Noah Comet: A Cultural History of Hummingbirds
October 11, 2019
Noah Comet, Professor of English at the US Naval Academy, outdoorsman and nature writer, will trace how hummingbirds have earned a place in our cultural history from pre-Colombian times to today.
Hummingbirds demand superlatives. Exceptionally tiny when at rest—the slightest species measuring just 2¼ inches—they are nevertheless unmissable in flight, clothed in sun-catching grandeur. Like dwarf stars of compressed energy, their nectar-fueled hearts prime them for bursts of 80 wingbeats a second, and for annual round-trip migrations of up to 5,400 miles: to cover a proportionate distance, a human would have to run nine marathons every day for a year. They are the only birds that can fly backward, an advantageous skill as they dart and hover and defend their territories ferociously. They sleep ferociously too, each night submitting to a torpor that can bring them to the edge of hypothermia. These birds may be small, but there is nothing small about them.
Their abundant fascinations have earned hummingbirds a prominent if under-examined place in cultural history, and that is the subject of Noah Comet’s presentation. Comet, by reaching back to pre-Colombian America (particularly to the Aztec’s chief god, Huītzilōpōchtli, who was named for and often figured as a hummingbird), will explain how the bird evolved from this bloodthirsty deity into a transatlantic metaphor and commodity. Hummingbirds’ bright plumage eventually inspired British Romantic poetry and adorned French milliners’ shops as tokens of New World exoticism and trophies of imperialism. The birds also came to symbolize freedom within the anti-slavery abolitionist movement of the nineteenth century. Comet will trace these ideas and further explore the modern, pop-cultural gendering of the hummingbird, which is nowadays often regarded as feminine, at odds with its ancient warrior ideal.
About the speaker: Noah Comet holds graduate degrees from NYU and UCLA, and is a professor of English at the United States Naval Academy. He is widely published in the field of nineteenth-century British studies, his credits including a 2013 book from Macmillan Press and many essays in scholarly journals. He is also a certified State of Maryland Master Naturalist, an avid outdoorsman, and a nature writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times, the Denver Post, and the Baltimore Sun. A native of northeastern Ohio, he traces his love of birds to (among other things) a surprise encounter with a Barred Owl in Cleveland, who landed on a branch just inches from his head and shared several minutes with him in silent, mutual curiosity. Since then, Comet has made it one of his life goals to see all of America’s owl species; he’s more than halfway there. He lives in Annapolis with his wife and 7-year-old son.
*Note that the program is on the second Friday of October rather than the usual first Friday to accommodate our speaker’s travel schedule.
Annual Meeting & Potluck
September 6, 2019
Please join your friends in Southwestern New Mexico Audubon at our annual potluck picnic at the Little Walnut West group-use pavilion on Friday, September 6. We begin gathering at 4:00 to allow time for birding and conversation before our potluck picnic at 5:00. Please bring a dish to share and your own plates, eating utensils and drinks. We welcome new members.
Election of officers
We will hold a short meeting for our biannual election of officers after the potluck picnic. A nominating committee proposed the following nominees to be on the Board of Directors. We will also accept nominations from any member in attendance.
President: Terry Timme until Dec 2019 then TBA
Vice President: Lisa Fields
Secretary: Rachelle Bergmann
Treasurer: Denise Smith
Member at-large: Jennifer Franz
Member at-large: TBA
Interested in serving on the Board? We would love to have you join us. The Board meets the first Wednesday of most months from 3:30 to 5:00 at First Federal Savings Bank. Everyone is welcome to attend Board meetings.
Ask us about other appointed positions where you are might contribute your talents as a member or chair of a chapter committee: Membership, Programs, Conservation, Field trips, Publications, or Education. If you are interested in volunteering to help your chapter, the time commitment is relatively small.
Birds & Brews - Join Us!
5:15 pm, 4th Thursday of the Month
Little Toad Creek, corner of Bullard & Broadway. Eat, drink, visit, slides & programs in the meeting room. Members are automatically notified.
Want to Attend? Contact: email@example.com to receive the email program details prior to each Birds & Brew. Please RSVP with your name(s) - room limit is first 30 to sign up. Programs resume January 2019.