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Hummingbirds Part II
May 03, 2010

Welcome month of May, you are long overdo for many of us.

Patience my friend, this is a long letter.

(A lone Canada goose baby with parents nearby at the local pond).

April ends with with deadly tornadoes in the south, record snows in parts of our land and of course, an oil spill that once again threatens whole ecosystems along the Gulf coast.

Prayers continue for all and for God to heal our land.

May is my favorite month of the year.

In Michigan, life explodes.

Trees, shrubs, flowers................

Everything explodes in greenery and or flowers.

Animal life abounds too.

From eggs hatching (last week's photo's) to furry creatures.

Toads add to 'Nature's' symphony as it is mating time for them.

They need water for reproduction and the local ponds are ideal for them as hundreds of toads converge.

The males can get noisy in their attemps to attract females.

Garden flowers bloom, starting with Columbine, that offer a riot of color (just in time for hummingbirds).

Spring migration continues.

White crowned sparrows are here for a short visit.

They usually stick around for a couple of weeks before they head into Canada and there summer breeding grounds.

Gray catbirds have arrived, as have the Green herons, as they visit the pond regularly.

Right on cue, the Orioles have arrived as well.

Every year for me it seems to be May 1st and this year was no execption.

After hummingbirds, orioles are probably the most anticipated arrivals.

Orioles will visit hummingbird feeders, but may may want to encourage them will they own feeders, grape jelly and oranges cut in half (no guarantees).

These sweet offerings may also attract catbirds, woodpeckers and a few other guests.

I think the Juncos finally left, as I don't see them now.

Basic profile of our three most common orioles

To top it all off,

It is finally time to plant gardens. (plants and seeds).

Yes, veggies, annual flowers, some perennials as I continue to go more native.

I can usually find room for something.

Everyone knows that gardens are a work in progress, don't we?

May also means the weather begins to moderate, no more of 75 one day and 45 the next day (hopefully).

Well, it is Michigan and things change fast.

I must say, I did enjoy the more seasonal days this past week, Mid 60's and sunny was nice.

Hopefully it was the last of the killing frost as well.

The first of the month also means it is time to give all of your feeders a good monthly cleaning.

This should be done at least once a month, and the first part of the month is always a good reminder time.

Continue to offer food for your birds.

(Babie robins)

Nesting birds need a good source of food and calcium (crushed egg shells work) and this time of year, natural offerings are a bit hard to find in some locations.

Besides, don't you enjoy the feathered traffic and free orchestras they provide?

Here is a tip I was taught decades ago...............

Peppers enjoy slightly acidic soil.

To provide the bitterness they need, bury a few matches before you plant.

Dig your planting hole,

Toss in a few matches and cover with a thick layer of soil before putting in your plant.

It is important that the plant has access to the sulfur in the matches, but the roots should not have direct contact with the matches right away or they will be damaged.

If you have small areas or cracks and crevices that you need to weed try this natural herbicide.

Pour boiling water directly on them. This is the simplest, yet safest herbicide there is.

No worries about runoff into sewers or your soil.

Just be careful to avoid plants that you don't want to damage.

(Northern cardianl nest with baby and egg).

You can plant or replant immediately after the soil cool, you don't have to worry about residual effects at all (even vinegar leaves something behind).

I rarely tout mail order companies, but today I will.

I came a cross 'Santa Rosa Gardens' quite by accident, and I'm glad I did.

I was looking to hook up with some ornamental grasses (native) and there they were.

Well, the price was very good, shipping and handling more than fair.

And they let me choose the shipping date.

Product came when I said it would and the grasses were healthy, in damp potting material and packaged very well.

I will indeed order from them again.

Expect fewer Monarch butterflies this year.

You may or may not have heard about the plight of the Monarch butterflies.

This past winter was a bit rough on them as millions were killed off by hail storms and heavy rains.

If you have experienced hail storms before, you know the damage the ice bombs can do.

Now imagine the frail wings and bodies of a butterfly getting pelted?

Heavy rains didn't help.

You may recall, several years ago, below normal freezing temperatures was damaging to the Monarch and they recovered.

We call them natural disasters, Nature calls natural.

Plants and animals have dealt with disasters and thinning out populations since almost the beginning of time.

It is nature being nature.

What isn't in the balance act is the deforestation (legal and illegal).

Cutting down milkweeds (food for adults and larvae) continues to thin out the population of Monarch butterflies.

The Mexican government is well aware of the Monarch butterfly.

They understand they bring in millions of dollars in tourist trade.

