It was a busy day at the hummingbird feeder, but not for the hummers. A Monarch Butterfly had been visiting for a few days and I finally got a photo.
Bees are also interested in getting the sugar water. Every time they got close to the butterfly, it flapped its wings to shoo them away. The hummingbirds are currently feeding from autumn blooms.
New visitors have come to the garden and they are a family of Orchard Orioles. These birds spend their time in the trees, so I was really lucky to have one land outside my kitchen window. I took the shot with my phone in between the blind slats. It was good enough to Identify the bird as an immature male Orchard Oriole. He was not alone and had sisters and parents with him.
The mature males have a black head and chestnut body and the mature females are yellowish green. The birds are fast moving, but were interested in feeding on the nectar of the Bottle Brush that was blooming near the window. I checked my bird lists from neighboring parks and they were listed as rare and uncommon in this area. They winter in Mexico and Central America. Hopefully, the Orchard Orioles will come back next year to nest.
Meanwhile, all the other baby birds had to come around to see what the fuss was with the Orchard Orioles. Cardinals, Carolina Wrens and Chickadees came to check out the plants for something to eat. The three hummingbirds were getting territorial with the Orchard Orioles drinking their nectar. All of this provided lively entertainment during my lunch.
Last year I planted some Cardinal Flower seeds that I found in my seed stash. I believe I got the seeds from some kind of exchange and I don’t even remember how long I have had them. I planted them outside my kitchen window and amazingly they were still viable.
Cardinal Flowers are a favorite of hummingbirds and pollinators. They bloom at the end of the summer, just in time for the hummingbird migrations. I currently have about three to five hummers enjoying the red flowers.
A Norther blew in and the temperatures dropped into the 30F’s. I was surprised to see this very fat Skink sunning itself in the corner of the garage. They are usually not seen this time of year.
A Buff-bellied hummingbird appeared in the garden just after Thanksgiving. The bird was not enjoying the cold and the chill slowed down the very active hummer long enough to snap a photo through the kitchen window.
The Buff-bellied is about 4 inches in length, which makes it a big hummingbird in this area. It has beautiful dark green and buff feathers when lit by the sun. Enlarge the photos see the colors better. The last time one visited the garden was the summer of Hurricane Ike. The small bird rode out the storm and was feeding the next day.
But never mind about the weather as they say down here, just wait a minute and it will change. The wind has shifted and is blowing from the Gulf bringing the temperature up 30F degrees and summer will be here later in the week as the mercury hits 76F.
It is not setting the world on fire, but it has ensured its survival by giving the hope that it will bloom again. And now it will not end up on the compost pile.
The cool winter months brought some northern visitors to the Automatic Garden. They were attracted by the flowering plants, but the supplemental sugar really kept them happy. From dawn to dusk the sugar birds could not leave the sweet nectar. It is not unusual for a Rufous Hummingbird to enjoy the liquid sugar, even a Ruby-crowned Kinglet will indulge, but I really think it might have been a new experience for the Yellow-rumped Warbler, who could not leave the feeder and spent a lot of energy chasing the rest away.
I was afraid that the birds may not be able to break their sugar addiction, but the weather changed and nature called them back to their northern homes.
And as the seasons always return, so did the Ruby Throated Hummingbirds taking their place at the feeders and flowers.
Salvias are reliable plants in the Automatic Garden. Some are hardy and most will reseed. They rest for the hot months of summer and start to rebloom when the earth begins to tilt away from the sun.
The Gingers are putting out their last flowers of the season.
Pentas are in full bloom, providing nectar for bees,hummingbirds and butterflies, although the past several years have seen few butterflies in this area. The white Pentas reseeded this year on their own.
The Ageratum, Rudbeckia, and Torenia are blooming nicely. The Ageratum is wild and planted itself in the garden. The Rudbeckia was a pass-along and willingly reseeds. Torenia spreads its seeds all over the garden, especially in cracks and rocks. They can be bought in the nursery in the spring, but the reseeding ones will not bloom until the fall.
After being gone for a few days, I found this little hummingbird taking up a guard post on the back porch. The little bird spent the first few days after its arrival chasing around the two local hummers that had spent the summer in the Automatic Garden. Then the Bottlebrush (blurry red in upper right of photo) started to bloom and the hummingbird population almost tripled. The guard bird had its work cut out. To help ease its ceaseless duties, I added a feeder to the trellis guard post. This hummingbird seems somewhat different from the usual visitors. It has a bright orange spot on either side of its neck below the eyes. Maybe an immature Allen’s? If there are any experts out there let me know.
All of nature continues in a cycle every year with very little changes. As I started this post, I realized I had already ready written it. Please check out Fuel.
The Texas Star Hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus) opened at first light and greeted the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. Hummingbirds, bees and butterflies gather its nectar. Birds pick the hibiscus’s seeds in the fall and have replanted some in the natural area behind the fence.
The Texas Star is a reliable bloomer and is root hardy on the Gulf Coast. It adds more stems to the plant each year and also reseeds. It begins to bloom during the long Midsummer days.
April is the second anniversary of the Automatic Garden Blog. It is a good time to look back at some favorite plant photos.
Canna seed pods.
William Bartram’s Evening Primrose.
Hummingbird with a bee under its wing.
The last rose.