Beginning Birding: Hummingbird Class

Don’t you just love learning new things?  It’s especially fun when it’s something your passionate about.  We took a hummingbird class at the spectacular Los Gatos Birdwatcher.  This locally owned store describes themselves as

the nature lover’s general store, specializing in everything to do with bird feeding and bird watching.

If you’re local, or planning a visit to the area, it’s a must see. The owners and staff are wonderful people, knowledgeable and helpful in every way.  Their current dog in residence is a chocolate Cocker spaniel named Marley.

Lisa Myers of Let’s Go Birding presented the hummingbird class, then lead us on a two-hour field trip Saturday morning.  We had so much fun.  Lisa leads a variety of birding trips throughout the bay area.  She’s incredibly knowledgeable with a wonderful sense of humour.

Lisa Myers and Freddy Howell

Lisa Myers and Freddy Howell

We’ve been feeding hummingbirds in our garden for as long as I can remember. We have several feeders and hummingbird-attracting plants.

2014, 03-20

Hummingbirds in our garden

I’ve read a number of books and articles over the years, but still found much to learn.  It’s also nice spending time with a group of  like-minded folks.

Here are a few things I didn’t know:

  • There are over 300 species of hummingbirds, but only six or seven in the Bay Area.
  • Hummingbirds are native to the Americas.  They’re not found anywhere else in the world.
  • Yellow attracts bees, red attracts hummingbirds.  Therefore a hummingbird feeder with yellow plastic ‘flowers’ sends out mixed messages.
  • Anna’s Hummingbirds, native to our area, live here year round. There is no need to remove feeders during the colder months.
  • Hummingbirds are the only bird that can hover in the air, as well as fly forward and backward.
Anna's hummingbird

Anna’s Hummingbird

It was fascinating learning about torpor. Hummingbirds enter this state of hibernation nightly to conserve energy.  I found the following explanation at ScienceBlogs™

Even sleeping hummingbirds have huge metabolic demands that must be met simply to survive the night when they cannot forage. To meet this energetic challenge, hummingbirds save enough energy to survive cold nights by lowering their internal thermostat at night, becoming hypothermic. This reduced physiological state is an evolutionary adaptation that is referred to as torpor.

Torpor is a type of deep sleep where an animal lowers its metabolic rate by as much as 95%. By doing so, a torpid hummingbird consumes up to 50 times less energy when torpid than when awake. This lowered metabolic rate also causes a cooled body temperature. A hummingbird’s night time body temperature is maintained at a hypothermic threshold that is barely sufficient to maintain life. This threshold is known as their set point and it is far below the normal daytime body temperature of 104°F or 40°C recorded for other similarly sized birds.

Isn’t that interesting?

Please be sure to check back tomorrow for news and pictures from our two-hour field trip to the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society.

Fabulous resources in Silicon Valley:

Fab Freesias Frolic in the Rain

It’s raining.  Honest to goodness, puddle-forming, hair-curling rain.

This is the first substantial rain in San Jose in two months. Everyone else seems to be suffering from too much weather; we haven’t had enough.  I walked with a friend for an hour this morning and it never let up. Fantastic.

My garden freesias share my enthusiasm.  This is their first shower of the season.

freesia buds pink

Nature’s perfection

freesia in the rain pink

Refreshed

They aren’t the only ones happy about the downpour.  The squirrels are chasing each other around and around the pine tree with glee. Meanwhile, a hummingbird tried to make sense of the fruit tree.  It’s known as a four-in-one or a fruit cocktail.  It’s one tree with four grafts.  This one grows pitted fruit: peaches, plums, apricots and nectarines.  The grapes were an after thought by yours-truly on her way to the compost bin.  They still had some life in them so I hung them on the branches for the birds.

