Just a revisit

There hasn’t been much going on in the last few weeks in the bird feeding world. Most of you have seen a great decrease in hummingbird activity in the last couple of weeks, and others may have a lack of hummingbirds altogether. However, I’m still getting a report every few days. Leaving one feeder out through the end of October can sometimes bring in some stragglers.

With not a lot going on currently I thought it would be a great time to revisit a couple of older posts that are still very relevant for this time of the year. Below are a couple of links to older blogs. Click to view the entire post.

Attracting Warblers

Fall is the best time to plant and perhaps you are thinking about adding something to your landscape that appeals to birds and wildlife-

Fall slow down at feeders

Many of you have already noticed a slow down at your feeders. Sometimes it can be abrupt and dramatic. You may even notice some species become practically non-existent-


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Late Summer and Early Fall Hummingbirds

Wow! My hummingbird feeders have been working overtime for a week and a half now. Yesterday evening my wife and I estimated approximately 50 hummingbirds swarming the 5 visible feeders on our back porch. This morning we saw the same thing. It was hovering room only. There is no doubt that we are experiencing the peak of hummingbird activity which means we will soon begin to see numbers of hummingbirds dwindling with each day that passes. As the days grow shorter hummingbirds will instinctively feel the urge to go. For now, though, we are thoroughly enjoying the action. And I am paying very close attention in case a different kind of hummingbird appears. Recently, a friend of mine in the western most part of Bellevue had a confirmed Rufous hummingbird at her feeders.

Rufous Hummingbird

The Rufous is a summer resident of the west coast, mainly from central California all the way up into northwest Canada. Like the Ruby-throated hummingbird they migrate back to Central America and Mexico and along the Gulf coast to Florida for the winter. However, each year small numbers of Rufous hummers appear in southern states including TN. Late August and September are the months they tend to appear, or at least be seen. Some Rufous hummers have been known to stay in mid TN most of a winter.

The adult male Rufous is quite distinguishable with its rufous (reddish brown) back, flank, rump and tail. The head and crown are even darker brown to red, a red face, and bright red gorget and white breast. Pic of Male and Female Rufous

Male Rufous

Female Rufous

Adult females have a green back and crown with hints of rufous on the flanks. A central grouping of red spots may be visible on the white throat. Juvenile males and females will look very much like the adult female with the exception of the red spots. A lone juvenile Rufous would be difficult to notice amongst a group of Ruby-throated hummingbirds.

Rufous hummers are reportedly even more aggressive about guarding a food source than Ruby- throats, if you can imagine that.

The video was taken on my back porch this morning. Most of you do not get to see multiple hummingbirds on a feeder at the same time. In more rural areas it is quite common to see. Continue to keep your feeders clean and nectar fresh. You might be the next one to see a Rufous hummingbird.

Fall Migration is Underway

Fall Migration is underway and while your birdfeeders will slow down in October birdwatching in the area will be more interesting. Have your binoculars with you and ready because Warblers, Tanagers, Orioles, Grosbeaks, and Flycatchers are pouring through middle Tennessee stopping to feed in the early mornings on insects and berries. Mornings are the best time to see lots of different species, and mornings after a storm tend to be even better. Mornings are better because many of the migrants are moving at night. They settle down to rest and feed in the morning. Make time to visit one of the many great local birdwatching areas this fall to see some birds you may not have seen before. The usual hot spots include:

Radnor Lake, Warner Parks, Bells Bend, Harpeth River Greenway,

Hidden Lakes State Park, Gossett State Park, Shelby Bottoms, Montgomery Bell.

Common Nighthawk

Chimney Swift

One of the more interesting things to see in the fall is the migration of Chimney Swifts and Common Nighthawks. In the evenings, particularly in areas where there is outdoor lighting, like high school football games and downtown, these birds gather and feed on insects in impressive flocks.

For information about great places to birdwatch this fall click on the links below…

Tennessee Birding Trails

Tennessee Birding on Facebook

TOS Nashville Chapter-Radnor Lake Wed morning walks

As for birdfeeders October is a good month to do maintenance on bird feeders, cleaning and repairing. We often have, or can get, parts for birdfeeders. It’s a good time to clean out nest boxes, too, or move them to a potentially better location if they were not successful.

Why are feeders slow in October? During the spring and summer birds take great advantage of feeders while they are raising young. Now that the breeding season is over and youngsters are mostly independent a bird’s life is a little more leisurely. And natures harvest is beginning. Weeds, wildflowers, shrubs, vines, and trees are producing seeds, nuts, and fruit. Birds will gravitate to these natural offerings for a while before finding our feeders interesting again. While we miss seeing our bird visitors for a while many of you will get some relief from squirrels, chipmunks, and raccoons, as they too take advantage of natural food sources.

Keep the hummingbird feeders clean and nectar fresh. The hummers are really feeding heavily now. Go out and see some birds!

Hummingbird Migration, and Bees

For the next 4 weeks here in mid-TN we will be experiencing peak hummingbird activity at our feeders. Now it is crucial that your nectar is fresh and your feeders are clean for best results. Our summer resident hummers are mostly done nesting and youngsters are coming to and beginning to understand feeders. Just days ago an active nest was observed at Radnor Lake. And already we are probably experiencing hummingbirds that have been north of us beginning to move through TN and visit feeders as well.

If you have given up on hummingbirds because you did not see any activity earlier in the summer it’s time to give your feeder a good cleaning and make some fresh nectar. This is the time that hummingbirds are most interested in your feeders and are packing on as much weight as possible before making their long journey back to Central and South America.

