Monday, August 28, 2006

A waystation for migrant hummers

Colorful flowers attract hummingbirds to the garden; nectar makes them hang around for a while. I only see hummers in my garden in late July and August, so I try to plant late-blooming flowers that they like. They visit the cleome, but I'm not sure that they provide any nectar. They especially like the black-and-blue salvias and some other salvias that aren't visible in this pic. I expect the hummers to arrive shortly after the Rose of Sharon hedge begins to bloom; again I'm not sure if they're able to feed from the flowers, but they do visit them often and like to perch in the hedge in sight of the feeders.

I place my feeders in as shady a location as possible so that the sugar-water won't ferment as quickly. It's important to maintain the feeder and change the solution at least every 2-3 days or anytime it looks cloudy. So as not to waste sugar, I only fill this feeder about a quarter of the way full - that's more than enough for a day or two. Notice also that I don't use red food coloring - it's not needed so long as some part of the feeder is red to attract the birds.

We have a variety of flowers that are pretty and attractive to hummers; flowering maples (Abutilon) are a favorite and come in many colors. My husband and I try to grow them all. ;-) We have them in purple, peach, yellow and red this year. The first hummingbird I ever saw was nectaring at a red blooming maple that we had trained as a small tree outside the bedroom window. These aren't hardy for us in NJ, so we bring them inside each fall and try not to kill them. We usually fail.

Killing stuff over the winter gives us an excuse to try something new the following summer. This flowering maple is a new one for us - it looks like the hummers might like it, but I'm not sure about the lantern-shaped flowers. I also grow pineapple sage for the hummers, but it usually blooms so late for me that the hummers are long gone when it finally comes into flower.

I have a collection of pretty glass hummingbird feeders like these that are really beautiful to look at, but are a nightmare to keep clean. My husband can't resisit buying me a pretty new feeder each year for my birthday, but he's not the one in charge of cleaning and filling them! I hardly ever use these ones because the ants always find them before anyone else.

10 comments:

NatureWoman said...

Your flowering maples and cleome are beautiful! I've heard of the flowering maples, but have never tried growing one.

Susan Gets Native said...

Well, at least the hummers make an appearance.
Our hummers are starting to move out, it seems. Instead of gulping down a full cup a day, the same half cup has been out there for 3 days. Safe journey, little ones.
I like the glass feeders you have, but I can understand the headache it must be to keep the wasps and bees and ants out. There's no way to put a guard on them! But your DH's heart is in the right place, and I bet they look great on a windowsill.

lené said...

I'm not sure if cardinal-flower would grow in your area, Laura, but I was just reading this morning that it's pollinated by hummingbirds. It's blooming wildly along the rivers here right now. Talk about a gorgeous shade of true red! Wow.

Lynne said...

I can see those glass feeders lined up on a sunny windowsill in winter. They are SO pretty!

Mary Ann said...

Cardinal flowers have been a big draw for hummers here, too. Also a morning glory relative called "Cardinal Climber" on its seed packet. Vigorous vine with small, red, trumpet-shaped flowers.

It's always an interesting challenge to pin down the last day the hummers are here. I see them day after day 'til one day I think, "Hmm. I can't remember when I last saw one..."

Anonymous said...

Could you sit the little glass feeders in a shallow bowl/plate filled with water? The water could act as a moat/barrier that the ants are not able to cross. It seems a shame not to let the hummers enjoy them as well -- they are so pretty!

Heather
Wayne, PA

e4 said...

I saw "waystation for migrant hummers" and I thought, "She's blogging about vacationing SUV's filling their tanks?"

The ruby throated kind are much more interesting...

LauraHinNJ said...

naturewoman: thanks they are pretty and easy to grow - not so easy to overwinter. They used to be a popular *parlor* plant, but my house doesn't get enough sun to keep them happy.

susan: his heart is in the right place. ;-)

Lene: cardinal flower is gorgeous, but I think it prefers shade. I had a plant one year in the pond (they like to be wet), but it didn't look happy with all that sun.

Lynne: they are pretty and a nightmare to clean. Maybe they should live on the windowsill - then I'll have to dust them!

MaryAnn: I've grown that little red vine - sometimes its called scarlet cypress vine - tiny little flowers the hummers like! The hummers do disappear that way and the house wrens too, but much sooner.

Thanks, Heather! I usually try something like that and it works okay. They actually sit in a sort of metal holder that I usually hang amongst some flowers - works well enough.

e4: yep, I'm kind of vague with the post titles - glad to keep you guessing!

jemkagily said...

Taking Sharon Stiteler's advice, I got myself a Humm-zinger feeder this year and after one day had a resident hummingbird. It is the easiest to clean feeder I've ever had and all the artsy blown glass feeders are now banished to the basement. The man at the store where I bought it advised me to add a drop of vanilla to my nectar, which I have done...I don't understand why it works though, because I was under the impression that birds have no sense of smell. Do you know anything about this?

LauraHinNJ said...

Jemkagily: The Humm-Zinger is my favorite feeder - cheap and easy to clean!!

People add all sorts of odd things to hummingbird nectar - I don't think any of it is good and may actually be dangerous. The hummers will be attracted to your feeder by sight, not smell!