Tag Archives: hummingbird feeder

Where Are the Hummingbirds?

I started wondering this earlier this summer around the same time a friend asked me how long it takes to get Ruby-throated hummingbirds to come to a new feeder.

While it does usually take a while to get them to find a new feeder, her question made me realize that it seemed like I was having far fewer hummingbirds to my own feeder this year.

Normally here in Chicago, I have a pretty steady stream of hummingbirds to my garden and feeders by mid-spring, but this year it has been a trickle. I started asking around and some of my friends in the area reported the same thing.

I asked my mom in Michigan, the same thing. Almost none in her yard this year. Although it was interesting that a friend of hers nearby seemed to be having normal numbers to his yard.

I tried looking online to see if others were noticing the same thing and did find a few anecdotal comments that hummingbirds seemed to be missing in the Midwest this year.

Out of curiosity, I called my local Wild Birds Unlimited store to see if they’d heard anything. They are not only a great source for birding accessories, but also for information on all things bird related. They had also heard reports that there seemed to be fewer hummingbirds locally, and that it was possibly due to a shift in migration more to the East Coast this year or maybe they’re just arriving later than normal because of our spring weather.

Of course, that meant I had to ask around some more and got reports back that on the East Coast their numbers seemed down as well.

Interestingly, I seem to have had normal activity at my WI cabin feeder and just recently I’ve been seeing an increase in activity at my feeder at home.

I did a little more research on eBird using their mountains of citizen science bird checklist data. Looking at the frequency of checklists containing Ruby-throated hummingbird sightings in my county in IL, the actual numbers seem to be pretty low early on but have rebounded a bit above normal in late June and July (2017 is purple). So it looks like instead of not being here, they have just come later than normal.  You can check out your local area by starting on this eBird page.

Hummingbirds sightings should increase even more the rest of the summer as each of the 2 or 3 broods hatch and the yearlings start looking for food in our yards alongside the adults.

So how has it been in your neck of the woods this year? Have the Ruby-throated hummingbirds been seen in your yard like normal? If you checked out eBird, be sure to add to their data by reporting your bird sightings.  Every little bit helps!

BTW, if you don’t have a lot of hummingbirds draining the feeder regularly, be sure to change the food frequently so when they do arrive they have fresh food. You can get an easy nectar recipe here.

 

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I Planted Milkweed…

And the monarchs came!

Last fall at our WI cabin, I scattered milkweed seeds from native milkweed that had sparsely grown in what I call the “loop” in the center of the circular driveway.  It’s a native area anchored by three Hop Hornbeam (Ostrya virginiana) trees.

There’s lots of advice on how to collect milkweed seeds from the pods on the internet, but I took the simple route of waiting until late in the fall when the pods were starting to open up on their own, and then pulled out the seeds. While still attached to the sticky silk, I just floated the seeds around the loop garden and around the edges of the woods. It was a fun afternoon project even without young kids to help!

By spreading the seeds in the fall, I didn’t need to worry about artificial seed stratification, the process of simulating the cold winter and warm, wet spring, that you need to go through to get milkweed seeds to germinate efficiently. Then I waited to see what would come up, and where, since the downside of my method was the wind blowing things in unexpected directions.

I was happy to see this spring that the number of milkweed had really multiplied all over the loop and the edges of the driveway and forest. Then this past weekend I found them! Two big, fat healthy monarch caterpillars munching away.

I can’t remember the last time I saw big monarch caterpillars like these. I’m hoping when we’re there next time, I’ll find monarch chrysalis. But they can be tricky to find since they will attach to almost any hard surface in the area, not necessarily near the milkweed.

What else is enjoying my milkweed?  The bees of course.

Hummingbirds will also enjoy milkweed occasionally, but mine tend to prefer my feeder by far.

As a hummingbird bonus, I recently added a little window feeder and they love it! This day a female came to visit. The male is a little more camera shy.

Need help making hummingbird nectar? See my previous post on an easy how-to.

 

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August Garden Surprises

I took a walk around the yard today just checking everything out. It must have been a while I’d done that, since I had quite a few, luckily mostly pleasant, surprises.

This Rose Of Sharon has always grown in the shadow of surrounding trees which are no longer there.  I never understood why it was planted there and remained quite a runt and hardly flowered.  We left it since it was back in a corner and not hurting anything.   Not this year!  With all the new sun and space, it has flourished and has been blooming like gangbusters.

Rose of Sharon

 

Rose of Sharon

 

Double Bloom Rose of Sharon

Next to the big Rose of Sharon is a small one I bought on clearance.  It was in even more shade and really never grew much.  It was pretty much overrun by hosts and ferns.  All of a sudden this year, it started blooming.  It’s flowers are the more traditional hibiscus looking type.

Rose of Sharon

Then there’s this white Rose of Sharon that just appeared from nowhere.  I thought it was a weed growing up next to the fence.  Kept cutting it back, but it was quite persistent.  After apparently not weeding for while, it unexpectedly flowered!!  My persistent weed was a very pretty white Rose of Sharon.  It actually picked a pretty spot to grow, so this one is staying put.   I also finally know what all those persistent weeds/baby trees in less desirable locations around the yard are.  I am a bit puzzled though where this one came from.   It must be a traveller from a neighbor’s yard since all the Rose of Sharons in my yard are purple.

Rose of Sharon

I apparently really haven’t weeded very much lately and this huge thistle has grown about 6 ft tall behind the white David phlox.  I would have pulled it out, except that it is was being visited by some lovely bumblebees and goldfinches.  I think it’ll stay for the summer.

Thistle

Last fall, I had moved some plants around so this spring, when things were coming up, I wasn’t entirely sure what and where things were.  Early on,  I saw these little grass like leaves that I couldn’t decide if they were weeds or flowers.  I let them be since they weren’t too obnoxious.  Just this week, they finally put out a single daylily bloom.  Seems that some Happy Returns day lilies had found a new home.  Reminds me that, “When in doubt, don’t pull it out!”.

Happy Returns Daylily

I have 2 Knock Out Roses that are a few years old.  They’ve struggled with Japanese Beetle attacks, and then this past winter really did a job on them. They looked pretty haggard, but I left them alone to see what would happen.  Finally, one is putting out a few blooms.  I’m going to trim off the dead stems and be extra vigilant about the Japanese Beetles.  Hopefully the plant will be strong enough to come back healthier next year.

Knock Out Rose

I”m not quite sure why my 1 year old Wine and Roses Weigela is blooming a second time this season.  In any case, it’s healthy and looking great in this spot.

Wine and Roses Weigela

While I don’t have any pictures, I am excited to have seen a few hummingbirds in the yard recently.  They haven’t come to the feeder, so either they don’t like my food selection or there’s enough natural food for them.

Hummingbird Feeder

Last, but not least in my opinion, are these French Favorite Marigolds from Botanical Interests  that I grew from seeds.  I have never had such beautiful marigolds grow in the spot (and for as long as we’ve lived here, this has been my marigold garden).

French Favorite Marigold

Have you had any pleasant garden surprises this year?