Birding Without Borders

Day 83: Hummingbird Haven

Noah visits a woman who has devoted her life to her birds.

March 24, 2015, Bogota, Colombia — Twenty-nine years ago, around the time I was born, a woman named Leonor hung a hummingbird feeder outside her house in the pueblo of San Francisco, outside of Bogota. A couple of thirsty hummers showed up, so she added another feeder to keep them satisfied. Things escalated, and today her yard is known as El Jardin Encantado (“The Enchanted Garden”). I visited this spot today with a pair of Juans from Bogota: Juan Pablo, a local biologist, and Juan Diego, a professional photographer. 

Having witnessed more than a few hummingbird setups so far this year, I’ve grown accustomed to frenetic hovering swarms, but this one was admittedly impressive. I’ve seen feeders with higher diversity (14 hummingbird species in 15 minutes at Sachatamia Lodge, Ecuador), and higher capacity (at the Cerulean Warbler Reserve last week, I saw a homemade hummer feeder constructed from a water cooler tank, which had to be refilled every three days), but El Jardin Encantado sets the record for sheer effort. I counted 37 sugar-water feeders dangling in one dense array, covering the entire front yard! 

Leonor now does nothing but care for her hummingbirds, which, she told me, suck down 450 kilograms (1,000 pounds) of raw sugar each month. The walls of her house are plastered with clippings from National Geographic, the Discovery Channel, and others who have stopped by over the years. After about an hour, we left her sitting alone on the patio, gazing at her birds.

The rest of today was pretty slow. Juan, Juan and I visited two parks outside of Bogota, called Laguna de Tabacal and Parque La Florida. As it happened, Tabacal was very quiet, and La Florida was closed with AK-47-toting guards barring the entrance. The Enchanted Garden, though it didn’t add a single new bird to my list, was the iridescent highlight of the day.

New birds today: 7

Year list: 1785

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