Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hummingbirds On Long Island

Ruby-Throated Female @ My Long Island Feeder (Aug '11)

In Portland, in the spring of 2010, I set up my first hummingbird feeder, and in a few days I had plenty of Anna's Hummingbirds in my yard. They loved the feeder. One of the males would actually perch nearby, and would guard the nectar, defending it from other birds. (Some females managed to sneak in for a quick drink before being chased away)
Another ruby-throat female, resting near the feeder.

The birds stayed through cooler autumn months, and eventually through the freezing winter. It got to the point where I was running out in 20° F temperatures every few hours to thaw out the nectar in the microwave. The otherwise cautious hummingbirds would zip right up to the feeder as I brought it out the door, drinking the nectar before I could hang it.

It was sad to leave my birds behind, but knowing that I left them in the spring, when they could fend for themselves again helped me to feel a little better.

Michael setting up the feeder.
For my birthday this past May, I was given a hummingbird feeder. I hadn't planned to set up a feeder here on Long Island but I gave it a shot. I didn't think there were too many hummingbirds around here.

The feeder I use is the same feeder I had in Portland, a "Hummzinger." I like it because it's easy to clean, and because it has a moat to discourage insects. The hummingbirds like it because it has a perch (hummingbirds end up expending a lot of energy hovering) and they're attracted to it because it's red.

So we found a nice, shady spot viewable from the house, set everything up, and waited. And waited. Days went by. Weeks. We waited. We changed the nectar on a regular basis. It began to seem like a lost cause. By mid-July, the temperatures in New York were sky-high. Nectar ferments in a day or two when the temperature's in the nineties. We didn't waste any more sugar and let the feeder sit, just about forgotten.

Then it happened. At the start of August, while I was at work, Michael saw a hummingbird. It stopped at the feeder for a few seconds, and then shot off. Immediately we panicked. The nectar was probably bad, and the bird, tasting this, wouldn't be back.

We scrubbed the feeder out and added fresh nectar. And waited. Slowly, the sightings increased. Now, in late August, they stop by the feeder every fifteen minutes or so. It's great. The birds don't seem quite used to people. If we have dinner in the yard, they feed from where they can keep an eye on us, and chirp at us as they leave, agitated we're near their nectar. Pretty awesome.

This little one kept turning his head, looking for bugs.