Lots of Hummers

by Donna Lewis

So we have tons of hummingbirds here in Milam County right now. I have predominantly Ruby-throated hummers,  Archilochus colubris. They love many of our native flowers, which you should provide if you want a lot of them to visit you.   

The nectar feeders are great, but should not be their only source of food. Some of our native Texas plants that they like are;  Flame Acanthus, Coral Honeysuckle, Red Yucca, Turk’s Cap, Zinnias, Autumn Sage, Morning Glory, and many other nectar plants.

I took these photos of the hummingbirds through the window on my front porch. If they see motion they take off, so I have to be slow.  I have two more feeders in my garden. I like the flat feeder you see in the first photo the best. It is easy to clean.

Hummingbirds also need protein, so they eat caterpillars, spiders and other insects. A big hunk of watermelon set out can sometimes lure them to its nectar. That’s, of course, if I can give it up.

Water is another important resource they need. Put out a sprinkler near a fence or perching area in late afternoon and everybody’s up for a bath!

The other species that are here in Central Texas is the Black-chin Hummingbird. It’s hard to tell them apart, especially if you do not have the sun shining on the male’s throat. Beautiful and fiesty little birds, gotta love them.

Hummers Here in Milam County Now

by Donna Lewis

I have to say that I have never had any species of hummingbirds here at my house in Milam County during December, January, or February.

So why now? I have really thought about it and there are several possible  reasons, but I will leave that up to the biologists to tell us. I know they are seeing this also and working on the answers.

So, to get to the real news…I have about four to five hummers that have been here for months. I finally got a shot at one, and I think it’s a Rufous hummingbird.

Rufous hummingbird?

If any of you think differently, by all means tell me.  It is very feeder aggressive and will not allow the others to even come near the feeder.

I did read that it is more temperature hardy than many other hummingbirds. It will need that shortly!

This small little bird has a copper coloring underpart and its sides are copper also.

Besides it, we have about 3 or 4 what I think are Black-chin juveniles or females. Once again I have not been able to get a good photo of them, but here’s a try.

Black-chinned hummingbird?

I have talked to several other birders in the area and they also have some hummers they have never seen here at this time of the year.

It pays to be observant.

So with some very severe weather soon to be upon us, here are a few tips.

  • This is when a little extra bird seed will assist them.  There are not many insects out when it’s cold.
  • Adding suet near your feeders will help with the fat that helps birds stay warmer.
  • And last but not least water. You may have to bust some ice up for them.

All these actions are for the big birds.

For the hummers, you need to bring their feeders in at dusk and return them at dawn.  They will freeze when it’s really cold.

The birds thank you.

Donna Lewis

Plants for Attracting Butterflies and Hummingbirds in Summer

by Donna Lewis

The summer heat and dry conditions make us wonder… what the heck can I plant that will help the hummingbirds and the butterflies?  And of course, it has to be something that is easy to take care of.

I have found that the Coral Honeysuckle Vine and the Flame Acanthus bush fit the bill. Both are visited by butterflies and hummers.  A two-for-one deal.

The coral honeysuckle is in the back on the fence. In front is our friend the passion vine.

The Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) is a climbing vine that can also grow as a ground cover. It is ever blooming in some years. It likes sandy loams, clay, and poor soils.

How much better can it get?  You can grow it in the full sun or part shade. It goes great on an arbor or on a fence like I have it.

By the way, this is not the invasive Japanese Honeysuckle.

The flame acanthus is in the rear, on the fence. In front of it are zinnias and Salvia gregii.

The next plant that loves our summers is the Flame Acanthus bush (Anisacanthus quadrifidus). It’s extremely drought tolerant , gets no diseases, and is easy to grow. Again both hummers and butterflies like it.

This bush will die down in the winter. Cut it back in the spring before it starts to green up.

Both of these are great plants for hot and dry conditions. They need no fertilizers and little water once established.

Be adaptable and watch what your garden and wildlife like.   Then your garden will be successful in an ever changing world.

I hope you will always see the wonder and beauty in nature.

Babies Everywhere

by Donna Lewis
(with additional photos by Sue Ann Kendall)

This is Suna’s Phoebe mom, eating sunflower seeds and amaranth, or waiting on a fly.

Anywhere I look I have baby birds right now, which is a wonderful thing for a naturalist. Who could be bored right now with so many little creatures to look at?

On our front porch we have a nest with five tiny Eastern Phoebes. They are fly-catchers and love things with wings.

This morning mama tried to force a giant beetle down her youngest daughter and I thought for awhile I might have to preform the Hine-lick procedure…

Donna’s Phoebe babies taking a nap
Suna has a phoebe nest atop an old swallow nest.

Then in my Blue-bird houses I have five babies in one house and six babies in another. Again, bugs are on the menu.  This year the Blue-birds decided to run off the Purple Martins so they could use their perch to look for predators near their houses.

Over in our barn I have a nest of baby Carolina Wrens in a bucket that was hanging on the wall. If you have never seen a wren baby you would not believe how tiny they are. They are the cutest little things ever. There are only three babies.

Up in the oak trees about 18 feet high we have some Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. Now talk about a tiny house. You can barely see it. It is wrapped in moss and is very concealed.

I love this quote.

There are ton’s of Cardinal nests everywhere. They eat bugs and from my feeders. I have them year round.  They are regulars here.

Then at last my beautiful Purple Martins, who came very late this year, are starting to lay their eggs finally. That unfortunately will cause the babies to mature during the hottest time of the year. 

I have seven nests with eggs and more that have not started yet.  I have the fewest Martins than ever at this site.  There are many potential reasons for this, and it’s hard to determine for sure.

But the ones I do have sing to me, and it’s all worth the trouble.

Nature is everywhere you are.  All you have to do is look.

Heaven on earth.

Hummingbirds in Milam County

by Donna Lewis

It is getting hot every day now, so it is important to remember a few tips for our smallest bird friends. They need  fresh water just like every living thing.

My hummers like to fly though a small sprinkler that I put out just for them every afternoon around 5:30 pm.  I place it under a tree for shade and a sense of security. They cool down and get a bath at the same time.  It’s fun to see them play.

Hummingbirds enjoy a little shower. Image by @murophoto via Twenty20.

We also need to remember that hot weather will make the sugar water ferment very fast. So,  clean and put out new nectar in the feeders at least every 3 to 4 days. Sugar water should be 1 part sugar to 4 parts water.

Hummingbirds like fresh nectar. Image from Creative Commons.

Native plants are actually the best food for them. They also like little bugs for protein. Their favorite plant here at my place is the Coral Honeysuckle I have on a fence. They spend more time drinking from its tubular flowers than drinking from the feeders.

Tubular flowers are the best! Photo by  @malisunshine via Twenty20

Its good to place the feeders under some shade if you can.  This keeps the sugar water from getting so hot.

Right now the males are doing their courtship dance.  A high deep dive in a U shape pattern in front of a potential bride..

Ladies… you get to pick.