Tuesday, September 23, 2008
It's time for hummingbirds! This is the height of fall hummingbird activity in our area. They're stopping by our back yards and gardens to fuel up before making the long journey to Mexico and other southern areas, where they winter.
The photo above was taken in my butterfly bed, and shows a hummingbird on a Tithonia flower. (The bird is either a female or a first-year male; the ruby throat appears after a male's first winter.) They're also visited cardinal climber flowers, zinnias, and our snowball bush. All the books advise planting red petunias and other trumpet-shaped flowers, but I've seen them visit a wide variety of flowers. This is the first year I've planted Tithonia, and I had intended it to draw butterflies, but the hummers were an unexpected bonus.
We have 3 feeders, spread out so that one very territorial male can't monopolize them all. We occasionally see a mid-air encounter near one of the feeders, involving spread tail feathers and lots of chattering. We keep the feeders up through the end of October. Although most hummers will have migrated south by then, there could be a few stragglers who will need the extra fuel. There is a common myth that keeping feeders up too long will discourage hummingbirds from migrating -- this is not true! They hang around just as long as they need to, and will migrate when they're ready.
I stopped writing this blog when we went on vacation, and it's been hard to get back in the groove. Over the next few posts, I hope to write about some of the birds we went looking for last month.