Caring for Something Bigger—Hummingbirds at the Park
Johnny Rose has always loved nature. After moving to Nashville, he discovered the 3,100+ acres of the Warner Parks and spent many wonderful hours there walking with his dog or with friends. When he retired, he decided he would like to be part of something bigger than himself. Nature was the logical answer for him: “The parks have always given to me; I wanted to give back to them.” From the first day of volunteering there, he knew he had found the right place.
As a volunteer, Johnny has done a variety of tasks, but his passion is with the hummingbirds. Knowing that the little ones need to consume half of their body weight each day in order to survive, Johnny is diligent in his care of the 25 feeders around the Warner Parks Nature Center. They have to be cleaned and refilled twice a week. Johnny also enjoys talking with the many visitors to the park about the hummingbirds.
But his real delight is the August–September hummingbird banding season. The Nature Center has been a Premier Banding Site in the Southeast since the 1980’s. As a volunteer, Johnny assists the accredited banders in the tasks of capturing the birds, assessing their weight, age, gender, and condition, banding them (if needed), and logging in the information.
Releasing the tiny birds is a ritual of its own. Johnny can transfer the quiet bird to the hands of a child or an adult so that they too feel the magic of gently holding this tiny gem. They can hear the heartbeat, open their hands, and allow this marvelous creature to fly free again. Through the banding program, naturalists have learned that hummingbirds come back year after year to the same locations, so lots of the birds captured each year at the Nature Center know the routine. Sometimes, when the hands open, the birds will remain quiet for a few extra seconds before flying off, giving the holder an unforgettable moment of appreciation of the wonders of nature.
Caring for the birds’ immediate needs for food; helping gather and share the information that enables humanity to understand, appreciate, and care for their long-term needs, such as reducing the use of pesticides; and facilitating those momentary, yet life-changing connections of holding a trusting, precious jewel in one’s hands—these are the rewards that bring Johnny back week after week to give back to something bigger than him.
The Warner Parks and the Nature Center have need for volunteers in many areas. To find the one (or more) that speaks to you, visit the Friends of Warner Parks at warnerparks.org.