Hummingbirds In The Spring

Male Ruby-thoated Hummingbird.

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Based on frequently asked questions at the store there's a lot of confusion surrounding Ruby-throated hummingbirds and the first few months they are here.  It is true Ruby-throated hummingbirds begin migrating through and into TN as early as mid-March.  This year the first reported sighting by a customer was March 30.  My first sighting was April 6th.  By the way, I've recorded first of spring (FOS) hummingbird sightings for over 20 years and it's always between April 3 and April 12.  And it's always been an adult male. 

Although all Tennessee, summer resident hummingbirds are here by mid-May, most people will see very little of them and activity at feeders will be minimal and infrequent until at least early to mid-July when  there is a sudden surge in activity.

It is thought by many the reason for this sudden surge is they have just "come back" from where they've been.   Actually, it is that the summer resident hummingbirds have concluded raising one or even two broods of offspring and are ready to begin taking advantage of the free nectar in the feeders you've provided. Also, the added activity is indicative of recently fledged hummingbirds beginning to understand and visit the feeders. 

It must be remembered, hummingbirds don't travel all the way from central and south America because there are hummingbird feeders here.  They do not NEED the feeders but will certainly take advantage of them when they are ready.  Hummingbirds have been migrating here for a few thousand years to breed and to take advantage of the abundance of insects, which is their primary food source.  They would come here even if hummingbird feeders did not exist.

Since hummingbirds feed on small insects an alternative way of feeding them is available.  Try placing some fruit in a mesh sack and hang it near your hummingbird feeder.  The fruit will draw fruit flies which the hummingbirds will readily devour.  It is quite interesting to see a hummingbird dart its specialized tongue out to snag the flies.

Hummingbirds and Nectar

A question frequently asked at The Wood Thrush Shop is “what nectar is best for hummingbirds”?  The best nectar you can offer hummingbirds is a simple 1 part sugar to 4 parts water solution.  It is not necessary for the water to be brought to a boil before adding sugar.  The nectar is ready after the sugar has been stirred in and fully dissolved.  Do not add color. Color is absolutely unnecessary and potentially harmful. When hummingbird feeding activity is slow, like it tends to be in early spring, make small amounts and avoid refrigerating large quantities.  Think in terms of making fresh nectar each week in small amounts until feeding activity becomes vigorous, like it does in the latter summer months.  This is when it makes sense to make larger batches and refrigerate extra nectar.  The peak time for hummingbird feeding activity typically starts mid-July and lasts through September, and even into October. 

Bird Bio: Red-Headed Woodpecker

I had a very pleasant surprise at my feeder full of Woodland Blend yesterday.  It’s a common bird to TN, but uncommon to birdfeeders; the Red-headed Woodpecker.  Sometimes people will mistakenly identify the Red-bellied Woodpecker as a Red-headed, but they really are extremely different.  The video I took and posted shows both species visiting the same feeder.  In over 25 years at my home in Pegram I’ve only seen Red-headed woodpeckers one other time.  The habitat around my home is heavily wooded, hard-wood forest.  Obviously not the habitat Red-headed woodpeckers prefer.  However, one can easily see Red-headeds at Montgomery Bell State Park and Bowie Nature Park where there are a lot of pine trees.  They seem to prefer more open habitat with evergreens.

The Red-headed woodpecker is easily identified by its entirely red head, neck and throat.  The back and wings are black with a patch of white visible on the wings.  The chest and belly are snowy white.  This insect, seed, and nut eater can be seen at feeders but not likely with regularity.  Numbers of this stunning bird seem to be on the decline in large part due to habitat loss and competition from Starlings for nest-sites.

AND…

The first Rose-breasted Grosbeaks of the season were reported this week being seen at feeders.  I saw one briefly yesterday but was unable to get my video camera in time.  Have your feeders ready because the Grosbeaks feed heavily as they migrate through the area.  They like sunflower, safflower, and shelled peanuts, and will use a variety of feeders including tube and platform.  Occasionally, they may be seen at suet feeders.

Product Profile: Carpenter Bee Traps

As many of you know April and May can be the worst for carpenter bee activity. This is when the new brood of bees is emerging and can make for a high traffic area. Carpenter bees do not eat wood but do feed on plant pollen and nectar; however, they excavate dry, unpainted and weathered wooden objects such as doors, windowsills, roof eaves, railings, decks, untreated poles, fences and wooden lawn furniture to lay eggs. They prefer pine, fir, Cyprus, oak and redwood, especially if the wood is not covered with bark, is unpainted or unfinished. 

