You can lead a hummingbird to (sugar) water but you can’t make him drink.

Shortly after we arrived at Bryce Canyon NP, we learned that there might be the opportunity to help with the banding of hummingbirds. You have to get up before sunrise but we figured it would still be worth it for an up close view of the little birds. Bryce is part of a regional banding program started about 5 years ago.

When we showed at 5:45 AM, this is what we saw:


Normally, there are five hummingbird feeders stationed in this clearing. All but two of the feeders are taken down (along with any feeders that the nearby park employees have outside their residences.) This is how you catch a hummingbird:

First, the obvious step – wait for the bird to get inside the trap circle. Once the bird puts its’ head down to drink, you release the fishing line that is holding the net up. You now (usually, but not always) have a hummingbird trapped but you still have to catch it!

You take a little net bag, leave it on the floor of the trap and then stick your hand inside and gently grab the bird. Once you manage to catch the bird in your hand, you put him in the bag. Sounds easy doesn’t it? I let at least two of them get away before I got the hang of it!

Here is what a hummingbird in a bag looks like when he is waiting his turn for banding:


The Park Biologist, Sarah, is the only one qualified to band the hummingbirds at Bryce. You have to go through quite a bit of training. She does a few of the initial steps (measuring and banding) with the bird still in his little bag.



Next there is some data collection and more measuring, which Sarah does while actually hanging on to the little guy in her hand!



She determines the sex and species, measures the beak and wing length, checks under the feathers for fat, looks for signs of pollen, and does an overall evaluation.


After all that is finished, she wraps the little guy (or gal) up in a net, kind of like a burrito with a clip, for weighing. Alan’s job was to report the weight and then take the bird out of his wrapping.



He would then offer the hummingbird a drink from the feeder. Sometimes they would drink, sometimes they wouldn’t.



When they had their fill, he would put the bird on the palm of his hand. Some birds would just hang around and sit for a while, others would zoom right off!


We caught 30-some birds over the day. There were black-throated and broad-tailed hummingbirds. Even after seeing the different species up close, I’m still having problems distinguishing them at our feeder. We might actually be turning into birders after this day!


More Fauna of Bryce Canyon


It is not at all an exaggeration to say there are a lot of squirrels here at Bryce Canyon. We have been seeing them everywhere! This is a particularly small squirrel species – I think it is the golden-mantled ground squirrel. They are often confused with chipmunks, which are also common here in the Park. You can tell the difference because the squirrel doesn’t have stripes on it’s head, only along the body.


This guy hangs out on Peekaboo Trail. He is quite brazen and bold, probably because he has been fed by hikers on a regular basis. I’m sure you already know not to feed wildlife. It is a actually very cruel since they don’t learn to forage on their own and don’t do particularly well on human food. Besides, it is dangerous! Bryce and other Parks regularly treat people who have been bitten by the little critters – a finger looks a lot like a cheeto to a squirrel!


We saw another kind of squirrel on a less-traveled trail – Riggs Spring. He was huge and very fat!


He was living right near the actual Spring. There wasn’t a lot of water but it was wet. The Spring is kept fenced off to protect it from marauding cattle (that inadvertently, or sometimes advertently – we’ve heard stories about ranchers cutting the fence so their cattle can graze on fertile NPS land) get into the Park.


There were hundreds of little purple butterflies (or perhaps they were moths?!?) sitting on the damp mud near the Spring.


I probably took 30 pictures (while Alan very patiently waited and watched the fat squirrel) but didn’t get any really great shots.




They were really cool looking, though and there were a couple of what I think are Monarch butterflies around, too.


This definitely doesn’t count as fauna but we did find a couple of the Aspen trees that had been carved by sheep herders and CCC in the late 1800’s and 1930’s. I had read about them in one of the books I got from the Park Library. They were all carefully studied and documented as part of an environmental impact report done before the Park road was widened. They were called dendroglyphs.


Most of the really old carvings aren’t legible any more (since the trees have continued to grow.) This was one of the signatures that was still recognizable. There were also drawings of people and animals, along with a couple of brands. You can’t easily spot them anymore so that is probably why modern hikers/trouble makers haven’t continued the tradition. You have to get out about 5 miles along a less-popular trail, which has probably helped, too!

We are on-duty today, so time to head out for morning rounds ….