Couple helped hummingbirds in wildfire

Couple helped hummingbirds in wildfire

27 October 2011

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USA — Despite being told to evacuate, Don and Pat Coker never left their home in Paige during the Bastrop County wildfire.

“We just decided to stay,” said Don Coker. “It was a long, grueling nine days, but we managed.”

The couple in their late 70s had no electricity, but figured they would be fine after growing up without power.

“We’d stay up late at night to get the coo, you know, and we’d watch the fire,” said Don Coker. “It was a tough time for us, traumatic for both of us.”

But on the third day, they looked out their kitchen window and spotted something besides smoke. Instead of the normal two, dozens of hummingbirds were hovering around their hanging feeder.

“There was maybe a dozen out here and they picked up numbers every day,” said Don Coker.

He grabbed the video camera and started recording.

“I think they were eating in shifts because they couldn’t all get to it, you know, so they’d all wait their turn and get their little bellies ful, I guess, and go out on a limb and wait for another turn at it,” he said.

So while much of Bastrop County was on fire, the Cokers were busy buying bags of sugar, jugs of purified water and three extra hummingbird feeders because that was all the store had left. They would have to fill the feeders multiple times a day.

“You could almost see the sugar water going down, they were drinking so fast,” said Don.

Urban biologist Kelly Bender with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said a combination of prolonged drought, wildfire and migration season drew them in.

“They’re responding to a lack of resources,” said Bender who is stationed in Bastrop. “Flowers either dried up or were burned up — even feeders they may have been feeding on might be gone.”

The birds were also fueling up on their trip south for the winter. Bender said finding even the smallest patches of color is one of their strong suits.

After about five days, the Cokers said the hummingbirds were gone.

“We sure miss them,” said Pat Coker, who has named hummingbirds that have frequented their feeder in the past. She even prays they will have a safe journey.

“It put smiles on our faces and lifted our spirits,” said Don Coker. “And it will be a bright spot the rest of our lives.”

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