There are many ways to reduce carpenter bee numbers but using a trap can be effective without spraying chemicals. We are stocking a new trap that should be more effective and easier to use. The way the trap works is the bees are attracted by the half inch holes and enters the box. The bee then follows the light into the jar at the base and is trapped. This new trap has the option of being mounted to a structure or it can be hung. The collection jar is a mason jar which is very handy for relocating bees after being trapped. Simply cap the jar with a mason jar lid and place a new jar on the trap. We find we catch the most bees in April and May when their activity is at its peak.

Tips for carpenter bee trap success.

Mounting or hanging your trap: get it right up against a wooden structure that has the most bee activity. If the trap is off by itself it is unlikely that you will catch any bees.

Baiting the trap: bees will find their way into the trap on their own but if you want to speed up the process try and knock a bee down and get it in the jar alive. The trapped be will release a pheromone that will attract other bees into the trap. Trust us we have seen it work.

Don’t let bees die in the jar: As quickly as a live bee will attract other bees into the trap, dead bees will discourage other bees and lower the effectiveness of the trap until cleaned.

Campania Cast Stone Pre-Order Sale.

Spring means yard and garden planning and, of course, Mothers Day is coming.  Have you been looking for just the right cast-stone birdbath, fountain, statuary, or planter for your wife, or mom?
Between now and April 10th  
you are invited to make a special order with The Wood Thrush Shop for Campania products and receive 20% off your order of $150 or more.

Feel free to look through Campania’s website for a full listing of products they offer. Or look through the catalog at our store. 
The address is www.campaniainternational.com 

The ordering and shipping process usually takes about a month from order to delivery. This is because Campania makes most of their cast-stone pieces to order.

Please call, email, or come by the shop with any questions you may have and for item pricing.
Phone: 615-356-7640
e-mail: thewoodthrushshop@gmail.com

All special order sales are final unless the product arrives damaged or defective.
We require a 50% down payment of your full purchase price.
Special delivery on large items from our store to your home is available for an additional fee.

Spring Migration

Spring migration is in full swing which means there will be a lot of great birds to see if you spend a little time looking in any of our wonderful parks, on area greenways, and even in your own backyard. Get your binoculars out and your ears ready because the neo-tropical migrants will be passing through middle Tennessee on the way to their summer breeding areas.  Warblers, vireos, tanagers, flycatchers, swallows, hummingbirds, and many other species are there for the viewing if you invest some time.  Early in the morning, between 6 am and 10 am are typically best because many of these species travel at night then settle down in the mornings to feed and rest.  For daily sightings reports you may want to subscribe to TN bird.org, or visit Tennessee Birding’s Facebook page.  There are links to these sights on our website.

We are only days or a week or so away from the first Ruby-throated hummingbirds to arrive, or pass through the area. Don’t get too eager with putting out several hummingbird feeders, though.  While you may see one or two early hummingbirds they are not usually very interested in the feeders.  One feeder with a small amount of nectar is sufficient.  For up to date information of migrating hummingbirds you may visit www.hummingbirds.net/map. Also a great site for hummingbird information is www.hummingbirdresearch.net

At your seed feeders, around mid-April, expect to see the always popular Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Indigo buntings.  Most years the Grosbeaks can be seen for about a month before they move on to their breeding grounds, usually well north of us.  Of course American goldfinches are here in abundance year round but the males are beginning to put on their bright yellow spring plumage. Your feeders may have gotten a little slow of late as many of our local resident birds are spending much of their time courting and finding nest-sites. So now is a great time to give your feeders a little cleaning. Soon, though, feeders will explode with activity. As the breeding season progresses, many birds will take great advantage of feeders for a quick and easy food source.  It is during this time birds expend a tremendous amount of energy so the feeders become very important to them.  In my yard I will see suet consumption double during the spring months.

Noting the size and shape of the bird, primary colors, stripes, streaks, spots, and anything particularly unique is key to identification.

So, get out there and see some birds you haven’t seen before.

A Few Bird Watching ID tips:

Ø  Binoculars are essential.  You cannot see real detail on a bird without the magnification of a binocular. 

Ø  Initially, spend less time looking in your field guide and more time looking at the bird.  Committing to memory, or jotting down details should be first priority.  Noting the size and shape of the bird, primary colors, stripes, streaks, spots, and anything particularly unique is key; beak shape, wing shape, and behaviors too.  The type of habitat the bird is seen in is often overlooked by novices.  The type of habitat can sometimes confirm or deny the type of bird being seen.

Ø  After that is when the field guide comes in handy. Instead of going through page by page, narrow down what family the bird is likely in based on the information from initial observation.

So, get out there and see some birds you haven’t seen before.  It’s fun, interesting, and it gets you moving outdoors.  If you’re stumped by a bird you’ve seen come in and we’ll be glad to help you figure it out.