Yet, they wont or can't keep out loggers. of the winter grounds the butterfly need to survive.

By planting host plants (milkweed), you can help.

As promised, more on hummingbirds and some of your replies.

If you have something to share,

return this letter with your favorite or special moment on hummers.

Along with your:

First name (last optional)

City or region

State or province>

This is your letter too.


Last week I wrote an article on hummingbirds.

Why we love them so, and what you can do to possibly attract these jewels.

I mentioned how intelligent they are and habitats needed to attract them.

Yes, you need certain habitats and requirements to really attract the tiny jewels.

Feeders are great as a fill in, but for more hummers, you need habitat.

Depending where you live, it could be scrub and chaparral.

Pines and spruce attract hummers for perching, protection and nesting locations.

Shrubs offer food, protection and homes,

Flowers and lots of them attract birds, offer nectar, insects and unlimited entertainment for you.

Feeders supplement, most of the time.

Be sure to place your feeders where you can see them and are easy to get to for cleaning and filling.

I also mentioned a few tidbits to help you understand a bit more on these special birds.

Today, I will add a bit more information.

As I mentioned before, Spring migration is totally different than fall migration for all species of birds.

Including hummingbirds.

Spring migration has a sense of urgency to it.

Spring migration is a mad dash north to find the prime real estate.


Attracting the ladies.



Passing on the genes.

Arrive to early and you may be out of luck as weather often turns cold and snowy.

Few if any flowers are in bloom.

Now the hummingbird must look for tree sap often provided by holes left by sapsucker woodpeckers, and hopefully human handouts until flowers begin to bloom and insects pop from hibernation.

Arrive to late and you are left with slim pickings.

Only the strong survive.

One of Nature's way to remove the weak and pass on the strong gene pools.

Those with timely arrivals end up on 'Park Avenue'.

The prime real estate.

Land that has it all and eventually attracts the females that arrive later on.

Once again, certain urges control a Male's thoughts and being (sound familiar guys?).

Like most birds, hummingbirds prefer to dine off the land.

A nice five star restaurant.

That doesn't mean they aren't opportunistic.

Hummers often feed from our offerings.

Sometimes it is a quick stop between the real deal, while other times, our feeders may be a matter of life and death.

Saucer or disk shaped feeders, not only are best to keep deter bees and wasps, they also give you a chance to see the hummer tongue licking up to 15 times per second as it gathers the sugar water.

These tiny giants are also opportunistic in the natural world.

Hummingbirds often will snag insects trapped in a spider web.

While they are there, they may snag the web's owner and no sense letting the web go to waste..............

Take the web for to secure the nest.

Now that is taking advantage of what is before you.

Yes, hummingbirds are one smart creature.

Hummers aren't the frail little thing we might think they are.

Hummers are not pansies, sissies or what have you.

They are one tough cookie.

Some hummers must fly over 2,000 miles to reach their breeding grounds.

And records show that they can show up to the exact same backyard and feeder location from year to year (if they survive).

Can you imagine, weighing as little as .010 of an ounce and having the strength and smarts for such a feat?

They may be the tiniest birds on the planet, but hummingbirds are the biggest eaters. In fact, no animal has a faster metabolism—roughly 100 times that of an elephant.

Hummingbirds burn food so fast they often eat 1-1/2 to 3 times their weight in nectar and insects per day.

If a hummingbird consumes 10 calories for its 1/10 of an ounce, then 1 calorie is 0.01 of an ounce.

A person weighing 175 pounds or 2,800 ounces (175 x 16 ounces per pound).

If 1 calorie equals .01 ounces, then 2,800 ounces would = 280,000 calories.

175 pound person would have to eat 280,000 calories per day, not to mention how many liters of water we would require.

Hummers must feed every 15 minutes or so or risk starvation.

Maybe this explains why people rarely see hummers when they aren't eating.

In order to gather enough nectar, hummingbirds must visit hundreds of flowers every day.

So smart are these birds,.............................

Studies have shown that hummers even know when to go back to the same flower for a second helping.

Yes, they know to wait for certain flowers to refill and go back.

Are the flowers to long to stick the bill and tongue into?

No problem, they can pierce the flower close to the source.

What hummingbirds don't understand is this,...........

Our feeders are an almost endless source of nectar water, yet they don't realize this and still fight to protect it.

Even with feeders ready, they still prefer nectar from flowers (nothing like the real thing)

Just one day of cold temperatures or bad luck finding flowers can mean death.

