Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Winter Visitors

No More Cookies

January is here and people are returning to normal work and school schedules after a long holiday season. Our house was bustling this year with visiting family and happy celebrations for about 2 weeks. It was lots of fun and the house seems pretty quiet now as we put everything back in where it belongs and clean and tidy up. The cookies and treats are just about all eaten up, the tree has gone to be recycled into mulch, and the laundry is almost all washed and folded. Pretty much back to the old routine.

But one of our visitors decided to stay a while longer and so I've been making some accommodations. We were very lucky this year to find a Rufous Hummingbird in our yard in mid-December. I checked today and it is still here, and probably will be for the rest of the winter. It was pure luck that I even found it in the first place. On December 12 I stepped out on the front porch and a small bird zoomed past me and landed in a tree. I saw that it was a hummingbird, which is pretty unusual for winter here in Georgia. Little did I know that it was not one of our typical Ruby Throated birds, but at that moment I couldn't see it well enough to know. I had left out a nectar feeder hoping for this very possibility because I read that some birds will straggle behind during migration and need refueling stations. But I hadn't seen anyone feeding in our yard since fall and the nectar was old and yucky. I ran inside to brew up some fresh nectar (dissolve 1 part sugar into 4 parts water, cool and serve. No food coloring, please) and brought it out in a fresh, clean feeder. Then I proceeded to clean and refill all of our feeders.  I posted an excited message on Facebook that day and the next day I was rewarded with a beautiful view of a Rufous Hummingbird from my kitchen window. According to my Sibley Field Guide, Rufous Hummingbirds are rare in our area. They live in the Pacific Northwest, winter in the Gulf Coast and Florida, but don't really live in my part of the world. What a treat! If I hadn't seen him fly by and hadn't refilled the feeders, who knows if he would have stayed around?

Male Rufous Hummingbird from the Kitchen Window

I proudly reported my bird (note how protective I'm getting!) to the local Audubon group and on eBird and promptly had requests from other birders who wanted to know if they could come see him. We've had a regular stream of Rufous fans ever since. To make it even better, one of the groups of observers also noticed a pair of Baltimore Orioles in our bushes. I had no idea they were there and had given up all hope of hosting them the way we did in Florida. I had understood that they didn't winter here, and I left our jelly dishes behind in Gainesville when we moved. When I put out the hummingbird feeder, the Orioles came to drink from it and the Rufous was furious! He chased them away and chattered at them. But I found another dish, bought some grape jelly, and now there is peace once again. There are only 2 Orioles, not the jelly gobbling hordes that we had in Gainesville, and there are none of the older, brilliant orange males. But I'm happy, and maybe these 2 will bring friends.

Baltimore Oriole Eating Jelly


He's Awfully Pretty, Don't You Think?

Last weekend, after the Rufous had been with us for a few weeks, I noticed mildew on the feeders. I was hoping they'd stay clean longer in cold weather, but fungus loves sugar and sun so it was time to clean. On New Years Day, I pulled down all the feeders and gave them a good scrubbing with brushes, biodegradable soap and a vinegar water rinse. Then I filled them again with fresh nectar. The seed feeders probably need a good mid-winter cleaning, too, but I'll get to them when the rain clears up. I guess it's going to be a busy New Year!

All Taken Apart

Brushes to Clean the Gunk

Mini Brushes for the Small Spaces

Refilled with Fresh Nectar

Happily Feeding

I hope your New Year is filled with happy days, exciting discoveries, interesting visitors, plenty of food and very little mildew.

Mockingbird doesn't understand what all the fuss is

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