- Established 1982 -


5-15 September 2020

Installment #729---Visitor #visitor counter

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The early half of September 2020 brought Hilton Pond Center's first real evidence for fall migration with the arrival of such Neotropical species as Tennessee Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Swainson's Thrush, and Chestnut-sided Warbler--all immature birds. (Note the nearly indescribable yellow-green crown and back of the chestnut-sided in the image below.) Yes, we banded only one or two of each, but they presaged what we hope will become a torrent of southbound migrants in late September and early October. (Scroll to the bottom of this page for a list of all bandings and recaptures during the period.)

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

In all we banded 87 individuals of 17 species from 5-15 September, but the sizable majority of them--56, to be exact--were just one species: Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, captured in mist nets or pull-string traps. This brought our 2020 total for RTHU to 235--an exciting 137% of our 37-year annual average for hummers banded through mid-September. That also made the current banding season our 12th time to go over 200 bandings and our sixth-best year since 1984--with at least three weeks to go before hummers are mostly gone. (CAVEAT: Ruby-throat numbers at the Center typically drop precipitously after 15 September, so the bulk of our hummingbird work for this year is likely finished.)

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

We banded banded two adult male Ruby-throated Hummingbirds during the period, one on 6 September and another the following day. Most red-gorgetted adult males are already long gone; they begin leaving North America for the Neotropics as early as the first week in August, and historically we've banded only two after mid-September. This year we handled three adult female RTHU from 5-15 September--compared to our 22 immature females and 29 young males like the heavily streaked and partially red-gorgetted one above. Hatch year males are typically the last to leave each fall.

Day-by-day Ruby-throated Hummingbird banding tallies for 5-15 September 2020 were as follows:

5 Sep--2 new RTHU bandings
6 Sep--8
7 Sep--9 *
8 Sep--9 *
9 Sep--3
10 Sep--4
11 Sep--4
12 Sep--4
13 Sep--4
14 Sep--3
15 Sep--6
* Highest one-day total for 2020;
also reached on 22 July

Stay tuned for final results for the 2020 hummingbird season that probably will end on or about 18 October--our latest date ever for a new RTHU banding.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

NOTE: About this time of year we often get questions from folks wondering when to take down their hummingbird feeders. Although some enthusiasts are afraid keeping feeders up will stop hummers from migrating, this is unlikely to be the case for any birds except those that might be ill and unable to survive migration in the first place. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (immature male, above) have been migrating like clockwork each fall for hundreds of thousands--perhaps millions--of years, apparently prompted by shorter day-length in autumn to make their southbound trip.

Keeping a feeder up won’t hinder that behavior. If you're tired of making sugar water, you might take down feeders by Halloween, but we always suggest you freshen one feeder for as long as you can through the winter. You never know when you might attract one of those western vagrant hummingbirds that sometimes show up after the ruby-throats have departed. If you're east of the Misissippi and get a hummer after 15 October, please let us know via e-mail at RESEARCH.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center


And on to a more personal note by Bill Hilton Jr., about persimmons:

The Goddess (aka Sue Ballard Hilton) had to be out of town for my 74th birthday on 15 September 2020, so I was left to fend for myself. Not being a gourmet chef, I decided my celebratory dinner would be a feast of natural foods--so I wandered the woods collecting wild provisions. Alas, because the Black Walnuts and Shagbark Hickory nuts were too hard to crack, I had to limit myself to a one-course meal consisting of delectable fruit from a Common Persimmon, Diospyros virginiana.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

We have two mature persimmon trees at Hilton Pond Center. One out by the driveway is quite tall, reaching into the canopy. It has few limbs and makes a limited number of fruits each fall, each less than an inch in diameter. (I suspect this venerable giant is past its reproductive peak.) A second tall 'simmon tree down by the pond flowers prolifically each spring but never makes any fruit. I finally figured out that was because persimmons are dioecious, with each tree being either male or female (male flowers below, from early summer). To get a yield, you have to have at least one tree of each sex--and only the female tree bears fruit.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

A third persimmon tree right behind the old farmhouse is much younger and only about 20 feet tall. I remember deciding not to cut it when it was a little sapling about 12 years ago, and it has rewarded me handsomely for that decision. The tree is already in its prime, this year producing a bumper crop of big, succulent fruits more than an inch and a half in diameter. When I went out as a food-scavenger for my birthday, there were several dozen ripe fruits on the grassy area beneath the tree, so it was a simple matter to gather enough of them to make a bowlful for supper.

A lot of people don't care for fruit of the persimmon tree, usually because they had the unfortunate experience of biting into one before it was ripe and ready. Such action begets unforgettable results, for unripe 'simmon fruit is laden with an astringent chemical that will pucker you up. My secret is to wait for the fruit to fall to the ground; it's usually ripe by then--especially if it has a frosted exterior and splits open a little on impact. Brush off the dirt and an ant or two, and it's some of the sweetest, best eating wild food there is.

After my persimmon orgy I went out the next morning to get a few more 'simmons for breakfast. Nope, there were none to be found. Almost certainly nocturnal creatures--Virginia Opossums (below left), Raccoons, and others--were out for a nighttime feast of their own, gobbling down every persimmon they could find. These animals usually eat the whole fruit, so it's not uncommon to find animal scat in the woods that is full of smooth, brown persimmon seeds. The seed is indigestible, and being deposited somewhere in a pile of animal dung is a very good way to get yourself disseminated and propagated each autumn.

NOTE 1: Common Persimmon's genus name Diospyros is Greek for "food of the gods!"