Perhaps the most encountered problem at hummingbird feeders this time of year is bees and wasps. There are a variety of things one can do to alleviate the competition between bees and hummingbirds at feeders. Mind you these strategies are, and should be, passive given the challenges honey bees are faced with now. Killing bees is not what we advocate. So, try any or all of the following tips and we’re pretty sure you will have fair to good results.

  • It’s a fact; bees prefer sweeter nectar than the recommended hummingbird nectar (1 part sugar, 4 parts water). Making it more sugary (1 to 3 ratio) is of no benefit to hummers and may attract more bees. Lure the bees away with a bee feeder. In a shallow container add gravel and a 1 part sugar (white cane sugar) to 2 parts water solution. Fill so that bees can land on the gravel and get the sugar water. Offer this feeder relatively close to where your hummingbird feeders are. This offering should begin to pull the bees away and each day move it a little farther from the hummingbird feeder.

  • If you experience year to year problems with bees you may consider a feeder that does not have yellow decorations (flowers, etc.) It is believed by many that yellow is more of an attractant for bees than for hummingbirds. If you have yellow flowers on your feeder try painting them red with non-toxic paint. I’ve tested this theory at my house and found there is no negligible difference. Bees seem to be just as attracted to feeders with just red. Again, results may vary.

  • Very Important. Keep feeders clean. All too often when consulting with customers about feeding hummingbirds we find many are not cleaning their feeders regularly, nor are they changing nectar as often as they should. In 90 degree heat nectar is only good for about 3 days. Maybe less if the feeder is getting several hours of sun. Consider a shadier location and put only enough nectar in the feeder that the birds can consume in 2 or 3 days. And regular cleaning will reduce trace amounts of nectar that settles around feeding ports that bees are drawn to.

  • If you have a feeder with yellow flowers try applying a little vegetable oil around and on the flower. The bees are not fond of landing on the oil and the hummingbirds do not make contact with them. This is a method I’ve used for many years with decent results.

  • Start over next spring with a bee resistant feeder like one of the Hummzingers by Aspects. Not only are they much easier to clean but they don’t have yellow flowers and by their design more bee resistant. They also have nectar guard tips that can be added for a more bee proof offering. They come in 8, 12, and 16 oz capacities.

Hummingbird action will be fast and furious for the next month, so don’t miss out. Use the proper nectar recipe (no coloring) and remember, there is not a specific time to take down your hummingbird feeders. The presence of feeders will not cause them to stay.

Also Saturday August 24th the Warner park nature center will be having their Hummingbird celebration from 9am - 2:30pm. There will be lectures, bird banding, and activities for all ages. For more information Click Here or visit the nature centers event page on facebook.

Bat House Sale thru August 31 20% Off

Read our last blog on bat houses!

Bat Houses and Placement Strategies

I have invested a fair amount of time researching bats the last month or so trying to learn more about the fascinating creatures sharing my yard this summer.

After last week’s blog about my recent success with bats a few customers had questions.

One customer asked “why do you think you have more bats this year. What did you do to encourage them”? The fact is I’ve done nothing different and I wish I knew why we have this surge in numbers. The bat house has been in the same place for several years. The only thing about the “Rocket” style house that’s different is Downy woodpeckers have pecked a couple of holes in it ranging in size from about 1 ½” to 3” in diameter. I hardly think that would increase the chances of a box being used.

Bats have to find new roosts on their own. They investigate new roosting opportunities while foraging at night, and they are expert at detecting crevices, cracks, and nooks and crannies that offer shelter from the elements and predators. Bats are not blind as the saying goes but in fact have sharp eye sight.

BCI (Bat Conservation International) indicates 90 percent of occupied bat houses were used within two years (with 50 percent occupancy in the first year). The rest needed three to five years for bats to move in. So, perhaps it was just time needed for bats to locate my house. Now that I’ve attracted bats to this house I am planning on putting up at least one more before next spring.

There's a lot of information about success rates of various types of bat houses and, perhaps more importantly, how they are presented. I am merely going to summarize some of the more pertinent information and would encourage you to visit www.batcon.org if you want to learn more or have enough interest to construct, or buy, a bat house to install in your yard.

Below are some basics of presenting a bat house.

Three chamber bat house.

Rocket style bat house.

Facts, Tips and Suggestions

Bat houses installed on buildings or poles are easier for bats to locate, have greater occupancy rates and are occupied two and a half times faster than those mounted on trees.

Tall designs like the multi-chamber (nursery) and rocket-style houses perform best

Occupancy in rural areas is over 60 percent, compared to 50 percent for urban and suburban areas.

According to BCI maintaining proper roost temperatures is probably the single most important factor for a successful bat house. They say interior temperatures should be warm and as stable as possible (ideally 80º F to 100º F in summer) for mother bats to raise their young. Some species, such as the Big Brown bat, prefer temperatures below 95º F, while others, such as the Little Brown bat, tolerate temperatures in excess of 100º F. This is very interesting because we always think of bats in relation to the coolness of caves but this is mostly during the hibernation months, fall through winter.

Bat house temperatures are influenced directly by the exterior color and direction faced. East-, southeast-, or south-facing are generally good bets. My Rocket house is, as you have seen, a darker color. Bat houses we sell are almost always a plain western cedar. From now on I will suggest staining the box a darker color.

Avoid placing bat houses directly above windows, doors, decks or walkways. Bat urine and guano would fall directly down to whatever is below. The urine is known to stain some finishes.

For more information about constructing, painting, installing and maintaining your bat house, please see:

The Bat House Builder's Handbook

Single chamber bat house plans

Four-chamber nursery house plans

Rocket box bat house plans