Latest For the Birds column: More on hummingbirds (again)

Here’s the latest For the Birds column which runs in The Hour (Norwalk, Conn.), Keene (NH) Sentinel, and several weekly newspapers on Connecticut.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird at Errol Hotel in Errol, NH.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird at Errol Hotel in Errol, NH.

The emails about hummingbirds kept coming, so I will roll out one more column on these tiny birds.

I used to have the worst luck trying to find hummingbirds, but this year has been an exception. I have consistently seen them at my feeder and out in the field, so to speak.

Now is the time to look for them among the many patches of jewelweed, or touch-me-not, that grow at the edges of New England’s woods. Even in years when I don’t see a lot of hummingbirds, I always seem to find them in late summer and early fall buzzing around the small orange flowers of jewelweed.

But enough about where I am seeing them. Hummingbirds are obviously a regional favorite as I have received several emails regarding the species over the last few weeks. In addition to what I included a few weeks ago, here’s a sampling of what people are saying about the smallest of birds.

Susan wrote to say that hummingbirds were a common sighting when she used to spend her summers in New Hampshire. She and her husband did not have a feeder in the yard, but the hummingbirds would visit the garden (especially red bee balm) and perch on a nearby wire between visits to the flowers.

I had noted in a previous column that “my” hummingbirds are behaving particularly territorial this year. Susan recalled a visit years ago to the Sonoran Desert Museum in Arizona when she saw a bright orange hummingbird that needed to be kept in its own enclosure because it was too aggressive with the other birds.

Sounds like a hummingbird; small and mighty.

Margaret shared two stories about hummingbirds. The first brings me back to those simple, quintessential New England days before technology and fast food took over – back when people used to fend for themselves a bit. As she sat on her open porch preparing string beans to freeze, a hummingbird came to visit the encroaching trumpet creeper.

“The bird noticed me and came closer to size me up, I guess,” she wrote. “As it paused there, I could actually feel the breeze from its wings on my bare knee. So strong, smooth and focused.”

The second story Margaret shared is a bit more distressing, but has a good ending. Her mother noticed a motionless hummingbird in a spider web. Suddenly, she noticed a bit of motion so she went over to free the bird. Margaret came over and removed some of the web that was attached to the bird’s bill. Her mother opened her hands and, after a moment’s pause, the bird took off.

Yes, hummingbirds are small enough to be caught in large, strong spider webs. The large yellow and black garden spiders spin webs strong enough to capture a hummingbird. The tiny birds can also get stuck on fly paper. Thankfully fly paper is not used very much anymore. A praying mantis can also strike and kill a hummingbird. It gives a little perspective on just how small and delicate hummingbirds are, despite their fierce and determined nature.

Newell shared a similar story. A hummingbird flew into his garage and couldn’t figure out how to get out. The bird exhausted itself flying around and finally came to a rest. Newell grabbed the bird and allowed it to rest in his hands until it was ready to fly again on its own.

Pam figured out a way to keep the competitive nature of hummingbirds at bay, at least in her yard. She hangs several feeders in her yard at different places and heights. She said the males prefer the higher feeders.

She added the tip: “The thing I found important is to have clean feeders in the house so when I set out food I am not under pressure to clean the old feeder.”

Tom proves that you don’t need a huge backyard to attract hummingbirds. He described his yard as “small but well flowered.” Those flowers, he says, are visited by hummingbirds several times a day.

Ezzell wrote to say she is amused when she has to take down the feeders temporarily for cleaning and refilling. The hummingbirds visit the spot where the feeder usually is and sometimes they even: “look in my window at me as if to say, ‘hurry up there, we’re waiting.’”

Got a story about hummingbirds or any other of our feathered friends? Drop me a line and let me know.

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