fruit tree

Hummingbird at rest

I’ve enjoyed watching the progress of this potted beauty. It sits on the back steps, so I can see it from indoors. I pass it on my way to do the daily rounds: emptying the kitchen compost bin, snapping pictures, checking on things. I pulled weeds for an hour yesterday, and cut back some of the dead growth from last November’s frost. It felt great to get out there and do a bit of work after nursing a crummy cold for over a week.

freesia progression

Four week progression

The yellow freesia was a surprise. It popped out from under another plant and seemed to bloom in a flash. Yellow is such a cheerful color, don’t you think?

freesia buds yellow

Yellow freesia buds

yellow freesia

These popped up earlier this week

If you are sick of the wind, the rain, the snow or the drought, I hope things turn around for you soon. I plan to enjoy every minute of this rainy day and, fingers crossed, hope for more to come.

Hummingbird Migration: Garden Traffic in Decline

I’m going to make an extra effort this year to track the hummingbirds at our feeders.  Just one day after musing about their migration habits last week, I read Joan Morris’ column in the San Jose Mercury News.  One of her readers sent in the following:

Dear Joan: I’ve been feeding the hummingbirds from my patio in the same Palo Alto location for more than 10 years now.

Ms. McClellan of Saratoga, who wrote regarding how often her feeders need refilling presently, is probably experiencing what it is like to feed the migratory hummers that pass through our area each fall and spring.

Her Saratoga neighbors probably need to refill their feeders as often during these several weeks while the birds fatten up before moving south.

It will quiet down any day or week now as winter shows more and the migrating birds finish their trips south. Just a few hummingbirds stay over winter locally, and nectar needs will drop.

Then in the spring there will be another, shorter surge of feeding needed on the hummingbirds’ migration north.

Gavin Tanner

I have noticed the increased consumption of nectar at the feeders (we have three).  It’s really cooled down in the last few days, finally feeling like fall. My California Girl uniform of a thin t-shirt and cotton sweater are no longer enough to keep me warm.

I found an informative website called World of Hummingbirds. They have a form on their site for reporting migration habits in your area.  They ask you to wait two full weeks till the last sighting, before submitting details.  I’m looking forward to taking part in this one small way. They use the collected data to: “help researchers around the world better understand and protect hummingbirds.”  I’m all for that.

magnolia feeder

Magnolia feeder: All business

hummingbird green bottle feeder

Beautiful red throat

back garden feeder

Back garden feeder

multiple hummingbirds at the feeder

A rare event at our feeders. They’re usually too territorial to share all at once.

Kitchen window feeder

Kitchen window feeder

Halloween Countdown:

lindy with pumpkin

Lindy Lu loves pumpkins

 

A Room with a View

 kitchen window

Kitchen Window: Before and after

The best part of my kitchen is the view. Sure the counter tops are nice and who doesn’t like a dishwasher, but the view out my front window makes the room.

When we remodeled nine years ago, the contractor suggested lowering the window to the height of the counters. Who knew that dropping it just a few inches could make such a difference?  The lowered window invites the outdoors in. I have a direct view of the Chinese Pistache, a lovely tree that sheds leaves each fall. It’s one of those trees that’s gorgeous year round, though particularly stunning in the early autumn months.

Pistache in the Fall

Pistache in the Fall

Improving on my view, I added a small, triangular flower garden in the corner of the lawn. I knew the flowers would lift my spirits, but didn’t realize the number of birds it would attract.  What a treat to hear them singing in nearby trees, then watching them swoop down for seeds.

flower garden

Flowers near the lawn

Rounding out my extraordinary view are the hummingbirds that visit throughout the day. I found a feeder that suction-cups to the window, and placed it high enough to keep them safe from predators, but low enough for maximum viewing. We worried they would stop coming when we hung the awning in the spring, but they were back within minutes, swooping under the awning for a quick meal. I’ve been known to swoop in for a sugary treat myself, so I should have had more faith.

hummingbird feeder collage

Picture me on the other side of the glass smiling at this little hummingbird.

Do you have a favorite room with a view?