Archive for the ‘Hummingbirds’ Category

Summer has gone and the Autumn is filled with harvesting the abundant fruit our young orchard has provided this year.  The peach trees suffered broken branches from the weight of the fruit and will need to be trimmed after the first frost.  The asian pear trees also were heavy with fruit but luckily the branches did not succumb to their heavy loads.

I have a neighbour who helped harvest the fruit in exchange of plenty of it for her own canning.  The surplus we distributed among friends, to everyone’s delight.

Sammy is enjoying the Asian pear harvest

The dogs happily participated in gathering the fallen fruit and all of them were eating their fill.  I was astounded to see how many pears each of them ate without any ill effect.  Even our Berner girl Sophia, who is famous for her touchy digestion, did not experience a stomach upset.

Sophia contemplating another pear while Lilly looks on

Now, all that is left to harvest are the Bartlet pears and the apple trees.  It will be a pleasure to accomplish that task in the coming week with mild weather and temperatures near 70 degrees.

Our own Hummingbirds left a few weeks ago, but there is still activity at the feeders as migrating Hummers stop to replenish their flight weight.  Only yesterday three more arrived from far North, settling in for a few days to enjoy the abundance offered by blooming prairie flowers and our freshly cooked sugar-water.

It is always bitter-sweet to watch these tiny travellers arrive in dire need of an abundant foodsource and see them settle in for a week or more until their flight weight is restored and they are able to continue the dangerous journey to South America where the lucky ones will spend the winter.

All to soon, the last of them will be gone, the feeders will be put away and winter will come.

Hummingbirds all a-flutter during courtship: How fluttering feathers can generate courtship sounds.

Hummingbirds catch flying bugs with the help of fast-closing beaks.

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The month of June has been busy here and a Sontheim update is long overdue.

The bird breeding season is in full swing and there are nests all around the house, in the bushes, in the trees, the meadows and in the prairie.  There even is a new swallows nest attached to the light fixture high above the front door.

Our hummingbird population has more that doubled with the first batch of fledglings that arrived at the feeders in mid June.  It is pure pleasure to watch these fat little jewels congregate for a drink of sugar-water.  At this stage in their development, the baby Hummers are very sociable.  Only later do they become protective of their turf.  I suppose there is a similarity to human behavior in that.  The Hummer moms are busy with their second set of eggs and will soon again have hungry chicks to feed.

Two days ago, before the big heat hit, we enjoyed a romp through the meadow.  Sammy and Lilly way ahead of Sophia and me.  My Berner girl and I could be considered slow-pokes when it comes to sprinting along the path.  And I watch with fascination when the dogs stop at their favorite places to chomp on tall leaves of grass.  And I wonder what Walt Whitman would have made of that.

Sam, the undisputed leader of the pack.

Now, that the tropical heat has us confined indoors there is ample time to sit at the computer and attend to our blog.

A big part of our recent silence is the effort it took to form a much-needed MS support group for our neck of the Wisconsin woods.  🙂 And I am happy to report that the group is well on its way to host monthly meetings that will commence in August.  Our website is up and the PR effort is in full swing.  But more of that later.

And speaking of Multiple Sclerosis, it is always good NOT to take NO for an answer.  Instead there is the YES I CAN as Janet Echelman demonstrates so beautifully through her art.


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We woke to a forty degree rise in temperature at sunrise this morning and there will be no outing for the dogs today.  The hummingbird feeders are replenished and the Orioles have found equilibrium in their ravenous consumption of grape jelly and sugar-water.

A sad thing happened yesterday when we found a dead Hummer girl whose entire beak was wedged through the screening under the porch.   We where shocked to find her there, because the spot she hit is a very secluded part of the screened in area under the porch.  As you know, Sontheim is a place “where hummingbirds play” and every effort is made to provide a safe environment for our beloved visitors.  However, sometimes unexpectedly, things go wrong.

When the same tragic hummingbird death occurred last summer on precisely the same spot, we thought it was just an awful fluke and would not likely repeat, but this second death questioned the wisdom of keeping the screens in place.  So, early this morning, we took the screens down.  Of course, that means that my office door will have to be kept shut to keep out the bugs and Felix, our inquisitive cat, will lose his favorite out-door play area where he enjoys an occasional romp with the dogs.  Poor Felix will have to be restricted to the indoors.

A few days ago Lilly and Sam enjoyed the yummy Spring grass on our morning walk through the meadows.While Sophia found the perfect spot for a roll after the walk.


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After a slow start, Orioles have returned to Sontheim in such large numbers that it feels like an invasion of hooligans at a soccer game.  There must be thirty of them, primarily males, who seem to enjoy making quite a racket as they compete at the feeding stations.  It is such a boisterous group that even the large woodpeckers are afraid of them.

On the other hand, our returning hummingbirds can be counted on one hand.  To date only three boys and two girls have been identified, and even though we are at the end of the migratory season, we are still hoping that more of them will find their way back to our little patch of paradise.

This year our orchard has been slow to bloom and I have watched with interest that the native pollinators are out in force.  There are many more of the mostly tiny insects buzzing from blossom to blossom then I have ever noticed before; but alas, not one honeybee has been spotted this spring. 

Such changes and more are happening all across our planet and it seems inevitable that human activity will continue to degrade our natural word.   It would be wise for every one of us to remember that mother nature can easily thrive without the presence of the human race, but that human beings cannot survive without a functioning natural world. 

With that in mind let me share the work of two extraordinary people whose love of our beautiful world inspires and informs.  Enjoy!!!

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After weeks of cold, wet and unrelenting storms — Spring arrived yesterday in the form of a calm day in the mid 60s. 

