Wednesday, May 24, 2006

hummingbird feeder : New Arrivals

Clear and calm nights have allowed a steady progression of migrants to move in and through the area. There have been numerous reports of newly arrived species over the weekend. Hermit Thrushes are moving through en masse, as are White-throated Sparrows. Yellow-rumped Warblers and Palm Warblers are on the move as well, and the next wave of migrant warblers has begun: I had my first Black-throated Green Warbler of the spring on Sunday at Hedgehog Mountain. My 6-mile Pownal Walk this morning produced my first Brown Thrasher, and increased numbers of Chipping Sparrows and Blue-headed Vireos, and about 30 Yellow-rumped Warblers.

The clear and calm nights so conducive to migration is about to give way to a less-than-ideal few days. A large low offshore is going to produce clouds, rain (although we really need it!), and stiff northeasterly winds – not the best for flying north if you weigh less than a nickel! But, since it is already May, some birds will need to proceed despite less than ideal conditions. A similar storm to the one that we are about to see that occurred about this time last year produced unusually high numbers of phalaropes (pelagic wintering and migrating shorebirds) in nearshore waters. Seawatching should be productive for the next few days.

Furthermore, as migrants arrive despite the weather, they are going to be hungry! The cold and wet May of last year produced unusually frequent visits to feeding stations by warblers, Baltimore Orioles, and Scarlet Tanagers for example. When these species do arrive and find cold and wet conditions that minimize natural food sources (insects and nectar), many seek out bird feeders to help with sustenance. Orange halves, dried fruit, grape jelly, live and roasted mealworms, and insect suet are all very popular at this time of year. ONE DAY last May, our fruit and jelly feeder at the store hosted 7 Baltimore Orioles, 3 Orchard Orioles (rare in Maine), and up to 4 Gray Catbirds!

Speaking of new arrivals – the first Ruby-throated Hummingbird reports in Maine were received this weekend! Get those feeders out! And remember, use ONLY PURE SUGAR, in a one part sugar to four parts water solution. Nothing more, nothing less! Red dyes are worthless, and may be harmful to the hummingbirds (they’re also a waste of your money). Honey and molasses should be avoided, as a fungus can develop that can be fatally toxic. Although I minimize refined sugar in my own diet, refined white sugar is all we can use in a hummingbird feeder. White sugar is pure sucrose, which is what a flowering plant makes. Avoid nutritionally and calorically (Is that a word? Well, if the President can make up words, why the heck can’t I!?) worthless dextrose and artificial sweeteners as well. And don’t forget, you need to clean out your hummingbird feeders regularly. Cleaning them every 3 or 4 days reduces the need for scrubbing and soaking, but they need to be cleaned AT LEAST weekly, more often if they are in full sun. A dirty hummingbird feeder with spoiled sugar water in not only unappealing to hummingbirds, but also potentially unhealthy!

Posted by Derek Lovitch at 02:16 PM


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10:22 AM  

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