Just a few days ago, we had perfect weather with the temperatures in the 80’s and low humidity. I took advantage of the warming sun and just sat near a flower bed. And I wasn’t the only one. The blooms were covered with all kinds of pollinators. I managed to photograph a few.
The American White Pelicans were flying against the clear blue sky and some small flocks of visiting birds were poking around looking for bugs. One little bird, a Ruby Crowned Kinglet, didn’t seem to mind me sitting there and came very close.
Since that sunny day, our winter has returned with heavy rain and cold temperatures. But as it always happens in these parts, the weather is about to change and a great weekend is promised.
Sugar bird is back! This is a Ruby-crowned Kinglet and I am sure it is the same Kinglet that has been visiting the garden every winter for a few years. The Kinglet hangs out in the bed outside the kitchen window and picks at the Camellias removing scale and over-wintering eggs from the shrubs. The bird then heads for the hummingbird feeder for a sweet treat. This is a different feeder from last year, but its tiny beak can fit right in.
The rest of the winter visitors have arrived and include, Sparrows, Goldfinches, Yellow Rumps and a Rufous Hummingbird. A Robin has been hanging out in the yard too, but won’t pose for a photo. The year-round birds have also been feasting from the feeders. Some are Titmice, Chickadees, Red Bellied Woodpeckers, Carolina Wrens, Hawks, Doves and Cardinals. (These are the birds found around the feeders. Many others are passing by or gathering in the trees.)
What a difference a year makes. Last year there was silence in the yard as most of the birds were missing. It was happening everywhere in the area. It was so shocking that people were writing to the papers. Theories were that hawks had taken all our beloved birds. But, there would need to be a lot of hawks to clean out such large area. Some thought the birds were poisoned. Well, that would have had to be a massive amount spread everywhere. The most likely explanation is that the drought had finally ended and the woods were full of natural food that had been in low supply the last few years and the birds were feeding elsewhere.
Now the garden is full of Cardinals again. There has been up to 10 feeding at a time and the males are busy chasing each other around the yard. All is well in the garden again!
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.
The setting is a peaceful garden bed.
Sweet little Ruby-crowned Kinglet has been enjoying the sugar water feeder and yummy bugs.
And then Yellow-rumped Warbler arrives and sees that Ruby-crowned has a sweet set up. Unfortunately, he can’t quite figure out how to use the feeder. Regardless, he will not let Ruby-crowned use it and chases her off every time she comes near.
Yellow-rumped has to get his sugar high from licking the drips from the ground.
Meanwhile, the tiny Rufous Hummingbird also has to have his share of the sweet stuff and chases the bigger birds away with his needle-like beak.
As I had mentioned in a previous blog, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet had shown up in the garden and I put some nectar out in a hummingbird feeder. I found the Kinglet only likes that shape of feeder tube and needs to have something to land on, as they cannot flutter for long. Male Kinglets have a red tuft of feathers on their heads that they show when startled. They winter here on the Gulf Coast.
I have the feeder set up outside my kitchen window and I am entertained while eating or working at the kitchen table. I also took all the photos through the window, which made it difficult to get good shots, not to mention that these birds do not hold still for long.
I soon noticed a Rufous Hummingbird using the feeder. It was the first time this winter that I have seen one. These Hummingbirds spend their summers in the northwest, which is why they can tolerate some of our “cold” days. Little tiny Hummingbirds can be quite aggressive and the Rufous would chase the Ruby-crowned from the feeder.
And then, the Yellow-rumped Warbler showed up. Usually, these Yellow-rumped stick together and forage in the trees looking for bugs. They especially like Wax Myrtle berries that are now ripe and are probably the reason they are hanging out in the Automatic Garden.
This Warbler has developed a bad case of sugar addiction. He comes by several times an hour and the bird does not want to share! The Warbler knows the sweet water comes from the feeder, but can’t quite figure out how to get it. He has been studying and exploring the bottle for days. As I was writing this, he did try to flutter and drink from the tube, but immediately flew off, so he probably was not successful. The last photo shows a little bit of his yellow rump. When the Warbler’s wings are open the spot is about the size of a quarter.
The little actors are still putting on their drama and it is time to fill the feeder so the show will go on!
This Fall and Winter were unusually silent. Most of the birds were gone. Not only in the Automatic Garden, but all over the area. People had actually written to the city and community papers wondering what happened to the birds. The weeks and months rolled on and the yard was mostly silent. A local bird expert explained that the birds may be changing their territories. All of them?
This last week the bird activity finally started to change. The birds are slowly coming back. This morning the garden was filled with the usual variety of local birds along with winter visitors. There was quite a ruckus in the trees and four Red-Tailed Hawks were spotted. It is unusual to see them, especially as a group. They may have been migrating. Shortly after the hawks moved on, there was another ruckus on the other side of the fence. The Barred Owl was out and was being chased by a Bluejay.
One winter visitor is the Ruby Crowned Kinglet. This is an old photo, but there is a Kinglet poking around the shrubs looking for bugs. I hurriedly put some sugar water out for him. It is reassuring to finally have the trees filled with the calling and singing sounds of birds again.
Ruby-crowned Kinglets enjoy a sugary treat now and again. Usually they feed on insects, but apparently cannot resist something sweet. The Hummingbird has taken issue with the Kinglet using the feeder and has been chasing him away.
Today the feeders in the garden were very busy. A storm is coming in tomorrow and maybe the birds know it is on the way. Some new visitors were a large flock of Red-winged Blackbirds. The females did come out of the treetops to the feeders. A small flock of Cedar Waxwings were eyeing ripening red berries. Of course, the regulars were all chowing down and the feeders had to be filled twice today.