I prepared a hummingbird feeder to hang in front of the kitchen window to make sure that any traveling hummingbird would find a libation upon arriving at Sontheim.  And sure enough, by mid-day a ruby-throated male appeared as if by magic.  He must be one of our returning hummers because he knew exactly were to find the feeder. 

My heart leapt with joy as I watched a  tiny green bird zoom around the corner of the house and instantly settle on the feeder’s perch  were he drank deeply.  Even though I missed his evening feedings, he appeared like clockwork this morning and has been visiting ever since.

Now the watch is on for the rest of the boys to arrive and eventually the girls, who should not be far behind.  More feeders are waiting to be filled with sugar-water and the Shepard hooks are ready to receive them.

Sadly this year has brought no Orioles and only a few flocks of Pelicans were passing overhead.  In years past the Orioles would arrive in force while great flocks of Pelicans sailed Northwest along the Mississippi river.  But not this year, not this Spring that follows the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.  But that is another story to be told, another issue to be considered as we all participate in the destruction of our planet earth.

Yesterday, while millions of people watched, another kind of Spring unfolded in England.   There was joy in the streets of London as onlookers watched a royal pair make their way to and from Westminster Abby.  They watched in fascination as two young people took their vows to become husband and wife.  But more importantly, they saw their fairytale turn real.  And even ardent anti-royalists voiced their opinion that Prince William and his Kate would be acceptable to take the English throne rather than the One who is next in line.

Even though royalty leaves me cold, I watched with interest and found that the lavish affair was conducted with restraint.  And even more, the young couple conducted themselves with grace and dignity. 

As I expected, there are many who regret the money spent and others who criticize the list of invitees.  On the other hand, I was not surprised to witness the yearning for the renewal of their ancient institution that was evident in the crowds.  And with a little bit of luck the English will see their beloved monarchy modernize over time.

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The last of the migrating Hummingbirds has come and gone!  This little one arrived last week and spent only a few days at Sontheim.  I’ve watched it visit our two remaining feeders primarily at sunrise and sunset. 

It did not surprise me that it arrived with its weight well below flight readiness.  What intrigued me was the fact that it did not take full advantage of the fresh sugar-water provided here, and it worried me that it left before it had bulked up sufficiently for its long migration. 

I saw the little Hummer last after a very cold and stormy night, drinking deeply from the feeder in front of the kitchen window.   As far as I can tell, it has not returned since and I can only assume that it continued its journey along the Mississippi in an attempt to stay ahead of the encroaching cold.

I don’t know, which is more worrisome:  a tiny Hummer leaving before it is ready, or a fat little Hummer reluctant to leave its refuge as the temperature dips toward freezing every night.

Now that the last of the Hummingbirds has left for the South, I think about the long and dangerous journey they embark upon every year.  How many will be snared by the multifold dangers they encounter along the way?  How many will lose their lives by being trapped in the fog and residue of agricultural pesticides that are so liberally sprayed to produce cheap food.   And how many will arrive to find their winter habitat destroyed by an ever-expanding human population, by its insatiable appetite, its ignorance and greed?

Weather I worry or not, I have done my share to give these tiny birds a chance to survive.  The rest is out of my hands and so I send my prayers along for the journey.   Bon voyage my little ones, may you thrive along the way and return to Sontheim in the Spring.

Let me conclude with the words of Emily Dickinson and share with you this somber yet beautiful poem:

Death is a dialogue between

the spirit and the dust.

“Dissolve,” says Death.  The Spirit, “Sir

I have another trust.”

Death doubts it, argues from the ground. 

The Spirit turns away,

Just laying off,  for evidence. 

Another coat of Clay.

Emily Dickinson

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    The hummingbirds which I consider “ours” return to Sontheim year after year as long as they don’t perish during their wintertime journey South.  A few weeks ago the last of our flying jewels embarked on their difficult journey and now  they are gone for the year;  yet the hummingbird feeders are still busy with new arrivals from the North.
    Our Hummingbird population this year started with approximately ten returning females and eight males.  Given such a small number of returning birds from prior years of nearly a hundred,  the majority must have perished along the way.  This reality brought home the true impact of the continuing environmental devastation that is happening across our planet, and needless to say, it made us exceedingly sad. 
    In spite of the sad beginning, I noticed right away that all the returning birds were young and healthy and none of them had returned to Sontheim for their final Summer.   In prior years there would always be one or two time worn Hummers, usually females, who would park themselves at the feeder in front of the kitchen window.   That is usually a sign of their declining health and I would  keep an eye on them until I saw that it was their time to cross the bridge. 
    These amazing little jewels would alow me to gently scoop them into the palm of my hand as their bodies gave out.  There they would die peacefully and I always felt the comfort they received from my presence at the moment of their passing.
    The breeding season of 2010 was incredibly successful with two clutches of live babies in short succession arriving at the feeders.  Our Hummingbird girls produced about forty babies and thus brought Sontheim’s Hummer population back to nearly half its normal size.  We watched as the fledglings explored their wings and learned to become expert flyers.  They followed the adults to the feeders and learned to drink the sweet sugar-water as deeply as their elders.
    For several weeks now I have observed migrating Hummers find our feeders and stop to regain their flight weight.  This usually takes a week or more and quite often these newcomers have to learn to use our feeders.   Some of these birds can’t seem to find the feeding ports which are not distinguished by a different color and so I ended up putting one of our old-fashioned feeders out.  This one has the feeding ports clearly marked by yellow plastic flowers with a red center and it always meets with success.
    The ongoing influx of migrating Hummingbirds from the North indicates that the breeding season across North America was a success.  It will be interesting to see how long the migration continues this year.  Here are a few pictures for your enjoyment:

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