Purple Shimmers in the Desert

How is this for a weird experience? I mentioned a few posts back that I was recovering from a back injury, but I didn’t go into too many details. Now that I am completely healed from it, thought I’d loop everyone into a bizarre injury that had me pretty worried. The last thing I need when training for a 50K event is to have an injury – especially in such a critical area. Usually On Sundays, some friends and I do long training runs on a hilly nightmare of a course through a local cemetery (figure they can bury us where we drop). A few weeks ago we were taking on the course in pretty warm weather for an early January day – mid 40’s accompanied with a strong wind. Decided I was too layered up for the conditions so took my Gore-Tex coat off, removed a layer and put the outer shell back on (important tidbit for later). Although a rocky and uneven course, we know every square inch of it – no slips, bobbles or wobbles occurred up to mile two. That is when I felt something pierce my lower back. I noted the strange feeling to my friend and kept on running – quirks and pains happen all the time – runners learn to ignore them because they almost always work themselves out. 2 more miles and my hips started seizing up. 2 more miles and serious pain started radiating from the lower back. 3 miles later we were back at the car and I was trying to figure out a way to stand without letting my friends see any hint of tears. 30 minute drive home and I couldn’t move without a knife twisting in my spine. Most concerning was a 5×8 inch badly swollen red bulge near where the initial stab was felt. All I could think about was the setback to the 50K training (goals are not taken lightly around Intrigued). For brevity, will skip to the juicy part. Got into my doctor the following day – explained the story above preparing myself for the herniated disk diagnosis. Was not expecting the doctor to hypothesize that it sounded like a spider bite. The recluse would have destroyed skin by now, so they speculated Black Widow, grabbed a magnifying glass and went to work finding the holes. Good news, not a Widow, instead they pulled a stinger out of my spine what I imagined to be the size of this bird’s bill.

Juvenile Costa's Hummingbird found at Henderson Bird Viewing Center in Henderson, NV, November 2018

Not sure who was surprised more, the doctor or me. Apparently a dagger wielding demon of an insect decided to unload all the venom it had a few inches up from my waistline and directly into the center of my spine. From there it traveled my nerve network down into the in the hips and up the back causing the lockup. Remember, this is the first week of January – those things are supposed to have died off or went into hibernation. No way it stung through the outer running shell. We have come to the conclusion that a wasp,hornet,large ass bee or possibly a Tarantula Hawk (link here) sneaked into the coat when I was removing the layer, panicked at mile two and unloaded everything it had into the spine – I could see a blood spot on the base layer next to the skin. The good news is 5 days of steroids had me back on the trails this morning running in 5″ of snow. I bet I know what you are thinking right about now – what the hell kind of bird is that?

Hit the jump to find out!

Sorry for the long lead in – thought I’d share the life of a runner hehehe – now you know why Ron wants a 0.0 sticker for his car. Shall we get to this bird? – Certainly.

Juvenile Costa's Hummingbird found at Henderson Bird Viewing Center in Henderson, NV, November 2018

Suspect that anyone that spends any time on this site knows their wildlife well enough to pick this out as a Hummingbird. If not, then I can most assuredly tell you this is indeed a Hummingbird. Long rapier bill, tiny stature and typically a dominant green centric hue. However, most of them possess a sprinkling of unicorn given the right angle and a dash of light.

Juvenile Costa's Hummingbird found at Henderson Bird Viewing Center in Henderson, NV, November 2018

When you live in the Midwest, your Hummingbird birding experience goes like this.

“Hey, lookie there, that’s a Hummingbird”

“Wow, it’s a Ruby-Throated Hummmingbird”

“Holy cow!, that’s another Hummingbird”

“Another Ruby-Throated Hummingbird”

“Oh my, that’s a cool Hummingbird”

“Uh, a Ruby”

“There’s ano.. oh, forget about it, another damn Ruby”

As a result, you tend to hyperventilate when you do come into contact with a different type of Hummer.

