FIGHTING FOR THE NECTAR IN OUR BACK YARD
September is the time of year when thousands of hummingbirds make their way south for the winter. This section of the Gulf Coast seems to be right on their migratory path. The 29th annual Hummerbird Celebration that was scheduled for Sept. 15-17 was canceled as the Fulton-Rockport area is recovering from Hurricane Harvey. The festival provides education about the visitors as well as an opportunity to see them close up; many people put up dozens of feeders up and open their yards to the public. This year residents and businesses are busy making repairs and trying to get back to normal so a festival in the midst of chaos was just not possible.
A few days after Harvey left I saw my first hummingbird in the back yard and got out my three feeders and mixed some nectar for them. I was sure there would not be a Hummerbird Celebration this year and worried about these tiny jewels that normally feast on flowers and feeders in the area. Even in my neighborhood we were still dealing with downed fences, repairs and downed trees. But the birds were not forgotten.
As they began their annual descent upon the Fulton-Rockport area volunteers started to help and donations came in for them as well as those affected by the storm. Wild Bird Unlimited stores collected donations and sent feeder kits complete with poles for hanging. Winter Texans sent money. The crew from the King Ranch’s nature- tour brought 100 Best-1 Feeders made in Poteet , Texas. Outdoor writer for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times David Sikes wrote:
“The ranch’s nature staff decided not to burden Rockport residents with DIY hummingbird kits, white they were in the throes of the storm. So the King Ranch crew began filling and putting out feeders themselves at six Aransas Pathways nature sites.
Aransas Pathways is a collection of sites in the county aimed at creating and preserving nature area and historical treasures for locals and visitors.
Attached to the feeders is a laminated note, explaining how folks can adopt a feeder. This would involve keeping the feeders filled and clean. Within a week or so seven had been adopted.”
WHEN THE FEEDER WAS NOT SO CROWDED
Some locals have put up feeders amid the debris just to make it more normal and help restore life to the community. Most of the flowering plants and shrubs that the hummers feed on were torn apart by Harvey’s winds. The mayor of Rockport and local companies have encouraged aid for the hungry travelers. In the fall they come south and cross the Gulf of Mexico to Mexico and Central America; in spring they make the return trip north. I will keep my feeders up until they are gone. Usually the last ones move on by the end of October but I always leave one up for the stragglers. When spring comes I will welcome them back! Right now they are keeping me busy refilling them at least twice a day.
THIS ONE SHOWS MORE OF THEIR IRIDESCENT COLOR.
RECIPE FOR ARTIFICIAL NECTAR (SYRUP)
1. Use 1 part sugar to 4 parts water.
2. Boil the water 1-2 minutes. Stir in the sugar while the water is still hot. Let cool before filling the feeder.
Store unused syrup in refrigerator for as long as 2 weeks.
PHOTOS BY HUSBAND
We have many birds that visit our backyard, but my favorite birds are these Desert Bird of Paradise, caesalpinia gilliesii.
There was one outside my bedroom when I was growing up in South Texas. Several years ago nostalgia set in as I began searching for a plant but could not find one anywhere. Finally, I ordered seeds from Trade Winds Fruit in Windsor, California.
Today I have five Birds in the ground, two in pots and plenty of seeds. I harvest the seeds, in a pod rather like a snow pea, when they are dry and rattle slightly. The first year I brought the pods in the house and put them in a bowl in the dining room. The pods would dry out more and pop open as seeds and pods flew into the air.
They lose most of their leaves in the winter and come back in the spring and bloom through the spring and summer and sometimes into fall.
PHOTOS BY HUSBAND
One morning this spring Husband and I were having our morning coffee in the living room and watching the birds in the back yard. Two hummingbird feeders were up on the edge of the veranda cover to welcome the first of those visitors. A large flat feeder hangs from a tree and small one on the fence stay up all year-long that provide seeds for the usual birds – many doves and an occasional pigeon. Recently we had seen colorful spring visitors – a pair of cardinals, a painted bunting. Squirrels stop by also to check their feeder in a tree for peanuts and sunflower seeds.
Normally our thirteen year-old cat, Wiccan, just naps in a chair outside after her morning meal or attempts to hide beside some ornamental grass near the bird bath in the hope of catching a feathered creature. She has slowed down with age, but I still occasionally find a pile of bird feathers as evidence of her success. However, I do try to protect them from her when I can.
As I sat there enjoying a second cup of coffee and the bit of nature in the back yard, a black streak raced across the veranda. Wiccan was after a bird. Husband jumped up and rushed out the back door. I followed quickly and held the door open as I watched him come back to the door with a small brownish bird in his hands. Perhaps it was hurt.
THIS BUILDING IN BODEGA, CALIFORNIA WAS USED AS THE SCHOOL HOUSE WHERE THE CHILDREN WERE ATTACKED BY THE BIRDS. HUSBAND TOOK THIS PHOTO WHEN WE VISITED THE AREA IN 2012.
The bird slipped swiftly out of his hands and seemed to be flying straight toward me. I raised my arms up in natural defense as Tippi Hedren did so many times in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 thriller,”The Birds.” This frightened bird veered off to the freedom outside while I lost my balance (one foot inside and one foot outside) and twisted to the left. I fell inside the house as I crashed into my favorite ornate floor lamp. My left ear hit it first…then my left arm…then my left hip…final stop…stunned on the floor. Blood dripped from my ear. All I needed was that green suit like the one Tippi wore!
My first thought as I sat there on the tile floor was concern for my lamp. Was the glass shade broken? One glance upward confirmed that it was not harmed. Startled Husband came to help me up. After I wiped the blood from my swollen and red ear, I needed another cup of strong coffee. (Didn’t Tippi get something stronger? Brandy, perhaps?) I had no broken bones – only a few bruises the next day. So be careful when you are bird watching. It can be dangerous!
The 50th anniversary of “The Birds” is this year. I may have to watch it again with new appreciation!