting to hear some of the plans that the Project will undertake and also some of the arguments that have already come about.
For example, one researcher believes that hummingbirds do not fly over large bodies of water during migration (Great Lakes, etc.). Murmuring from the crowd quickly indicated that Ontario birders have actually seen this occur. I know I've seen Ruby-throated Hummingbirds fly south off the tip of Pelee and a few members gave accounts of seeing hummers land on boats for a rest-stop in Erie and Ontario Lakes. There is also evidence of hummers using the islands in Lake Erie to get across the lake with reports from Pelee Island. I'm not sure what evidence this particular researcher is using (they believe the hummers circumvent the lakes and fly through the Detroit River area). Cindy Cartwright now thinks that the ability to fly over large bodies of water is age or sex-dependent, but more study is needed.
She also explained the difficulty in getting population counts, as hummers are difficult to band, it's hard to find nests (especially in pine trees), and also the discrepancy in counts at feeders. There are two methods of counting the number of hummers in a yard. It's estimated that a hummingbird will feed for about 15 minutes at a time then fly away from the yard, so the first method is to count in 15-minute intervals (a few problems immediately come to mind for this). The other method is to count all the hummingbirds you see, then multiply that number by 6. Cindy truly dislikes this method and I can imagine why.
The current aim of the Project is to get awareness out there (to gain a larger volunteer base) and continued funding support. There is a potential volunteer base outside of the birding community for those who simply enjoy feeding hummingbirds in their yard. Another idea that came up at the meeting was to have one person at each Hawk Count in Ontario keep track of the number of hummingbirds that fly through during the fall. Lastly, Cindy told the group that there is a lack of interest/awareness regarding rarer species of hummingbirds in Ontario. She believes that more species are probably seen a year than actually reported due to the casual observer simply identifying a hummingbird as a Ruby-throat without really paying attention to the details. Hopefully her Project can shed some more light on the Ontario status of hummingbirds in the years to come.
You can visit the Ontario Hummingbird Project website here. The site includes tips on attracting hummingbirds, volunteer opportunities, range maps, upcoming events, and other important information.