Juvenile Costa's Hummingbird found at Henderson Bird Viewing Center in Henderson, NV, November 2018

That is exactly the case here. On a visit to the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve on our trip to Las Vegas last November, we noticed a Costa’s Hummer was listed on their sighting board. “Linda, try to find me a brown paper bag to breathe into” This was twice as exciting since it was not only a new bird for me, but also one Ron hadn’t checked off yet. An opportunity to claw some ground back. Unlike the red adornment on the Ruby, the Costa’s sports a brilliant purple when captured at the right angle.

Juvenile Costa's Hummingbird found at Henderson Bird Viewing Center in Henderson, NV, November 2018

This happens to be a juvenile. The mature Costa’s has a much larger iridescent purple gorget that extends way beyond the neckline. It essentially flares all the way out like a beard in serious need of some trimming. Although this juvi is still working on his, you can get a feel for how pretty it will be once fully grown in.

Juvenile Costa's Hummingbird found at Henderson Bird Viewing Center in Henderson, NV, November 2018

The Ruby has a slightly larger frame than this species and has a slender profile. Contrast that with this little guy. One quick way to differentiate them is they are smaller – granted this is hard to tell without a relative comparison since all Hummers possess a smaller profile than your everyday bird. Another way to distinguish other than the purple feathering is the relative wing length to the tail. In the picture above and the one below, you will notice the wings extend beyond the tail. They also tend to sit with a hunch.

Juvenile Costa's Hummingbird found at Henderson Bird Viewing Center in Henderson, NV, November 2018

When I found this particular specimen, there was another birder set up with his tripod and large glass pointed directly at the same bird. After getting a number of shots in the tin, noticed he was taking a break from his shooting. Channeling my very talkative brother, asked him if he could confirm the ID of this bird. “That’s the Costa’s”. Linda, where’s that bag. Surely did not expect to get the sighting bird confirmed within 5 minutes of leaving the visitor center.

Juvenile Costa's Hummingbird found at Henderson Bird Viewing Center in Henderson, NV, November 2018

After a few more shots, Linda and I went off to explore the rest of the preserve. A couple of hours later we returned to the spot to once again spot the Costa’s. It was busy making sure no other Hummingbird had the audacity to trying and drink from HIS feeders. Oh, if you didn’t happen to know, Hummers are notoriously aggressive and not very neighborly when it comes to competition for sugar water. While filling up the rest of the tin making sure there were decent picture of the +1, the guy I met earlier returned.

Juvenile Costa's Hummingbird found at Henderson Bird Viewing Center in Henderson, NV, November 2018

We got to talking and I learned that he was down from Canada for the primary purpose of getting this Hummingbird added to his list. He characterized himself as a Hummingbird specialist and had traveled all over to add to his collection. That dude knew his Hummers and very appreciative he was willing to help me get to know this species. Linda has a running joke about my “fireside chats” while out birding – unfounded since I’m a pretty shy while out in the field – Ron can confirm – I leave the talking to him. Unfortunately, I cannot remember the other birder’s name. I did give him the blog’s URL so maybe he’ll notice this post and check in.

In addition to the tongue above, here is another angle to help complete the picture – as with many other Hummers, this one does have the green iridescence on the back.

Juvenile Costa's Hummingbird found at Henderson Bird Viewing Center in Henderson, NV, November 2018

Already covered the key characteristics of the Costa’s. Just in case you were wonder how it was named, Frenchman Jules Bourcier named it after his friend Louis Marie Pantaleon Costa de Beauregar. Now that is a mouthful. Apparently this military commander (Costa) like collecting these delicate birds. These little birds can also save energy by reducing their heartbeats over 90% on those cold desert nights. Should probably also point out that the Costa’s primarily hangs out in a narrow band along the southwest extending down into Central America.

They also happen to be superb Coyote spotters. Ranchers will buy a number of Costa’s and put them as sentries to their hen houses. Truly dedicated to their duties, they will keep diligent watch for those pesky canines.

