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How Early Is Early?

Rufous Hummingbird scientist Mike Patterson, holding another bird with a rufous breast--an American Robin!

Mike Patterson heard from most hummingbird watchers how early the hummingbirds appeared to arrive in 2003. He wondered: How early? Using data collected over the last three seasons, Mike compared the previous earliest records to those received in 2003. Now it's your turn:

YOU be the Scientist!
Work with Mike's data to calculate the answers he was looking for:

  1. How many days earlier did each location report hummingbirds? (We've done the first two for you.)
  2. How many 2003 sightings were LATER than a previous early date?
  3. What date did the first Rufous Hummingbird appear in Gig Harbor, Washington, in 2003?
  4. What date did the first Rufous Hummingbird appear in Philomath, Oregon, in 2003?
  5. Which place had the biggest difference between 2003's early date and the previous one?
  6. The average is _________________days ahead of past records.

(Notice this! To make calculations simpler, Mike doesn't put the dates in his "date" column. Instead, he uses the calendar number. For example, a report for January 1—the first day of the year—would be number 1. January 31 would be 31. February 1 would be 32. February 28 would be 59.)

Place
2003 Early Date
Previous Early Date
Difference
New River, OR
33
40
7
Waldport, OR
33
35
Ans2wer
Florence, OR
39
41
Answer
Astoria, OR
39
55
Answer
Gig Harbor, WA
39
67
Answer
Nahcotta, WA
42
57
Answer
Coos Bay, OR
44
47
Answer
Lyngstad Heights, OR
45
45
Answer
Nanaimo, BC
48
51
Answer
Portland, OR
49
55
Answer
S. Salem, OR
50
66
Answer
Vancouver, WA
50
62
Answer
Merlin, OR
51
58
Answer
Olympia, WA
53
63
Answer
Castle Rock, WA
53
62
Answer
Corvallis, OR
54
45
Answer
South Beach, OR
56
45
Answer
N.Albany, OR
56
76
Answer
Seaside, OR
56
63
Answer
McMinneville, OR
56
60
Answer
Newberg, OR
57
61
Answer
Montesano, WA
58
67
Answer
Philomath, OR
58
58
Answer

How did you do? To see the answers, click here.

Mike continues: "2003 is an el Niño year. We have some very incomplete data from years before 2000, but that data suggest that very early arrivals occurred in 1992 and 1998, which were also el Niño years."


Try This! Journaling Question

  • El Nino affects temperatures, but Mike reminds us that some plant species are more dependent on photoperiod (number of hours of daylight) for their signal to bloom than on temperature. In 2003, for example, some flowers were early, but Salmonberry was right on schedule. What do you think was causing so many early arrival dates for Rufous Hummingbirds? If you were a scientist, how would you test your answer?



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