Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Nature's Mobile Jewels

Yesterday evening found me planting my peas - I just couldn't put it off any longer. Four beds of peas! That's the most I've done yet, but in fairness, I was using up all my old pea seeds as well as planting my new-for-'09 seeds.

And once the seeds were in the ground, they got a drink (it's hard to believe that despite almost an inch of rain over the weekend the ground is still very, very dry), and then I went to get my row covers to protect those precious seeds from prying beaks.

As I neared the porch (where assorted gardening things are stored), I started to hear a very loud buzzing. "That's too loud to be a bee," I thought, and it was accompanied by a papery fluttering noise. "Perhaps a large moth is flying against the porch window." I looked up, and there was something flying against the window: a male hummingbird! The poor thing had flown in through the open door and was trying desperately to exit through a closed window. He was now trapped between glass and venetian blind.

Ellen to the rescue!

I closed the door going from house to porch (didn't want him to exit the porch by flying into the house), and then lifted the blind to see if he would settle enough for me to grab him. And he did. I gently enfolded his body in my hand (it was like holding air) and carried him outside. The poor little thing was peeping away, no doubt terrified. When I opened my hand to release him, he sat there for half a moment, and zip - he lifted up and away (much like a helicopter), heading towards the neighbor's yard.

I've been reading of hummingbird sightings for the last week and a half or so all around the Park, so I knew they would be showing up in Newcomb soon. The males return first, followed shortly by the females. Everyone will be feeding at feeders and flowers for a while, and then, almost like a tap being turned off, they suddenly seem to disappear. A few weeks later, hummers are swarming gardens and feeders like hoards of bees: the young have fledged and are learning all the good feeding spots from Mom and Dad.

Hummingbird feeders can be a real boon to hummers, especially this early in the season when there aren't a lot of flowers in bloom yet. And you don't need to purchase special mixes - in fact, it's often best if you make your own. Boil 4 cups of water. Put a cup of sugar in a bowl and add the water. Mix and cool. Add to feeders as needed. (Note: you do not need any red coloring in the nectar you have just mixed up.)

What kind of feeders are best? Those that are easiest to clean!!! And yes, you do need to clean them. Hot water and a brush. No soap, no bleach. You want to scrub the part that holds the nectar, and you want to scrub out the feeding ports. If you don't, mold will build up, and this isn't good. How often do you need to clean? Once a week is usually pretty good, but as the season gets hot, you may need to clean more often.

I have discovered over the years that I don't need to have feeders out all summer long. I usually put them out when the first hummer shows up, and once the gardens are in full swing and there are plenty of natural sources of nectar, I clean them up and put them away. What flowers are good for hummers? Oh, anything with a tubular blossom: bee balm, fuchsias, sweet peas, runner beans, nasturtiums...

Keep in mind that hummers eat insects, too! And spiders! So sweet nectar isn't their only source of food, and a good thing, too, since there is little nutrition in sugar water.

1 comment:

  1. What an amazing thing, to hold a hummingbird in your hand! Thanks for the advice about feeding them now before the flowers bloom abundantly. And thanks, too, for the admonition to CLEAN THOSE FEEDERS!!! I failed to clean my finch feeders and a number of Pine Siskins fell ill with Salmonellosis and died.