A Hopping Place for Hummers
Last year I moved to a very rural area of California's Coastal Range. Coming from New England, I was overjoyed to move to such a wonderfully new and exciting place. Having never known oak woodlands before, I was instantly and entirely enraptured with the tremendous beauty of the rolling hills marked by majestic oaks, wild flowers, and diverse bird species. For me, an avid bird watcher, I was particularly excited about this last feature.
Wasting no time, I enthusiastically unpacked my bird feeders, birdbath, binoculars, and new west coast field guide. Although the majority of my other possessions still had yet to be freed from the mess of unpacked boxes in the garage, I had my priorities and went right ahead setting up my feeding stations. Over the next week I remained glued to my windows watching dozens of birds in my backyard. I was thrilled to see dozens of new birds I had never seen before: California Towhees, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Western Tanagers, Hooded Orioles, California Quails, Steller's Jay, Yellow-billed Magpies.
Although I was excited about all these new birds, I was most fond of the tiniest of all my visitors, the hummingbirds. I had seen hummingbirds back in New England, but it was always a relatively rare treat, and I had never seen anything other than Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. In my new sanctuary in the hills I was simply spellbound by the abundance and diversity of hummingbirds. In a short period of only a few weeks I saw Anna's Hummingbirds, Black-chinned Hummingbirds, and, my favorite, the tiny Rufous Hummingbird...all in my own backyard! I spent many hours watching these lovely birds and noticing details I had never seen before, such as the pollen dusting a hummingbird will accumulate after several minutes of feeding from flowers. I was also able to finally observe the fascinating swooping aerial displays the male Anna's Hummingbirds perform to attract females. Using two hummingbird feeders, I initially started making about half a liter of nectar a week. As the birds began noticing the two feeders and eventually feeding chicks, the amount of nectar being consumed rapidly increased until I was making almost one gallon of nectar a week!
I will surely always remember these wonderful months I spent discovering and getting to know my fantastic new neighbors. I already can't wait for next spring! In addition to my feeders, I also hope to plant an entire hummingbird garden complete with a variety of annuals and perennials as well as flowering shrubs and vines.
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