NOTE 2: The Goddess did bake me a chocolate cake before she departed, so I had birthday dessert to complement my wild 'simmons.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

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Don't forget to scroll down for Nature Notes & Photos,
plus lists of all birds banded or recaptured during the period.

"This Week at Hilton Pond" is written and photographed by Dr. Bill Hilton Jr., executive director of Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History

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Thanks to the following fine folks for recent gifts in support of Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History and/or Operation RubyThroat: The Hummingbird Project. Your tax-deductible contributions allow us, among other things, to continue writing, photographing, and sharing "This Week at Hilton Pond" with students, teachers, and the general public. Please see Support or scroll below if you'd like to make a gift of your own.

We're pleased folks are thinking about the work of the Center and making donations. Those listed below made contributions received during the period. Please join them if you can in coming weeks.

Gifts can be made via PayPal (; credit card via Network for Good (see link below); or personal check (c/o Hilton Pond Center, 1432 DeVinney Road, York SC 29745). You can also donate through our Facebook fundraising page.

The following made thoughtful and generous contributions to Hilton Pond Center during the period 5-15 September 2020:

  • Cheryl Lanaux (via PayPal)
  • Deanna & Jim Skillett
  • Frank Voelker (continuing supporter; via Network for Good)

    The following friends contributed via the "Donate" button on one of the Center's Facebook postings or fund-raisers. Many are repeat contributors via Facebook or other means. Most contributed to Bill Hilton Jr.'s 74th birthday Facebook Fundraiser on behalf of the Center.

    (Donations made on 16-30 September will be acknowledged in the next installment.)

    Anne Anderson
    Anne Ballard
    Wendy Bayes
    Kim Beard
    John Behr
    Sara Blair
    Mary Bogert *
    Lyn Boozer
    Blanche Bryant
    Doren Burrell
    Judy Castorina
    Carla d'Anna
    Alexis Dandreta *
    Diane Dasher
    Peg de Lamater
    Becky Diak
    Cindy Epps
    Roger Ford
    Pamela Fratesi
    Barbara Gordon
    Lynnette Halstead
    Andy Hawkins
    Cheryl Ervin Hill
    William Hilton
    Marilyn Hinze
    Harv Hopkins-Garriss (Top Tier Donor)
    George Johnson
    Mary Alice Koeneke
    Elizabeth Layton *
    Gretchen Locy
    Laura Mahan
    Cindy Massey
    Lynn Biasini McElfresh
    Emily Moss
    Charlie Muise
    Paul Napier
    Sylvia Neal
    Elise Parris
    Ann Peay
    Gary Randolph
    Lisa Rest *
    Pegi Roberts
    Russell Rogers
    Ann-Marie Rutkowski *
    Sean Sands
    Ed Saugstad
    Cindy Sexton
    Kathy Sheriff-White
    Jerry Skinner *
    Melissa Ballard Smith
    Cherie Steele
    Rebecca Stiegel
    Joyce Story *
    Ellen Templeton
    Ned Tupper
    Jessica Vaughan Melfi
    Erich Wilms
    Catherine Wu-Latona *

    (* = past participant in Operation RubyThroat Neotropical Hummingbird expedition)
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5-15 September 2020

Ruby-throated Hummingbird--56
American Redstart--9
Northern Parula--2
Tennessee Warbler--1
Chestnut-sided Warbler--1
*Carolina Chickadee--1
Eastern Phoebe--1
Northern Waterthrush--1
Acadian Flycatcher--2
Common Yellowthroat--1
American Goldfinch--1
Pine Warbler--1
Red-eyed Vireo--1
House Finch--5
Carolina Wren--1
Swainson's Thrush--2
Mourning Dove--1

* = new banded species for 2020

17 species
87 individuals

58 species (39-yr. avg. = 64.8)

1,140 individuals
(39-yr. avg. =

235 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds

(Banding began 28 June 1982; since then 171 species have been observed on or over the property.)
127 species banded
70,830 individuals banded

6,590 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds banded

(with original banding date, sex, and current age):
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
None this week

Carolina Chickadee (2)
06/03/14--7th year male
06/08/20--hatch year unknown

American Goldfinch (1)
02/17/19--after 3rd year male

Northern Cardinal (1)
10/21/19--2nd year female

Tufted Titmouse (3)
07/27/18--3rd year male
06/15/19--2nd year male
06/26/20--hatch year unknown

Brown Thrasher (1)
10/09/19--after 2nd year unknown

--As of 15 Sep, the Center's 2020 Yard List stood at 90--about 53% of 171 avian species encountered locally since 1982. (Incidentally, 88 species so far this year have been observed from the windows or porches of our old farmhouse! If you're not keeping a Yard List for your own property we encourage you to do so, and to report your sightings via eBird. You, too, can be a "citizen scientist.") New species observed locally during the period: Tennessee Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Belted Kingfisher

--Our immediate past installment of "This Week at Hilton Pond" was about the controversy between a native wildflower and folks who like lawns. It's archived and always available on our Web site as Installment #728.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Please report your
sightings of
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds

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Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History is a non-profit research, conservation & education organization in York, South Carolina USA; phone (803) 684-5852. Directed by Dr. Bill Hilton Jr., aka "The Piedmont Naturalist," it is parent organization for Operation RubyThroat. Web site contents--including text and photos--may NOT be duplicated, modified, or used in any way except with express written permission of Hilton Pond Center. All rights reserved worldwide. To request permission for use or for further assistance, please contact Webmaster.