Juvenile Costa's Hummingbird found at Henderson Bird Viewing Center in Henderson, NV, November 2018

Should they spot one, they will leap straight into the air with exaggerated wing beats in order to signal to the rancher of the coming danger.

Juvenile Costa's Hummingbird found at Henderson Bird Viewing Center in Henderson, NV, November 2018

Wow, this post got a bit out of hand. Hopefully you enjoyed reading about the latest addition to my bird count. Be careful out there and keep your eyes out for those stingers – if it survived long enough to get back to the hive, I am sure it passed along how it found a vulnerable spot on us humans.

8 thoughts on “Purple Shimmers in the Desert”

  1. I must say that I think these are your best images yet! Absolutely stunning, they almost look like something I would take with the macro. The fine feather detail picked out on such a small subject by such a monster of a lens is astounding,
    As for your ‘buddy’ take heart that if it left that in you it almost certainly has popped it’s clogs!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Brian. I wanted to give everyone something worth looking at after having to wade through my sob story. Admittedly. I was a little surprised in the digital darkroom as I was using a rented glass (the Beast got to take the trip off), so I was hand holding and zoomed to 600mm (thus only one in flight picture). I was just talking to Ron while he was going through your blog pictures and noting the amazing detail you get in your dragonfly and butterfly wings. On the fate of my enemy, that is exactly what my doctor told me when he extracted the dagger – “good news, you were its last victim!” Appreciate you stopping by and the ego inflating words.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Reed! I am 100% healthy now… well, as much as a distance runner ever is. By the way, your Blackwater Sunset Multi-image Panorama (first image) is wonderful – stared at that shot for a long time just enjoying the sky textures and really liking the fact the setting sun compliments and doesn’t completely steal the show as it often does in those types of shots.


  2. Yes, I was going through “Brian from England”‘s photographs on his blog and oohing and aahing to “Brian from around here” on the phone about the gorgeous moths and butterflies and the rest of them, and now I just visited “Reed from New Jersey”‘s blog and there are many gorgeous photographs there as well! Between the three of you, this is getting me real discouraged, folks!

    These are very nice pics of the Costa’s Hummingbird here. It’s hard to get sharp pictures of these maniacs, so this is extremely impressive. I’ve never started a conversation with a birder about a hummingbird, much less twice in a row, so it appears you are far more social on the trail than reticent little me. 🙂

    Again, with this sting encounter the arguments against running continue to grow. And I was just about to start training to race…

    BTW, I actually had Brian resurrect my photos of the steers that I had lost but had emailed him (the photos, not the steers), just to show that they were indeed NOT cows that were chasing me!

    Again, congrats–these are very nice and sharp photos!


    Liked by 2 people

    1. There is a lot going on in this comment – let’s unpack. Yes, Brian (other one) and Reed know their stuff behind a camera! Interesting enough, they both have blogs… take pictures.. put pictures on blog so people can see them – kind of how this blogging concept goes. Wait, you take pictures… you have a blog… time to get posting!

      Let’s see, less than 30 seconds after arriving at the Kittywake location you were talking up the locals (yes, I was checking the watch). You were the one the ladies at Starved Rock immediately latched onto to find the Eagles and unless I am mistaken, I think you were the one who went over to help out they guy trying to get his wife freed from the bathroom that almost resulted in a cracked skull (still have nightmares about that) – clearly you are the social butterfly between us (Linda confirms).

      I must admit, for a non-runner, you sure have incredible stamina when out in the field looking for birds. Of course, your camera is a bit lighter, but none the less, somehow you are getting your cardio in (must be the basketball you are playing now)

      I did find the pics of the dairy cows you were running from – maybe that would be a good first post on your blog… “Dairy Cows Gone Wild”.

      As always thanks for taking the time to stop and comment! Also recommend adding Brian and Reed to your regular bookmarks.


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