Date: 8/25/17 11:42 pm
From: Phil Davis <pdavis...>
Subject: [MDBirding] Hummingbird observations during the total eclipse in SC [extralimital]
Total Eclipse Observations - Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in South Carolina

My wife, Barbara, and I traveled to Summerville, SC to visit my
brother and his wife during the recent total solar eclipse.

My brother is a avid feeder of hummingbirds and he maintains
approximately 13 feeders in his yard and attached to his windows.
Earlier in the summer, he had estimated that he was feeding
approximately 80 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. When we arrived from
Maryland, a few days before the eclipse, he noted that many of the
males had recently left and estimated that the flock was,
conservatively, about 35 birds. I think that the number might have
been even higher, perhaps 35-50.

My brother lives about 15 miles northwest of downtown Charleston at
approximately 32.91N, -80.24W. At this location, the time of totality
was 1 minute and 22 seconds, beginning at approximately 2:45:42 pm and
the eclipse altitude was approximately 62 degrees above the horizon.

On the afternoon of the eclipse, 21 Aug 2017, the sky was mostly
cloudy and a short rain shower was forecast to begin about 30 minutes
before totality.

Around 2:15 pm, showers did begin and it rained fairly hard for about
15 minutes and then slowed up around 2:30 before stopping prior to the
period of totality. During the heavy showers, the hummingbirds left
the feeders and retreated to the woods, about 100 feet behind the
house, as they normally do during heavy rains. As the showers slowed
and then stopped, before totality, the birds returned, as usual, in
force, to the feeders. On many feeders, 2 and 3 birds were feeding at
once, compared to the more normal case where one bird dominates a
feeder for several minutes and then relinquishes the feeder to another

As the sky started to noticeably darken, the birds were very actively
feeding. We noted that about 8 minutes before totality began, the
birds began to leave the feeders and head back to the woods. By one
minute before totality, the last bird had left the feeders. We did not
notice any other unusual bird activity in the yard, except for one
American Crow, flying furiously overhead, apparently heading back to a
roost. We did not hear the local Barred Owls calling, that we heard
the evening before.

During totality, the ambient light was very dark, but not totally
dark. Since the sky was mostly cloudy, the sun illuminated the clouds
that were lower on the horizon, beyond the 71 mile-wide totality path
(i.e., about 35.5 miles on each side). These distant illuminated
clouds reflected light back from the sides of the totality zone,
preventing total darkness at our location. However, the sky's lighting
effect was still very dramatic and it was very much darker than would
have been the case during just a partial solar eclipse. We did not
note any bird activity during totality.

Immediately after totality ended, the increase in light level was
dramatic, as if someone was turning up a lighting dimmer switch. The
eclipse exit change in light level was much more apparent to us than
the earlier eclipse entrance.

We did not see a hummingbird return to a feeder until about 4 minutes
after totality when a single bird returned. At about 8 minutes after
totality, more birds started to show up and by about 14 minutes after,
the flock seemed to have returned to normal and was feeding furiously.

In summary, it appears that the local Ruby-throated Hummingbirds were
inclined to stay at the feeders and feed as long as possible and then
quickly leave as the sky darkened before totality and they were much
slower to return the feeders after the period of totality ended.
Perhaps they were "confused" about what was happening and were
reluctant to leave their "night" roosts?

Phil Davis Davidsonville, Maryland USA

==================================Phil Davis Davidsonville,
Maryland USA mailto:<PDavis...>

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