The back yard has been very busy the last few days! We generally get tons of hummers at this time of year, but I’m not used to still seeing so many orioles this far into September. I’m so glad they’re back! They disappeared for a while and I was sure the neighborhood cats had run them off. The hummers are eating the jelly, too! They are most welcome!
It’s that time of the summer when all the hummers are bulking up for the trip south. There is a great deal of jostling around the feeders. This hummer has staked out a spot immediately to the right of the feeder where he launches at anyone who gets too close to the nectar.
It’s been another one of those unbearably hot Kansas summers, so I haven’t been to the wetlands much. On top of that, we’re now experiencing some seriously icky air quality from wildfires to our west. My heart goes out to all the beings dealing with this right now. I think it’s a good time to revisit some of my favorite photos and reflect on how things have changed this summer.
While we are starting to see more hummers as they fuel up for the trip south, I have noticed a significant decrease in the numbers of visitors. Going by what I am seeing on birding lists in this area, that is across the board in Kansas.
On the other hand, there has been a significant increase in juvenile Northern cardinals of various ages. Obviously, this is not scientific, but it seems the increase is due to a reduction in cowbirds. I have seen very few cowbirds, and very few cardinal parents feeding cowbird fledglings. On a typical morning, there are at least ten young cardinals visiting the feeders. Sadly, there are also a couple of free-roaming cats in the neighborhood who regularly catch and kill birds in the yard. I am concerned about the neighborhood wildlife, and the safety of the cats. I remain astounded by the level of selfishness and privilege these people have, these people who know better, but choose to make the rest of us responsible for their cats.
Update August 11: This morning one of the cats was heading home at 5 AM. I am quite sure he had been out all night in this horrible heat. It’s sad all around. I made the mistake on a neighborhood email list a few years ago of asking people to keep their cats inside and someone sent me a threatening email off list. Since most of those people knew where we lived, I was concerned. We have an ordinance in our city that makes free-roaming cats illegal, but most of these folks just ignore that. I’m pretty sure the people responsible for the cat who is raising so much hell on our block are the same hipsters doing some kind of backyard animal agriculture. Their cat is as disposable to them as the farm animals they raise.
The orioles have not been around for a couple of weeks, but I continue to leave one jelly feeder and oranges up for the catbirds, robins, brown thrashers, finches, house sparrows, and of course, bees. Usually, we do have orioles around until they head south, but between the cats and the Cooper’s hawk, I think they have found a safer place for feeding.
To end on a more positive note, the house wrens successfully fledged!
I think we are friends now. A couple of weeks ago, I was out in the morning right before dawn and discovered this little guy sleeping on a small limb in a bush very close to where the feeder is hanging. I tip-toed around, but he woke up, buzzed around my head, and took off. Ever since then, whenever I am near the feeders, he just comes right over and starts drinking. I can be just a few feet away. I often think for some birds, all they need to know is you’re not going to mess with them. For many of our yard critters, I am just part of the baseline. I love that.
The Center for Biological Diversity’s June 15 press release cited a federal report noting more than 60 migratory bird species are in need of conservation: https://biologicaldiversity.org/w/news/press-releases/federal-report-more-than-260-migratory-bird-species-in-need-of-conservation-2021-06-15/
In the press release, you can find a link to the Excel file noting the species in trouble, and it is staggering. Think of the species in your part of the world that are regular visitors to your yard, the birds you see at area lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands. Imagine them gone. Birds we regularly see in Kansas on this list include the American white pelican, red-headed woodpecker, common nighthawk, chimney swift, rufous hummingbird, American coot, American avocet, lesser yellowlegs, Franklin’s and Ross’s gulls, common tern, little blue heron, northern harrier, belted kingfisher, orchard oriole, scarlet tanager, rose-breasted grosbeak, painted bunting, dickcissel, and the list goes on. The last four years did so much damage. Please support conservation in any way you can.
We are seeing quite a few juvenile ruby-throats now. After such a slow spring and summer, it is so good to see them jostling over the feeders!
I say something like this, every year. There is something both amazing and heartbreaking about watching the hummers in the fall. Most of the adults have left already, so we are now seeing the young ones. Here are these tiny birds, no more than six-months old, who will be crossing the Gulf of Mexico soon. Every year, I watch them camp out near the feeders for several days, even a few weeks sometimes, drinking all they can, fighting to keep that spot, and getting plumper by the day. I start to recognize them. One may have a particular white shape above the eye, or an interesting pattern as the ruby-throat begins to develop. I get attached. I worry about their journey. I watch the weather vane on our neighbor’s house to see wind change. I know a steady north wind may be when they take off, if they have stored enough to get to the next place in their migration south. I know I will never know if they made it, or if they return to our area next year, but I wish them a safe journey. Click on pictures to enlarge.
After seeing very few hummingbirds in the spring, they are now at our feeders in huge numbers, plumping up for the journey south. It has been so much fun watching them. At one feeder, it seems two adult males are sharing and running everyone else off. They spar with each other, but generally let each other drink. Everyone else has to work a bit harder to get to the nectar. It is an interesting dynamic. Sometimes, it seems aggressive. Other times, it seems more like play. Only they know. Click on pictures to enlarge.
I imagine many of you are wondering where all the hummer photos are. The bees have been very busy at both the hummer and oriole feeders over the last few weeks, so I have been avoiding sitting nearby. For whatever reason, and it may have something to do with preparing for fall, the bees pretty much leave the feeders alone all summer, and then do some serious eating in August. The orioles, hummers, and bees seem to coexist pretty well and everyone eats eventually. I put out a small test-tube feeder every morning that the bees drink from, so that helps. Click on pictures to enlarge.
Hummingbirds seem to be everywhere right now, buzzing around the yard, jostling for nectar. Each year, the amount we see during migration grows. I think this is not only because we just keep planting stuff, but we are seeing the children of birds who have visited in previous years. It’s very exciting! Click on pictures to enlarge.