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
Photo by Husband
SIGNS THAT FALL IS COMING TO THE COAST
1) The whooping cranes have left Canada and are heading for Texas.
Photo from Wikipedia
2) Hummingbirds are swarming my feeders and it is time for the Rockport Hummingbird Celebration. One year a woodpecker helped itself to the feeders. I have not seen it this year.
Photo by Husband
3) I will be looking for white pelicans to arrive before long. They arrive in the fall and leave when it gets warm in the spring.
4) The stores start to fill with faux leaves, pumpkins, wreaths, cinnamon scented candles, bibelots and everything we need to decorate our homes and pretend that we have a real fall season where the leaves turn a golden hue, and drop poetically to the earth.
Franciscan Winery, Napa Valley Photo by Husband
5) I pick a Syrah from Texas Hills Vineyards to celebrate the autumnal equinox. Texas Hills Vineyard is a small but elegant winery just outside of Johnson City. We picked up this bottle there last year.
Photo by Husband
HAPPY FALL TO YOU!
With the official arrival of summer on the calendar I thought I would post some pictures taken on my veranda. It is a nice spot to enjoy a second cup of coffee in the morning and a glass of wine in the cool of the evening. The golden-fronted woodpecker and his mate are gone, but one lone hummingbird is still hanging around. (Click on the photos below for larger views.)
Fountain and Bromeliad
This bromeliad just opened completely this week and will last for several weeks. Husband took the flower/fountain shots.
Close-up of bromeliad bloom
Do you see a face in this one? I see a face, eyes, nose, hair and beard. It looks a bit like Yosemite Sam from the Warner Brothers cartoons or perhaps King Neptune.
Wiccan in a pot by the fountain
I took this one of my cat, Wiccan, as she relaxed safely up high in a large pot on the left side the fountain. She often leaps gracefully to the fountain for a drink of water. She is twelve years old and will probably be my last cat.
June is the beginning of the hurricane season. Will this be the year that a major one hits our area? We have been spared for many years. If one comes, we will bring Wiccan inside and roll down the shutters. In the meantime I will embrace summer. May you enjoy the summer days wherever you live!
Huey and Henrietta
A couple of weeks ago I posted Texas Hummingbirds-Baby Huey with a close-up picture of a Golden-Fronted Woodpecker feeding on one of our hummingbird feeders. Since then Baby Huey has been back several times every day to feast on the sugar-water that the real hummers grudgingly share with him. Now his mate has joined him We can tell it is a female because Henrietta (we had to name her also) is smaller and does not have the red cap that males have.
The above photograph captures them both feeding. Huey is on the left; Henrietta is on the right. He is hanging awkwardly while Henrietta perches daintily much the way a hummingbird does.
According to John L. Tveten in his book, “The Birds of Texas,” a pair will share pecking out a nest for their young and describes it this way.
“Working together, the pair will take a week or more to excavate their nest, and they will then share in the incubation of their four to seven eggs and the raising of their young. Starting with an opening about two inches across, they dig straight back and then down, perhaps for a foot or more, finally enlarging the cavity at the bottom and leaving a few woods chips as the only pallet for their pending brood.”
Daily we hear them pecking on our metal chimney. Why? Is it rusting? Do they think it is a tree? There is a perfectly fine oak tree near the feeders, and there is a wonderful old mesquite tree next door. We may have to inspect our chimney!
For the past three weeks we have been feeding four hummingbirds that stopped by our back yard to refuel. They have fought over the sugar-water in the two feeders we put up and enjoyed the natural nectar of the flowers and herbs that are blooming. They provide great entertainment as they zoom around like tiny Star Wars Jedi starfighters and occasionally buzz the cat, Wiccan.
A woodpecker has been hanging around for some time also and we hear it making its churr-churr and kek-kek-kek calls. Once we heard it pecking rapidly on our metal chimney.
Then Saturday morning we looked out to the veranda to discover that he was helping himself to the hummers’ sugar-water. He flew away as soon husband grabbed his camera, but then he kept coming back and husband was able to get this shot.
I named him Baby Huey, but he is actually a male golden-fronted woodpecker. They are described this way in John L. Tveten’s book, “The Birds of Texas.”
“Ten inches long, and with a black-and-white barred back, the golden-fronted woodpecker has light under parts, a white rump and an all-black tail. A large golden orange patch ornaments the nape, and there is a smaller yellow patch above the bill, the “golden front.” In addition, the male sports a small, round red cap that is lacking on the female.”
Baby Huey was back Sunday morning for a little Sunday brunch. He has not kept the hummers away, but they do not challenge him when he is feeding! The hummers will soon be gone and won’t be back until around September. We will enjoy them and share our space with them for now.