Rare hummingbird visits Shady Grove

This hummingbird was far from home when it visited Dale Gearhart’s bird feeder near Shady Grove recently. The black-chinned hummingbird is native to southwestern U.S. and Mexico. It is now the first of its kind documented in Pennsylvania.

Forty-year bird enthusiast Dale Gearhart entered the record books with his identification of a hummingbird that has been hanging around his Burkholder Road home in the Shady Grove area. He called in experts to confirm his call that it was a black-chinned hummingbird. The breed hails from the southwestern United States and Mexico.

Scott Weidensaul, from The Nature Conservancy, Schuykill County, and a prolific author on the birds, and Sandy Lockerman, a Harrisburg hummingbird bander, came to town on Nov. 13 to investigate. They agreed as to the identity of the tiny fluttering creature and put a band on its leg. It wasn’t that difficult to get the bird in hand. They put a net around a feeder where the hummingbird would rest after drinking from Gearhart’s sugar water feeder.

The data will go through proper channels and be recorded with the Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology. Gearhart’s name will be attached to the find.

He was more than excited by his discovery.

“It was the first documented one in Pennsylvania and only the second one ever reported,” he said.

He had watched it for some time from his window but couldn’t see the chin to make sure of his suspicions. When it stayed into November, he knew it wouldn’t be a ruby-throated hummingbird. The black-chinned hummingbird has a black throat with a violet chin, which Lockerman was able to reveal as she banded the bird.

Gearhart posted the news on birdwatching websites, and within a week about 130 people from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Delaware and Washington D.C. appeared at his door. All except one were rewarded with a look at the winged visitor.

He has enjoyed the hobby since his sixth-grade teaching days in the Greencastle-Antrim School District, and has identified about 400 birds.

“It’s a good pastime,” Gearhart said. “I don’t have any cats. These are my pets. They are everywhere and they are active, colorful and interesting.”