Hummingbirds push the limits, and live their lives only a few hours from starvation.

Now that is extreme living.

Saved by Torpor:

Sometimes there is a day, or several days, of cold temperatures, and sometimes a hummingbird has bad luck.

What happens to hummingbirds then?

These tiny birds have devised a fascinating way to conserve energy when they can't be eating—at night or when the weather is too cold or too rainy for feeding.

They go into a sleep-like state known as torpor.

During torpor, the tiny bird's body temperature can drop almost 50 degrees.

The heart rate may slow from 500 beats per minute to fewer than 50, and breathing may briefly stop.

A hummingbird consumes as much as 50 times more energy when awake than when torpid.

If you were to find a hummingbird in torpor, it would appear lifeless.

If they want to move even a couple of inches, they must fly.

The female will even fly up a couple of inches just to turn and come back down on her nest.

Their feet are used for perching and grooming.

They use their three front claws to comb their head and neck.

There is an oil gland at the base of their tails and use this with their bill to groom their wings, abdomen, and tail feathers.

Finally, they clean their bill from base to tip, using their claws and a nearby branch to wipe it clean.

Every now and then, I like to mention the success or accomplishments of others and I enjoy giving them a give a plug or two.

My friend Mark is a biologist and works for the state of Texas as a 'Parks and Wildlife Department.

He has a passion for and specializes in hummingbirds and there are times I pick his brain.

Many of you may know of Mark Klym, especially those of you from the Lone Star State and certain Forums.

Mark, along with Clifford Shackelford and Madge Lindsey combined to author a book titled 'Hummingbirds of Texas'.

Illustrations by Clemente Guzman III and photography that is out of this world is provided by Sid and Shirley Rucker.

The book focuses on hummingbirds found in Texas, yet I feel is a good book for everyone, as it gives vital information on all of our hummingbirds, from migration, mating, how to photograph, habitats and much more.

You can tell the trio have a passion for hummers.

I am privileged to have a copy of this book and recommend it for anyone.

Thanks again Mark.

For yourself or as a gift.

Another great book is 'Peterson Field Guide Hummingbirds North America' by 'Sheri Williamson’s'.

Last week I asked why you like hummingbirds and some of your favorites.

Here is what you have to say.

Judy from Clio, Michigan:

We do our best to attract hummers to our gardens, as we do with butterflies. The nectar feeders were hung about a month because one couple swears they saw a pair of hummers check out their flowering bushes. As they are about half a mile from me as the hummers fly, I found this hard to believe, but still I prepared. My garden plantings are planted to attract the hummers and butterflies as well as the other songbirds who dine and raise their young with us. I have yet to create big areas of color, but in time, the plants will provide for me.

I must share this with you. We built a rear deck, purposely for sitting under our "bird tree" while watching our feathered friends visit our numerous feeders under their tree. I lined the deck with planters of impatiens, pink and red of course, then hung two nectar feeders from little shepherd's hooks planted among the impatiens. Hanging nearby are three different varieties of fuchsias, and hostas, with their hummer attracting blossoms, line the deck below.

Often we would have a hummer hover directly in front of our faces. I don't know if they were checking us as closely as we were checking them, but one hummer would often sit on the perch of our feeders, watch us, and listen intently as we talked to it. One day that one hummer actually responded with a sound too deep to come from such a tiny creature of God. I can only liken the call to a deep grunt. We were Blessed to have that talker chat with us for three days before it began the journey south. I often wonder if it was thanking us for our annual season of good eats.

Thanks Judy.

Still no hummers on the West Side of Michigan, But I'm ready.

Sandy in Albion, New York:

I think Hummingbirds are special to me because we don't have them for to long. It is so cool they fly thousands of miles and come back to where they were from year after year. I also plant flowers and shrubs for the birds and hummers, they are really not fussy on which flower to feed from. I do stop and watch them. They are such a wonder to flit and fly from flower to flower it is really nice just to watch. I feel like they inspect my gardens to see if I planted what they like. They give me their approval. LOL!

Thanks Sandy.

I don't know of a single person that doesn't stop to admire a hummer nearby. Often they buzz right by or make a visit as a person is working in the flowers.

Marti from Ohio:

We love when the hummingbirds come around! My columbines in my flowerbeds are my predictor of when they'll be here. When the beautiful flower blooms, they come-it's so nice to see them get the nectar from the flowers. I have a feeder under my awning. We can be sitting on the patio, and it amazes me how close they come!

