We’re sitting in the den watching two different reality shows at the same time.
One is on the TV screen. It’s yet another here’s-what-happens-but-don’t-try-this-at-home kind of show. It includes an inordinate number of explosions. After explosion number five or six, it starts to get a little boring.
So my attention wanders, and my gaze drifts over to reality show number two. This one is right outside the big picture window to the right of the fireplace, where just last week I hung up another hummingbird feeder. There are three of them there now, plus a whole bunch of flowering plants that have been lovingly selected for their hummingbird appeal.
Should you happen to be a hummingbird, and should you happen to fly by our back deck, the sight of all that is will surely be irresistible. So, I hope you will hum your way over to the feeders or the flowers, hover in midair, and have a little snack before zooming off to do whatever it is that hummingbirds do in their spare time.
Yes, it’s true. Folks had warned us that hummer watching can be seriously addictive, and they are right. Watching hummingbirds turns out to be a lot more fun than watching just about any TV show, with the possible exception of the legendary “pickles” episode of Andy of Mayberry.
And so we watch the window, more and more, and every now and then…
My wife spotted this one, alerting me in hushed tones that something was happening at the feeder. I looked. Sure enough, there it was — a tiny, winged jewel holding motionless in the air not a foot beyond the window glass, pausing to drink the nectar that I’d made up just that morning. It sipped a few sips, then moved to the next feeder and did the same thing. Then for dessert, it zipped over to the nearby planter, where I’ve been tending some bright yellow lantana plants (another hummingbird favorite, I’d learned). After a few more moments, temporarily sated, our tiny, feathered visitor darted away.
We’ve been seeing more and more of these flying jewels the last week or so. Usually it’s been just one at a time, but once or twice now there have been two at once.
I should be able to tell you what kind they are. But (like my newfound interest in wildflowers…and thank you, Livia, for the great suggestion on the wildflower identification guide!) I’m still learning.
There’s a lot to learn too, not the least of which is how to set up and maintain our hummingbird feeders.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far.
First, if you hang a feeder, the hummers will come – eventually.
It’s very different than when we put up that seed feeder over there by the deck rail. With that one, it seemed like our feathered friends started arriving almost before I’d finished adding the birdseed.
But hummingbirds seem to take longer. For several days the hummingbird feeder just hung there. It’s possible that some came and went so quickly that we missed ‘em, but we have learned that there’s definitely an element of the waiting game here.
Second, you’ve got to feed them right. The experts are pretty much unanimous that what I should provide for these birds is homemade nectar made by mixing one part ordinary cane sugar and four parts water. Regular sugar is what you want, and (as I’ve been told by just about everybody) do not add any food coloring to it. Just sugar and water is all it takes. The colors of the feeder do the rest.
Third, some maintenance is required. You’ll need to clean the feeder and replace the nectar every day or so, especially as it gets hotter. I do this now pretty much every day. It only takes a moment, and that way I can be sure that any hummingbirds who do come by will have something fresh to dine on.
Next on the list is to hang up multiple feeders. More feeders means more opportunities!
And that brings us to number five: “give ‘em room.” These little creatures are fiercely territorial, and if you space out the feeders a little bit you’ll created more “territories” for them to occupy.
And if you add a few perches (I suppose that’s number six) then you’ll be providing resting places too for more hummers once the word gets around.
Attracting hummingbirds is fun. We are having a blast with it – a blast that’s a lot more rewarding than yet another explosion on that TV screen. Besides…
Sorry. Got to go!