I’ve been known to sit for hours waiting for the fox to come out of her burrow in my community, the eaglets to take their first flight at Widgeon Point, and the baby red-headed woodpeckers at Del Webb nature preserve to be fed.
Most recently, I spent two weeks of “hunting,” following up with sightings, sitting (for hours at a time) and watching for a very rare hummingbird – the leucistic ruby-throated hummingbird.
Leucistic ruby-throated hummingbirds are not as rare as albino hummingbirds, but they are still very rare – especially in Bluffton.
Only 236 of the 5.5 million birds reported each year have leucism, making up a tiny proportion of birds with abnormal plumages.
In other words, only about 1 in 30,000 birds have leucism, giving them irregular patches of white feathers instead of the ruby-throated birds’ normal coloring.
The difference in leucism and albinism is that albino birds have a pink pigment in their eyes, beak and legs. Leucistic birds maintain their dark eye, beak and leg coloring.
Two weeks ago, I received a call from an acquaintance who said that this special hummingbird had been “spotted in Bluffton.” I packed my camera bag and spare batteries to head to the spot in Pinckney Colony to wait.
Although the bird had been seen every day at this feeder at dawn for five consecutive days, apparently she had moved on because she never showed up over the four hours I was there. (The homeowners named her “Pearl,” so we continue to consider the bird as female.)
Later, I happened to be scrolling through posts on Nextdoor and I read that there was a video of the bird at a feeder in Sun City – where I happen to live. I tracked down the video and then the people who posted it and called them. They promised to call me when they saw him next. I waited. And waited. And waited some more.
Word in Sun City traveled fast and my friends and neighbors (who know that I will do anything for a fabulous wildlife photo) started talking about my quest.
Two weeks into my mission, a friend emailed to tell me to call a friend of theirs, that the hummingbird was visiting their feeder. After leaving a message, I got a call from the residents, who told me that a white hummingbird was at their feeder and I should come see it. I flew out the door.
Anyone who has experience with hummingbirds might have noticed they come back to the same spot over and over, usually around the same time every day, so it only took a couple days of “camping out” in my new friend’s backyard for this beauty to fly in.
Thankfully, I was ready! She was definitely worth the wait!
Sophia Schade, a resident of Bluffton, is an amateur wildlife photographer with a special interest in local and rare creatures.