Friday, February 24, 2017

Goodbye Winter

Star Magnolia in Bloom

I'm pretty sure that Winter is finished here in Athens. Sure, there could still be some more cold snaps coming, but the temperatures here are balmy, in the 70's and 80's. In fact, it almost feels like Spring will whiz past without giving us a chance to savor the "just right" temperatures between frigid and roasting. We may be in for another record breaking scorcher summer and drought. I sure hope not, but signs are pointed that direction. Meanwhile, though, it's a lovely Spring, and the camellia bushes and ornamental magnolias are blooming like mad and the daffodils are standing tall and dreamy yellow in patches all over the city. The Cedar Waxwings can still be seen bopping through the treetops, but they have polished off most of the choice winter berries and I expect that they will be leaving soon, along with the masses of Grackles and Robins. By the way, in case you were wondering, the collective noun for a group of Grackles is "Plague". They certainly do swarm in, like a plague of locusts, and eat everything in the feeders and throw the leaf mulch all over, but I still like them. I enjoy their raspy sounds and iridescent blue/black feathers. And it is amazing to watch hundreds of them launch in unison from the trees when they decide it is time to move on to the next yard. The celebrity Baltimore Orioles and the Rufous Hummingbird that have stuck around our yard all winter are still sticking around. Lots of people have come by to look at them, including some Ornithology Classes from UGA! Friends asked us why we had crowds of people with binoculars in our yard. It makes me smile every morning to see the hummer perched at our kitchen window feeder, guzzling away. And, as they did in Gainesville, the Orioles chatter at me when I refill their grape jelly feeders. They also like to drink from the hummingbird feeders, so it is a challenge to keep them all full. It was exciting to see 3 Orioles last week for the Backyard Bird Count.

Cedar Waxwing feeding on Ligustrum berries

Plague of Grackles

3 Orioles at the Feeder!

Rufous Hummingbird takes a rain bath

When I see the Hummingbird in his usual spot in the bushes, where he can keep a watch over the whole yard, I wonder what is going on in his mind. He is so far away from where he should be. Does he know it? Does he care? Does he miss being with his own species? He looks kind of lonely, but hopeful. Always on the watch. Is he looking for other hummingbirds? Does he miss having other birds to hang out with? Do hummingbirds even do that? I imagine that he'll decide to fly home one of these days soon. But where exactly is home? For summer breeding season, that would somewhere in the upper Northwest and into Canada and Alaska. Migration season they would mostly be in the Mountain West, California and Mexico. And for winter, mostly Mexico. That's a long way from Georgia for a tiny bird, but Rufous Hummingbirds are tough. I was reading more about Rufous Hummingbirds and found that they live 4-5 years and are one of the hardier species that can withstand some cold winter temperatures. In the Q&A section of one website, someone asked if it was true that hummingbirds migrated on the backs of geese. I really laughed at that one. The answer is no. But I do wonder when the hummer will go back to be with "his people" or if he'll stick around for a while longer. The Ruby Throated Hummingbirds are ready to begin their migration back north again and when they arrive, he'll have lots of competition at the feeder, if he stays that long. I wish him luck on his trip back home, wherever that may be, even though I will miss seeing his little silhouette through the bushes. He needs to get back to breed. I will miss all the winter visitors, but the seasons change and nature calls on them to move on. Now it's time to welcome the next seasonal guests.

Surveying the Yard

And speaking of the next season, the butterflies are here! I saw these Azures and my first Mourning Cloak at the Botanical Garden the other day. Spring is here for sure.

Spring Azures

Mourning Cloak (terrible picture but first sighting for me in Georgia!)


  1. Hi, Katherine -

    Based on their irascible personality and their tendency to drive away every other hummingbird in the neighborhood, I would guess that Rufous Hummers don't get lonely. And Fred Bassett tells me that he's banded Rufous Hummingbirds that were nine years old, as well as Ruby-throateds, Black-chinneds, and Calliopes that were eight years old. The oldest hummer of which Fred is aware was a twelve-year-old Broad-tailed.


    1. Good! I won't worry about finding friends for him, then! ;)

  2. Your descriptions take me right along with you.

    1. Thank you! That's exactly what I hope to do.