Summer Hummers

Summer 2018 in New England has been as glorious as I can remember since moving here. With so many areas suffering the most catastrophic conditions imaginable around the globe… from heat and drought, floods and tornadoes, volcanoes and fire…. we are swaddled in comfort with enough moisture, sunshine, and pleasant temperatures that I feel almost apologetic writing about it. We had a stretch of dry weather earlier in the summer and have suffered in the past with an abundance of weather extremes but, so far… summer 2018 has made the living enjoyable for gardeners and outdoor enthusiasts. With a warming climate, all summers won’t be like this so we will savor it while it lasts.

Plants that we trickled water on for survival during a 3-year drought are now bursting with growth. Every shrub and tree and flower and vegetable in this yard is fuller, taller, and more floriferous. With these favorable conditions, we’re seeing more insects and birds and in our yard… especially the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds that have proliferated wildly around here. We now have the adults and their offspring jetting through and around the garden performing acrobatic maneuvers to guard their territory.

With such movement, it’s impossible to count how many hummers are out there but there’s a way to guesstimate, according to bird banders. Count how many you see at one time and multiply that number by 6. That would mean there are about 20-25 hummingbirds coming and going and perhaps almost parting our hair when we get too close to the action. Other residents in the neighborhood feed hummingbirds so they are moving between our homes. It’s fun to see such activity and much better numbers than the total 8-10 we counted during drought years.

hummingbird July 2018

We have the feisty males with their bright red gorgets displaying territorial rule and their mating prowess but the feeders look to be dominated by females with the white throats. That can be deceiving. There are more females than males but the young males we are seeing have not developed their telltale ‘ruby’ throat. They look much like females until we are close enough to see faint lines or striations on their throats. Next year, they’ll display their bright gorgets.

Hummingbird July 2018

We’re keeping the feeders spotless, making fresh nectar (1 part sugar to 4 parts water) often and just watching as the hummers are bulking up preparing for their long migration at the end of the summer. Males will leave first, followed by females and young.Ā  We will keep the feeders clean and half-full with fresh nectar after they leave because you never know when a migration straggler will venture by and need a couple of days of nourishment before continuing on.

14 thoughts on “Summer Hummers

    • It’s fun to attract them. As you get to know different personalities or markings, you’ll recognize them when they return in the spring. There is one 3-year returner that loves to see me drag out the hose to water a dry tomato plant. He waits patiently on a nearby branch until I direct a fine mist over him. He takes a full shower, washing and grooming, then flies to back to join the others.

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    • Oh yeah…. there’s that. šŸ˜“ I guess tolerance to high humidity must be in my DNA from generations of living in the sweltering lowlands of coastal Tidewater VA. We have only turned on the AC once here on a real meltdown day but as long as there’s a breeze or a fan, we’re mostly okay.

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  1. Our weather had been very pleasant as well. I feel sort of guilty about it. However, the hummingbirds are no more abundant than they typically are. Their population fluctuates. It seems that there might even be a bit fewer than there normally is. Hummingbirds were so revered by the formerly native people here that one of the highest peaks of the Santa Cruz Mountains is named for them. Umunhum

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