Master Gardeners are happy with groundhog

Bob Sargent shows Jan Rogers a hummingbird feeder as Martha Sargent looks on. (Special/Catherine Legg)

By CATHERINE LEGG / Community Columnist

Members of the Shelby County Master Gardeners Association celebrate Groundhog Day whether or not the sleepy little fellow sees his shadow. This year, when he emerged from his well-known Pennsylvania burrow, he failed to see his shadow, and therewith proclaimed the early arrival of spring.

That prediction made all of the gardeners ecstatic and justified the jubilant atmosphere later that evening at the Montevallo Main Street Tavern as the Master Gardeners, their spouses and guests, gathered for dinner and to hear an interesting program by hummingbird experts, Bob and Martha Sargent.

Jan Rogers, program chairman for the SCMGA, titled Bob Sargent “King of the Hummers.” The Sargents founded the Hummer/Bird Study Group, dedicated to the study and preservation of the hummingbirds and other Neo-tropical songbirds. The HBSG operates banding stations in the Alabama cities of Clay and Fort Morgan where the birds are captured, banded, weighed, measured, photographed and released.

The speakers explained many almost unbelievable facts about their favorite little birds. Hummingbirds weigh less than 3.5 grams (28 grams equal 1 oz.) Their wings beat 40 to 80 times per second, and their heart rate ranges 250 to 1,200 beats per minute. They can fly as fast as 50 mph. It is thought that the little birds have binocular vision and can spot a feeder from about almost a mile away. The female does all of the work (not surprising!) building the nest and caring for the young. The nests, about the size of an English walnut, are usually found on a straight down-turned tree limb 18-20 feet above the ground. Most Ruby Throated Hummers fly across the Gulf of Mexico in the fall to winter in Central America or Southern Mexico, and then they return to the United States in the spring. The crossing usually takes them 18 to 24 hours.

“I thought the program and the entire evening were superb,” said Regena Varvoutis, SCMGA president. “Bob and Martha Sargent are locally grown and internationally known for their expertise on hummingbirds. We are so very fortunate to have them living nearby and available to us.”

The SCMGA began in 1996, and is sponsored by the Auburn Cooperative Extension System. It is a statewide organization with groups in each Alabama county. Certified Master Gardeners have completed a 10-week course and have given at least 40 hours of community service. The association of graduates meets monthly for a program and exchange of ideas and plants.

The next Master Gardener class begins in mid-August. Interested persons should call the Extension office at 669-6763.

For additional information about hummingbirds and the Hummer Bird Study Group, call 681-2888 or email: hummerbsg@aol.com.

Catherine Legg can be reached at clegg2@bellsouth.net.