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Birders flocked in droves last weekend, July 28 through 30, to the sixth annual Sedona Hummingbird Festival, organized by the Hummingbird Society.

While visitors are drawn in from all over the nation, for some, like married couple Shannon and Magdalena Dickson, the festival is right in their backyard.

This was the Dicksons’ second year attending the festival, which is a three-day extravaganza of hummingbird-themed exhibits, presentations, and bird and garden tours.

A Hawaii native, Shannon had never seen many hummingbirds — which are only found in the Americas, some migrating between Alaska and Argentina every year — before he moved to Sedona six years ago.

There was a moment, years ago, when Shannon had an encounter with a hummingbird that captured his attention. He and Magdalena had put up a hummingbird feeder, and Shannon took a moment one morning to adjust it before relaxing on the patio.

“I turned around and sat down, and suddenly the male who was guarding that feeder came zipping across the yard at 100 miles an hour and stopped right in front of my face,” he said.

In a display of aggression, the bird flashed his neck feathers at Shannon, and he “saw that incredible iridescent head. He was literally inches from my face, just hovering.”

From then on, Shannon said, he wanted to find out everything he could about hummingbirds. Meanwhile, Magdalena, who’s lived in Sedona for 30 years and is the former owner of a Jeep tour company, gained a new appreciation for the tiny, colorful birds once Shannon took an interest.

There’s a feeder right outside their kitchen window that Magdalena said sometimes sees 15 to 20 hummingbirds visit in a day.

“It’s just a little bit of sweetness to add to your morning,” Magdalena said.

The couple attended this year’s Hummingbird Festival not as newcomers to birding, like last year, but as dedicated enthusiasts looking to expand their knowledge and make new connections. The festival provided plenty of educational opportunities, with presentations by hummingbird experts from all over the world.

The Dicksons were particularly interested in a presentation about enhancing home gardens to attract more hummingbirds given by Christi Sorrell, director of agriculture at the Arboretum at Flagstaff.

There’s more to the Hummingbird Festival than vendor exhibits and presentations in the Sedona Performing Arts Center, though: The Society also sets up a circuit of garden tours hosted by local hummingbird enthusiasts.

Seven gardens were featured on the tour this year, all over the Verde Valley from Sedona to Cornville, up from four locations last year. Shannon and Magdalena set out Saturday morning to visit a couple of these gardens, hoping to connect with fellow hummingbird lovers and maybe even spot a few birds.

During their first stop, they met Larry Anderson, a professional landscaper whose backyard is an oasis of bird feeders and plants that cater specifically to hummingbirds’ needs. While Anderson has seen fewer hummingbirds this season — probably because of some home construction disrupting the birds — his years of careful cultivation have grown a garden that attracts hundreds of hummingbirds every season.

The Dicksons, who are looking to landscape their own yard to draw in more birds, took some tips from the veteran gardener and left with his business card and promises to connect again soon.

“It’s great to get the opportunity to see what other people are doing and learn more about hummingbirds each year, as far as ways to interact with them and attract them to your place,” Shannon said. “At a certain point, it’s coming to see other people, too.”

In true Sedona spirit, Magdalena reconnected with an old friend and coworker at the next garden they visited. Ann Emerson’s yard hummed with visitors from Florida and Colorado, relaxing in chaise lounges, inspecting blooms and swapping stories.

“The real joy is sitting in your own yard at 5:15 in the morning and watching the hummingbirds play,” Magdalena said.


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