The Nature Writers of Texas

The best nature writing from the newspaper, magazine, blog and book authors of the Lone Star State . . .

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

For the Love of Birds
Bill Lindemann, Fredericksburg Standard/Radio Post, Kerrville Daily Times, May 2003, © 2003

Of the 90 million people in North America who spend some time watching birds during the year, I doubt few of these birders could match the passion and love for birds that Hanna Richard had during her lifetime. Hanna left us this week, but she also left those who knew her a legacy of caring for the feathered creatures she loved, especially hummingbirds. For the past many
years, Hanna banded hummingbirds so that ornithologists could learn more about these tiny, colorful flying machines.

Hanna and her husband Artie retired to Ingram from New York City and together they birded all of the special birding places in Texas and the Southwest. On short notice they would pack up and head to the place where a special or rare bird had been sighted. Being excellent birders, they generally were successful in finding their quarry. When not in pursuit of a rare bird or just making a birding trip to a special place, Hanna used her back yard as her haven to work with hummingbirds.

Placing a tiny band on a hummingbird's leg requires more patience that Job ever imagined. Watching Hanna handle a hummingbird was a special treat and demonstrated her love and affection for the birds as much so as a skilled nurse caring for one of her patients. Hanna would make the required measurements, identify the bird's species and gender, take its weight and place the numbered band on its leg before releasing it back to the wild. Included in this process is detailed note taking, the part that keeps me from engaging in this activity.

Hanna told me that her interest in banding started on Long Island in New York where she got involved with a hawk-banding program around a major airport. This adventure sparked an interest in birds that would stay with her for the rest of her life. She obtained the necessary training and licensing that is required to perform the banding operation. Scientists use the banding process to gather data on birds as well as track them in their travels. The bands, which are placed on one leg, and the banding process
cause the birds no harm.

Hanna and Artie's back yard had no special features to attract hummingbirds, but in a normal summer, Hanna would band well over a thousand individuals there. We think that we are feeding just a few hummingbirds, but in fact thousands might be stopping at our feeders for a sip of sugar water. Some of Hanna's banded birds were found in places like Florida and the Pacific Northwest, so these birds drifted far from Ingram in their travels. On the other hand, she often encountered birds that she had banded in the past - some several years previously.

Hanna as an individual was a special person. She was one of those people who spoke her mind and generally was not one to waste words. Her stature was not tall, but that never bothered her as far as I could tell. Hanna possessed a sharp wit, one that took some time to appreciate. Her compassion and love was evident in one visit with her tending to her hummingbirds. She was
special in so many ways and all of us who knew her will miss her spirit that set her apart. Her friends will be reminded of that spirit when they watch the birds she loved most.


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