Q. Where do you live?
Q.  What's your favorite birding spot in Oklahoma?
Introducing our February 2003
Birder of the Month:

Ellie Womack
"the Hummingbird Lady"
of Grove, Oklahoma
Q.  What field guide do you prefer to use?
Q.  What are your 3 favorite birds? and is/are there any particular reason(s) they're your favorites??
Q.  Tell us about your BEST birding experience.... so far.
Q.  What was your WORST??
Q.  What are you most likely to say when a bird flies before you can ID it??
Q.  What was the last book you read?
In Grove, OK -- at the back, our side yard joins Lendonwood Gardens, so if you visit and see us out, be sure to say Hi.
We moved to rural Claremore in 1974 and started feeding birds.  We had bluebirds and purple martins in houses and learned a few birds by sight, but it wasn't until about 1978 when I bought an 80-200mm camera lens that focused at 30" -- at that distance and magnification, a hummer fills the frame.  The first adult male Ruby-throated to flash his gorget at me through that lens, knocked my socks off.  It must have seared my brain a bit, too, as I've never been the same.
My kitchen table.
I have lots, and occasionally use them all, but on my kitchen table I keep Sibley's, Kenn Kaufman's, and Date Guide to the Occurrences of Birds in Oklahoma with my binoculars.  I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Sheri Williamson's excellent Hummingbirds of North America, but I use it more in my office than at the kitchen table... c'mon, travelin' hummers!!
#1 - Ruby-throated Hummingbirds; #2 - other hummingbirds; #3 - all the rest, favorites highly dependent upon what's present at the moment.  I am fond of woodpeckers (maybe because they follow hummingbirds in books), and I'm still hoping someone will locate the Ivory-billed.
Best means only one, so forget that.  Over-the-top experiences:  (1) recapturing a Ruby-throat I'd banded as an adult (the bird, not me) and determining she was at least 8 years 1 month old; (2) having six of my banded birds recovered elsewhere (no, I've never caught anyone else's banded bird); and (3) being part of the team that banded the first Plain-capped Starthroat Hummingbird in Arizona.
Having a hummingbird die in my hand during a banding demonstration with a lot of folks present.  It rarely happens but it does, and every bander wishes to be alone when it occurs.
Either "Fly on, Kirtland's Warbler," or, if it's a hummingbird, "Get back here, you flighty rascal!  There's food in that trap!"
"Catch Me, If You Can" was fun; "Winter Solstice" by Rosamunde Pilcher, pleasant; and "Buffalo For the Broken Heart" by Dan O'Brien, an absolute delight.  Not a long book, but I recommend it -- the guy's a naturalist, the Broken Heart is his ranch, and it will make you drool for buffalo steak.
Q. How long have you been birding? and what got you interested in birding?
Q.  Tell us something about your hummingbird-banding experiences.
    You don't really want a treatise on hum-banding, do you?  Since you asked how I trap them, here are some photos of my net trap and a free-standing wire trap.  Both are "baited" with a feeder and operated by a pull-string.  When a hummer sits to drink, the string is dropped, the sides of the net trap lower, and the wire door closes.
     In Oklahoma, besides Ruby-throats, I've banded several
Rufous Hummingbirds, still considered rare but expected in fall or winter.  The adult male Rufous in the photo arrived Dec 15, 1999 and stayed through deep snow, ice, and very low temps until Feb 16, 2000.
          More hummer species are being confirmed in the east each year, and almost without fail the birds are noticed at feeders.  Syrup mixed 3:1 (3 parts water, 1 part sugar) will not freeze until about 21*F, but winter feeders should be changed weekly.  If you see a hummer in winter, or a "white" hummer anytime, please notify me.
"Slash," the Rufous Hummingbird (on the left)
who over-wintered in Grove from 12/15/1999
to 2/16/2000, named for a unique pattern
in his gorget.  (The other bird is a wooden decoy.)
Our Ellie???

No, Ellie says,
"I stood in line with the other kids at
the Pelican Festival
to have my face painted before
my shift at the Audubon booth."
Bill, Ellie's husband and
"trap runner," retrieves a bird
from the net trap.
Q.  Who are your heroes or role models?  Whom do you admire? and if you care to comment, why are they your heroes?
The real heroes in my life have names history will not remember:  my mother, a few friends; ordinary people doing extraordinary things against incredible odds but with faith and good humor.
     That said, here are some whose work I greatly admire (what they did) with a comment about how they affected my life (who they are).
** Richard Armour (1906-89), English professor, lecturer, syndicated columnist, author of 65 books, poet.  He was my mentor during my light verse phase.  We shared some laughs.
** Don Bleitz (1916-86), engineer, author, ornithologist, inventor, photographer, founder of Bleitz Wildlife Foundation.  His name is probably unknown to most people, but in the beginning hummingbird mist nets were purchased through Bleitz Wildlife.  I called him when I was in Los Angeles.  He was not there but his secretary invited me to visit his business/home even though it was a strictly mail order business and not open to the public.  Not wishing to intrude, I declined---
When I got home, I ordered the mist nets, but sent a thank-you note for the invitation.  He wrote back, and I thought I was being nervy in asking about his hummer involvement, but apparently he was pleased someone was interested and he wrote long letters to me, detailing his original design for hummingbird bands and hand-tied(!) mist nets for hummers, information that had never been written down before.  We planned to visit on our next trip to LA in June, but he died suddenly in March.  I treasure those letters and, to preserve them, reprinted the pertinent contents in Hummingbird Hotline.  After his death, Avinet was formed and Sam Sumida sent me Bleitz's original banding pliers, also a treasure.
** Kenn Kaufman (ah, a living one!), ornithologist and birder extraordinaire, author, artist.  I am in awe of this young man, but he won my heart with his inscription in my copy of
Advanced Birding.
** Erma J. "Jonnie" Fisk (1906-90), ornithologist, author.  I've adopted a quote from her first book,
The Peacocks of Baboquivari (published when she was 77), as my motto:  "a rule of life seems to be that you can rarely repay those who do you a kindness, you can only pass along their generosity."