My enthusiasm for bees sky-rocketed last year when I discovered that I wasn’t getting any squash, because I had no bees to pollinate them. I had to do the job myself with an artist’s paintbrush. My harvest? Ten squash. I’m a terrible match-maker! It’s easier to attract bees to do the work. They know what they’re doing. They’re like match.com for fruits and vegetables.
Pollinators are essential to our food supply, and not just in our backyards. Eighty percent of the world’s food crops depend on some kind of pollinator.
I already miss the ruby-throated hummingbirds and butterflies that passed through our yard or made it their home this summer and early fall. The bees are still busy in the basil flowers, so I’m waiting to cut the plants for pesto. I’m also lazy.
My husband took down the hummingbird feeder a few days ago after not seeing “our” ruby-throated hummingbird for more than a week. The tiny bird has left Kansas City and is on his way to southern Mexico for the winter. Adios! I loved watching him come to the feeder at the window. Occasionally, a visiting hummingbird would stop at the feeder, and there would be a “dog fight” in the air as the resident bird dive bombed and chased the intruder.
I didn’t see as many butterflies this year as last. We had a colder, wetter spring, which reduced their numbers. Hopefully, their numbers will bounce back after our lush, wet summer resplendent with flowering plants.
What I really want to show you are my photographs, including those below. Don’t miss them! Be sure to click on them to get a better look. For my other posts and photographs on ruby-throated hummingbirds, butterflies, caterpillars and bees, use my search box.
Here’s a list of useful websites:
Text and photographs by Catherine Sherman, all rights reserved, October 2008.
My friend Jane knows I like hummingbirds so she emailed these photographs to me of a woman hand feeding ruby-throated hummingbirds. I immediately suspected photoshop! And not just because I didn’t believe hummingbirds would feed from a woman’s hand — hummingbirds are territorial and don’t “hang out together.” I guess they do when they’re migrating.
I immediately searched for a snopes.com article on hand-feeding hummingbirds, and amazingly it’s true. These hummingbirds live in Louisiana, where the motto is the Cajun term laisse le bon temps rouler, let the good times roll. Here, they hang out on their own Bourbon Street before they head onto southern Mexico for the winter.
To see my less-impressive (although I was pretty proud of myself) photographs of the ruby-throated hummingbirds (one at a time) at my feeder go to Ruby-throated Hummingbird Moves into the Neighborhood and Ho, Hum, Another Hummingbird
I’m not bored with the hummingbird at our feeder, but he does come often enough that I’m starting to take him for granted. My husband calls out, “Hummingbird.” Sometimes, I don’t look up. I should. The hummingbird will be leaving soon, and I’ll miss him.
Sometime in mid- to late September, most ruby-throated hummingbirds will begin a long journey, including a nonstop flight over the gulf to southern Mexico for the winter.
Another hummingbird has dashed in for drinks now and then, but it’s not a friendly cocktail party here. The cock chases the tail of the intruder. It’s one hummingbird to a territory! I took some photographs this week of what may be a new hummingbird. It didn’t look like our resident ruby-throated hummingbird. In the photograph, I don’t see any red at the throat, which is the sign of the male, so it might be an invading female. Or it could be a juvenile male that doesn’t yet have a red neck. The females have a rounded tail with white tips, the male’s tail is forked with no white. The males and females meet up for mating, but after that they don’t get along. Both males and females have beautiful iridescent blue green backs.
My previous post on “our” hummingbird is here.
Sometimes, the littlest things can get me excited — like spotting a hummingbird at our feeder. And they truly are little, as well as elusive. They barely weigh more than two ounces at the most and are about three to four inches long.
In May, we take down the seed bird feeder and put up a hummingbird feeder. Actually, my husband does all of the work, but I’m an enthusiastic observer. The feeder is outside of our breakfast nook, which is at tree level, so we have a good view.
We spotted a hummingbird a few times at first, and then the feeder sat full and unvisited, it seems, for all of June and most of July.
After an autumn, winter and spring of lively activity by the seed eaters, who mobbed the feeder and fought one another for perches, it got awfully boring waiting at the window, staring at the red liquid that never seemed to drop. Occasionally a wasp would land for a sip. Ok, maybe I didn’t watch that much, but I did glance up from my newspaper every now and then.
Our conversation was sparkling each day. “Has the level gone down at all?”
“I don’t think so.”
Dutifully, my husband changed the untouched nectar every week.
Then one day, my husband called out, “Hummingbird.”
I looked up. Nothing.
“You missed it,” he said.
This happened several times in a week. I never saw anything. I was beginning to think he was hallucinating. It couldn’t just be my bad vision.
Finally, just this week, a male hummingbird appeared. This time, when my husband said, “Hummingbird,” I actually saw one hovering at the feeder. He said that he’d seen a female earlier. Females are slightly larger, more brown-looking and have a whitish throat and a longer beak.
The next few days, I stood at the window off and on with my camera at the ready. That’s why I’ve included so many photographs. I’ve got to make my vigil pay off in some small way.
Ruby-throated hummingbirds are the only hummingbirds that breed in the eastern half of the United States. They range as far north as Central Alberta over to Nova Scotia. They are territorial and very feisty, particularly in late summer and early fall when they are fattening up for their long nonstop flight in September across the Gulf of Mexico to their winter quarters in southern Mexico and Central America. They are solitary birds and don’t pair up the way cardinals do. After courtship and mating, the female hummingbird is left to do the child-rearing herself, including nest building. She will repair an old nest.
A description of the nest sounds like something from a fairy story. The female chooses a small tree branch where she builds a nest of thistle and dandelion down, held together with spider web and covered in lichen. She lays two eggs smaller than jellybeans.
At our previous house, about five miles north and also in a wooded area, we had several hummingbirds descend upon our feeders in late summer. They fought, divebombing and squeaking at each other. When that happens, put up two feeders that are not within sight of each other, if you want to keep the peace.
The male has an iridescent red throat and is smaller than the female. The birds can beat their wings 55 times per second when hovering and even faster when moving backwards and forwards. Nectar from flowers is its main food, but hummingbirds also will catch insects on the wing and snatch spiders from their webs.
For more information on ruby-throated hummingbirds, go to www.wikipedia.org or to this site at Cornell University.