Lou in New Jersey:

I just admire and love the tiny little hummingbirds. They are so much fun to watch with their flying skills and they are a brazen' little thing not afraid of the larger birds and they just love my bed of purple cone flowers. I really enjoy viewing them with my binoculars to see all the details and markings. They do display a great amount of intelligence and wit. We are blessed to have these little guys and gals to brighten are days. Thanks Lou.

You are so right, they are smart little birds and seem to be afraid of little, if anything.

Once I had a red shirt on, and walking through the yard, a hummer came very close, flying towards the shirt a few times---------that was neat! We don't have a lot of hummers, so the ones we do see is very special.

Thank you Marti.

I can relate. We aren't blessed with great numbers either, maybe that makes them more special for us.

Joe & Rita Wilson, in the Upstate of South Carolina:

We normally don't get hummers until the first week of May. However, we've had them for 10 days now. It has been warmer than usual this spring in the Upstate of SC. So we have a pair of Hummers already. My neighbor called a week or more ago and ask IF I had my feeders out yet. I said NO, but I'll put them out. She said they are HERE.

No less than 10 minutes, they were at my feeders. The male Ruby-throated is so gorgeous in color. We have lots of flowers blooming now, around the arbor, and beds around the house. Such a beautiful spring/summer with flowers. We have one hummer feeder on a suction cup on outside kitchen window, right outside the coffee pot. I've notice a hummer there a couple times already.

They are a bit skittish now. - - - What amazes me most about hummers is their "personalities", their "ability to communicate", their "beauty", and the "agility" they have. Wow! We sit on our deck to relax or read, and we hear the very familiar whirl of their wings. They are around us, like communicating. When we go out onto the deck, they will greet us, face to face, and give their peep, peep, peep voice, which means the feeder needs refreshed.

Yes, for real! We here this quite often while relaxing on the deck, and they are around us. And of course their beauty is unsurpassed. And their agility is amazing. The dominate hummer will sit in the Mimosa Trees and keep watch. Last fall, when they were leaving the area, there were many others coming through, and stopping briefly. We had about 10 last fall, briefly. - - - I am delighted to see them here already. And, Oh Yes, I will entertain these little guys! They are the highlight of our summer.

Welcome home hummer beauties.

Thanks Joe and Rita.

We should be seeing hummers shortly. Usually it isn't till May 10 for me.

Male Rubies are more skittish and the gals, but make up for it with their colorful gorget (pronounced gor-jet).

Ethel Andrzejewski from Capac, Michigan

I love their energy and their constant chatter with each other. you are right they do get personal. My husband and I were setting in the garage and one flew right in front of my face and just stopped and chattered at me. I got up and said their feeder must be empty and it was. thanks for your letters I really enjoy them.

Thank you Ethel and yes, our hummers seem to become our personal friends don't they?

There you have it gang.

If you have a hummer story to share or a special reason why you enjoy them, we want to hear from you.

Come desert southwest or Pacific coast.

What about it you in the Rockie Mountains or Prairie region.

How about it Texas and Deep South.

Canada and everyone else.

Please provide along with your special moments

First name: (last optional)

City or region:

State or province:

Thank you and I hope to hear from a few of you.

Well, it's time to fly for now.

I hope you enjoyed this and maybe picked up a morsel or two along the way.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

Ethel Andrzejewski from Capac, Michigan

I love their energy and their constant chatter with each other. you are right they do get personal. My husband and I were setting in the garage and one flew right in front of my face and just stopped and chattered at me. I got up and said their feeder must be empty and it was. thanks for your letters I really enjoy them.

Thank you Ethel and yes, our hummers seem to become our personal friends don't they?

There you have it gang.

If you have a hummer story to share or a special reason why you enjoy them, we want to hear from you.

Come desert southwest or Pacific coast.

What about it you in the Rockie Mountains or Prairie region.

How about it Texas and Deep South.

Canada and everyone else.

Please provide along with your special moments

First name: (last optional)

City or region:

State or province:

Thank you and I hope to hear from a few of you.

Well, it's time to fly for now.

I hope you enjoyed this and maybe picked up a morsel or two along the way.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

When we are mindful of every nuance of our natural world, we finally get the picture: that we are only given one dazzling moment of life here on Earth, and we must stand before that reality both humbled and elevated, subject to every law of our universe and grateful for our brief but intrinsic participation with it. (From her biography of naturalist Eustace Conway.)

Elizabeth Gilbert

Read that one again.

Not much I can add to that.

Enjoy your week and be sure to smile ans more important................

Share your smiles.

Until next time.

God Bless.

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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