Busiest Bush on the Block

The Hummingbird Bush was literally buzzing.

There were many kinds of bees,

 

hummingbirds and

in the evening, Hummingbird Moths.

A Green Anole was getting into the action, hoping for a bug snack. In the Fall, the birds will eat the ripened berries.

Hamelia paten, named after Frenchman Henri Hamel, is a large shrub/small tree that is native to Mexico.  It has many common names including, firebush, scarlet bush, Mexican firebush, Mexican firecracker, Texas firebush and in Mayan, Ix Canaan. In this area, we call it Hummingbird Bush. All of these names give us a good reason to learn botanical names.

The Hamelia paten is related to coffee plants and in Mexico, the fruits are fermented into a drink.

It is certainly a versatile plant that feeds many and produces bright red flowers for humans to enjoy.


Hummingbird Competition

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Unbelievably, the gang of Hummingbirds are still visiting my feeders.  I have never had this many Hummers for this amount of time.  At times, there are up to twelve birds fighting for the sugar water.  I’ve been spending my days observing the tiny birds and was watching them from my kitchen window, when an interesting scenario began playing out.  I grabbed my camera and started shooting through the window.

It was early in the evening when the feeding frenzy really ramps up and a new visitor appeared.  The reddish brown creature is a Hummingbird Moth, which many mistake as a baby hummingbird. I had an entomologist identify one before and its proper name is Mournful Sphinx Moth (Enyo lugbris).  

At first the moth couldn’t quite figure out how the feeder worked.

Before long it found the feeder’s hole.  Needless to say, the Hummingbird was not happy and it actually poked the moth.  The little Hummingbird Moth was not bothered and fed until it was full.

I took a chance, went outside and managed to get a photo before the moth took off to work on the flowers.

Click on the photo and scroll down to click on full size for a better look.


Hummers Part II

A new day and the feeding frenzy has escalated.  Seven or more hummingbirds have descended on the garden.  Another hummer has claimed the second feeder leaving the others to fight for it.

I was watching from a window and saw the hummingbirds acting differently and went out to see what was going on.  It turns out that hummers aren’t the only ones interested in the sugar water.  A green anole was blocking their access.

And the birds were not happy.

The anole eventually climbed up on the stand and encroached on the hummingbird’s perch.  The bird tried going after the lizard with its needle-like bill.

The anole was steadfast.

The hummingbird was not amused.

The hummer sat on its perch for a few minutes trying not to look at the lizard, while the anole may have been wondering if it could swallow the little bird.

In the end, the anole outlasted the hummers who finally met their match.

 


There’s Always One

There is always one hummingbird that decides it will be the bully and guard of the food source. Hummingbirds seem like such cute little birds, but they can be very vicious to each other and even to large birds.  This little bird is spending its days chasing away any creature that comes near the feeders or flowers.

Right now there are 3 to 4 hummers in the garden.  That works out well when the dominate bird chases another away, the third one can grab some nectar.

My garden is filled with hummingbird friendly flowers, such as this Cigar Plant (Cuphea ignea)…

and a Hummingbird Bush (Hamelia patens). Plus beds filled with nectar producing flowers in the back and front yards.  Yet, it is an endless fight all day long with the bully attacking and knocking the other hummers away.

And does the bully feel bad about this at all?  Ppptttthhh, the hummingbird  just sticks out its tongue and continues its reign of terror.


Birding at Twilight

We were sitting on our patio at the end of the day, when the action started. First, a Hummingbird slap down occurred right in front of us.  I swear I saw tiny feathers fly.  The Hummer that hit the ground backed off to the safety of a low branch.

Then I heard a call that I haven’t heard in the backyard for awhile.  I was very pleased that I recognized it was a Summer Tanager.  Tanagers are not seed feeders and are harder to find in the trees.  I used a trick that I learned in a birding class to lure him out.  I turned on the Summer Tanager call on my bird app.  Soon the bird started coming closer and buzzing us as he flew over.  I managed to snap a photo, which is not great in the dimming light, but I did identify him with my binoculars.  After teasing the Tanager for awhile with the bird call, we started feeling bad for the poor guy looking for another of his kind and stopped.

While all that was going on, an American Crow was having quite a fit in a neighboring yard.  Usually, this means that a predator is near.  I finally spotted the raptor and could make out a white head.  I was hoping it was an Eagle, but it flew away quickly through the trees in the twilight with the Crow in pursuit  and I couldn’t get a good look.

All in all, it was a very entertaining evening.

 

 


It’s Cold

Well, what we near the Gulf Coast call cold.  We had a hard freeze and I was surprised to see the hummingbird feeder frozen… complete with a drip.

Apparently, we also had sleet/freezing rain.  But not to worry, it is going to be 70 degrees by Sunday.


The Hungry Hummer

 

I recently found a use for the slo-mo option on my cell phone.  I have been watching the honey bees empty out the hummingbird feeders and I thought it would be fun to capture them in slow motion.

I situated myself really close, about 12 inches away.  The bees actually hit me a few times, but I wasn’t worried as they were so hungry and only focused on feeding.

As it turned out, someone else was hungry and the Buff-bellied Hummingbird flew into the shot and fed while I was that close!  Enjoy the video.  It can be enlarged.

Hungry Hummingbird from Automatic Gardener on Vimeo.


Bees, Butterflies and Hummingbirds

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Our record breaking Christmas heatwave has encouraged flora and fauna to emerge from their winter rests.  The bees are finishing off a feeder a day.

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Butterflies are feasting on the last of the summer flowers.

Caterpillar eggs are hatching and thankfully the Passion Flower has replenished its leaves for the babies.

Azaleas that are supposed to bloom in March are beginning to open.  A Gardenia has also popped out.

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The Buff-bellied hummingbird is still hanging out in the yard, but is now also using the feeder as the flowers dwindle.  The weather forecast is showing temperatures dropping down to our normal “warm” winter weather with no freezes for awhile.

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My post Christmas plans are to clean out some beds and plant winter annuals while the weather is nice.


An Old Friend?

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Could this be my old friend The Guard?  He was the Hummingbird that sat on the on the trellis protecting the feeder from intruders. The place and time are about the same.

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Actually, Hummingbirds are likely to follow the same migration route and remember where to find flowers and feeders.  After arriving on the Gulf Coast, the Ruby Throats need to fatten up for the 500 mile trip to Mexico and some go as far as Northern Panama.  It is nice to think that the Hummingbirds remember the Automatic Garden.


The Guard Returns

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The Guard is back.  It was gone for a week or so.  During its absence an adult male Ruby Throat took over the Guard’s territory.  No more!  The Ruby Throat flies in the other direction when he sees the Guard on duty.  Besides dealing with all the other hummingbirds, the Guard has had to chase big bumble bees away from its food source and had an altercation with a dragon fly that decided to take over the guard post.