On Saturday we visited the Hummingbird Festival at Cook County’s Camp Sagawau.
The press release for the fest mentioned that “as you enter Camp Sagawau, you will experience the hummingbird migration route.”
As we signed in at visitor orientation, we were given power bars. We needed the energy, because we were about to migrate from the Yucatan Peninsula all the way to northern Illinois. Phew!
Our ‘migration’ led us through 5 steps, starting at the Yucatan and eventually ending at Camp Sagawau. At each station we learned about the stage of migration and about the tough journey our little Ruby-throated Hummingbirds endure during their own migration every spring.
At the first station, as we munched on our power bars, we read: Today you are a Ruby-throated Hummingbird on your spring time journey to North America. It is February 28th and you have spent several weeks feeding and preparing for the most challenging part of the trip – crossing the Gulf of Mexico.
The next stop was arrival in the United States. You have made it to shore in the state of Alabama. The beaches are crowded with exhausted migrants. […] The migrants must immediately find food. The birds search every nearby thicket and field for insects. Hummingbirds look for flowers and feeders for nectar and sugar water. Once their fat stores have been replenished, the birds resume their northward movement.
At each station we had to spin a dial to see our fate for that stop on the migration route. Each dial had several fates that could befall our hummingbird selves, such as (totally paraphrased): “You found food! Eat up and continue your migration” or “You arrive at your intended destination but all suitable nesting territory has been claimed. You continue your migration northward” or “You are injured by a window strike. A wildlife rehabilitator takes you in and restores you to full health. You continue your migration” or “You are eaten by a roaming pet cat and die.” At each step the chance of death was pretty high – about a third of the dial. My dad didn’t even make it to Alabama!
After arriving in Alabama we were still 900 miles from Camp Sagawau and had yet to make stops at a Tennessee wildlife refuge and Shawnee National Forest where we again spun the dial to see our fate.
We made it! Coming soon, more about hummingbirds, including banding!